Chandani Chowk – Replica of a Secular India

chandni.jpgHave you ever been to Chandani Chowk? Let me clarify, that I am not going to write about the aura or the splendor of the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid, the crowd of Dariyaganj and Meena Bazar, and not even the mouth-watering paranthas of Chandani Chowk. There is something more to it. Something much graver and deeper. The place is a vision personified of a secular tolerant nation. Surprised at the unique, and never-heard-before description? Think again.

It is a place that shows us how tolerant and considerate we all are towards each other’s religion. And anyway, religion is no more than one’s own different way of worshiping and praying to that divine power, which no one has seen and yet is the source of one’s inner strength, solace and peace. There is Jama Masjid where the Muslims raise their hands towards the sky to pray to their Allah. Then, in the near vicinity, there is a temple where the pandits chant mantras and bells ring in the praise of the Lord. In the adjoining lane, there is a Church, where the candles are lit to pray for peace, love and harmony. There is also a Gurudwara, where food is served to the poor as a service to the Almighty. All of this, existing peacefully in the same premises, situated in the midst of the hustle bustle, shows us that love and harmony dwells amongst all of us.

Every time I go there, I am engulfed by conflicting thoughts. Here, we have a place, which is almost an epitome of Indian secularism and still there exists so much of communal violence in our country. Whenever I visit this place, I am left wondering as to how something as peaceful as religion can trigger so much of violence and havoc amongst its followers.

I feel that religion is an abstract concept. It is something that is inherent and embodied within the self. We have no grounds of questioning the beliefs, if we have faith. It is not just a series of plain rituals and practices. Rather, religion is something that gives us support in times of crisis, peace at the time of disturbance and a sense of satisfaction at the time of unrest. Religion is omnipresent and omnipotent, whose authority and power is unquestionable. However, let it be clarified that it does not render our endeavors powerless, rather it increases its intensity and makes us more optimistic. In very simple terms, it is just plain faith, remembrance and belief in some divine power that is a great bundle of energy. And yet, humans fight in its name; kill each other and shed blood. They fail to realize that they massacre in the name of the same God, to whom they pray with such reverence and believe in, with immense faith. How shallow it is to take each other’s lives, just because we differ in our ways of praying to the Almighty? for giving us that very life. Why has it been internalized so deeply in our thoughts that the most unchaste notion that can come to a Hindu girl is to marry a Muslim boy? Why is it that we, despite being human beings, want to shed the same red blood running through the veins of the other? Why is there such intolerance and so much such hatred?

I know it is a very basic, and clichéd question that I ask. However, it is just that we seem to have forgotten how to love, live and let live. Have we forgotten how to be tolerant? Or have we basically forgotten how to be human?

Vibhuti Rathore

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