Puneeth was in Pune from Bangalore for work one weekend, when Vinaya and Puneeth decided to catch up. Vinaya wanted to show him the sights, but she decided that a better plan would be to watch her former Kathak guru perform. After the show, Vinaya and Puneeth decided to get some coffee. When asked for an interview, Puneeth readily agreed and chose to talk about religion. Why did a 26-year-old not-very-religious guy decide to speak about religion? Read on to find out…
Puneeth Kuthati, 26 years old, Decisions Analyst, Bangalore
Interviewed by Vinaya Kurtkoti
Why did you decide to give us an interview on religion?
Because it is the genesis of our culture. Everything is based on it. It is the root of what is happening today. Also, 90% people blindly follow the religion of their parents. They never explore other religions. That’s why I chose this topic.
What has your personal experience with religion been like?
It’s been real fun for me. When I was a child, we had a nursing home, and everyone would come to me for crackers. I used to love Diwali and Ganesh Chaturthi. During Ganesh Chaturthi, I would wake up early in the morning to buy banana leaves to set up a mandap. We used to have Ganesh Chaturthi for around seven days; we never had it for the entire 11 days because the longer you keep him, the bigger the Ganesha must be.
Do you associate religion with these festivals?
Right. I associate religion with stories as well. I haven’t explored much of Christianity or Islam, but I have a different perspective about Hinduism. I feel most of our religion comes from stories. It’s like Chinese whispers. I feel like if any living person has written the best story ever, it’s the guy who has written Hindu mythology. I mean, look at Ganesha, who is a person with an elephant’s head. It’s pure fiction, which is the epitome of writing.
There are people who believe that all this really happened…
It might have happened, but not the way it is told today. I think all religions have the same underlying message that everyone should be happy, peaceful, but this never happens (laughs).
Growing up, where did you get your information about religion from?
I spoke to different people. I met these cool people in the USA where I went for Bible readings. I never understood all of it, but I would ask lots of questions. Even now, when I talk to people, I get very excited whenever religion comes up. I just want to learn about it, because that’s where our roots are. All civilisations come from religion.
Is your family religious?
Not so much, but they follow Hinduism. And my Dad is a big fan of Sai Baba. My mom follows all gods. If you ask me who my favourite god is, even I would say Sai Baba. For no reason. Just because he’s calm, he does his own work (laughs).
Do you pray?
My prayer is just two lines that I once heard in school. You need to pray for everyone’s happiness. It’s just two lines. I just say that everybody should be happy. I don’t recite any shlokas or anything.
So you don’t believe in the ritualistic form of religion?
Right. I believe in energies. There are positive and negative energies. As I talk right now, I am a source of energy, and I’m bursting with positivity (laughs). And I’m transferring it to you. And the whole place is adding to it. So religion helps to create positivity. God itself is a chemical that gives you a kick when you are in distress. When you say, “Oh God, help me” you get a chemical kick.
I also feel many people in western countries don’t follow religion that much. People in poorer countries believe in God much more. In the slums, people believe in god so much, they end up wasting a lot of money on god. I don’t understand why are they wasting money on God when they are already so poor. God is an image that adds positivity. So you pull that positivity whenever you need it.
I had this discussion with my mom as well, and I thought she would feel that I am mad. But somehow she agreed with me. I was shocked.
What about your friends?
Some of my friends are atheists, some believers. I feel like I always have a rational conversation when I talk to atheists than when I talk to firm believers. Firm believers are always biased. If we consider firm believers of Islam or Christianity or Hinduism, everyone will speak for themselves, believing that they are right. Atheists usually have a rationale behind what they believe is right or wrong. So I find conversations with atheists or those who believe in a higher power but don’t believe in God to be much more interesting. Religious people try to confuse you by leading you to the answers. Recently I saw a video of a girl asking some questions to a religious baba, but he counter-questions her and silences her. She was so brave to ask him questions in front of three or four thousand people, but eventually she gave in because he counter-questioned her.
What religious principles preached by Sai Baba do you believe in?
Don’t harm anyone: that’s one thing which I firmly believe. I think that’s the only thing that you shouldn’t do as a human. Nothing is bad, everything is a matter of perspective.
The last question has nothing to do with your interview topic, but we ask everyone we interview – what does love mean to you?
Hmmm…interesting. I think this is the first time someone has asked me this question. It means compassion, care… okay, looks like I’m giving the textbook-kind of answer. Love is a strong bond. It can happen with multiple people. It’s not like Bollywood movies where they say it happens only with one person…It can happen multiple times. When this bond is strong, everything falls into place – you hang out a lot, you kind of start appreciating whatever she or he does. Even fights signify love…. I can’t go scold anyone off the streets. But I can scold my mom. Even that’s love. I feel she’s my own, so I can scold her. When it comes to mother–son, father–son relations, they are blood relations. So obviously, you “own” them. But when it comes to new people with whom you form a relationship, people tend to own the person as you progress in the relationship. That makes it really complicated, because not all people are the same.