When I was little, children were fed the story of a bogeyman. Recalcitrant, annoying, and clamant children were told about a certain man called ‘hanuman pandaram’ who would appear from nowhere and does bizarre dance moves before he plucks you and vanishes, never to come back. The fear was telling when we were told that the distant sound of a gong was warning his arrival. Eventually, he did come one day and many times thereafter, which told me that the poor soul was a harmless hunched mendicant who did a monkey dance wearing a grotesque looking mask resembling the primate god- the proverbial “hanuman”. He quietly retreated collecting alms.
When I recollect those days, I can tell the fright the story of ‘hanuman pandaram’ aroused in us. But it must have helped many parents to arrest and control their children.
I can liken that fear of Hanuman –pandaram with the scaremongering of the Modi led malice about Muslims and minorities. Like then, when the purpose was served- kids could be controlled and brought to heel, today, the population and societies have been effectively divided and suspicions writ large. The Hindutva agenda has been smoothly accomplished.
Growing up and now after more than half the life span gone by, I cannot for a moment recollect one instance where I was hounded or discriminated against, only because I was born Hindu. It amuses me to hear people parrot what has been fed to them, that the Hindu is under threat in his own country. I dare one person of my age or even younger to come forward and clarify what exactly is the threat he or she faced.
As a kid I went to temples, vied to be in the forefront of the jostling and elbowing devotees so that I could ring the temple bells when the priests threw open the doors of the sanctum of Sanctorum; as a child, I could even go into the chapel in the school and observe nuns kneeling down with piety in prayer and with pity I would gaze at the crucified Christ, then wonder about the saints and the frescos that adorned the chapel. No one forced me to attend catechism classes in school. When I was in my teens I could, and out of my own volition begin to question the frivolity of supplicating to Gods and even forever put stop to temple going as a devotee. And to grow up as a person exhibiting free will, thought and decisions, (albeit certainly a rebel), is a unique experience which takes a little bit of resolve. Fortunately, I wasn’t too bad with that! I did not see the need to question or worry about the church-going friends or Abdul Harris –the school mate who even confessed and showed us to our amusement and wonder his circumcised penis. That did not make us feel he was different. We would eagerly wait for the Christmas cake from a friend of my grandfather, and that arrived unfailingly on every Xmas eve.
Where was the threat to me? Later, not even to my children who had their entire schooling as boarders run by St. Georges Homes in Ooty. It was our decision to write to the school principal that we had no objection in our children attending holy mass on Sundays at the school chapel. Mercifully “love jihad” or “holy crusades” had not arrived in Kerala when I broke ranks and married a catholic and it is (32 years to the date on August 23, tomorrow).
My Hindu-ness has not worn out or diminished, whatever that may be. But fortunately, by not fretting to know what it was and not caring to safeguard that mirage, it gave immense peace that no Gods or places of worship can give.
Yes, twice in my life and both occasions in my early teens I was stalked, accosted, and cajoled to convert. First by the local RSS Sakha bosses and then by the neighbourhood senior who along with the then SFI leader showed up at my gate to enroll me as an active SFI member.
The former was strangely abhorrent even then and the latter not inspiring enough.