Shaun Launders, one of the top theorists, said memory surrounds us and defines us. It’s an essential dimension of religion and Milan Kundera said that the struggle of man against power is a struggle of memory against forgetting. Very powerful words. It is a memory that stops us from forgetting. Memory doesn’t die. That’s the beauty about memory. I may not even talk about it directly in words to my offspring, but I know that my offspring will understand what I wanted to convey and they will carry through, memory carries in silence. I think you all know this picture. Right? Okay. I have a story around it which was the first time probably I understood what trauma meant. My father taught in the school next door. Often Raisina. it was just.. Raisina Bengali School. So very often we as children used to go and play there and after playing take Prasad from the pundits like millions of children do all over the country. We all go to play, and we take the Prasad from Panditji after playing and we go back. I knew every nook and corner.
I remember one day I saw this white couple arguing with their guide. The guide was telling them this is the biggest temple, the most beautiful temple that we have over here. So, and they were consulting their books and saying but this is a very new temple. It was made in 1939. We want to show some more beautiful older temples like the way we saw in South India. When the guide said, no, we don’t have any. There is one temple called Yogamaya which is a very small temple. Then they said that Delhi was a Hindu city. We have seen mosques which are few hundred years old, for example Jama Masjid is almost 300 years old. We have seen other Sunehri masjid… this masjid, but we don’t see any medieval temples. So, does it mean that Hindus did not create any, build any medieval temples? So, the guide said, yes! Probably not. For centuries we did not build any big temple. The temples were small because there was a rule that the spire of a temple should not be seen. Then they asked and I still remember- then you mean to say that you were second-class citizens in your own country? How did you feel that? I mean he, I don’t know who asked the man or the woman, but how did you feel when you would go out and you see that you have no temples of your own when others had their big temples? How do you think the people must have felt then? The guide said, I can’t answer that. So, they went away. I don’t recall what happened afterwards, they got up, they walked away but this I discussed with my father.
My father was a school teacher and he said we don’t talk about such things! Don’t talk about this. So, I said, “Baba, is it true that we did not build any big, large temple for almost eight hundred, nine hundred years because they must have…people must have been scared that if they built it, it would… He said, “yeah, probably not.” But he said, “Don’t talk about this. Don’t discuss this with anyone”, and I also did. Why we are even so scared right now? When I grew up this issue never left me. I asked a friend of mine, a professor that what do you think, why? He said, “It was probably because of the nationalism. The feeling of nationalism that gave the courage to the Hindus to build a temple.” And then he said, “I have heard that the architect who built it cried with joy, when they realized that they were building a massive temple again after a period of many centuries.”