Tuesday, December 4, 2007

My Tug of War

Whats more important? My religion or What I want?

First things first: Fine, Yes, I was born into a Hindu family. Was I given a choice? Most probably not. Was I brought up by incredibly strict parents who taught us not to eat beef, to pray to all our Gods and Goddesses on a regular basis? Almost definitely not. Was I brought up by my parents to hate all non-hindus, and to only lead life the "Hindu Way"? Most Certainly Not.

Actually in reality this is how I was brought up: I was brought up knowing that I was free to make choices which I thought were right, as long as they didnt hurt anybody. I was told that as long as I was a good human being eating beef or not praying to God really didnt matter. And my mother fought against all forces of nature and family to put me in a school where I was taught the lesson of spirituality and humanity: in essence being a good human being, following your heart and soul, and doing good onto others is really all that mattered.

So then why at the age of 27, am I being told otherwise? Why am I being forced to choose between the person that I am, and the person that I learnt I shouldnt be? Why is it that now, all of a sudden Im being told to be someone completely different than who I am? The answer is very simple: Because now the person that I am has become an inconvenience to many.
Actually its not even my personality, its one aspect of my so-called society imposed identity. A part of my identity that I dont identify with: simply because my parents were born into "Hinduism". Even though ours was not a religious family, we were never impeded by religious boundaries, and there were no religious expectations from us: at the end of the day it really doesnt matter. Because the beauty of Hinduism is convenience, and convenience dictates how much of one's Hindu nature one must follow. It simply was not convenient for my "Canada returned" parents to turn into over-zealous followers of the religion, Bengalis generally are not. However now its utterly convenient for my mother to take on the persona of a racist islamophobe. Simply because now she's surrounded by so many others who are the same.
Technically its not just her fault, or her friends. Its whats going on in the world. Islamophobic Media portrayal has reached a new high, painting Islam as a religion which advocates terrorism, religious clensing and violent measures to promote their own agenda. Except what is always left out is that the above definition only portrays a few followers, not the religion in its entirety.

Am I the first person who wants to be with someone I love and transcenc religious barriers? No. But surprisingly theres not that many. Even amongst second generation Canadians, discriminations are seamlessly passed on from the generation above. The residents of the countries that our parents came from, for example those back home in India have moved on. They are accepting couples living together before marriage, inter religious coupling and dating on a more common basis. Whereas, the generation before us who left their homes mostly in the 1970s or early 80s seem to be stuck in the darkness of their closed minds.

There is also another phenomenon: Its the "as long as it happens to someone else, Im okay" phenomenon. I remember listening to my mom counsel a friend of hers a few years ago about her mid thirties' son's new Muslim Girl friend. She thought about everything from the "spend whatever time you have happily" argument to the "he's a grown man, he can make his own choices" argument. Now those same arguments are falling on deaf ears.

I like to think Im right. Actually I KNOW Im right. As long its not creating a rift between the two of us, there are no reasons for us to break up because of religion. We are both Bengali, and never have I felt that we aren't compatible because of religion. Im not expected to convert.

So, I told my mom as long as he doesnt bring home a 4th wife, Im preganant with my 11th child, and he's kicked me out, shes not allowed to talk to me about my choices.

I laugh when I regurgitate the story of our confrontation, but really am I laughing inside? I wish I could. I just hate to think my mom is one of "them". I wanted to know that maybe she was different than the rest. Except she isnt. And the fact that she isnt is disappointing. Its like youve believed something about someone for most of your life, and then was told that it wasnt true. Thats disappointing right?

My dad is another disappointment. I figured my dad is a singer, he sings songs of Hindu Muslim unity. He talks about Tagore and Nazrul all the time. Except it doesnt work in reality. I know he doesnt dislike Shawjeeb. How could he? Hes reacting the way he is because he is expected to. Hes expected to not be okay with his daughter's muslim fiance, so he isnt. Would he get along famously with Shawjeeb if we werent engaged...most definitely yes!

All in all, my life has turned into the worst cliche of all: love is blind. Maybe everyone else is right. Maybe Im wrong. Even if sticking to my guns turns me into the rudest, mouthiest, angriest person in my family so be it. Im tired of fighting for what I believe in and what I want.

Im tired but Im the happiest Ive ever been.

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