By :Rinku Khumukcham
Way back in late 2006, I happened to share a room with a Christian convert Assamese in a Guwahati lodge. He was a stranger to me and me to him but I don’t know what made both of us trusted to one another to share in a same hotel room which charged rupees 300 per night. Of course both of us managed to save rupees 150 each by staying in the same room with two beds. The lodge did have single bedded room but it charged rupees 250 for staying one night. As we both had limited budget so we finally decided to stay in the double bedded room. After all it was for a night stay only. The following day was setting off for my destination at Shillong to give my final third year degree examination.
I never use to have good memories, and my biggest problem is remembering someone’s name. Even, number that I save in my mobile hand set were often confused creating embarrassment for my friend who talks from the other end. That is why I hardly remember his name but I still remember that he was a Christian convert from Upper Assam and he was in Guwahati for attending a religious related function.
A medium size handbag containing a towel, soap, tooth brush and some books was all I carried. I didn’t suspect the fellow I share room would took it away while I fall asleep. But still then I kept my bag under my pillow on the pretext that the pillow was little low for me. The stranger seems to understand my apprehension. Surprisingly, he showed no suspicion on what I had been thinking.
Before we went to sleep, we started a small talk as everybody does being shared in the same room. He told me he was in Guwahati to attend a workshop for Christian people. I can not exactly remember the theme of the workshop. He then said Christianity had changed his life. That Assamese person seems to be a typical one. I could easily sense his hatred feeling about the ugly side of the Indian class or caste system which had put his particular community into a low profile family. He told me that Christianity had changed his life. Above that he had been treated with no differences or discrimination of being born in a low caste family.
Every story he narrated me in that one night had implanted an admiration for Christian religion. I had done my schooling at different Christian missionary schools like MBC Chingmmeirong, St. Goerge and later at St. Anthony College, Shillong for my higher studies. During those days, I had never given a damn on the teaching and authenticity of Christian religion. But a night – when that stranger talk to me about his life as a Christian I was really moved. Move in a way that even today I sometime felt that there is no wrong in choosing the religion which is being accepted by almost half the people of the world.
But till today I am not a Christian, I follow the religion that my late father, grandfather, great grandfather and great great grandfather use to follow.
Somehow I felt that stranger in the hotel room did tried to motivate me of converting to Christianity. All that he told me was perfectly truth. There was not a single point left on me to argue to any of the matters he had put up. However, after careful listening to his though provoking lecture I finally made up my mind that I should at least put up some objection to pretend that I was not really moved by his lecture.
I said – you talk about the dirty face of the religion that had kept you deprived from participating in the societal occasion. But is it right to run away instead of making a change just because there are wrongs in what had been going on? Is not that your duty to protect the religion, tradition and culture of your own people whom you belong to instead of choosing some other alien religion and culture for the sake of survival? I also said that I felt more respectable than you as I still choose to live a life as hindu at which my ancestors has been following from time memorials. I thought these few argument would silence him. But the real debate began from these few questions I put up.
To my embarrassment he asked me, “Are you a hindu?” You are a meitei from Manipur and meiteis were not hindu they were compelled to convert into Hinduism. What make it difference between you and me. I choose Christian and You choose Hindu, he added.
At that moment of time I left with no other choice but to say.. “it is getting late, I have to get up early, good night.”