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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Ever wondered about Bharat’s changing social scene?

Last month, on a busy day, I couldn’t check my mobile in the day. Towards evening, on my way home, I realized I had missed many calls, but what upset me was missing six calls from my sister. She rarely calls me a second time if I fail to answer the first one, so it got me worried.

Feeling terrible I called her back and was profusely apologising when she asked me to shut up and listen to her. Very unusual for my sister to talk like that, so I quietened down.

I could sense she was extremely upset; and it took a while before she could tell me that she’s massively unhappy with my nephew who was 28 and had decided to get married. “But you were keen that he marries and settle down, isn’t it?” I said, a little flabbergasted as that would be her refrain each time we spoke or met.

With no reply from her side, I tried another tack and said, “Hey, that’s great, congrats!” only to be greeted by another stony silence and then the line went blank. Putting it down to a bad connection, I gave it a few minutes and called back again. This time she spoke but with a lot of disappointment in her voice. She stated with a choking voice, “My son found a Muslim girl to marry.” As a religion, class, language, region agnostic, I did not really feel it was something to be upset about.

But, hearing her now sad, now hysterical, now angry voice, I was taken aback and mentally told myself to shut up for a minute. So, I went silent.

Since that day, it took almost three months, before my sister and her family accepted the situation half-heartedly and no one seemed happy. After all, what can you possibly do, when your child who has now grown up and has made up his mind? If the parents refuse to accept, what will hold the child back from going against their parent’s wishes? Then I wondered how my nephew chose to go against his parent’s wishes; but that story is for another day.

And this was a parent born in the 60s; in a devout upper middleclass Hindu family who ensured every little thing we learnt about Hindu wisdom, values and philosophy is passed on to their children. What then led the son to think his parents would be happy with his decision? Why would he be oblivious to his parent’s views? That he had moved away from the family for studies and work during his early 20s? That he was good at academics? That he had seen his sister’s wedding go through a rough patch? That he watched his sister-in-law and parent’s “on-off” relationship? That he travelled globally? But then, in these days, don’t all families go through these very same experiences?

The wedding was due in a month’s time and every day my chat time with my sister increased and she went through the “Shock, denial, anger, depression and finally acceptance” stage. I kept repeating to her that it was important that the “As long as the couple are happy” she should not worry much.

She would recount how unhappy our parents would have been; had they been around. One day it would be: “I just hope he does not get converted!” Next would be, “Wish I had given him better values.” The third would be “Where did I go wrong in bringing him up?” “What would he name his children?” “Would he forget our pujas and temples? Would he able to convince her to come to the temples? Can she modify her dietary habits? Would he change his dietary habits? Wish I had stopped with two children.”

Just last year, I had attended one inter-religious wedding of a family friend and did not think twice about it. It was seeing my sister depressed, that I began to think of things that were changing and so quickly at that. Suddenly, I began to see dots cropping up all over, conversations that I had never heard properly or those that did not sear into my mind.

This led me to go back in time and recollect if this had happened before. By the end of my 30minute introspection, was surprised, shocked and perturbed by it all. Between 2001 and June 2019 – in all almost two decades – 11 people I know of personally have had inter-religious weddings. (With most of these couples well-settled, I had never given it a serious thought frankly.)













While the above are not serious statistics, but more of anecdotal evidence, I noted that between 2001 to 2014 (13 years) there were only four such weddings, but between 2014 to 2019 (5 years), the number shot up to seven.

And this is just one Indian individual and his circle in one city, among his immediate family and friends. While I cannot extrapolate these statistics based on my experience, this is an account based on anecdotal evidence of what’s happening around us, the change that is occurring in our social life, our country’s landscape and where we are headed.

I am quite comfortable if the couples are settled into happy marriages and happy families; as except for one, all the marriages are holding strong. This reflection is not judgemental, critical or alarmist. This, my friends are the realities of life as we move forward. 

Now that you have read my account, when you have a moment, go back and recall similar incidents in your life and share if you can.

HinduPost Note

It is true that Bharat’s social scene is changing. Change is a constant in every society, especially one that is centred on an open-architecture system like Hindu Dharma. Marriage between consenting adults when no conversion is involved and both are aware & equipped to deal with religious and cultural differences is for the couple to decide.

But such marriages should not blind us to the fact that Abrahamic religions like Islam and Christianity promote a worldview which regards adherents of other religions in an inferior light. So, often, we observe that inter-religious marriages between a Dharmic and an Abrahamic involves conversion of the Dharmic person to the Abrahamic faith, or their children end up following the Abrahamic faith.

This also has a lot to do with Hindu families not teaching the core concepts of Hindu Dharma to their children. Even basics like knowledge of the 4 puruṣārthas (goals of human existence) i.e. Dharma (righteousness, moral values), Artha (prosperity, economic values), Kama (pleasure, love, psychological values) and Moksha (liberation, spiritual values) are not taught to children. So, a union between such a clueless Hindu and an Abrahamic who is invariably taught their religious tenets from childhood, is not a sign of a ‘progressive’ society as liberals would like us to believe.

Such unions should also not blind us to the ugly phenomenon of sexual grooming aka Love Jihad wherein non-Muslim girls (including minors) are targeted for sexual exploitation or forced conversion & marriage by radicalised Muslim youth motivated by religious teachings condoning such acts. This ground reality cannot be denied, however much we bury our head under the sand ostrich-like.

Many countries in the world have laws which disallow adherents of indigenous faiths from converting to marry a person of non-indigenous faiths, in order to preserve the country’s original religious-cultural character. It is time Bharat too considered such laws, in light of the sustained demographic assault on our country by Abrahamic fundamentalists, whether they be Islamists or evangelicals.

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