Credit for the painting that forms the backdrop : Manjit Singh Chatrik
Photo credit : Soumi Haldar

A conversation aboard a flight to India. A conversation between our resident author, Piya Mukherjee, and her co-passenger about perhaps the most debated subject – religion. We are not forming an opinion or advocating a choice, we are merely saying what we believe in. Religion is a personal choice. Live and let others live. 

On the second leg of a long overseas flight, I settled down into my seat exhausted and sleep deprived. Not the right time for a conversation by any means. Just then my co-passenger enquired if I was traveling alone with such young kids, how old were the kids and how I was managing all by myself. 

This by now had become a repetitive question. So I proceeded to tell one more time that it was really no big deal and that the kids were for the most part well behaved. I was informed he was traveling from LA to Delhi on a mission. 

Mission? My curiosity arose. Perhaps another crusader trying to eliminate poverty from India, I thought. I was proven wrong. The mission was to educate about a certain religion and bring awareness about its ability to heal and cleanse all from their sins. I nodded silently in disbelief. The nod was not that silent after all. 

“So you don’t believe in my mission?”, he asked. 

My response was direct and raw. Beliefs are personal. Mine did not have to be in agreement with his. I believed in the power of karma. Karma, an overused word in the western world with origins in the country that my co-passenger was traveling to. In a country that was already drowning in the number of religions, another religion would not make a difference. There were more noble causes/ missions to undertake. 

He looked startled but not closed to my strong opinion. The conversation lasted an hour. I was wide awake by then, with two kids hanging on either sides. I excused myself to continue reading “Wild”, Cheryl Strayed seemed more engaging and inspiring. 

In between the reading, the air hostess came in with a snack. The interruption resumed the conversation. This time it was my turn to listen. “This is my 5th trip to India. Last four have not been exactly successful.” 

I did not respond. I had spoken already and so had many others. Religion is something we inherit by birth or adopt out of choice. It cannot be imposed. It is time we leave that alone and focus on being goodhearted human beings regardless of our religious choices. 

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