I was just coming out of Citi Centre Chennai today and found a person sitting with some copies of the Holy Quran. I found some attraction in the guy’s approach and stood there for a while. Just feeling out of place I lit up a cigarette and kept noticing the guy. He spoke to some people who came to his stall. He said he was giving a copy of the Holy Quran to non-Muslims. I went in and asked for a copy. He obliged.
There was a Muslim fellow along with me there. He knew who I was. He asked me gently – “Why do you need a copy? Do you have second thoughts in your mind?” I said “No. I just want to know what is there in this book which makes it Holy...”
He looked and me and said “Aren’t you a Hindu Brahmin?” I asked “how does it matter?” I knew the most obvious question in his mind. He wanted to know how could a Hindu Brahmin take a copy of Quran and want to read it. What he didn’t know was what surprised me. No religion ever tells you not to read something which is holy.
I remember a small time story of when we were organizing a Durga Puja in our area. All the locals were mesmerized by the way the Dhaaki showed his skills with the two sticks. He not only danced to the tunes he played along with his huge drum bejeweled with feathers, but also impressed he crowd with his antics. Some one just yelled “Hey Aslam, just play that tune again…” Well that was enough. Just as a small matchstick that can destroy an entire city. Half of the crowd just vanished. Most of them left the pandal with big eyes yelling curses in their mind at the organizers. A Muslim Dhaaki in Durga Pandal -That raised a lot of eyebrows, I tell you.
I still don’t understand this. Its twenty first century and we call ourselves civilized. Still people discriminate on terms of cast, creed, sect and colour. There is no room for intellect or art left in this division.
One of my favourite actors, Anjan Dutta, once asked what is religion, leaving all the people around flabbergasted. He said religion means Church; it means Temple or a Mosque. It means architecture. Religion means the numerous frescos in the churches around the world, it means the precious art that is inside a mosque or a temple or a gurudwara. It means Carols, Kirtans and Quawalis. It lies in the hundreds of devotees who sing, just to be an inch closer to God. It means Gita, Guru Granth Sahib, Quran and Bible. It means the hundreds of literature written around the world. In one word, Religion is Art.
He was right. No one could actually refute that. It’s on us how we want to call our God. Do we want to Sing or write or just simply paint or how exactly you do it, is just not the question.
I never say that religion was not important. If religion was not there, then probably the world would have been left bereft of music, literature and art. There would have been no John Lenon or Beatles or even Ricky Martin. There wouldn’t have been Leonardo Da Vinci or Michelangelo or Beethoven. No Jim Carrey or Shahrukh Khan or Morgan Freeman. But, what we never needed was the discrimination or the hatred which spreads because some people fell they are superior on basis of their religion.