After the unsettling,upsetting, horrible events of last week in Mumbai, a conversation with Indira this weekend really lifted my heart.
On Sunday afternoon, she was reading aloud a story to me from her French reading practice book for this week when she stopped, and looking puzzled, said, “What’s a temple?” This startled me, but only for a few seconds.
She has never been inside a temple – there aren’t any in this part of France nor have we ever taken her to one during our holidays in India – and Shri and I are not the practicing kind of Hindus who have talked much about religion, or any associated rituals or traditions, to the girls, though they do know their Gayatri mantra and about Ganeshji.
I was not too surprised, therefore, that temples are a concept she does not understand very clearly. She’s only ever seen one in picture books, on the page showing different places of worship, and had probably forgotten all about it.
So I explained again that it is a place for prayer, like a church, since she has seen more than one of those here. This then led to us talking about Christmas (very much on her mind now that she has finished writing an elaborate letter to Pere Noel which begins with her expressing much appreciation for his yearly efforts and thoughtfulness in bringing so many gifts for people everywhere, and ends with a long list of requests for presents for her and Noor for this Christmas) and how it celebrates the birth of Jesus.
Since we were on the subject anyway, I quickly took her again through the periodic, cursory discussion I have with her about how different people pray to differently-named Gods, and that this is what gives rise to the fact of different religions and places of worship.
This is a discussion I tend to be chary of. I suppose I am uncertain how much detail to go into or withhold, to strike the balance between making her aware of the facts that I think one should learn as one grows up so as not to be clueless about different ways of being, without leading her to see them as differences that matter.
I guess the recent trouble in Mumbai was still very much on my mind because while we talked, I mentioned that unfortunately our differences of faith can sometimes lead to argument and fights.
And she said, “Well, I’ll just pray to all the Gods”.
That was such a “Mais voila!! ” moment for me. I told her that was really just the perfect approach, IMO, and we did a high-five to acknowledge the simplicity and rightness of that solution.
There is something else she once said,about a year ago when we talked about the same subject, which has stayed with me – “Since they are all Gods, then wherever they live surely they must all be friends?”
I remember thinking that this was just such a logical idea.
So what about us, then? Why can’t we stop fighting and killing each other?