CREDOS : Faith in frames — II

Vibhuti Patel

The destruction of the Babri mosque by Hindu mobs in 1992 affected me deeply. Later, when the Gujarat riots occurred (in 2002, after Muslims attacked a train carrying Hindu activists), I was so disturbed, I told my publisher, “I don’t want to do this book.” Luckily, I was persuaded that what happened had nothing to do with faith.

Why did you call it Living Faith?

Faith is distinctive, personal; yet, in India, it is lived publicly on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment, non-event basis. Religion has rituals, holy days, festivals. Faith just happens: you’re on a street, you see a shrine and your head bobs automatically, and you walk on. You don’t have to stop, take your shoes off, say a prayer. That’s faith.

Is worship in India always as public as your book seems to show?

Lot of it is, not all. Every household has a shrine or a holy book. I had a Hindu father and a Sikh mother. He had a little shrine in the house where he said his prayers, she read from the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs, everyday. Still, they never told us, you must do this.

Were you raised as a Hindu or a Sikh?

I was raised as an Indian. I’m bi-religious but I have no shrine in my home. I definitely have a faith, it’s internalised. You depict India as being tolerant — every major religion has found a home there. Pluralism is a defining characteristic of India. Yet there are no Parsis in your book. No Jews...It’s not intentional neglect. The logistics did not work out. I was unable to get permission to shoot in a fire temple, hence no Parsis. As for Jews, I got to Cochin too late. —