“Is India a Secular Country?”

Of late, I’ve been hearing just too much about communalism, Hindu-Muslim clashes and all that sort of thing, which brings to my mind an incident from school.

It must have been the last day of the second Pre-Board exams in class 10, or some other joyous occasion which called for an atmosphere of revelry. We were filling out autograph books, reminiscing about incidents that happened in class 1, playing truth-or-dare and things like that which brought Myna ma’am at the door, threatening us to shut up or she’d see to it that she’d “royally screw each one of us personally in the lab exams”.

While that was an unsuccessful attempt at maintaining the peace, a more successful one came in the form of Nalini Ma’am who came in to announce that she’d be distributing the Pre-Board papers shortly.

That did it. Half the class lapsed into prayer. Next to me was Huda Shirani, tense and nervous and praying as hard as she could. God alone knew why, she was good at the darn subject.

Mrs. Nalini Gopalan entered with an armload of papers, and a purposeful look on her face. The more cocky of us were expecting a good show, her faux pas weren’t to be missed. However, they weren’t nice when you were at the receiving end, coz you would be embarassed in front of the whole class for your deeds, which would then start sounding real hilarious.

“Huda, stand up,ma”

And I thought nothing could aggravate her tension.

“Taha, tell me, Is India A Secular Country?”

“Yes ma’am, it is.”


“Because everyone is free to practise their own religions, ma’am.”

“Sit down. Mohammed, Is India A Secular Country? Why, or Why not?”

“Yes ma’am, because there are people of all possible religions living in harmony in India, ma’am.”

“Ok. Fazeela, in your opinion, is India a secular country?”

“Yes, ma’am, it is, because there is no specified official State religion.”

“Now, Huda, when all these people say that India is a secular country, why do you say it is not, ma?”

I guess this seems puzzling without the context. Which happens to be that there was a question in the Social Science Pre-Board paper for three marks, which was “Is India a secular country? Justify your answer.”

“Ma’am… I….”

“NO, ma. ” [to the rest of the class] “Just see what she has written..” [reads out from her answer paper] “No, India is not a secular country. The country is plagued with communal riots with people of one religion not allowing the followers of another to follow their religious customs and beliefs. Hindus and Muslims fight each other, and disturb the peace of the land….”

“Why, ma, don’t you feel safe living in this country? Don’t your classmates of other religions treat you well? Aren’t you free to follow your religious beliefs and customs? What happened that you wrote this? [shakes the paper in her face].

The rest of us were in a state of surprise, for we hadn’t even thought of being creative with a Social Science paper. And we all said we were a secular country, coz that was what was said in the Preamble to the Constitution which we were made to write as an assignment for a teacher who didn’t know what to allot five marks of continuous evaluation for. The whole class was stifling giggles [My condition was especially bad, being right next to the spotlight] other than a bunch at the back who had no clue what was going on, for they were doing problems from some Question Bank.

But what almost made me guffaw was this:

“Please ma’am, I’m really sorry ma’am, I won’t repeat this anywhere ma’am. I’m really sorry I said something like this, ma’am…..”

“No, ma… How can I forgive you? How can you say sorry to me… WHY say sorry to ME, ma?”

“Ma’am… I..”


Edit: Nalini ma’am, if you ever get to read this, I’m letting you know I have nothing but the highest regard for you. I very well understand why you did what you did, and don’t hold it against you or anything. I know you are not one of those who came in the way of creative answers as long as they made a valid point. The only thing that beats me is why you chose to give this question in an exam…..

About wanderlust

just your average books-and-music person who wants to change the world.
This entry was posted in Attempts at Humour, Controversies, Flashback, Secularism, Strawberry Fields Forever. Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to “Is India a Secular Country?”

  1. CB says:

    Haa haa!
    Nice! I too enjoyed giving in my “own” answers to a few questions 🙂

  2. wanderlust says:

    more notable of which would be “what would happen if nalini ma’am continued teaching at the same pace?” Right?

  3. Bhargavi says:

    “Is India a Secular Country?”
    the country allows us to be so… and i guess many of us who read this blog try to keep it secular
    if the ans is NO .. it is because the ppl are not keeping the idea of secularism in their head .even the ppl at power…

  4. Dhaval Giani says:

    i wonder now what your opinion on secular india is after the last few years here..

  5. wanderlust says:

    well, i know now that you cant repress people’s beliefs, and no society which does so can be stable. we have more freedom of speech than most other places, so there’ll always be people who’ll say we aren’t a secular country and all. and we do need such people for reality checks. this is the way to go, i feel.
    but as for banning blogspot, im red with rage.

  6. Vignesh says:

    hi !! im was priya’s friend in 10 in oxford n this is one incident which i can never forget about NN (though there r 100 more where i have belted by NN ), it was a shock to all my friends, though i felt like n standin n confessin d truth about india n supportin this poor female, i felt sick that day in school n was waitin to finish my board exams n run out of this hell of a school…

    this teacher is total nuts !!! suffers from HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE N MPD ..

  7. wanderlust says:

    vigga, you’re totally senseless! what if she does a bit of ego surfing (types n@lini g0palan in google search) and ends up here? well, actually i dont care, but don’t be so harsh on her, she was quite a darling at times.
    and what the heck is the “truth about india”?

  8. deepti says:

    ain’t no big deal! when u have an answer in the textbook,thats the ultimate for all such nalini ma’ams i suppose. as for putting up our opinions……THEY BANNED BLOGSPOT!!’ aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrggghhhhh!

