Since the last meet-up of the Mumbai freethinkers had just 2 attendees, the hosts of the event were worried that they would be the people attending. However, on the day of the meet up, 8 people showed up at the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The attendees included- Yazeed U Qureshi, Chinmay Kulkarni, Yogesh Bhalekar, Toto Naha, Nishant Bangera, our German guest- Fri Da(who also published a report on his own blog here), and the hosts for this meet up, Avadhoot Velankar and Kanishka Rustom. We had a leisurely walk towards Regal Cinema, where on the way introductions were made and basic contacts established. This was followed by a lovely lunch at Bagdadi Restaurant, and then a search for a place to talk.
The search was harder than it seemed, as it was the day preceding Ramadan Eid, and therefore there was a lack of space. Eventually, it was decided that the steps behind the Jahangir Art Gallery would suit the members for a chat, and thus the conversation between the members began leading to a discussion that was so intense, so absorbing and so enjoyable that it overshot the amount of time it was supposed to last. Here are the minutes of the meeting:
Should we keep one’s atheistic beliefs private or public we wondered. Most members agreed that it would be better to have them public for the individual’s pride and joy. Toto suggested the possibility that one might live next to a crazed knife wielding theist who might not take one’s lack of faith so well, and would be prone to violence. However this was considered a remote possibility and dismissed. All the members were asked to share their ‘coming out’ stories, where members talked about how they slowly arrived at the feeling of unbelief and how they came to announce it to their friends and family. This led to some healthy laughter, for each member’s story was interesting.
It was discussed whether performing certain acts, such as breaking a coconut or lighting a candle before the start of an event was a religious one. We felt that although some thought that it was necessary to perform the above acts at the begining of a religious ceremony, doing these things at the start of a ceremony by Atheists would be merely a Cultural phenomenon and not a religious one. Also, in doing this, an Atheist should be clear that there will be no ‘prayer’ for anything, and it is merely a ritual marking the start of an event. Our next topic was about how members should behave during a religious ceremony- we agreed that although one may not join the movement, it would not hurt to stand at the side and not interfere, so as to give respect to the worshipper’s civil liberties and not his god.
The rise of Neo-Nazi groups in India and abroad was also analyzed, with Toto Naha emotionally telling our German guest (Fri Da) about the Neo Nazi groups in his own country. It was realized that although the rise of Neo Nazi groups is visible, they do not seem to be taking over the country just yet.
The stand to be taken during a religious confrontation or riot was debated and we said that although we are atheists, we are first human, and our duty will be towards the innocent, the weak and those who are unable to defend themselves. It would be our duty to help and protect these people.
A question of whether Marriage was a legal construct or a Religious one was discussed. One member believed that it was a religious concept. However it was later discussed and decided that it was a social construct, and a legal one, that was larger than the purview of religion. Then, the said member discussed how he did not want to get into a ‘trap’. This was greeted by voracious laughter.
All members were encouraged to spend some time of their own in reading and researching. For example, each member was encouraged to form his own view on MK Gandhi, and not merely follow what someone else is saying. As regards the question whether the meeting should be held regularly, the members agreed that a meeting every fortnight (14 days) would be beneficial. The meeting should be held some place where all members can attend, and if possible, a place to sit and converse. The meeting can be announced, if possible, one week beforehand and all members be invited to attend.We all agreed that racism, sexism and homophobia have no place in our meetings. It was noticed that some members abuse their Freedom of Speech and encroach upon other’s freedom to share their views. Hence, it was decided that if a member does not allow anyone else to speak, he will be communally awarded a time limit.
The playful banter, jokes, and the serious dialectic that came out from the conversation were praised and enjoyed by all. It seemed that the hours slipped by too quickly, and that the debate and discussion should have gone on for longer. It seems that for all those who did attend this meetup, it was fun, and they hope to have some more fun at the next, where we all hope to see you. For details about upcoming meets please join the group.