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Of Life and Smiles


T.C.A. Avni

FOR HONOUR
By Bela Lal
Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 228, Rs. 250.00

IT'S ALL ABOUT SMILES
By Ranjani Iyer Arumugam
Alchemy, Delhi, 2013, pp. 240, Rs. 195.00

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 9 September 2013

When I picked up this book, I did not want to read it. When I glanced through it, my conviction grew even stronger. Don’t get me wrong; the fault doesn’t lie in the book. My reluctance stemmed from the same source that makes me avoid all manners of news: from newspapers, to web feeds, to radio, and even television—the craven desire to not read about the ugliness that exists just a little outside my comfortable life. After all, what do the papers carry but the details of horrors? The murders, the rapes, the suicides. My very reluctance to read the book made me trudge through it. I knew the ending—it was the first thing I read. I knew I would be unhappy when the book ended, and what is worse, I knew I would be ashamed.   Growing up in a secular household, and attending a secular school, I was taught to be proud of my heritage, of my culture. We celebrated Christmas at carnivals with gifts as easily as we celebrated Diwali at family get-togethers with lights and crackers. I’ve attended a Midnight Mass, partaken of langar at gurudwaras, and stood in lines so that I could perform archana in temples. I could, and did, talk and argue with my father, my mother, sundry aunts and uncles about anything that I wanted to. I had a thriving sibling rivalry with my elder brother on trifling issues. I wrestled and argued with my cousins at get-togethers. I went on school trips, read books which I chose to read, played with an assortment of friends in the evenings. I voiced my opinion, loudly, and sometimes inappropriately, to the world. I listened to and was heard during arguments at the dinner-table. My opinions were respected, even if the others didn’t agree with them. I was encouraged to think through a concept for myself rather than accept someone else’s word for it. I grew up, in short, not as a girl, but as a child.   So for me, considering myself a Hindu is an active choice. The wide diversity in our culture, the factions, the chaos, the confusion, and the creativity that goes hand-in-hand speaks of acceptance; an acceptance of other people, and an acceptance of their beliefs. These principles of tolerance, of acceptance, are what make me proud to consider myself as a Hindu.   However, this ...


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