Most of our independent thoughts aren’t independent. They are shaped by our culture, religion, and people around us.
We just take it for granted that this is the way things are. We don’t question why and if they are true.
But it’s not your fault. All animals are set that way by default – to believe unquestioningly.
Here are two short stories which, I hope, will inspire you to question the “truths” you have inherited.
Story 1: Five friends in Belfast
When I was a student in the UK, I lived with four housemates, two from Dehradun, two from Mumbai. I was from Ludhiana. We were all Hindus
All of them were non-vegetarians and prayed religiously. I was the only vegetarian amongst them who, ironically, was not so religiously inclined.
They all had at least one day each week when they didn’t eat meat. What fascinated me was that all of them had different days when they didn’t allow themselves to eat meat – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
During one year I lived with them, not a week would pass where they didn’t quibble about “why are you cooking non-veg when I have vegetarian day”. Their quibble always reminded me of how odd it was to have four people from the same religion, same cities, who prayed to the same Gods, celebrated the same festivals, have such different views on which days of the week they would not eat meat.
I wouldn’t have written this post if it just stopped there.
After a couple of months living with them, I would eventually become a non-vegetarian. Just like I didn’t eat meat on any day before – all days are equally sacred to me – I thought it would be odd for me to chose a day when not to eat. So I started to eat meat without thinking of the day it was.
Oddly enough, all four of them couldn’t get their heads around the fact that I didn’t have an off-meat-day. All of them, at one point or other, mentioned this to me – that I should have at least one vegetarian day.
When I asked “why?”, the answer was “Tu to bilkul hi nastik ho gya” i.e. “You have become a complete atheist now”.
Story 2: Jhatka Vs Halal + sin
My brother in law (BIL), a Muslim, asked me (a Hindu): “Jiju, Do you eat Jhatka or Halal?”
I told him “I don’t mind eating either.”
BIL: But isn’t it a sin to eat Jhatka
Me: It depends on who taught you what. If you were born as a Hindu, Sikh or Christian, you would have thought eating Halal is a sin.
BIL: But mom says it’s a sin to eat Jhatka
Me: All I know is that the animal is dead either way. That’s the only truth. Everything else is cultural and religious nuances. As long as you keep following the baseless logic of others, you will be mediocre. Once you start to ask questions and see for yourself, right or wrong, then you can expect to forge a path which you can be proud of.
I guess it just boils down to how you were raised. Your right is different to my right. Our “rights” today were sacrilegious to people 100 years ago.
Lynchings were common in the USA not so long ago and are looked down upon now. If you go a couple of hundred years back, it can be seen that church, pundits, religious heads, and governments gave severe punishments for crimes which would be considered “rights” today. These punishments were far worse than what the most brutal of the punishments given today. In Dan Carlyn’s words – “In those times, if you had your head cut off, you thought you got off easy.”
Before you say “I am right, and you are wrong,” allow yourself to consider if the other person may be right too. That doesn’t mean that you have to be wrong. It just means that you carefully balance both perspectives and try to see with an unbiased eye.
Do you have a viewpoint which is radically different from what you have been taught?
What’s your perspective? Is it colored by what you have been told or cleared by your logic?