  9. I’m sure most people have had their share of bird-brained teachers like the one mentioned here. As long as this system of “xeroxing” the textbook matter into the exam papers continues, kids @ school will never be encouraged to seek useful knowledge … as for the title rhetoric, my answer is a another question … “How do you define secular ?”

  10. Karthik Ram says:

    Appreciate the honest attempt by a class 10 student to present something that she perceived as truth.

  11. jetru says:

    Well I don’t think so, because when we are born we are told we are Hindus or whatever and most of us follow what religion our parents follow. Despite it being offcially allowed, secularism is an idea, not a rule. Its the peple who should have the idea, not some book. (My mom didn’t allow me to put ‘Non religious’ in the NITK admission papers)

  12. pokledas says:

    @jetru: if you’re so particular about being ‘non-religious’,then how could be influenced by anyone as to say you’re something you dont want to be!
    anyway,dumbass,being ‘non-religious’ and ‘secular’ are two VERY different things.

  13. wanderlust says:

    no, that wasnt the issue. she was plain shocked about kids having such tragic viewpoints.
    secular means the state having a duty to maintain neutrality on religious issues. as opposed to popular thought, secularism does not mean absence of religion. it means tolerance.
    @karthik ram:
    that’s just about how to put it.
    you dont _have_ to follow the same religion as your parents. you are given freedom by the law to convert to and follow whichever faith you want to. most people dont, coz it might involve making huge lifestyle changes. it isnt just an idea, it is being followed pretty much. as for your mom, i think if you are really serious about being ‘non religious’ [which im sure you’re not… i guess you’re one of those who’s just too lazy to understand and follow rituals, and find it easier to say you’re not religious… trust me, not all of them rituals are meaningless, but im sure you enjoy celebrating diwali and holi…. try being non religious there], you might try putting your foot down, and make sure you dont let any religion tinge whatever you do. comprende?

  14. pokledas says:

    well written…and yes…
    your blog is the first to be added to my blogroll..

  15. pokledas says:

    Oops! Grammatical Mistakes! But I guess you got what you had to say.

    Narendra Modi’s take on the Mumbai blasts…
    “…Hindus must unite and fight terrorism.”

    Its these non-secular elements we have to deal with and everything will be fine.
    What one needs to remember is that most of the undesirable things that are happening in our country in the name of religion are politically engineered,not religiously inspired.

  16. pokledas says:

    There I go again….


    “…I guess you got what I had to say.”

    Priya and Tuhina,my apologies.

  17. dushy says:

    I never knew Nalini ma’am had this great sense of humour!Anyways she wasn’t a social science graduate either 🙂

  18. wanderlust says:

    dushyanth, you didnt know her in class 10. everything about her was funny, right from the way she matched her blouse with her sari down to the way she hit thrilok [you would have laughed your head off if you’d been there] for not scoring well.apart from her teaching, she was one really cool person who was damn open with us, who you could count on to back you in whatever you did….
    she was basically a sanskrit teacher, i guess you know that best.

  19. Haas says:

    Wow thats an intresting incident… Only if creativity was rewarded in school 😛
    Back when i was in school(try -6 years) it would hv been so much fun to see ppl give out such answers 🙂

  20. Tony says:

    I think the heading was inappropriate.. the way i saw it, the post had to do about creativity being stifled in life than about secularism…
    like i was just tellin u

    howard roark can be a hero in a book, but a character like him in real life would be smirked at..

    thank God to blogs for lettin us write wat we feel like.. n pls reinstate blogspot!!

  21. jetru says:

    Oh sorry I guess I didn’t make myself clear. The thing is that even though the LAW allows secularism, people necessary don’t.

    Just because a countries LAW says that killing people is illegal doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It’s like that.

    I was using myself as an example and I really don’t care about religion(maybe the crackers and colors, but that’s not religion).

  22. wanderlust says:

    i guess _most_ people will agree that murder/manslaughter deserves to be labelled a crime. and most people do allow secularism. the existence of a few people who can’t tolerate a difference of opinion as far as religion is concerned doesnt make the country any less secular, for the LAW keeps a check on their actions.
    as far as you and your mum are concerned, well, i have nothing to say.

  23. pokledas says:

    Priya,check out the new entries(?) in my blog(at the bottom of the page)…that might tell you who i am….


  24. Nitin Rao says:

    Kudos to Huda!

    For once being different doesn’t mean writing a set of mugged points in a different order!

  25. vinay87 says:

    Nalini ma’am, couldnt like her, neither could I hate her, Seemed to be nice to everyone, save me of course.

  26. wanderlust says:

    @ nitin:
    hm… now that’s an insight.
    @ vinay:
    anything better than myna, right?

  27. CB says:

    Currently, the status is this:

    Google for “Na li ni go pa la n “, you get the third result as this page. (I mean, you know why I’ve separated and written it this way)

    Google for “N@lini Gopalan” and you get the first and the ONLY result as this page!

  28. wanderlust says:

    now, wouldnt she be proud of me?

  29. salman says:

    well all i can see that ,girl say what sh efeels india wont become bad or become non secular by that but there are problems which really make others feel like that in place of reacting like that teacher did we need to find the reason behind that councling would help try to get into the mind of that person who think like that and try to make your point clear cause non indivisual went through same condition.

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