December 2006 was a special season for everyone in God’s Own Country viz. Kerala. It was Sabarimala, Christmas, Eid and Leftist seasons all rolled into one. Kerala has the unique feature of having an almost equal distribution of people divided on religious or ideological lines. The four isms ruling the hearts and brains of people in God’s Own country are Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Communism. With almost 100% literacy and everyone having an NRI tint, the undercurrents of social setup in Kerala are much more complex than in other parts of India. Foreign ideologies, traders and missionaries have been part and parcel of Kerala’s landscape for the last several centuries that it is almost impossible now to wean out true history from mythology and beliefs. And all the organised groups have successfully embedded their seeds of interest in the geography and history of Kerala. Now Keralites and Kerala present the best example of highly educated yet intellectually pauperised individuals and society in India.
“Who is the greatest Keralite of the twentieth century?” is one question that will yield the same answer from almost all Keralites – Sree Narayana Guru. His articulation of Sankara’s highly advanced advaita philosophy in very simple words and actions has endeared him to all the sections of the society irrespective of religion, caste and even ideologies. ‘One Caste, One Religion, One God for all Humans’ and ‘Irrespective of religion it is enough if the human being is good’ are some of his outstanding advices for the entire humanity of eternal relevance. It was in this context that a seminar was held recently with representatives from all religions and ideologies. The topic of discussion was aptly put as ‘One Caste, One Religion and One God for God’s Own Country’. Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Communist ideologues took active part and the seminar turned out to be an unprecedented success in a highly polarised Kerala.
As an NRI on vacation I was enthralled to see details of such a seminar being attempted in Kerala. The term God’s Own country is now known the world over and the discussion on such a noble topic made me all the proud of my own state. For a few days I was tempted to forget about the political killings and communal violence that bring Kerala into news as stray aberrations in a highly evolved land of evolved humans. My own enthusiasm knew no bounds when I heard speaker after speaker recalling the greatness of our erstwhile Kings, freedom fighters, social reformers and tall political leaders produced by Kerala. To elect the first communist government in the whole world through democratic elections was no ordinary event and only a progressive society could have attempted it. Then came the socio-economic reforms ending up with land reforms even now unknown to other states. Contributions of Christian missionaries who built schools & colleges and Muslim traders who taught business were all recalled in an air of complete consensus. Last but not the least were the signal contributions by various Swamis to reform the once majority community of its social evils. The meeting was a thundering success and the cent percent consensus of having only one God for all Castes and Religions was a foregone conclusion. I could never imagine myself in a better company when we were walking out of the conference hall.
But all my enthusiasm and happiness were short lived. As a follow-up to the conference a few of us had chance discussions with the various groups that participated and that brought us down to the realities in God’s Own Country. The Bishop we met was very clear that Christianity is the only true path and the God he meant for God’s Own Country was none other than Yehovah. And the Maulavi was even more categorical in that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and Allah is the one and only God. And the communists who were participating so well in the conference had no doubt that Kerala is also going the way of West Bengal for at least 25 years of leftist rule and there will be only Mao in the pujarooms of all Keralites after that. But quite surprisingly the Hindu leaders were sharply divided on who was the God in their mind when they agreed to the one God for God’s Own Country. The disappointment was unbearable for all of us on cloud nine after the success of the conference. And the only saving grace was the more than million options for at least one section who participated.