My dinner table is my favorite thing in my house. It’s the place where my parents and I sit down together as a family and talk about all sorts of things. From whether or not Shah Rukh Khan’s baby is cute to whether or not 6 is the most interesting number- we discuss it all. The setting for these conversations is often aligned with our stances on most of these arguments- my mom to my right, my dad to my left, and me in the middle.
With her small temple she’s made for herself behind her, my mom represents all things Hindu and essentially traditional in our house. With his library filled with Marxist literature behind him, my dad represents anything liberal in our house. And then there’s me- right in the middle of all this. I’m always picking a different side every day. When my mom speaks of omnipotent forces like God, I see why she invests her faith there. At the same time, when my dad speaks of the downfalls of religion, I can see his points. Therefore, my ideology and community arise from these two conflicting schools of thought. I’m neither conservative nor liberal; rather I’m, what I like to call, a centrist.
Centrists, to me, is a community of the new-age generation that grows up in an antithetical environment such as mine. Our opinions and actions are generally varied on different subjects. Though we have very firm views, they’re often unique and surprising. For example, even though I identify as agnostic, I make it a point to celebrate every single festival; whether it be Eid, Diwali or Christmas, it’s not about the faith for me- it’s about the festivities. Therefore, this community allows me to have sparse views instead of forcing me to subscribe to either school of thought. It gives me the tools necessary to respect any ideology and thus makes me a rather empathetic person.
I can’t imagine not belonging to this community because it’s not like I chose it; it chose me. After decades of ambivalence and confusion from conversations at my dinner table, it was this community that gave me the assurance and maturity to accept my differences. My place within this community is, therefore, that of consistency because of its inherently changeable nature. I may someday become a full-fledged Hindu with a small Ganesha idol in my bag, or I may even be an atheist teaching my kids about how ‘good religion’ is an oxymoron. Either way, I would still be a centrist because my views on other topics would be different.
These differences are exemplified at my glorious dinner table that I now know has had such a pivotal role in helping me identify my community. My parents and their constant squabbling have given me the power to pick and choose what I believe in. The food we eat- with its mixed spices and flavors- serves as a symbolism for our family itself. And it is now that I know which community I belong to that I realize I wouldn’t have it any other way.