One of the sessions that interested me the most on the concluding day of the Hyderabad Literary Festival was an interaction with Hindol Sen Gupta, the author of ‘Being Hindu-Old Faith, New World and You’. Uma Sudhir, the Resident Editor of NDTV, hosted the talk. I was a bit late to the session but Hindol’s ideas and eloquence impressed me a lot. A friend of mine, who is a poetry enthusiast, was prodding me to leave the session and accompany him to another venue, where a poetry recitation session was scheduled. However, I refused to go with him and moved closer to the stage for better audibility.
In India, being a Hindu is okay as long as you carry on with your usual rites, rituals and celebrations and don’t talk in public about Hinduism and its all-absorbing and universal qualities. Because, we are surrounded by aggressive proselytizers who trash Hindus as pagans, heathens, ‘kafirs’, and what not. And most importantly we are surrounded by Commies, who are ever ready to pounce upon Hinduism and its culture and look down upon anything associated with it. I heard Muslims and Christians invariably speaking highly of their religions and feel proud of being the adherents of their respective faiths. Only Hindus are different. They always remain in a self-denial mode and keep claiming that they are either atheists or secularists to avoid being branded as bigots. They neither have a sense of unity nor do they take pride in being Hindus. For most of them, their castes are important and they spend a lot of time in speaking about caste-based politics and their regional leaders.
I, though a proud Hindu, give minuscule importance to any religious rites and rituals. The only ritual I perform as a practicing Hindu is entering a temple, having a darshan of the presiding deity and pray to God to give me and my family members the much-needed health, knowledge, and courage so that we can lead peaceful and purposeful lives. I also don’t forget to repeat ‘Sarve Janah Sukhino Bhavantu’, because in God’s presence one can’t be selfish and our peace and prosperity is directly dependent on the societal peace and prosperity. My father, who wears a long, vertical vermilion mark and spends a lot of time in collecting and reading Hindu scriptural literature, rarely visits a temple. However, we are proud Hindus and we never hesitate to claim so. It was in this backdrop I liked Hindol Sen Gupta’s talk and listened to him very attentively till the last.
Hindol, in his talk, stoutly advocated Hinduism, but at the same time denounced some regressive systems and practices that are part of Hindu way of life. He strongly denounced caste system and even stated that, being a practicing Hindu who hates caste, he does not wear the sacred thread that is reserved for twice-born Hindus (dvijas). He debunked the supposed miracles shown by some ‘babas’, and the blind beliefs and meaningless rituals practiced by some Hindus. He opined that, Hinduism, in spite of being an ancient way of life, is ever ready to renew and reinvent itself. Hinduism, with its millions of Gods and Goddesses, is a faith which is truly democratic and does not force any of its adherents to worship a particular God in a particular manner. A Hindu is free to worship his ‘Ista Daivam’ in his own way. He went on to say that a Hindu has full freedom to be even an atheist and reminded the audience of ‘Charvaka’ school of thought, which was an offshoot of Hinduism.
Hindol, being young and gregarious, freely mingled with some youngsters even after the session was over and patiently answered all their questions. During his interaction with a group of youngsters near the bookstall, where he intermittently kept autographing his books, he contended that the Hindu concept of ‘Ardhanareeshwara’ advocates gay rights. Meanwhile, a man approached Hindol and raised some questions about beef eating. Hindol answered that as a Hindu he doesn’t intervene or question somebody’s food habits and people are free to eat whatever they like.
After listening to Hindol, I’m fully convinced that my Hinduism is fully compliant with the 21st century. While getting my copy signed, I just asked him how can one defend Hinduism, and at the same time be politically correct? He gave a short and crisp answer. “Hinduism is full of political correctness. If you read about it and fully comprehend it you will definitely be able to present a politically correct and cogent argument in favour of Hinduism.” I immediately realized that he means it when he says it. During his interaction, he maintained a consistently reformist line. No regressive thoughts and no bigotry. Some people, who were ready at the venue with their usual and oft-repeated questions to grill him and trash his ideas about Hinduism, were disarmed by his rationalistic, all-inclusive, and progressive thoughts.
Writer Hindol Sen Gupta tweeted his response to appreciate this blog post.
— HindolSengupta (@HindolSengupta) January 14, 2016