Why I am a Hindu by Shashi Tharoor

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After a long time am blogging about a book. This book is about Hinduism and Hindutva, for dummies. Like me.

My tryst with religion started in a convent boarding school. We prayed 4-5 times a day, were taught about the Christian faith and attended mass regularly. I was very spiritual as a kid. The school didn’t encourage (but neither did it discourage) discussions about any other religion. Like, I didn’t see my Muslim friend offering Namaz or fasting for Ramzan. Our Diwali holidays were so short that we couldn’t go home and they were a month away from final year examinations. Of course, Easter was full of pomp and show and annual holidays were conveniently timed for X’mas. During exams, we chanted Hail Mary and Gayatri Mantra both enthusiastically till we realised that time could be better spent studying.

The disconnect happened when my parents were appalled by the sign of the cross I made when my feet touched a book. They wanted me to chant “Om” and pray to Hindu Gods. If that is what they wanted, why was I being sent to a convent boarding school? How can I follow one religion for 9 months and another for 3 months? I protested and refused to believe in God. That was the end of my spirituality.

Being a Hindu is very convenient. People of my age and with my lifestyle don’t pray regularly or have temples at home. We are too materialistic to be spiritual. So it is a surprise when I come across young people who fast for Ramazan or go to a church regularly. The freedom to not believe anything or believe what I want to is granted in Hinduism. I am glad am a Hindu and distancing myself from religion is much easier. It does not come with diktats and dos or don’ts. Like, Hinduism does not dictate what clothes I wear, what I eat etc. There is no one holy book or one God. Neither is there one way of praying. There are different kinds of Hindus across the country and there is nothing binding them together. Except for the freedom to believe in whatever they want to.

This book made me realise how beautiful is the religion. Which is why we must talk about Hindutva which isn’t a religion but a political movement. Smart people realise that but those who know zilch about religion confuse the two. And yes, Hindus should be ashamed that some narrow minded people can distort a religion known for its tolerance for all other religions.

I would highly recommend the book to everyone. It is a much needed book in times when we are distancing ourselves from religion because it is getting associated with hate. I don’t think spirituality has anything to offer me anymore but I am proud to be a Hindu.

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