Religions in education?


‘If I don’t pray before the cross I get punished’ my friend explained how his school in Delhi worked. He was in an Catholic school about 10 years ago.

The last time I stepped inside a school was when my mom was working in a school and I had to pick up the house keys. For now, I am no longer living in India but that can change.

The thing that astonished me the most was I never even thought about the way education system in India is so ingrained with religions. It was so normal for me that I never had this kind of conversation with anyone back in India.

My school in India started with morning (Hindu) prayer and national anthem, lectures and classes, closing (Hindu) prayer and then disburse. If you are one of the majority student in the school, this will seem completely normal to you as well.

It was normal to not talk about religions in school, common to not have an opinion in school. Nobody liked the prayers but we did it anyway because we were told to.

We never asked which religion’s prayer are we singing and why?

I never asked that question back in school, college and in university. It was normal to pray in my school. Singing the national anthem is not religious and patriotic so I never had any problem with it.

I think (I am not completely sure) I am Hindu. It makes sense for me back then and now today to pray a Hindu prayer. I can do a Christian prayer too and for me, both of them spell out the same message.

It wouldn’t make sense for a Christian or a Muslim child to pray an Hindu prayer. India is a dense multireligous jungle of a country and if I may paraphrase my friend’s description ‘India had every possible religion’.

Each religion will have its own prayers, traditions and customs. Each of the religious customs have always been seeped into the culture of the practitioners.

If the child of such a culture goes to study in a school of a completely different culture, the result of such a conflict would be severe.

For example, my friend. He is an atheist, for him praying is nonsensical. I can imagine him in a catholic school trying to resist praying sessions, Bible reading sessions and during Carols.

Reflecting back on my school days, I don’t remember having many Christian or Muslim classmates. Almost everyone was Hindu and a majority of us couldn’t be bothered praying unless exams were due.

No one, in my memory asked about why only Hindu prayers and none other. My friend’s school insisted on enforcing Christianity on its pupils.

For me and him, in our 20s, thinking back on it is pretty easy. He says that schools should NOT have any religious influence. He does have a point: teach physics and civil rights at school. Leave the religions at homes and temples, mosques and churches.

Democracy is not about enforcement of religion. It is certainly not what the Indian pledge says : “India is a secular country”

The question now is: What can be done? And more importantly, how many parents, grandparents think about religion when securing admissions?

Because I remember my school friends. We did not care about prayers. We may have cared if we had a choice on prayer.

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Down Memory Lane


Mulund. Devi Dayal road. My father’s home.

We visited an aunt last Saturday. After a long time, we met her and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We got to know that the lane in which my father lived his childhood has changed, the buildings are replaced by residential towers, the road is bigger and slum dwellers at the end of the lane are now up scaled to a building.

Only thing that stayed the same was Hanuman Temple.

My mother’s curiosity gave the necessary nudge and we walked father’s lane,  down memory lane.

I have heard my father’s childhood stories numerous times. Nonetheless they are always hogged down by my ears, my face may actually light up on hearing those stories.

He pointed out small garage type house that his family of 10 or more used to live in, I feel proud to see how far he has come, how humble his origins are, somewhat closer to understand why he aspires greatness from me. That house is now the office of Rotary Club.

Father’s friend used to live in the building opposite, now there’s a new ornate tower standing there, the friend moved away now.

My mind begun coining a line, something inspired from a WWE match I saw. Before I digress and ramble upon my fandom of The Undertaker, I’ll quote the lines:

Fortune fame 
Mirror vain 
Gone insane 
But the memory remains 

Buildings torn down. Shopkeepers changed. Gardens built anew. Pictures faded. Friends moved away. But the memory remains.

As our trip down the memory lane finished, the stories were just getting started. Father told me again about how he and his friends would hang out at the gate the Lalchand Laxmibai hostel, his school Dayanand vedic highschool. His tea ‘adda’ or spot with his friends and later my mom joined him after marriage at paach rasta. (five way junction) He remembers the cost, 4 paise for a cutting tea back then.

He showed us his favorite restaurant in its early days, Kirti Mahal. That restaurant is extremely popular now, with a huge queue waiting for their turn. His pals would visit the restaurant and with hand skills steal spoons and forks for their hostel. My dad looked for a pan wala but that shop was missing.

Alas, no visit to past memories would be complete without loss. He found out that one of his school classmates passed away a year ago.

I had great hopes for finishing this evening with the best dinner possible: Pav Bhaji from the stall that he used to eat from. Yes that stall is still there after 40 years, the food delicious.

After waiting for 30 minutes for the food, I quickly hogged it down, burped on the road without any shame. My dad satisfied by eating there, greeting the busy cook.

The evening was a mix of melancholy and ebullience.

It made me think about why I always loved Mulund more than my home Dombivali(both are city names).

The former has a family connection, it feels homely. It feels part of my heritage, my roots arise there. The exact same feeling arises when I visit my maternal grandparents.

There’s a bond there which runs across a generation. It is like homecoming.

#1 Drink’s the Father


Fiction:

Her eyes were darting, always returning back to the same shelf on her left. She licked her lips, said “Andrew get me that sauce”.

