Supreeta Singh

When Akshay Kumar sings Hare Ram Hare Ram, Hare Krishna Hare Ram sporting a saffron bandana and branded glasses, the whole nation chants along. A jilted Justin Timberlake croons What Goes Around, Comes Right Back Around about karma. Amish Tripathi’s debut novel The Immortals of Meluha portrays an upright man deified as Shiva.
 
Clearly, fate and destiny are no more the concern of only the elderly or unemployed – and god-men. Kismet, or divine will, now fascinates and enthrals the youth too. Are terrorism, degradation of the environment and racial-religious fault lines plunging humanity into pre-ordained violence? And what’s the purpose of life? Do human beings really have a soul? Is soul timeless? Does it survive death?
 
Teenagers, besides young men and women in their 20s, are grappling with these questions as never before  – and want answers. 
 
Amish Tripathi is floored by the response to his book. “Readers as young as 12 are writing to me. A few of them said they were afraid of God but now they see God in a new light. Others have described my book as a wild ride, while many have changed their Facebook profile picture to the book cover.”
 
Moreover, the character of Shiva impressed a reader so much that he got the book cover tattoed on his arm. A 16-year-old called Shiva a cool dude. “What I find most gratifying is that the response not just from Hindus but Christians, Muslims, Parsees, Jews and foreigners who know very little about India”, adds Tripathi.
 
Youth is breaking free of the shackles of religion it seems. It sees God as a supreme power. Period. Riddhima Toshniwal, who has a post-graduate diploma in journalism and mass communications, says: “I am spiritual rather than religious.
True, I’m a Hindu by birth and read the Hanuman Chalisa every night. But I also visit churches often and have also been to gurudwaras. I really don’t have a name for the God I pray to. In that sense, my birth certificate doesn’t tell the full story”, says Riddhi. 
 
In an age of strife, God clearly is a source of strength. The distinction between good and evil is inevitably highlighted when one has to choose between right and wrong. But many don’t see it from a religious or spiritual perspective. Debak Das, a student of International Relations at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University remarked that good and evil cannot be defined in absolute terms. “I am neither religious nor spiritual. Incidents like murders, for example are circumstantial. Caste conflict stems from socio-political
reasons. So I try to be as objective as possible. You could call it a scientific approach. We can shape our own destiny with hard work and time management.”
 
 
There are many who do not believe in God at all. They want to experience what they call the “truth” sans religion. According to them, religious belief is rooted in fear which leads to superstitions. Student Amoha Das says, “Beliefs distract people from the beauty, grandeur, splendour and divinity of existence. Priests across religions inspire people into believing in God, heaven, virtue
and sin. But spirituality is more individualistic: it’s all about communicating directly with a supreme power.”
 
“While religions have everything to do with the past and the future, spirituality is about the present moment.”
 
Abhishek Basu, an MBA student, says: “What you do today will have a bearing on your future. I cannot control everything that happens to me but I can definitely control I how react to them. To remain truthful is my mode of worship. I am not
concerned with spirituality per se. But I believe in giving my best and living as honestly as possible.”
 
A thoughtful Riddhima says: “There is a purpose behind whatever happens. And while you may not get what you want, you get what’s good for you at that point of time. I have seen this happen in my own life. So I see God as a protective force prodding me in the right direction.”

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