I am Hindoo

It was gran'pa Joseph who first told me I was a Hindoo. May sound incongruous, but then one would need to know more about gran'pa to understand his reasoning. As grandfathers go, mine fitted into the typical mould, - a simple man with a lean but towering personality, wearing a 'dhotie' and a buttoned up coat, not much educated, but highly respected in society. His face weather beaten, and remnants of a muscular body on a hardy frame betraying signs of the vigour and strength of by gone days. He preferred the circular velvet encased flat 'topi' to the turban, both of which went well with the then Mangalorean elite attire that added dignity to one's bearing and personality. And he wore his large round watch at the end of a silver chain that emerged from a buttonhole, to be ensconced in a smaller pocket-like special pouch in the side of his coat. I missed in him though, the burly untrimmed moustache that other grandfathers of the time sported, including the occasional cigar between the lips and the walking stick-used more for style than support - all of which, my gran'pa just shunned.

A godfather to everyone in the neighbourhood, he was the one to be consulted by all and sundry for guidance and advise on matters varying from - how best to take the maximum yield from one's land, to matrimonial alliances or Š family disputes. And he was the one always chosen to say a few words of comfort at a bereavement. But most of all, gran'pa was that kind and lovable soul, most endearing to his grand children, always entertaining us with his humorous jokes, his toothy smile and his witty anecdotes. Lack of formal education was never an impediment and one often wondered where and how he acquired all his fund of knowledge - be it on history or any subject under the sun.

So it was that gran'pa educated me much before my schooling days on the advent of the Saraswats and of the Aryans coming into India around two thousand years before the recorded birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of their establishing a culture and crystallizing a religion of their own on the fertile plains of the land of the five rivers. Of the Indus and the Ganges and their tributaries, on the banks of which flourished the civilisation of this handsome race. From granpa's stories I learnt that Saraswats hailed from the banks of the now extinct river Saraswati, which along with river Drishadvati, were the two tributaries of River Hakra that then ran parallel to the Indus.

Joseph quoted to me from the Book of Esther the mention of India in the Bible, when King Assuerus the Great had reigned over a hundred and twenty seven provinces - from India to Ethiopia. That the word Hindu in those Biblical times and thereafter, was only a corrupted form of the word Sindhu - which was the correct name for River Indus. That Hindu stood for the one who hailed from the land of the Sindhu. And the land of Sindhu as was recorded in that point of time in history in most ancient books of the Hindus, was known as Sapta - Sindhu, referring to all seven rivers together - the tributaries of the Indus and the Hakra. On the banks of these seven rivers, the original Aryan tribes of the 'Puru's and the 'Kuru's, the 'Bharata's and many others, had established their Kingdoms.

Gran'pa Joseph Kamath himself believed that he was a Hindu first, as was believed in the times of yore, of everyone that lived within the Indian sub-continent. According to him, there were Hindus who followed the Hindu religion, Hindus who followed the Muslim religion, and Hindus who followed the Christian religion. But all were Hindus first - as aptly put by poet Iqbal in 'Hindi hain hum, vatan hain, Hindustan hamara'. And the people of foreign nations and foreign tongues do well to refer to all Indians as Hindu - even as Haj pilgrims from India are called 'Hindus' by the Arabs. And it hadn't surprised me when on my visit to Japan, the Japanese with their own intonation had called me an 'Indo' while indeed referring to me as a Hindoo.

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Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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