Another lick of her lips. Andrew knew what was going on. He had anticipated it.

They were in the mall, holiday shopping it is. And the worse time of the year for his mom.

Holidays meant happiness, ideally. But for his mom they were cooking and cleaning and every other household chore that needs to be done so that the holidays all in all becomes perfect.

And the holidays were also the time when He left. His father. Her husband. Two years ago, no warning, no fights nothing. And till today no phone call or any message. Andrew was 11 then.

Mom cried and cried. Then she shouted and threw his stuff out of the house. Then she picked up whiskey. And she drank till she was peeing whiskey and drank more with arms she cut herself. Andrew and his sister Sophia cowed whenever she went into a rampage in the house. He was glad that the day mother cut herself, Sophia was not at home. Somebody called the authorities, it was not Andrew.

Large amount of anonymous alcoholics and anti-depressants later she came back. Sophia cried herself to sleep every night, Andrew used to hold her while she slept. And now while mother is almost normal the holidays are here. And they are standing in the mall with alcohol on the shelf to the left.

Mother pulls herself together and moves forward. They shop, Andrew pleading for every new toy he sees, mother persuading him to buy it the next time he comes there. But he could see her hustle. She wants to leave and drive home and have coffee, have this mall as far behind as possible. So he stops pleading eventually.

Sophia is not at home, at some of her friends place. Its snowing outside, driveway is piled up with snow. They get inside the home, mother whining about having to clean the driveway after dinner. Leaves the shopping bags on the kitchen and just  drops on the couch.

Unsure of what to do, Andrew turns on the TV. They watch a couple of minutes while mother is drinking water, like three bottles of water. She is keeping her hands busy, with remote or with her hair or with her sweater. Anything to keep her mind off.

Sophia is about to be home any minute now, its almost 7 pm. Mother has fallen asleep on the couch. Andrew wakes her up with a coffee.

“You know how to make coffee?”

“Yeah I watched you make them. You were asleep and tired so I made one for you. And no mom, I did not drink it”

She smiled. And Andrew recalled her old smile. There was just a hint of that old smile and laughter now. But it was there.

“Andrew!!” Sophia shouted from the driveway, “come here and help me clean it up.”

Mother looked perplexed, Andrew gave a loop sided smile and said “I may have ordered her to clean the snow. She refused. We had to have a compromise.”

He wore his gloves and opened the door, and there was Sophia with a big fistful of snow in her hands. She threw it at his face.

Mother gasped. Andrew gasped. Sophia laughed and bolted outside.

Andrew ran after her. Mother sighed suddenly remembering that they are just children yet. For now.

(Post inspired by reading Candid Kay’s blog post: Christmas tree left of centre)

Days Past


I just read a post of outmannedmommy  titled Simple Pleasures.
And while the 2 year old is so cute in those pictures I would like to talk about something else.
While reading the blog I started recalling my childhood. And my reminiscences of my childhood surprised me too. I remember so much of those days.

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I remembered my first Picnic game which I always played with anybody and everybody in my house, guest or family. The fake currency I once even tried to use to buy biscuits.
There was chess which I never got better at. But I still played and always cheated to defeat my big brother. And at those days when there was no Tom and Jerry airing on the TV, I would pick up a deck of cards and try to make a house of cards. The toy yellow car which had opening doors!
And how could I forget the all time favourite G.I.Joe action figures. I was such a fan of those figures that I always insisted on buying a new one. Even when these figures broke and became limbless I still kept them.
I also recalled the basic electronix kit I had got on my birthday but nothing in it worked. But I had fun just trying to connect all the bulbs, motors and battery.
I could go on and probably list out all the toys I had when I was small. Also this may have little or no relation with the above mentioned post. But after reading that post I had a big smile on my face. Partly because the post was great in its own way but also I could relate to it.
And just thinking about my childhood brought back so many memories that in a second or two my present was gone and I was in the past.
So after reaching home I looked through the cupboard and guess what?! I still have the G.I.Joe action figures, the fake currencies and chess board though it is broken in two pieces now.
Just having all those toys in my hand and I was transported back into my childhood. All the memories, I don’t know from which bank, came rushing back. I could feel the joy of winning the chess game, mimicking voices while playing with action figure, and it goes on and on.
I never gave those toys away. I never knew why. I think I know why. They are memories. Memories too innocent.
What I wouldn’t give to go back to my childhood again. When I could eat what I want, when I studied because I enjoyed it, back when everything was so simple comparatively. Back when I innocent of the ways of the world. Back when pleasures were simple.
Not saying I know everything today, I’m still naive. Not saying that I don’t like growing up either or I abhor responsibilities that come along with it. I just miss the simplicity of those days.
Now I’m stuck on my phone. Everybody is stuck on their phones. There are games here too but it can’t replicate the excitement and amazement of the past.
And after I kept my toys back in the cupboard I knew I’m never gonna give them away. They may break in time and I’ll have to throw them away but somewhere still I will recall the joy of those fifteen years past days.
Thank you for that post.