Now that I have enlisted myself in the media list of the Consular General of India in Melbourne, I get all kinds of invite - things that you would normally pass in India. But with so few events over here, you try not to miss out on any in that hunt for a news peg.
I am just back from a Hinduism summit at the Sai Baba temple in Camberwell. It's a suburb Lolo and I would ultimately want to settle down in because of its sheer greenery and unique houses. It's a beautiful suburb. And tucked inside it was the Shirdi Sai Baba temple, where a group of Hindu enthusiasts held their conference to protect the religion from denigration.
I find myself at odds in such forums, especially when I see dhoti clad men with sindoor on their heads and professing their love for Hinduism and advocating chanting of the names of God to keep in touch with spirituality and the religion. Nonetheless I found myself in one such situation where I couldn't avoid the inquisitive looks of people, especially at an Asian-looking woman, who would confuse them totally with her Hindu name and Indian accent and a white man in tow with her.
After one hour of listening to all the wisdoms of Hindu religion and how being in touch with the guru is preparation for meeting God, I wondered what was the motive for such religious summits where the focus was clearly on how to pray and how to learn the prayers and how to object when people painted the faces of Hindu Gods on their breasts or on shoes. Doesn't life teaches us all how to learn to laugh at ourselves? Doesn't one teach the other to tolerate the other's misgivings instead of going ballistic about someone making fun of us? Something was wrong, somewhere.
So at the question hour summit, I asked one of the wise men on the dais, how they handled a generation of children who were probably educated in Catholic schools but came back home to devout Hindu parents? I asked if they had any solution to religion crisis probably battling the young minds. One religious proponent got up and said, "you have to recite mantras, you have to recite the chants, and you have to learn how to pray." I nodded not as an acknowledgement to what he said was right, but because I realise it's no point trying to rationalise to minds that have turned fanatic.
I am all the more convinced that religion is the opium of the masses. If there was anything I liked about the seminar, it was the scent of the incense sticks that wafted the air, and the hot chai served!