I was in the branch of a Public Sector Bank on a Friday on some work and in the back ground amidst the noise of the busy branch was a faint tinkling of a prayer bell. In some time my meeting was interrupted by a priest who brought the sacred fire and the prasad to the occupants of the cabin. When he came to me, I smiled and stepped back; he saw me, smiled in acknowledgement and moved to the next person.
What happened is a regular occurrence on Fridays in many secular organizations in our country. We are proudly secular but we happily pray to the Gods of our choice and we respect the views and beliefs of others. When the priest entered, all the occupants in the room including me stood up immediately out of respect. My personal beliefs made me step back from the sacred light and this act was respected by the others in the room. They did not bear me any ill will nor did they treat me any differently. When the priest left the room our business conversations resumed where we had left off.
This instance did not make the bank any less secular than before nor did it make the people feel uneasy that one person in the room differed from them. If we extrapolate the bank to our country, these instances happen daily, sadly these days when someone steps back only because he does not have the same belief but respects the faith of others the responses have changed. Some feel offended even outraged and this is in stark contrast to the average person in the country.
All these years we have been secular and yet religious, pluralistic and yet patriotic, been different yet similar and we have been Indian. How can differences divide the nation today? How can some claim the right to the nation based on their choices when till date the only thing common to the 1.2 billion people is their nationality being different with their food choices, languages, cultures, beliefs, customs etc?
Being Indian is more than sloganeering or bullying others to walk one way, it is about living together and growing together in more ways than one.
Image courtesy Google