Against the diabolical designs and hope entertained by Great Britain in 1947 when it left a fragmented Indian sub-continent that the area would plunge into anarchy and chaos fueled by religious and cast hatred, India emerged out as an economically strong nation with secularism as its inspiring philosophy. True there were anxious moments during the last six and a half decades of independent existence due to a few riots and localized cast conflicts but the country was able to sustain democracy under adverse conditions. Though linguistic reorganization of the states was not a desirable policy, having done that the people were still able to live in the country with tolerance and understanding as a united nation with minor hiccups. This probably will rank as one of the marvels of modern history. There are thousands of religious places across the country where people, irrespective of their religion are welcomed with open hands for free meals every day through out the year. Here is an example of this great charity and nobility of the country, as reported by the very international media which often carry reports of religious conflicts in the country condemning the nation to ignominy.
"The groaning, clattering machines never stop, transforming 12 tons of whole wheat flour every day into nearly a quarter-million discs of flat bread called roti. These purpose-built contraptions, each 20 feet long, extrude the dough, roll it flat, then send it down a gas-fired conveyor belt, spitting out a never-ending stream of hot, floppy, perfectly round bread. Soupy lentils, three and a third tons of them, bubble away in vast cauldrons, stirred by bearded, barefoot men wielding wooden spoons the size of canoe paddles. The pungent, savory bite wafting through the air comes from 1,700 pounds of onions and 132 pounds of garlic, sprinkled with 330 pounds of fiery red chilies. It is lunchtime at what may be the world's largest free eatery, the langar, or community kitchen at this city's glimmering Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikh religion. Everything is ready for the big rush. Thousands of volunteers have scrubbed the floors, chopped onions, shelled peas and peeled garlic. At least 40,000 metal plates, bowls and spoons have been washed, stacked and are ready to go. Anyone can eat for free here, and many, many people do. On a weekday, about 80,000 come. On weekends, almost twice as many people visit. Each visitor gets a wholesomevegetarian meal, served by volunteers who embody India's religious and ethnic mosaic."This is our tradition," said Harpinder Singh, the 45-year-old manager of this huge operation. "Anyone who wants can come and eat." India is not only the world's largest democracy, it also is one of the most spiritually diverse nations. It was born in a horrific spasm of religious bloodshed when British India was torn in two to create a Muslim homeland in Pakistan. Yet from the moment of its independence, India has been a resolutely secular nation and has managed to accommodate an extraordinary range of views on such fundamental questions as the nature of humanity, the existence of God and the quality of the soul. Indeed, few places in India demonstrate so clearly the country's genius for diversity and tolerance, the twin reasons that India — despite its fractures and fissures — has remained one nation".
The Langar in the Golden Temple is just one example and there are many Temples, Churches, Mosques and Synagogues where such camaraderie is exhibited day in day out. It is a tribute to the tolerance and appreciation of diversity by these faith believers that at the time of dining they consider all as human beings. Which country in the world can boast of such a credential as India can? Some may question the relevance of these practices in the modern society because eateries were designed during olden days based on the assumption that devotees come from far away places trudging thousands of kilometers and the infrastructure for stay and boarding was practically non-existent around the worshiping places. With almost all temple towns in India developing into mini townships having all facilities for overnight stay and reasonably clean foods, the argument goes on to suggest that such money spent on foods could be more justifiably diverted to education and human upliftment. May be they have a point there but defying the edicts of conservative religious practitioners could be fraught with some risks. Already one can see some feeble attempts by Tirupati temple authorities in investing a small percentage of the offerings from its devotees in education though much more needs to be done in using these free flowing resources for betterment of humanity.