Two weeks ago was Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. It's kind of a big deal, since it's one of the few festivals that most Hindus celebrate - and thus, one of the few that have made it across the pond to become a part of American Hindu traditions. Of course, I didn't even know it was coming until a couple of days before, when my friend Davina mentioned it. Stupid lunar calendar, always messing me up. In my defense, I did call home.
Me: Happy Diwali (or Deepavali, if you prefer)!
Mom: Happy Diwali, Kutty! Did you do pooja?
Me: Well, no.
Mom: Did you light a lamp?
Mom: At least do something!
Me: I'm actually on my way to a friend's house. How about I light something on fire there?
Mom: *displeased silence*
Me: Heh. Gotta go.
And as it turns out, even President Obama celebrated Diwali (OMG SECRET HINDU!).
Was this a foolish political move, sure to alienate his key constituents? Hardly. Check out this Newsweek article: We Are All Hindus Now. Based on academic analysis and survey data, it seems that more Americans are subscribing to Hindu beliefs ... though they probably don't know it.
This makes perfect sense to me. "Hinduism" is just that - an "ism" artificially created to encompass a group of people holding widely divergent beliefs. There are tensions and disagreements and feuds, but for the most part Hindus acknowledge that there are many spiritual truths. What could be more egalitarian, more American, than this individualized approach to faith?
I'm sure President Obama didn't put this kind of thought into his Diwali message. He was probably trying to be nice, or politically correct, or both. It just makes me feel good when my faith can take center stage, instead of being marginalized or forgotten. Even if I am the worst Hindu ever.