August 27, 2009
My rickshaw driver, Shashir, is trying to convert me to hinduism. Almost every day, he tries to take me to some temple or the other.
Years ago, he managed to drag Victoria and Bertie to his village temple to meet his guru. I shall never forget the story of the 2-hour drive on the highway, in the rickshaw shared with the whole family; how they waited another 2 hours in the village, being forcefed tons of food and liters of chai, and how they made a U-turn, one hour into the journey back, because they had just passed the Gurumobile, complete with megaphones and sirens. I will never forget Victoria’s face when she got back – that’s when I swore never to fall into the temple trap.
At first, I used to decline apologetically. I felt bad.
But to be honest, I am not remotely attracted to hinduism. There are too many gods, too many animals, too many stories, too many colors, smells, representations and contradictions to appeal to me. I can’t deal with the wars and betrayals and transformations. I can’t pray to idols. I need minimalism. I am, I have realized, monotheist to the core.
Now, I do feel bad. I probably sound awful and arrogant and snooty – after all, who am I to judge a religion?
I was thinking exactly this the other day when Shashir decided to take me, of all days: on Ganesh Chaturthi, of all places: to the Ganesh Temple. There would be a rough 100,000 devotees there.
I thought I’d elaborate my 8-billionth refusal:
“Sorry Shashir but no. I am a Catholic, I go to church.”
He turned to me he and, dead-serious, declared in hindi:
“But Madam, God is one.”