The other day, I returned from addressing a gathering of local students (here in the Greater New York Region), from both India and other countries. The topic given to me was “Hinduism: a religion or a mythological philosophy”. Initially I was offended but decided to go along with the way the topic was phrased.

While the non-Indian students heard everything I said and had valid relevant questions, what was disappointing was the response from Indian students.

As a practice, I ask the students to tell me their names so I can make it a little more personal. All of the 5 Indian students were Hindus. The one student, who seemed to be the leader of the Indian pack, was more geared towards the current Indian government and how it was communal.

I asked the student to tell me why he felt this way and all five of them responded with how the government differentiates with the Minorities. When I probed further, one responded with one point: stopping funding the Muslims from their Mecca yatra while the others responded with the new reservation group that allows 10% reservation for the economically disadvantaged.

Though I was a little perturbed, I stayed calm and decided to take it one at a time! I asked the student body at large whether all of them would agree to put in 10$ (there were about 200) so X could visit the Vatican City. I got one answer: No. When asked why they all responded with the same answer: why should I fund someone else’s trip? When I then turned to the Indian kid and asked him what he felt, he replied “it’s not the same. The government is funding the trips, not individuals”. I told him that it was the common taxpayers’ money that was being used for this. I asked the entire student body whether they’d allow the federal government to deduct 10$ from their taxes every paycheck and put it towards their countrymen flying to see the Vatican City. I said we have about 180 million taxpayers in the US system and that would amount to 1.8 billion USD. After an audible gasp, they all said “No” in unison (including the Indian kids). I then turned to the Indian student and asked him why he said “No” to this request but wanted the Indian government to spend money on the Mecca trips? As expected, he kept quiet.

I figured it was because the Indian mentality of “apna paisa thodi hai “ was at work! Why doesn’t the Hindu community understand that we are guilty either way, whether we ask for OUR rights or not? If we revolt against the above mentioned “tax on temples”, we are termed communal! We are NOT saying we don’t want Muslims to go to Mecca but WE don’t want to fund this! I don’t see a line of people waiting to fund Hindus trips to Varanasi or other holy places. We believe that if it’s in our Karma, we will visit these holy places JUST once in our life before we head to the next world!

Now onto the reservation policy. I asked the students if we could do a role play for 5 minutes. I asked the class representatives (High School kids have this) to form the government. I then said the new government will create a policy where anyone not “white” would get top priority in everything the government decided! There were huge protests in the student body, loudest coming from the newly elected “government “, against this unfair policy! I asked the students why they were protesting and, after the commotion died down, I heard one word in all of them and that was “Unfair.” I said this had to be done to undo the injustice done to the non-Caucasian populace and still heard loud protests. Some of the words can’t be printed here but it was clear that none of them was thrilled with this policy.

The one thing that bothers me is how most Hindus blame secularism for this kind of attitude! This has NOTHING to do with secularism but has to do with how weak the Hindus are. Yes, we are a majority but we are a divided people! Let’s see how these Mecca Yatras would happen if we refused to pay the temple but gave it to the priests! Would we? DEFINITELY NOT! We want to be perceived as a law-abiding people and, gasp, what if the priest becomes a millionaire and starts riding around in a fancy car! As if paying the priest, for his services, was illegal!! We are a pathetic small minded people.

This attitude is not just restricted to our children in the USA, but is prevalent back home, too! The easiest way to justify this, and most popular, is to blame the Macaulay System for ALL the ills in our educational system! While there may be a grain of truth to it, this is not completely right!! Free India’s first Minister of Education, Maulana Azad, could have overhauled this whole process but continued with this educational system. Born in present-day Saudi Arabia, the man would probably not have had an exposure to India’s rich history!

If we want to change the mindset and attitude of our children, we have to inculcate the Hindu values. No, please don’t think I want you to start asking your children to go in dhotis or sarees nor am I saying they should stop eating the pastas, burgers and pizzas! The mindset, I refer to, is more of servitude. Teach your children to be proud of their heritage and not ashamed! Too many children talk about how the sadhus make them feel uncomfortable!! Why? Because they don’t wear clothes like we do? Their long beards? The vibhuti (sacred ash) on their foreheads? Don’t we see maulanas with long beards? Do you think the Muslim child is ashamed of this? An emphatic NO!! That’s their culture and they’re proud of it. Why do Hindus have their children so programmed that they feel ashamed of their own culture? This is the mindset I refer to!!

The day when every Hindu feels proud of Shivaji, Rana Pratap, Veer Savarkar and Bhagat Singh, JUST prior to pressing the EVM button, is the day India is totally free! Till then, we can only hope!!

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