Monday, October 31, 2005

दिवाली मुबारक और नूतनवर्षाभिनदंन

And as this Diwali is celebrated in the horrific shadow of the terrorist attacks of Saturday, we can all pray for the ultimate triumph of good over evil*, which is what this day celebrates.

I am reminded of one of Gandhiji's favorite bhajans, "Raghupati Raaghav,"

रघुपति राघव राजा राम
पतित पावन सीताराम
सीताराम सीताराम
भज प्यारे तू सीताराम

ईश्वर अल्लाह तेरो नाम
सबको सनमति दे भगवान
[Transliteration and translation here (a paraphrase, not literal)
And a link to an online recording of this bhajan. See the left column, half-way down]

"Your name is Ishwar, your name is Allah;
may God bless everyone."

An apposite prayer for this occasion. And prayers for peace. Especially since the calendars have conspired to put Eid-ul-fitr (the end of Ramadan, or Ramzaan in Urdu) immediately after the Diwali festivities, on Wednesday.

Happy Diwali to all! Best wishes for the new year! And, of course, Eid Mubarak in advance as well.

Several post-scripts:
  • Message to Hindus on the Feast of Diwali from the Holy See.

    Dear Hindu friends, let us continue to collaborate in finding solutions to the problems we face, whether they be small or great, whether local or international. Diwali celebrates light, goodness, reconciliation, peace, harmony and happiness. I wish you all a very happy feast.
  • Message to Muslims on the end of Ramadan from the Holy See.

  • As I've remarked on several occasions, it never ceases to amaze me how a festive greeting can be construed as offensive. All this anxiety over Happy Hanukah versus Merry Christmas versus whatever. This sense of walking-on-eggshells. I refuse to adapt to this bizarre mentality of my adoptive homeland. I'll wish everyone. Get over it. :)
  • *For Christians, the decisive victory over evil was won by Christ on the Cross. The seeming victory of evil turns out to be the death-knell of death itself, as He rises triumphant from the grave, "taking captivity captive" as the Fathers put it. How this squares with the continuing experience of evil and suffering is a mystery for sure, but that is a separate topic.

1 comment:

assiniboine said...

Well indeed. Fortunately not all Hindus are lacking in intercommunal feeling: wearing my Eid present (it's a couple of days early in the Bohri calendar) of an XL polo shirt (the giver's husband is a Gujarati with a build like a sherman tank) I got a phone call from a Tamil Hindu friend in Malaysia who was delighted that I knew what he meant: he had phoned a couple of friends in insouciantly oblivious Australia who had responded "What's that?" (They've got a way to go before they live up to their claim to be the 21 century's answer to Habsburg Vienna. No, they don't quite put it that way.) And I get Channukah cards from Orthodox Jews. The upshot is that the answer to the question whether to say Merry Christmas to a Hindu or a Muslim or a Jew is assuredly yes, by all means, assuming it's someone one is apt to be on greeting terms with at all. Just as in Pakistan one is expected to respond to "Salaam aleikum" with "Aleikum salaam," notwithstanding that strictly speaking that is supposed to be confined to fellow Muslims, and Christian Arabs assiduously respond with the Arab for "well- hello-and-how-are-you."

But such, such as you say is hypersensitive North America -- such even more so in politically hypercorrect Canada than in the USA. I delighted in the story told by a friend who is a senior partner in an Islamabad law firm. There had just been an indignant leader on the back page of Canada's newsmagazine by a hijab-wearing woman who was raging over the response of an interviewer for a job to her attire ("How dare he ask about my headcovering?"): a woman lawyer wearing a veil had applied for a job; my entirely Muslim lawyer friend -- who has lately been discussing the enervating effects of Ramzan -- had asked, "Do you have to wear that thing on your head?" (She did; he hired her anyway because she was amply qualified, though she didn't last because she refused to fulfil her professional obligation to help out with entertaining clients at get togethers in the boardroom. However, unlike the response such a question one might receive in North America, hers had been patiently to explain just why she felt it necessary rather than taking umbrage.)

However, notwithstanding your report of Hindu outrage at the Christmas postage stamp -- be it noted, however, that it was British Hindus whose feathers were ruffled -- people throughout South Asia are in my experience endlessly forthcoming with questions about one's apparent eccentricities ("Why are you wearing those strange clothes?") and eager to explain their own.

Have you, incidentally, heard the Pakistani joke about bindis? No, no, it's not, as we all had supposed, something to do with religion; actually, a Hindu wedding is not consummated in the same way as a Muslim one; rather, the new bridegroom scratches off the dot from the bride's head with a coin and discovers whether he has won a Subway franchise, a gas station or a motel in New Jersey. Don't pass it on to any British, Canadian, Australian or American Hindu friends, but my aforesaid Malaysian Hindu friend nearly fell off his chair with hilarity.