The Echoes of the Bell
Every morning, the bell rings. It’s not my cell-phone alarm nor the siren broadcast by big mansions for the periodical shifting of laborers. The bell rings everyday and I am hearing it for the last twenty-eight years (apart from a few odd days). It’s evident that millions of Hindus throughout the world hear these bell-echoes every day in the early morning. The frequency of this bell must have been raised exponentially these days as the Hindu’s greatest festival Dashain has finished recently.
Being a Hindu by birth and a secular humanist by thought, I am always at a cross-roads in shaping myself into the proper track with regard to atheism and theism. The trail is muddy and complicated, but I have been struggling hard to establish myself as a secular humanist who believes in the rationality of reasons and facts and enjoys the perennial beauty of scientific accomplishment.
One of the impoverished regions of south-Asia but always independent, Nepal, the Himalayan country, has been fighting for her legitimacy for many years. From being a Hindu kingdom for hundreds of years to being a secular state, the country has witnessed several political revolutions that have always been intermingled with the questions of religion. The country has a diverse terrain and peoples, although more than 70% of the people are Hindus. Finally, the country is successful in establishing herself as a new secular state of this century. We must cheer for this new secular country although millions of non-secular bells continue to ring every morning in the secular country.
Every morning as I walk through my village and pass the Hindu deity, I never show any religious norms other than watching the believers queuing up and the blood-shedding of poor animals that are slaughtered every day. My friends laugh at me internally for not showing any religious norms but they are not going to challenge my belief of secularism as they don’t have the rationality of reasons and truth. Unfortunately the blood-sprinkled bell continues to ring.
It’s been more than five years that I have declared myself as a secular humanist, and the foundation pillars of secularism are becoming strong and mature as I read many works by Paul Kurtz and other prominent humanists. Also I was lucky to experience the social life among secular Chinese people for almost a year. These are some critical as well as practical foundations that were underlying my tributaries and shielding me from the pitch of those bells that continue to ring everyday.
I am not going to fight with my mother for the bell she is ringing every-day because there are millions of mothers and millions of sons and daughters hearing this pitch every morning. They are not going to stop it no matter how hard I try, but I am of the firm belief that people are going to ask about the rationality of bells sooner or later.
I remember my grandma telling fairy tales of god and goddess and how those shadows were sticking inside my grey matter for many years even after her death. As far as I remember, she performed all her religious ritual and pilgrimage duties but she passed away merely at the age of 58 suffering from cancer. I am pretty sure that she must have rung that monotonous bell for 18,250 times assuming that she rang the bell at least once a day for fifty years, although it is customary that most Hindus ring it twice a day. However, the story of her bell has been passed from generations to generations and I am afraid that my mother is going to tell the same superstitious story to my offspring.
Eloquently, the fact is that the old-bell is loosing its frequency and penetration compared to the modern bell of communication. My mother must be hearing phone-rings at least three times a day, more than frequency of her old bell. I am pretty sure that the pitch and echoes of the modern bell will prevail in the days to come, and that that bell has the power to give answers and reasons that the old bell has deprived people of. The only tool to decrease the frequency of the old bell is the education and knowledge that peoples of this region desperately need, to wipe out the ignorance that has been cultivated for hundred of years from generation to generation.
Ravi Dhungel lives in Kathmandu, Nepal. Visit his blog at Nepali Lad.