Sundeep Bhutoria

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Secularism in action

 
After so many months I was in Kolkata for more then one week at a stretch. Earlier, this week a senior editor of a daily newspaper forwarded me a picture with the title – Real Secularism. The picture was so captivating that I stared at it for quite some time.
It was a picture of a Muslim family on a scooter with a child dressed as the Young Lord Krishna. I think this simple picture, a snapshot of everyday Indian life in a city, is truly representative of secularism in action in the world's largest democracy.
In fact, the sheer imagery of the picture tells us a lot more about secularism in our society than all the high voltage events and full page advertisements from time to time that try to remind us of this concept. This photo was a pleasant break from the usual Iftar party pictures or Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations.
The last week Id was celebrated and I, besides visiting some of my Muslim friends on the same day to exchange Id greetings, also attended a puja at the Manicktala Chaltabagan Lohapatty Durga Committee where I am serving as the Chairman of the Committee. It was Khuti Puja.
Khuti Puja is basically a ritual done before erecting the puja pandal. Debasree Roy, MLA, accompanied me to this Puja ceremony. The next day after Id was Ganesh Chaturthi. No doubt, India truly lives up to its reputation of being the `Land of Festivals' in ample measure.
The whole of last week there were a number of religious, social and cultural functions in Kolkata. Apart from the Messi fever, there was the Bridal Show by Tarun Tahliani at the ITC Sonar Bangla. Rituparno Ghosh's stage performance at the Birla Sabhaghar, Id get togethers and Samatswari festival of the Jain community.
Yesteray there was a Van Mahotsav at the state assembly and today evening Sunil Gangopadhyay would be acting in a play at Sisir Manch. Many important religious festivals of the Hindus, Muslims, Jains etc., and general events were all packed in a single week.
The festive season has just arrived. After Id, there is the Pujas / Dussehra and Diwali. Every year, it is a tradition among the old families of Kolkata who celebrate Diwali to go to the Machua Bazaar to pick up puja samagri and diyas. It is believed that if you go and pick up these diyas on your own then Mahalaxmi - the Goddess of Wealth - will bless you with abundance.
How many of us know that these earthen lamps which light up our homes and festivals are actually produced and sold by the Muslim families of Kolkata. Many members from these Muslim families who sit at Machua Bazar to sell diyas, earn their livelihood because of the Hindu families and festivals. This is another example of secularism in action in this country. I would call this embedded secularism. Something which has over the years symbiotically become an intrinsic part of our social life.
Of course we also have blemishes like Godhra, however, as millions of people of different faiths go about their daily lives in India, an invisible bond binds us all whose glimpse – like this picture - we get to see once in a while.
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