This is the fifth year I fast for Ramzan, my fasting not all that proper (I take water). I have been asked a lot why I fast, for I declare most fervently I don’t belong to any religion. And that is exactly the reason I fast.
From the time I did not quite know the meaning of equality or the idea of fairness, I have quietly murmured when I heard lines like you are a girl, go help in the kitchen. And it is exactly those words that made me stay away from the kitchen for so long. I refused to wear earrings and deliberately kicked stones when I walked because someone would then comment that’s what boys do. There has always been the strongest of feelings to do these, and not fall into a stereotype.
When I grew up, I understood there was nothing wrong in thinking the way most people did, in being a cliché, as long as it was original, genuine, real. So if I wanted to cook, I could. Clean, or love dresses. Be pink. And if I wanted to play video games all day or watch a cricket match at 3 in the night, I could do that too.
The gender stereotype was easier to solve, at least in my mind, but the religious one, not so. All through my adult years, I would cringe every time I heard the mention of a religion. When someone would inevitably separate a small group sitting with their coffee, into many – “You Muslims, We Hindus, You Buddhists, We Christians.” Stop with the yous and wes, I would grit my teeth and not utter my irritation. But it would swell up.
I hated even giving my name because immediately, they would associate me with a religion, or maybe a caste too. I now watch happily when confused brows go up and down, hearing my name that could belong to any religion. Some would then ask my parents’ names. And when I keep declaring my non-religious status, they dig all the way to my grandparents and great grandparents. “Surely, someone would have had a religion?”
There was this urgent need in me to disassociate with any particular religion. So I would visit churches, wear sandal paste on my forehead, and fast for Ramzan. The following of rituals is more in need to disassociate from every religion, than to follow one. The labels just had to go. Only ‘human’ should remain. To be one in a world without religion or colour or caste or race or gender or class or the many other differences, one John Lennon dreamed of. I hope someday you will join us, and the world will live as one.