Many years ago, a girl from Bombay (sorry, no Mumbai for me) mailed me after chancing upon my email ID in a magazine. What struck me was her name: Anastha (unbelief). I had never come across a person having such a name. I asked whether her parents gave her this unusual name or she chose it for herself. She told me that her Brahmin parents gave her a conventional name: Anusuya (a goddess). But she didn't like it, and after growing up, when she lost all faith in ‘god’ and religion, she rechristened herself as Anastha.
I was very impressed. Not because she relinquished her parental — yes, every religion is parental, you don't choose it for yourself, your parents foist it upon you — religion; she had the guts to rechristen herself in a fearless manner.
It was the courage of conviction of a young girl that made me think deeply. How many of us can defy traditions, conventions and customs? ‘Go beyond your parents, your ancestors and your forefathers. To follow them without ever questioning their ways is not discipline or obedience. It’s timidity,’ emphasised Nietzsche in his epochal book, Thus Spake Zarathustra.
Very many people carry customs, names and conventions because all these past baggages have been bequeathed to them by their parents and ancestors. They carry, nay drag them, because they don't have the courage to defy them. I've come across a number of people who are not happy with the names given by their parents. But they don’t have the courage to change and choose a name of their liking. We’ve been taught right from our infancy, not to dare find fault with the ‘wisdom’ of our parents and ancestors.
This is inculcated so deeply that despite knowing that no one could be right every time and that parents aren't infallible, we continue to follow them blindly. Why can’t we all find a way for ourselves, a way no one before us walked on? ‘Percolated knowledge is no wisdom,’ said Buddha. If you need to carve a niche for yourself and leave your footprints on the sands of time, you must have the gumption to challenge all conventional wisdom, irrespective of where it comes from. Nothing and no one is sacrosanct. Your parents, teachers, friends, relatives, acquaintances and even the perceived enemies may only be your well-wishers or pointers, but you've to traverse all alone with your convictions and not with someone else’s borrowed ones.
Anastha remained a non-believer till she breathed her last. She wasn't burnt or buried after her death as she never had even an iota of faith in obsequies. Her mortal remains were given away to the medical college where she passed away. I often wonder: will I ever come across yet another person like her having absolutely no faith in conventional wisdom? Perhaps never!
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