“Muslims Cremate Forsaken Hindus”, I read the headlines in today’s newspaper. It spoke about how a group of Muslim youths had taken the lead and performed the last rites of a 65-year-old Hindu man, whose own flesh and blood refused to show up to do the needful. Not only did they pacify his grieving, incapacitated widow, who was worried that the body would decompose, but they also contacted a Hindu priest, procured the death certificate, obtained the required permission from the cremation ground, prepared the bier and carried the corpse to the grounds. Just as one of them was about to light the pyre, the man’s son walked in, did the needful, and walked away without so much as a by your leave.
How the story warmed the cockles of my heart. This is how it should be. This is what the media should showcase. Brotherhood. Solidarity despite differences. The height of compassion and kindness. All that it sure was, and yes, the Muslim youths were undeniably the epitome of humanity. Then, it struck me. Isn’t this what any human being should do in these circumstances, irrespective of religion, caste, creed, sex? Isn’t it innate to reach out to another in need? Aren’t we hardwired to do so? Isn’t it our nature to spontaneously offer a kind word, a shoulder to lean on, maybe some money if we can afford it or whatever it is that we can extend at that moment, as succour?
Perhaps, in an inharmonious world, where differences are used as weapons to alienate, create strife and ghettoise, such gestures have become so rare that they need to be held up as examples–reminders of our true nature. We are actually amazed that some individuals can rise above the contrariness, listen to their untainted hearts and allow their humaneness to surface, and that they do so despite professing a different religion. If we feel that religion is such an impediment to being our natural selves, we need to revisit it, look at our interpretations of it and do away with that which warps our minds and hearts and hold on to that which nurtures our indigenous humanitarian core.
I’m in no way undermining what the youths did. They are heroes. I’m only saddened that today, we have to mention that they did what they did despite their religion, as if the act is an oddity, as if our diversity is meant to alienate us, and that acts of natural grace are unexpected and superhuman. To be true to one’s nature is anomalous. In trying to ‘protect’ our uniqueness, we are afraid to embrace this diversity. How much richer we would be if we celebrated it, and instead of trying to be exclusive in a sickening, alienating way, we are accepting and inclusive.
As I ruminated upon this, I couldn’t help look around and marvel at the wondrous mixed bag that nature is. Despite its multi-hued faces, it exudes harmony through every blade of grass and every drop of rain. It cradles all kinds of seeds in its soil, and allows them to blossom in their own special way, creating a medley of beauty and coexistence. It doesn’t play favourites, doesn’t hold back, and gives judiciously and without discrimination. It is generous and benevolent. Ask, and it gives…
We are nature’s children. How could we be any different? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.