On a recent September evening, I was watching my favorite show, "Jeopardy,” on ABC when Alex Trebek asked the contestants about their personal experiences. One American teacher told him about her sad experience at the famous Meenakshi Temple in South India. She said she had removed her shoes outside and had covered her head with scarf. As she approached the main altar, a priest told her she could not go there as she was not a "Hindu.”

Naturally, she was very disappointed but did not make fuss. I had heard about this kind of discrimination in some of our temples, but hoped things had changed by now.

That reminded me of my experience in 1979. I had taken my daughter on a tour to South India. We stayed with friends in Chennai. On my request, our hosts took us to the Shree Balaji Temple in Tirupati. As usual, there was a huge line of people waiting for darshan since early in the morning. As our hosts had gone there many times, some of the priests knew them and so we were asked to jump the queue. I felt very guilty to do so and felt sorry for the other people. But our host told me that we did not have much time, so we had do it.

Now, I was born into a Hindu Brahmin family in India and had married my husband, who came from the same back ground. Our daughter was born in London and we were raising her in the U.S. She was dressed like a typical teenager in blue jeans and a decent top. A priest stopped her and refused to let her go further.

I sized up the situation at once, took out two out of my four gold bangles, took kumkum from the puja, that put them on her. I also told that priest that she was my daughter. He just stood there with his mouth open but did not stop us. I profusely thanked God for a nice Darshan without any incidence.

Years later, the same daughter went to UCLA and was fond of visiting the Malibu temple in Maibu, Calif. In her final year, she met a nice American boy who also accompanied her to that temple. After getting jobs, they got engaged and told me that they would like to get married in that temple hall downstairs. Of course, we made sure that they did, with all the rituals.

A funny thing happened on the wedding day. A friend of a friend knew about the wedding, so she peeked in the hall. Later that evening, my friend and her husband came for the reception and told me that a woman had informed them that there were "white people” at the wedding. I burst out laughing and said, "My son-in-law is white American and so are his family members. What do you expect?"

I was very happy to see my Hindu, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Parsi and of course Christian friends had come for the wedding. An American friend asked my permission to bring her boyfriend who happened to be a Muslim. I said, "The more the merrier.”

How I wish that all the people of the world, besides their own faith, would also follow 'Manav Dharma’, or ‘Religion of Humanity.’

Suman Udhoji

Simi Valley, Calif. 

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