Today is Akshaya Tritiya which is the annual spring time festival for Hindus as the day falls on the third lunar day of Bright Half in the month of Vaisakha which varies between the months of April or may according to the lunisolar Hindu calendar. For Hindus and Jains of India and Nepal, it signifies the third day of unending prosperity and also this day is considered very auspicious for investments or starting a new business and it is also a day of remembrance of our ancestors. All in all one can celebrate this day as a day of spiritual enrichment by fasting and doing charity. But the title of this article is ‘Am I being communal for writing it? So we here goes.
It is customary on the day of Akshaya Tritiya in my Tamil household to prepare Kheer or payasam, Neer Mor or chaas and panagam which I find very hard to describe and also not a fan. Anyway these items or Prasad are generally given to neighbors and vice versa. We live in a very culturally, religiously dynamic homogeneous apartment complex and it is lots of fun as we get to explore different cultures and religious practices. I am happy to say we all get along quite nicely but I suspect it is all just the crust but what happens at the core nobody seems to know or more realistically do not want to know.
I always say Hindus are not secular but have an inbuilt sense of plurality which is unique in the entire world which automatically guarantees protection and safety of minorities. This is why the two biggest religions in the world have such great presence in Bharat because we respect other religions which is why I am proud to say as a Hindu I do not feel the need to show my secular credentials because I am a secular by my civilization and do not need any amendment to the law.
As a proud Hindu I know I am strong and can reclaim what is mine but I want to coexist with my fellow man regardless of his religion which he is free to practice. Now coming back to this auspicious day, my mother offered the Prasad to a women who works in the facilities and she said no because she is a Muslim so my mother said then why don’t you consume this offering as normal food without giving it a religious twist. To which she replied politely, “How can I now consume when you have offered this food to your gods”. At which point my mother thanked her for her service and closed the door.
But I can blame ignorance on her part because she was clearly not educated and was just following dogma like many do in all religions including mine. That is why I must talk about my neighbors who are predominately educated and most work in IT companies as I live in Bangalore. So when my mother told me to go and give the ‘Prasad’ to a Christian neighbor I jockingly said will they accept and my mother in a terse response said don’t be ridicules. So I went and knocked on the door and the nice lady who is of my mother’s age who never fails to bring us cakes during Easter and Christmas asked me what it is and I said today is Akshaya Tritiya and mom made this, to which she replied since it is Prasad she cannot accept as it goes against her believes. But we never said no to her when she would joyously bring us Christmas cake and asked if her friends can come and sing carol in our home (my plurality strength in play) to bring us joy and happiness.
A while back my Muslims neighbor was invited to my home because we were having Ganapati Pooja an important Hindu ritual. He accepted the invitation but never came so we were under the impression something might have come up. But when I went to his house in the evening to give him Prasad, he said he could not accept but I never said no to him when he would bring sweets and other delicacies during Eid. I was bewildered and said, in this day and age you are saying no to Prasad and his reply was, as a Muslim he cannot accept as it is ‘Haram’ and told me not to take it in the wrong way and respect his wishes. So I said have a nice day and I will see you at the badminton court and walked away feeling ashamed of myself. I thought had I done something wrong even after my friend said please don’t tell anyone I did not accept Prasad from you and I know you will understand.
It later downed on me that I was no longer plural Hindu but a tolerant Hindu who has the obligation to respect, accept and tolerate other religions and their customs without questioning it and if I were to act in the same way like my neighbors, I am communal.