Look left and right

Published: 23 October, 2011 08:36 IST | Devdutt Pattanaik |

Every time I use the words 'Indian' mythology, some people say I should write 'Hindu' mythology.

Every time I use the words 'Indian' mythology, some people say I should write 'Hindu' mythology. And when I call Mahabharata a Hindu epic, I am told it should be called an Indian epic. Then I seek clarification, "Is Ramayana a Hindu epic or Indian epic?" Prompt comes the reply, "Hindu, of course."

Illustration/ Devdutt Pattanaik

So, now I am confused. What is Indian and what is Hindu? Are they mutually exclusive? Should I call Taj Mahal, an Indian monument, or a Muslim mausoleum? Should I call Mother Teresa an Indian or a Christian? What is the correct terminology? What should a qualification include or exclude? What is the right word that will not offend anyone? Whose permission should I take? The lawyers, the religious leaders, the politicians, the bureaucrats, the anti-corruption brigade, the Leftists, the Right, or the secularists?

Gradually, India is becoming more a political terminology and less a cultural and geographical one. Gradually, secularism is turning into another religion, with a God called logic, rules that need to be followed and prophets who bark if you do not align to the rules or submit to logic.

Every religion has a positive side that teaches love and inclusion, and a horrible side, that celebrates hatred and exclusion. Secularism is following the same trend. Ostensibly it is created to love and include, but all it seems to be doing is fuel hate and exclude. You are excluded if you do not follow secular agenda and secular rules. If you wear a religious symbol, a veil or a tikka or a cross, you become instantly untouchable and branded a potential terrorist. It is scary!

Look beneath the surface and the problem is neurological. Our brain has two halves -- the left half and the right half. The left half is more analytical and the right half is more abstract. From the left comes science and from the right comes arts. From the left comes politics and from the right comes romance.

The left half functions by exclusion, and tends to be more focused. The right half functions by inclusion, and tends to be more diffused. It seems the world is shifting more towards the left, and rejecting the right, preferring science to art, politics to romance, excluding to including.

As children, we were told, "Look left, then right, and then cross the road." The Leftists look only left, the Right look only right and the secularists look only straight ahead. Accidents then are bound to happen. Accidents do happen, but as the Left walks left and the Right walks right and the secularist walks straight, each one smug and self-righteous, no one turns around to see the devastation in their wake.

Perhaps that is why the ancient rishis visualised Brahma as the four-headed god who has a head for the left and a head for the right and a head in front and a head behind. Only then can we see it all, try and make as much room as we can for everything and everyone, not bristle and rave and rant when Christian sages and Muslim monuments and Hindu epics are qualified as Indian. Only when we include, will the world be a better place.

The author is Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, and can be reached at devdutt@devdutt.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper.

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