I am going to talk about two people I know, both of whom claim to be Hindu, but understand the religion in vastly different terms and give an example of a cinematic tussle between them.
The first person is what I would call a passive aggressive Hindu. He constantly relies on others to dictate Hinduism to him, through television shows and tapes. He listens to these dictations, often drowning out the message itself in chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram’. It is as if the proclamation of faith is more important to him than the faith itself. He never actually reads the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, but claims authority over them. He also criticizes the religion, but mostly for its lack of aggression and surreptitiously tries to imbed his aggression in others around him. He is pious in that he indulges in no great extravagances, pursues knowledge and donates to Hindu missions. He stays away from the celebratory aspects of the religion, prefering solitude and peace as perhaps a Hindu should.
The other person is what I would call a mostly active Hindu. He gets up everyday and chants his prayers. Never content to take dictations, he reads the Ramayana every year. He regularly goes to temple, fasts and practices almost every ritual. He wholeheartedly celebrates Diwali, Holi and Ganesh Chaturthi with gusto. He recognizes that is Hinduism’s tolerance that is one of the best things about India, he also realizes that the Indian nation (with all its constituents) is capable of answering any threat. He is mostly active except in one aspect, he does not stand up for Hinduism when the first person tries to appropriate Hinduism and its symbols for feeding his own aggressive stance.
Do you remember this song from Swades ?
This song is much more than a cinematized version of the Ramlila done across villages in North India. It is attempt by the real Hindu to take Hinduism back from the ones who have appropriated it for their macabre agenda. Sita sings about how she is waiting to be rescued from an evil Ravana by Rama, the emphasis being on Rama’s masculinity in saving a feminine Sita, a ploy used often by Hindu fundamentalists to mislead Hindu youth. However, Shah Rukh Khan (the real Ram in the movie) reminds Sita that Rama is in every heart and home, he emphasizes Ram’s spiritual symbolism and his steadfast adherence to familial duties and responsibilities. He concludes with saying that only one who removes Ravana from his heart, can have room for Ram in it.
It is time for the real Hindus to reclaim their religion.