With increasingly universal values, Indians are less finicky about religious differences and are beginning to realise that they can create a belief system that suits them by choosing the best from everything that’s available. It’s fusion at its very best
I’ve got some really cranky neighbours. The family, living across the road in a tiny cottage-like home, looks picture-perfect — but only from a distance. I can hear the couple’s roaring fights every other day. The lady of the house is grumpy all the time, although I get to see little of her. When she walks outside the main door to dump the waste in the trash can, she’s always angry about something. The husband hardly ever smiles, too — even when he’s taking his son to the club for a game of badminton on Sunday mornings.
But in winter, as the nip in the air becomes stronger and one can feel the cheer of Christmas, Mr and Mrs Grumpy transform into Mr and Mrs Smiley. They smile at us, their neighbours, who they ignore or look through the rest of the year. What’s more, they even send across a Santa Claus-size bag of goodies with kalkals, sweets, fried yummies and homemade cake.
They’re Christians and this is a wonderful time of the year for them. But across the street, in a three-storeyed Gujarati home in the corner, there’s caroling and the sounds of merrymaking almost every evening leading up to Christmas. They’re Hindus but they love this festival and their kids insisted on decorating a tree and celebrating. So they did, in style.
I know that sentiment all too well. After all, my own excitement for Christmas comes from my schooldays when we sang carols, decorated a Christmas tree, exchanged gifts, put up a skit about Jesus and felt emotional on Christmas Day. It was one of the biggest parties before we closed for winter vacation to reopen in a brand new year.
It’s tough to escape the Christmas mood wherever one turns. My sister turned up in Christmas colours a few days ago for an office party, where they would exchange gifts in the Secret Santa game. Every person in the office, irrespective of faith, participates in the game and there’s fun, laughter, cheer and love. This probably was what Christmas was meant to be.
Festivals, especially in urban India, have increasingly evolved as one-India celebrations. People of all faiths participate in Ganesh Chaturthi puja, Id celebrations and Christmas. It might be the best way to survive a culturally diverse and demanding society — to open our hearts and accept the happy and bright.
Cultural oneness is also the answer to all those who are trying to polarise society. These individual acts of faith have begun to matter more than the attempts of those with a fundamentalist outlook to drive home the point that their faith is better.
With increasingly universal values, Indians are less finicky about religious differences and are beginning to realise that they can create a belief system that suits them by choosing the best from everything that’s available. It’s fusion at its very best.
The urban cultural potpourri is making room for more and more. Think Halloween, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. When these western influences reach Indian shores, they mutate into local celebrations with that unique Indian touch. The best part? No one’s complaining as long as everyone’s having a good time.