Sunday, August 24, 2008

Janmashtami is a time for fun, all festivals are

Yesterday’s paper carried a photograph of two purdah clad ladies, presumably both Muslims, carrying children dressed up as Lord Krishna.

In an ideal world, the sight would not raise any eyebrows – festivals are a time of celebration, and one would expect people to participate in the festivities regardless of religion.

Santa Claus doesn’t bring presents only to Christian children, and it is not only Muslims who throng to Mohammad Ali Road to gorge on mutton biryani and malpuas during Ramzan. Why then should Muslim children not get to dress up in traditional clothes and have a shot at breaking the dahi handi in their school?

Why not indeed? Simply because the prevalent notion is that Muslims do not want to integrate themselves into the prevailing culture. Whether it is true or not, we are conditioned to believe it, and when we come across a person who doesn’t fit into our stereotypical image, we just brush that person off as an exception.

But I wonder how much of that is really true? Are the women in the photograph printed in yesterday’s newspaper the exception or the norm?

I would like to believe they are the non-vocal, almost invisible majority. To them, Janmashtami is not so much the day on which a Hindu God was born, as much as it is an occasion for their kids to dress up and have fun.

At my older son’s school, all festivals are celebrated without the religious element – on Parsi New Year, he brought home a beautifully coloured fish proclaiming Pateti Mubarak, even though there are no Parsi students in the school. I often wished there were many more such schools in the country.

After seeing that news photograph, I am willing to believe there are. And I am willing to start hoping again.

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