Musings, faith, politics and wanderings of an idle mind

A Column Created Assignment

Madhusree Chatterjee

Not all idleness is needless musings of a mind in acute need an assignment.The last three months since August – the month of Lent on the calendar of the ancient Judeo- Christian social dos tll November – have been ones of Revelation – the book that illuminates the way to the Gospel. The word gospel ratchets up visions of the apostles sweating blood over the foundations of a faith that rested on the word Incarnate- endless trickles and streams of words that flowed from the lips of the messiah to create a virtual global republic of a religion which somehow eases the aches of the needle punctures – the blues of pains that refuse to ebb. Angst exist in million existential shades – at every level of consciousness.

Dad, the earth which hosted me – the civilisation of neo-copntemporary sanity – gave in under my feet. He followed his mentor to the banks of Jordan around the time of ascsension trailing in his wake hubris and debris of hate, animosities. felines and lions – the hate of the planet from which he shielded me like the true golden knight in his robe of a benign white crusader. A Brahman from the region of the Upper Gangetic catchment area of Kanyakubj- Kannauj of modern day Uttar Pradesh in India known for its tales of royal heroics and feudal Brahminism – he found familiarity in a faith that was born in the barren deserts of Israel.

Of evolved heads, refined sensitivities and a running thread of intrinsic goodness – which connected Dad’s profound Brahmin soul of the Ganges to the baptists of Jordan- one who swore by the water and the other by the holy spirit. Last Christmas, he waited for over two hours under a leafless tree of Indian “neem” – the remover of all angst – when I massed to the Church for my Dec 25 prayers. He had broken a toe; he said he was waiting for deliverence in the precincts  of the  sacred heart of the nation’s  power centre.  The “neem” fronds  and his cherished “childhood” fantasy of Jesus Christ holding out the “white flag” of salvation from everything mortal was  his sparkling wine that evening. When I emerged from the Church three hours later after winning wars over elephantine queues of at least 100,000 pilgrims and seekers of truth – he stood like the stoic Brahman under the “neem” tree. Delivered, he smiled; his merry eyes twinkling like Santa. He had pulled the hood of his heavy parka on his head; the toe had ceased to hurt. He met his mentor after eight months in August around the time, I starved myself with bread and potatoes.

I grieve; but regret? The one who had fallen back on the faith – pledged long ago, I treated it as a test the owner of the edifice put me through for homecoming. Fathers are after all the same- christened either as a true Brahman or as the first true Christian. I anguished over it as an ascent up the spiritual ladder; consoling myself that the one-km trek from the underground rail head to the Church was my redemption and ironically, a climb. The strangest aspect of the loss are the similarities in the edicts of the convictions that the two faith espouse- both are ancient and rooted in emancipation of the soul- the Brahman – one with the universal divine. At birth, I was baptised with water, the subliminal divides between the Ganges and the Jordan blur. The act of cleansing with water was the first rite of passage- to Brahminism and Christianity alike.

Father and a father – a “faithful” and my dad, who nurtured faith in his heart. Faith transcends geography. We look for deliverence, pray for salvation, most of the time on this earth, never consciously beyond . .

Samuel Hungtington’s Clash of Civilisation seems like my old dog-eared Giddeon’s Bible – when we look at the broad topographies faiths have charted; each overlapping into other. Think of Cassius Clay as Muhammed Ali, Cat Stevens as Yusuf Islam … and the odd Herbert Humphrey from United States sporting saffron and the white “mark of Vishnu” on his brow as Swami Parmanand at the International Society for Krishna Consciousness headquarters in Mayapore in Bengal.

I found it a profound confluence of faith to see Malala, a child rights warrior from Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi, a peace activist from Madhya Pradesh in India forging new bonds on the Norweigean Nobel peace stage in Oslo on Thursday (Dec 11, 2014). Countries in the contemporary language of geography and geopolitics are identified by the faiths they adhere to. As India turns increasingly Hindu fascist under a Hindu right wing government, Pakistan’s official faith is Islam. The two shared the stage with none other than Christian Amanpore in Oslo speaking of their mission… Scandinavia is unabashedly Christian at heart.

Disconcerting on the other hand is the fact while the two regaled niche audiences across European boudoirs ( on the television ) with tales of their “samaritan campaigns”, India is turning inwards. On Thursday as the Russian president Vladimir Putin touched down India with nearly 50 “trade and cultural memorandums of understanding in his bag of wider strategic ties” between the two old allies (read nations), the Indian Parliament erupted in a tizzy over conversions of faith. The right wingers have been forcing the minority Christians and Muslims in towns like Agra and Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh” to come home to the Hindu faith canopy. In India under a right wing government, the entire idea of reconverting to Hindutva has cast itself in macabre colours of middle-age religious barbarism- religion as a tool of vested interest, political and material gain rather than a way of life.

The subsequent change in dispensation in the corridor of powers later will perhaps allow the “reconverts” to walk home to their parent faiths- Christian-Hindus to Christianity and Muslim-Hindus to Islam. This might continue like a ritual circus of the “musical chair” as a poll-fetished nation wobbles from election to election. The founding fathers of the great faiths of the world had foreseen it – the clash of faiths; but we should not have brought the civilisations in. In a civilised society, people use faiths to bend blocks of destinies across cultural walls.

A father for a father. Jesus Christ and the astute Brahman in Kannauj- picking thorns out of the thornbushes. Christianity and Brahmanism; the tenets are all the same about sanity. The evolved soul ?




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