When you marry someone from a religion different to yours, you already make a case for choosing a human above your god. When I married a Hindu, I knew at some subconscious level that neither of us cared enough about religion to let it play a leading role. Certainly not enough to hold it in higher esteem than each other. What religion will you bring your children up in, was a rather popular question. Both our religions, we said stoutly. Caught up in a frenzy of love and life as we were, we didn't give it more than a passing thought and I have to admit we handed out this response simply because it seemed like the correct one.
What religion your future children will grow up with, is hardly a burning issue as far as most inter-religious couples are concerned. Far more immediate are issues like who will be the primary earner, careers, long hours at work, office flings, long distance relationships and other such malaises that plague the modern marriage.Sure enough, one of our biggest fights, I am embarrassed to admit, was over sofa fabric. I've never looked at olive green in quite the same way again.
Over the years, my husband and I did what we could to try and introduce our children to religion. We bought the books on mythology, we played the music, we tried to teach them to pray—when we remembered! Until we realised we were only going through the motions. Our hearts were not in it.
And then we began to question. Why do we celebrate in this manner? Why fast before a puja? Why perform this ritual?
It doesn't help that most religions customs and festivals put down women. Be it a festival where you fast for your husband's long life or another where sons-in-law are celebrated. Be it religious restrictions during menstruation or the need for women to display signs of marital status or keep their heads covered. And so it was, that feminism, rather than reason, overturned religion for me one day.
The answers religion gave, were unsatisfactory, to put it mildly. And what came through, after a while were simple basics – religion gives us guidelines for daily living, and festivals, a reason to break out of the monotony of daily life and have a little fun, let off some steam. This was good. This we could work with. We already had some moral guidelines set in place that had nothing to do with religion. But we still had to cover all bases – namely, celebrations.
In a world full of racism, misogyny, xenophobia and hated, it is important to celebrate. To choose celebration over hatred, everyday. It is also important for these celebrations to be universal and not be tied to a particular religion. It's important they be celebrated with an open mind and in our own way, with no fear of divine consequences should we fail to do them in a particular way. And in a country where the female foetus is aborted, the girl child is starved at her brother's expense and the sister kept home to do household chores while her brother goes to school, it's all the more important for us to put aside celebrations and rituals that put the man up on a pedestal in his role as a brother or a husband, and choose to celebrate the woman for her inherent strength.
And that is when we slowly slid back into the celebration of life. Yes, we do, to use that old saw, celebrate our life everyday. But it's nice to dress up, to have a party, to have an occasion, to pick a day to appreciate the things that matter to us. The environment, our parents, our spouses, our children, love. Tangible things that matter to everyone of us, across barriers of caste and creed.
So yes, this Woman's Day I'd like to tell my daughter how important she is, not just to me, as my daughter. But as a female, as someone who will grow up to be a strong woman and contribute to the world she lives in. That I celebrate her more than an unknown omnipresent figure, the tooth fairy or Santa Claus.