I have never felt the need for looking the part of something. I always believed what is inside you is what matters. Be it in the office, apart the fact that you've to look decent and in a work place I have never felt the need to look 'corporate'. I haven't felt the need to look like a professional or a anything for that matter. But all these are so negotiable. The maximum that can happen to me if I don't dress corporate for my office is a pink slip. Thats the worst case.
But have you ever felt the need to look a Hindu? Look a Muslim? Look a Christian?
For the first time in my life I felt the need. I am born to a Hindu Brahmin mother and a Latin Catholic Father. I have been baptized, Arun John, very much a Christian but brought up learning to accept all religions and cultures. I have gone to Temples, The Kumbh Mela, Churches, Gurudwaras and quite many places of worship in my so many years. But I've never felt the need to look a Hindu to enter a temple, a Christian to enter a Church. I don't know if there is something called the Hindu look.
Yesterday I went to a temple in Hyderabad, near my office to pray and see the Dussera festive nip in the air. I admit, by regular Indian standards I look more a Muslim than Human. I sport a goatee which is influenced by the rock culture. But this also in branding terms make me look a 'Muslim'. I have never felt a thousand eyes upon me scanning me top to bottom as if I am misfit, an intruder, an outsider. But yesterday when I went to the temple I felt that. I felt each and every one right from the security at the temple entrance to the priest performing the pooja inside the deity room looking at me with scanning eyes placing my religion. I am not a person who frequents a temple or church or any place of worship for that matter; but once in a while when I do I would like to pray properly, have a silent conversation with myself without the fear of being scrutinized.
Is Religion no longer a matter of faith?
Even if I am a terrorist who wants to blow up the entire place if my face is neatly shaved and I look Hindu enough I can go into the temple without the fear of frisking and scanning?
Is there a need for this generalization or branding of Religions?
Is Religion a matter of faith or of identity?
There are many more questions in my mind which isn't so refined to be put down on a blog. But the incident freaked me out. It depressed me to know that I don't have the freedom to look what I want and follow the faith I want. I am more a patriot or nationalist than them I believe. I am a more mature and accommodative person than the octogenarians of middle aged ladies and gentlemen I saw there I believe.
I hope that people someday go back to being accommodative. We Indians have had a very accommodative culture. Religion is a matter of faith and its an extremely personal choice. If not accepting everything, the least we can do it respect it and treat the person as a fellow being rather then branding the person this or that! I am now overcome with a terrible pathos and a feeling of despair around me seeing face to face certain facts I never thought would affect me....