#StoryOfTheMonth March 2019 by Anindita Chatterjee

Religion as we all know is a powerfully motivating force and belligerent humans fight over it. It unites people by bringing them together and yet at the same time, it creates borders between nations, divides hearts and sunders communities. When Karl Marx identified it as the opiate of masses, that provides people with pleasing illusions, he was also aware of its conflicting and diabolical nature. People have fought gruesome wars in the name of faith. Communal riots have left deep imprints upon the history of India. The simple story by Hanadi Falki strikes us because of the universality of its theme and directness of its style. In a secular country where Constitution offers Right to Religion as a Fundamental Right, tolerance should be the key word of faith, but strangely enough the largest democracy has also seen the ugly face of the religion.

The story is set in New Zealand where the narrator found shelter in a Hindu home as a student when she went to pursue her studies thereof. She used their domestic space of worship to offer her prayers. The neat shrine, the idol of baby Krishna and the everyday rituals of faith and worship fascinated her. The divide between their respective faiths didn’t become a hindrance to her life. It was a peaceful coexistence for all of them. When the Hindu family went out for tours, they asked their Hindu tenant to continue their religious rituals in their absence. Once when the family were about to go on a trip, they found that the Hindu tenant was not available either. The narrator offered to help them instead. They were struck by her words. ‘Was it not against her faith?’ they wondered. The narrator claimed that she believed that god didn’t wish to create the barriers between faith. Man made the distinctions and divided communities. It is undoubtedly true that faith in all religion ultimately means the same, only the forms remain different from each other. Despite being a devoted Muslim, she performed the ritual, with the exception of the arati, and it gave her a mental peace. The story reminds us of a recent television advertisement in which one child goes to offer food to the Pujari in the temple to commemorate his grandfather’s death, but ends up feeding a Maulavi in the mosque for he believed both were teachers of faith. The little child did not know the complications of religion and hence could easily do what his adults would never dare to do. The story that transcends the man-made impositions and restrictions leaves a deep impact because of its effortless style and lucid narration. It tells us that humanity is and always will be above religion for faith is always the same in all creed.

#StoryOfTheMonth March 2019 by Raj Mitra

In every religion there’s empathy, yet empathy has no religion; and that’s the beauty of it. Hanadi Falki’s story is a powerful and simple depiction of religion’s vast expanse. It’s a story that reinforces religion as a way of life and not something that’s chained to scriptures, rituals and dogmas. As Swami Vivekananda had rightly pointed out that each soul is potentially divine. The primary goal of religion is to manifest this divinity within. Temples, mosques, scriptures, dogmas, rituals et al are nothing but secondary details.