I Will Not Visit A Hindu Temple Ever Again

Anonymous Anonymous in Culture Shock on 9 September, 2017

Life is not a linear path for everyone. Life is not fair to all of us. It wasn't fair to me. I was disabled since birth, I did try and reason it out a lot of times. The only thing I could think of was karma and if that's true, so many people I've come across in this lifetime are living a life they don't deserve. They'll probably pay for their sins some day.

It's probably the modern age that has resulted in people being too casual about hurting others. May be humanity still exists in some corner of this world but I fail to see it anymore. It's difficult. It's difficult to be a disabled person all your life. But what makes it more difficult is to live in the same environment as those who have long forgotten that we exist. Our pains exist. Yes we learnt too early in our lives that 'life' is the toughest thing that happened to us. But, then what? We could either kill ourselves or take up the challenge to live through this misery called life.

I chose the second option and I lost faith in humanity soon after.

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I have Polio. Sadly, when I was born, Polio was still a scare in India. I was soon categorised as a "disabled person" but that didn't hurt as much as people's reactions towards my shoes and crutches. We hate to be treated as dependent people but to be treated as an alien is just another level of inhumanity.

Why? Just because I have two legs but I can't walk straight or I walk in a weird fashion that does not embarrass me but embarrasses you? I often question myself — if I would have reacted the same way if I was proportionately built. It's tough to make friends and if I have friends, it's tough to keep up with their hangout sessions because clubbing is much more fun than sitting at home and watching a movie.

Well, that said. Normal people in this world are not-so-normal anymore and I accepted it long time ago. But there's this one incident that has stayed with me and I've not found a way to go back from there as yet. In fact, I was very close to losing faith in God but that's probably not fair.

I am looked down upon a lot of times but this was a slap on my face that I'd never forgive or forget.

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Whenever I visit any holy place or temples whether famous or local, the authority or pujari or any staff member always stops me from entering the temple because I am always involuntarily wearing my shoes. They always, without fail, shamelessly ask me to remove my shoes outside and then come inside the temple. How ridiculous is that? They refuse to notice that if I remove my shoes, I will not be able to walk and come inside. My only fault is that I wear shoes inside my clothes so that people stare less.

Yes I protect my own self from the humiliation that you put me through everyday.

This is how I came face to face with atrocity for the first time. I once visited a temple in Gujarat. At the time of the aarti, I decided to go to Iskcon temple. I like lights. I like the peace at holy places. I was taught that day that I'm not allowed to find happiness in little things. I wasn't made for that. 

Unfortunately on the same day, my left crutch's rubber knob that prevents crutches from slipping on floors was torn and iron rod was coming out from the knob, which made it very difficult for me to walk. With all the difficulties, I climbed up the stairs and reached the temple which had a marble flooring. My crutches slipped so many times but there was something about that day. I had come so far anyway so I wanted to visit God no matter what. I managed to climb up without falling down even once. That was my victorious moment.

But that was also the moment when a lot of people were sitting and just staring at me. No one dared to come forward and help me climb up the steps. Surprisingly, that was nothing. What came my way next was truly something. Something I won't ever forget.

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When I finally reached the temple after fighting a tough battle yet another day, a pujari and his assistant came to me and said, "Sister, you should not wear shoes inside the temple premises. You should know that. Please remove your shoes outside otherwise God will punish us." I did not understand who God will punish at that point but I stayed shut.

Just then, a fine lady came out of the crowd and I thought she's coming to stand up for me. I passed a subtle smile with tears in my eyes. But she said to me,"You should have sense at least. This is not done." I was literally shattered that day. Nobody came forward to talk for me. My confidence was never great but that day made me feel like a true outsider.

I was stunned at the thinking. I had no energy to fight back. I just said my prayers sitting outside, trying to gauge the energy and strength to go back down. But the thought of them wanting me to remove my shoes for which I would've had to remove my jeans in front of so many people still haunts me. They told me I had no sense. But did they? What happened to their senses when I was facing difficulties climbing the stairs. Where was their humanity then? What was done then? Why didn't anyone come to help when I needed it? I didn't give up just yet. I wanted to be sure before I made up my mind.

I went to the same Iskcon temple again the next week. They did the same thing. They didn't allow me to go inside. Only this time, it was because I was wearing leather shoes. If leather was the problem, they shouldn't allow men who wear leather belts or carry leather wallets and women who carry leather purses to enter their holy place. They said to me," We didn't even allow small kids to go inside with shoes." I understand that parents can carry their kids around but who will carry me if I remove my shoes? Did they ever think of that?

They shut their eyes to my problem. They humiliated me for a reason they know best. They didn't want to see that it wasn't just my leather shoes they wanted me to remove, they were my legs.After this incident, I decided not to visit a temple ever again. This doesn't mean I lost faith in God, it only means that I don't think God resides in any of these holy places anymore because they are only made up of stones.
Author's Note:

My Name is Sheetal. I suffer from polio. I can not walk without wearing my shoes and crutches. I would like to share my problem which many of us have easily ignored.