As an atheist of Hindu family background without a grounding in religious studies, like most Indians, Hindu or not, I am guilty of ignorantly conflating Brahmanism with Hinduism. I do understand now that Hinduism is a syncretism of pre-Aryan sub-continental cultures and Brahmanism, but I can't tell the difference in terms of beliefs, principles, mythology or practises.

The ignorance of fellow Indians astounds me. Last night I met an Indian-American couple, immigrants from Gujarat. They asked whether I celebrated Diwali with my kids - which is a valid question since I am an atheist who is out of the puja-closet. But they wondered if my family celebrated the same New Year as they did, they thought it was a Gujarati practise. And they also asked me about the origins of Diwali, which at least I thought "everybody" would have known.

The rise of the religious right and religion-based strongmen around the world is frightening - India/Hinduism, US/Christianity, Turkey/Islam, Israel/Judaism ...

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