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Poem: Where has that India gone?

Gopinath Chandroth looks back at the India of his childhood and youth – and sees communal harmony.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

 

Kerala, my native state

the azan from the local mosque wakes me up.

It starts our day.

We don’t think Muslim or mosque.

It is an alarm clock.

Time to get up and do our homework before school.

 

Women troop to the local temple clutching bunches of wild flowers,

their hair still wet from the morning dip in the river.

The deities at the local temple receive their floral offering.

We don’t think Hindu, but wait for them to return home

carrying the fragrance of sandalwood and basil.

And prepare breakfast – inshallah, steaming idlis and coconut chutney.

 

Sunday morning, people in their finery throng the church.

The women fold their mundu in the shape of a Japanese fan.

Their gold ornaments glitter in the tropical sun.

We don’t think Christian, but recognise Sundays from their attire.

No school, no homework, just playing cricket and climbing trees.

 

We are in Delhi.

It is mid winter.

At 4 am, a procession of men and women singing hymns march through the streets.

We don’t think Sikhs, but know it is the birthday of one of the Gurus.

We smile and return to the comfort of our blanket.

 

We read about people marching, without clothes, to a temple in Karnataka.

There is a move to ban the practice, the papers tell us,

due to the outraged morals of those who do not understand

the Digambara (wearing the sky) concept.

We did not think Jains, but our adolescent minds were titillated nevertheless

by the thought of naked bodies.

And we were intrigued by the rationale behind not wearing clothes

to prevent the death of insects who could be trapped in them.

Perhaps, a seed that germinated eventually to turn me vegetarian.

India of my youth

I have been away for over three decades.

Things are different now.

Religion has somehow become very important, especially other people’s.

Our identities are now defined by our gods.

It seems nothing else matters.

Not the neighbourhood, not the profession, not the linguistic commonality.

Just gods who we can’t even see.

 

What has happened to the India of my youth?

 

Read more: MAli’s Cartoons are about a collective and inclusive India

Read Also: 10 Beautiful Stories of Communal Harmony That Restored Our Faith in Humanity. And Our Country.

Gopi Chandroth
Gopi Chandroth
Gopi Chandroth is a hobbyist writer, marine accident investigator and machinery condition monitoring expert. He has a PhD in the use of artificial intelligence for machinery fault diagnosis.

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