“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Marriage of Faiths

“My son is getting married, Sir, next month. You must come for the wedding.” There was such happiness in the lady’s voice as she said it. She was my colleague at Kottayam, where I had worked about three years back. I was glad that she remembered me. I knew her son too, who is now an upcoming playback singer in Tamil and Telugu. I said sure, I will, though as a matter of principle I don’t care much to attend weddings unless the invitation is from an unavoidable relative or friend. I invariably attend funerals, though. I have this intense dislike for the grand wedding- dos, where people would be spending so much of money unnecessarily, right from the ornate invitation cards to the gold ornaments and criminal waste of food. But I wanted to attend this wedding; I liked this lady and a trip to Kottayam, which always has a special place in my life, is something I would love to make.

“She is a Brahmin girl from Bangalore, settled in Chennai. Oh, he found her himself, ha ha ha,” she said. “The wedding is at our church; we converted her, Sir, she is one of us now’. Suddenly, I felt cold. I have nothing against Christianity or Islam or Hinduism or any ism-s, but I dislike anyone or any is-m that tramples on individual right to faith and belief. I have several friends and acquaintances who are from different religions and married but continue to practice their faiths and allow their partner the freedom to do theirs. But, recently, like the ‘love jihad’ that is in the news, one comes across this unpleasant conversion to the faith of the other partner. And in most cases, it is the Hindu man/woman who submits to conversion.

A friend of mine who is a Hindu, married off his daughter to a Christian boy. My friend is a person with a very liberal outlook and not a devout Hindu; when his daughter announced her intentions, he was generous and accepted her choice and her right to decide. Then she said that her fiancé’s parents wanted her to convert. He was disturbed and asked her why she should. The girl gave priority to the boy’s wishes rather than her right to remain a Hindu. Later my friend told me that he wouldn’t ever forget the day when he had to be on his knees in the church.

Last month I had posted a blog on ‘belief ‘. I had said I am a non-believer. I omitted to say that I too am a believer; believer in individual freedom, in acceptance of all faiths and non-faiths. I am a believer in my right, in each of our right, to be what we are and would protest against forcing people to choose or discard their faith.

The crux of the matter is not that whether the convert does it forced or in free will, but that the other partner has scant respect for the one who is forgoing his/her right to be what he/she is. I believe in respect. I believe in sharing space. I believe respect is above love.

The other day Anil, a close friend of mine, called. He is married to Caroline and they just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. She attends church regularly; he doesn’t go to temples. Anil teases her all the time, poking her for her bloopers and we all have a great time laughing. Like when she said Anil’s biceps in the leg is bulging or calling her friend excitedly from Yellowstone National Park saying that she has this terrific view of the Alps from where she was standing. Anil said, “ Dey, I took C yesterday to open a bank account. You know what she wrote in the column against ‘Religion’? Nature!” There was great love and respect for her in his voice. I said give her a hug for me.

I will miss the Kottayam trip.

************** Balachandran V, Trivandrum 01.11.2009


  1. Even if a few people become believers of 'individual freedom' like you the face of this world will change. I loved 'C'... there couldn't be a better religion than nature...

  2. If you really believe in any religion you will also be accepting every other religion, ultimately thats what is the crux of each religion..to reach god, each path leads to the same destination. There are many reasons to convert, many hindus converted originally to escape the "untouchable" brand. I feel the boy(groom) here should have objected to this.

  3. Baletta.. Forget the faiths, its much deeper in castes too. I really felt these issues are much bigger when people started poking into my parents' inter caste marriage while I was getting the proposals. One person even wanted to know if my caste XXX is registered properly. Never in my life I was bothered about religion and caste, and I have friends from all these faiths as you too have. But as the world is growing up, the human mind is shrinking I should say.

  4. @sujata: Belief in one thing, Sujata, as I have said before, is intrinsically, non-belief in others. Religious books may say holy things like 'respect other religions' but we would be naive to think that it is not pure bullshit. A few individuals may differ, though.
    When I believe in something, I would want to gather all around me to believe in the same. There is seeming security in numbers. Increasing the flock is the primary objective of all religions except maybe Hinduism which is not a religion in that sense. That the 'untouchables' converted to gain social status is a laugh. Even among the new religion they are known as converts from low-caste. If you think the different sects mix, you are mistaken! Casteism is more virulent in Christianity than Hinduism! My question is how much one values personal choices in such matters; how much one would respect the others'.

    @Dhanush: Yeah, I know. Oh, the devious ways people have, to sniff out one's caste! Your observation is most correct. The more the world advances materially, the lesser is their vision.

  5. Sir,
    I’ve seen this over the years. A lot of my friends who married girls from other religions did the same. Often, the boy or girl in question has no say in such things; it’s the parents who decide. I know a friend, a Christian, who is not religious, preferred to tie the knot in the church when he married his lover a Hindu, but later he rued it when he found that his parents’ demands escalate. I feel, often lovers –especially boys- obey their parents in order to gain their approval and acceptance. Rebellious lovers are passé. Compromise is the norm of the day.

  6. hats off to caroline.she did dare to write so!and i loved the pic too.

  7. Balan,
    Nothing more to add.
    All well said.

  8. Ha Ha , This C is getting to be like the Mrs G. ( Indira Gandhi)!!!!

    Balan u missed to notice that she is not a regular vist to church but sits u know where on the verandha over looking the pond and enjoys as what I would call "the infinite".

    As for conversion it is trampling one's soul at the behest of the other. And it is rubbish.


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