Tuesday, December 29, 2009

No religion please, we're liberals - The Times of India

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    • MUMBAI
    • So what's so different about this new-born who's being cossetted in his prosperous home? Well, he has no religion. His Hindu Maharashtrian mother and Gujarati Muslim father have decided to leave the choice to him when he grows up. By itself, that may not be overly unusual; there are very many people who give similar choices to their children.
    • It wasn't a spur-of-the-moment decision. "A few months into my pregnancy, we had decided that we would not give our child any religious identity," says Aditi. "We are not against religion, but who are we to choose a religion on our baby's behalf? We will expose him to the values of different faiths and cultures, and when he grows up he will be free to follow any faith—or none if he wishes."

      Of course, getting the birth certificate wasn't easy. The first hurdle cropped up at the hospital itself—the authorities were alarmed when the young parents said they would leave the religion column blank in the documents.
    • The couple had almost hit a dead end. There were four choices on the form—Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Others. Aditi says she did not want any of them for her child, as even Others required them to identify the sect or community. She argued with the officer some more and finally agreed on Others, but without any identification. "Others is just to facilitate the generation of the certificate. We know our child has no religion," she says.
    • The couple attributes their decision to their liberal upbringing. Aditi grew up in Kuwait, where she had many Muslim classmates and even picked up a few verses from the Quran. Aalif, son of Abid Surti—a popular writer-cartoonist who counts Osho Rajneesh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Amitabh Bachchan among his fans—grew up in what was then a more cosmopolitan Bandra. Said 75-year-old Abid: "I never wanted any particular religious identity for my two sons. I failed to get their birth certificates without the mention of religion, but I am glad my son and bahu have succeeded in what I failed years ago."

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