Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Maryam Asif Siddiqui's Gita achievement: Let's not see it through the lens of religion!

It is said that sometimes children show the real path to elders. Maryam Asif Siddiqui might have been a regular 6th Grade student but she's not. Because she is the girl who came as a breath of fresh air amidst the intolerant religious flutters the country is going through and a lesson to many who resolutely believe in religious fanaticism.

Earlier this month on one fine Morning I got surprised to see a Whatsapp message in one of my groups about a 12 year Girl from Mumbai winning a Gita contest organized by ISKON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) last month. Later I found that the news has gone viral appearing on all social media. As I had been occupied with some other obligations, I could not follow the news in electronic or print media

However, at the first glance I appreciated the news basically for three reasons…

Firstly…She is just a 12 year girl, quite young. Being a mother of a child of around the same age I am well aware of the mindset of today's kids. Their world revolves around super smart gadgets and The Interstellar kind of movies. I personally know how difficult it is to make them read books on Indian philosophy of moral values. For e.g. let it be even Panchatantra.

As per my knowledge girls of the same age (at least in Mumbai) have a greater interest in trending fashions and other activities like dance, smart phones and partying. They (especially girls) don't even love mythological cartoon characters that much. So when I found a 12-year old girl winning a Gita contest, I was astounded as I had never expected something like this even in my wildest imagination.

Gita…undoubtedly a difficult scripture even for bold and mature grown-ups. Some may believe it as a religious scripture but I believe it as philosophical one as it teaches purely philosophy of life more clearly…spirituality. Definitely it is quite complicated and above the mind of a 12 year old to understand its teachings. I think the young girl definitely deserves highest accolade for this adventure.

Second…she is a girl. You may paint me as a feminist, but my upbringing says, in most of the Indian families, girls are less encouraged to read scriptures irrespective of the religion they born with. So as she was a…Girl…. won the contest on a scripture among around 5000 students…honestly I was filled with deepest appreciations for her.
Third…I appreciated the efforts of her parents who supported, encouraged and helped her to follow her endeavour as well. Moreover I'm also grateful to them for inculcating such values in her through her upbringing. They become an example for the parents like me.

However, I am quite disappointed with our approach (that also includes all media) to this incident. Some has quoted it as "Truly Secular" while some has presented it as "an example of Communal Harmony". I'm really sorry to say but no child knows the meaning of being secular or communal. In fact they don't even understand the meaning of Religion…that they hear occasionally when grownups talk about.

Why should we look at this achievement through the spectacles of religion at all? Just because she is a Muslim girl who won Gita contest, which is perceived as aHindu scripture? Let me ask…had the girl belong to any other religion (even to Hinduism)…does the achievement would have become less adventurous and noteworthy? Also…if the scripture had been Quran or Bible or anything else and not Gita….then would it had been less astounding?

If so…then I think we really need serious introspection because we are losing out our human values somewhere.
I feel…The significance of this event is that we should encourage our children and young minds to read different scriptures and appreciate the teachings in them. If needed then lets organize contests to motivate them. This will instill human values in much better way. Here I must appreciate the efforts of ISKON as well for organising this contest.

And please for god's sake…don't divide children by building walls of religion as they are pure humans. Ask the girl above…I'm sure she will tell you that the only religion in this world is "Religion of Humanity".

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