Yesterday I got back home a bit later than my usual time since I have been flooded with a lot of work at the office. Waiting for an autorikshaw in an empty street at about 9.30 pm can be a bit scary so when I saw a familiar autowallah, I immediately convinced him to drop me home even though where he was headed was on the exact opposite route.
All the while in the auto he kept peeking and stealing occasional glances at me on his rear view mirror. Instinctively I asked him what was wrong. He replied that in the last few months that he had been picking and dropping me back home, he had a nagging doubt, but never did dare to clear it out.
Now curious I asked what it was that he was thinking about. The first thing that he asked me was if I was a Muslim. I didn’t have any clue as to what he wanted to ask and honestly relieved listening to the question, I laughed out loud. He looked at me perplexed, I clarified that I wasn’t a Muslim.
The next doubt that followed was that why I never wore a bindi. As soon as I heard to that question, I was taken back to the various many times that I have been asked this question.
Since I was at school, I never had the habit of wearing a bindi and my parents never ever told me to. They always respected and maintained the fact that I should embrace only those things that I like. For that reason, it has been many years since I ever wore a ring, earring or a chain; all in all in 22 years, I must have worn them only for a handful couple of times.
The school that I studied at had the Hindu kids in a majority and all the other Hindu girls would wear bindis but not I. I still remember, close to almost every year I would have one teacher/sir who would definitely comment about it, asking if I was a Muslim. What I never understood and still don’t understand is that how can a little dot on your forehead discriminate you from other religions.
One day it crossed my threshold and I spoke about it to my mother. What followed next was that she came to school during the next PTA and held up the fist of the sir who passed that comment on me (in my defense, he had been doing it for a long time) and asked him to look at all the fingers on his hand, how they were different in sizes but would our hand ever be able to function in the same way if all the fingers were of the same size or if we had only one of them? That our unity was in the fact that we were diverse. That one comment from Ma made him shut up for the rest of the time that I was at school.
Similarly I was also called a Buddhist since I don’t wear any jewellery and look Chinese, thanks to my Grandma’s Burmese genes and my short hair.
All of it came rushing back to me with that one question and I wondered why do we have to keep proving our religion to everyone? Why do I need to wear a bindi to be a hindu or get dressed up in a hijab or a burqa to be a muslim?
From when did outer things like clothes and accessories define one’s religion instead of the thoughts in one’s hearts?
If my God says that to prove my love and devotion to him/her, I would have to dress in a certain way then I think I’m better off without such a God.