So, it is official. Aamir Khan inspires me to write in my blog. It was due to him – specifically his show Satyamev Jayate – that I wrote in my blog after 7 months in 2012 (a year – as most people who know me know – was the absolute worst year of my life), and although (from what I understand), he did not direct/produce this film, there is something about him and the work he does that inspires me (this time, to write in my blog for the first time in 15 months) and makes me want to share my personal truth.
& I want to be very clear about that: this post is about MY personal truth, and my sharing these words in a public forum is not an imposition or me dismissing anyone else’s personal truth – no matter how much what I believe opposes/contradicts what anyone else believes.
I am making that disclaimer because 1) That’s really my approach about all things. I am not here to say that what I believe is right and what anyone else believes is wrong, but – as with everything I talk about – I share what I believe based on my life experiences and the lens through which I see the world. 2) This post is about religion, which is quite possibly the most polarizing and “controversial” thing to talk about, but here I am, being my “crazy controversial” self (said with dripping sarcasm, because I truly think that most of what I say isn’t controversial at all – unless equality and treating people fairly is controversial – but what simply feels controversial to far too many is someone & that, too, a woman, speaking their personal truth so unapologetically and with conviction and passion when most people are afraid to say anything for fear of being judged or persecuted for their beliefs. Shoot, most people consciously choose to not even “like” or comment on stuff on Facebook, because they are so in their heads about what others might think).
I am not plagued by any such fear, so I “like” my freaking heart out and speak freely, openly, frequently, and always unapologetically. I make it known where I stand, what I stand for, and what I believe; accordingly, I have no problem being not liked – for reals in non-FB life – because of it.
On that note… yesterday, when I posted about going to see PK, I said that I was “excited to see what Bollywood’s highest grossing film – supposedly one completely aligned with my beliefs about religion – is all about!” Having watched the film, I can that – in every way, shape, and form – this movie depicts what I believe about religion and have believed since the ripe age of 9. My mom (a devout Hindu) has always been uber religious and so many of my memories from growing up involved going to temple. However, as the concepts of science, logic & reasoning were introduced to me by my dad and various things that I gravitated towards (like the stories of Gandhi, MLK, etc.) turned me into this young and spunky person who questioned/challenged (very politely) everything and refused to accept things because 1) they are a certain way and 2) people say this is how they are supposed to be, religion became something I began to doubt.
I asked my mom questions like “why do we believe in so and so God, but Aisha believes in this God and Jason in this one and Susan in another…?” When she would tell me they were all the same God, I did not buy it. It seemed like something nice to say, but that no one really believed or practiced that. I asked her why we fasted (more like why she fasted; I have never fasted a day in my life because as I like to say nowadays “God ain’t got no time for that!”), why could not we eat meat on Tuesdays, why did we give money at temple, why so much of what we did felt arbitrary and without any real reason or logic, and a hundred other questions…
She tried explaining, but again, it just felt like an explanation in vain.
During that time, a family friend Auntie of ours, Shobha Auntie, had started a Havan group. The group did not focus on any religious stories, there were no deities and accordingly, there was no idol worship and we did not do or say anything without a reason. If we lit a fire, there was science behind it; if we recited a mantra, we learned what every word meant and how it applied to our lives. Shobha Auntie’s execution of this monthly Havan group during the formative years of my life literally changed the trajectory of what I believed and who I am. I remember stating to my parents at 14 that I would no longer be going to temple, because the God I believed in did not need me to go to a physical place of worship (where most of the time felt like a social hang out of sorts that was much less about God and anything related to God, but about a scene where people went to be seen & bribed God and his “managers” – the pandits and such).
I did not go to another temple for 9 years until a family friend of ours got married and, after that, I decided that I could go to the temple as long as I knew why I was there for other people’s (primarily my mom & dad’s) happiness, which was fine by me. Now fast forward to watching PK last night. *Spoiler Alert* (if you haven’t seen the previews, read articles or other posts on the movie, I am not giving away any of the plot – just the basic message which has been talked about everywhere). The only other time I have watched a film and felt it was so aligned with what I believe and how I live my life was when I watched the documentary, I Am (another movie that inspired a blog post).
I know some people in the motherland are losing their minds over the film which they find to be blasphemous and offensive, but I personally thought the film was the most beautiful and (in my biased opinion) most accurate depiction of the hypocrisy of religion – NOT God – and the ironic and often terrible ways that people live their lives in accordance with (or more like the opposite of) their said religion. I loved how he highlighted the one thing I would say the most to my mom growing up: “I am a Hindu only because I was born to Hindu parents. If you & dad had died in a car accident after I was born and I was adopted by Muslims, I would be Muslim” to which she had no reply. & this has something that has dumbfounded me forever… how very religious people respond to the FACT that no one is BORN the religion they practice and that it is taught to them as is every ritual and rule associated to said religion
Most of all I loved how Khan’s character said that he believed in the God that created all of us, but not the God that all of us created. BOOM, *Mic Drop!* I cannot think of a truer statement for me personally because I, too, believe in and love the intangible God who doesn’t need his ego stroked by having us visit him in temples & churches, who doesn’t make us jump through hoops or demands we prove our devotion to him (God is not so sick and twisted that he gets off on our challenges and trials in an effort to prove our belief in him thereby proving us *worthy* of getting what we want), who “favors” some and not others (how terrible would God be if he picked favorites and passively let people suffer OR how powerful of a God would he be if the Devil was “winning” in so many millions people’s of lives who are suffering every day?), who does not accept our bribes and our bartering (I visited Vrindavan in India and experienced first hand the racket that is religion like when I wasn’t allowed into a certain temple unless I paid 500 rupees or people literally trampled over me in another temple in an effort to get place their “deluxe puja packages” at God’s feet trying to bribe him for something or another), who could care less what we ate, how we prayed or anything else so trifling (or so hypocritical and contradictory; for example, all the vegetarian Hindus who rock their leather sofas & shoes but look down on meat-eating Hindus), who doesn’t need us to pray to, protect or serve him (God is not a narcissist)… and who most of all, just wants us to believe in ourselves and care for each other & if we were to do just that, everything that God – if one exists – actually wants would happen all on its own.
But back to the film which basically addressed everything I said above and blatantly called out every hypocrisy of EVERY religion. It was so perfectly done under the (very necessary) guise of comedy and executed in a way that will undoubtedly make millions of people take pause and think about their own belief in God and religion.
To me, religion is a total (yet quite brilliant) racket… it is man-made to control people with fear, and holy sh!t is fear a great motivator (sadly though, is quite superficial, meaningless and hypocritical ways). God, however, who I believe in – in a very high level and broadway – ONLY because of the profound empathy I feel for people who will never be able to do a damn thing for me, is not motivated by fear and punishment… just love and THAT is what PK depicted so very brilliantly.
Again, I believe in the God who created us… not the God who we created, and, to me, God is so very basic (not in the offensive way the word is used nowadays), but simple in that believing in God is not about punishment, salvation or reaching heaven/moksha or hell/rebirth, but simply about being a good person (what I have always tried to assure my mom with – that God would be thoroughly pleased with who and how I am – when she expresses concern about my disbelief/ non-practising) & my religion is humanity and kindness (unless pushed, then I will #cutsomeone) while everything else before, after and in between is just noise…
That’s all from me for now. Thanks, Aamir.