Blog: Patches of Guilt on the Canvas
The one minute of silence during the recital of Susheela Raman was a sign of protest against the prohibition order on singing the Murugan related songs ‘Paal’ or ‘Ennapene’ which blend carnatic traditions and folk and soul music. Who posted on the Facebook of the artist the prohibition order is well known now and we cannot afford to let this event go as though it was a fait divers.
The borders of religious beliefs become porous and one living style undergoes transformation through proximity and symbiotic existence. Many cultural leaders pose as opinion-builders and impalpably impose a code a behaviour that is not far from narrow-minded conservatism or even neurotic egocentrism. Such opinion-builders want to erect walls between beliefs. The Tamil is converted into a fanatic who exercises his difference from the Hindu-speaking Mauritian. The Sanatanist is turned into the enemy of the Arya Samajist.
We should not involve politicians in every wrong that happens to us. The wall building is our own making and it is the politics of our beliefs that make us seekers of power by dividing people and bargaining for benefits with votes that are wanted in numbers. In fact, numbers make the difference. Let us remember the words of a socioreligious leader who said that he has the power to influence 400,000 Hindus. Politicians as individuals come from the loins of this very society that takes delight in parcelling us by discriminating with the scalpel of the differences that constitute the wealth of our composite culture.
Is it only media icons who have wisdom to find the faults of an ethnic group which is at the mercy of a fistful of unscrupulous parochial leaders who, themselves ignorant of the strength of their culture, fear that a Susheela Raman’s song can sing the commonness of different cultural traditions without fear that she will convert Tamils or Telegus or Hindi-speaking people into another religion. We know how both Tamils and Hindi-speaking Hindus have suffered from the proselytisation of Christian sects. The salvation lies not in imprisoning Hindu thought and culture in hermetic, watertight compartments. We test the strength of our beliefs when we meet others with a difference. Our leaders are full of the loud rhetoric of Swami Vivekananda and Tirruvalluvar but their fear, their guilt puts them into panic situations whenever they are face-to-face with people of a different religion. That is why our idea of freedom is a sickness, rather than a strength. These very leaders will proudly quote Gandhi who advises us to open our doors and windows to the winds that blow without being swept off our feet. But they will not practise it. They will in real life wish every community to close its doors and windows. In fact it is not by closing doors that we shall foster faith. The faith that fails the test of exposure is a frailty.
The truth is that many of us do not know our religious beliefs and the essence of Hindu thought. Our religious education has been made of titbits of stories told in pooja’s and television serials. It is not a transformative knowledge that elevates and makes us reflect on the meaning of life. We invent and unlock a few moral laws with do’s and don’ts and impose them on believers. We like to believe that when temples are full, our faith is strong. There is nothing more misleading than this. Crowded churches do not prove the strength of a faith. Cloistered values do not make the backbone of a society.
As soon as the believer is exposed to differences, he either becomes a fanatic or converts himself to the cause of the neighbour because the other’s religion provides a more attractive option. Many of us have been so deeply marked by a Westernizing education; by an occidental mode of thinking that the poorly educated among us are attracted by the miracles, the ecstatic trances, the quick fit solution to problems that are promised by fake prophets of other sects.
What is the common man driven by? By the quest of comfort, not by highfaluting ideas or abstruse thinking. This comfort may be the end of psychotic fears and anxiety disorders, the quick cure of diseases, the desire to solve problems of personal relations. The other’s promises are based on the knowledge of what attracts the common man, and not on the fundamental thinking without fundamentalism.
Susheela Raman’s minute of silence blasts decades of bigotry, retrogressive thinking among our cultural leaders who, through an election, have won the leadership of a club and by virtue of that appointment arrogate the right to represent the diverse, and yet untapped thinking of thousands. In fact all these leaders express a very subjective, discriminatory and slanted view of the majority because the silent majority has no tongue to speak.