What’s religion?

My interest in history, the fact that I consider myself a reader, my experiences on the road as well as off the road – this should all be very helpful when it comes to planning my travelling, both to optimise and maximise the experience. But no, I walk around as unknowingly as ever, blissfully ignorant, my head in the clouds. The first time I went to India, I magically timed it with the festival of colour, Holi. The year after I experienced Diwali, festival of lights, in the same country. Last year I timed my days in Dakar with the biggest festival of the West African Muslim countries, Tabaski, and earlier this year I tried to travel through Myanmar during the Thingyam festival – the never ending water shedding New Year. My 30th birthday I got to spend in a chaotic festival during the Easter week in catholic Nicaragua – they sure know how to mourn their Christ, and of course, I managed to time my arrival in Iran with the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. All this is of course something that richen the experience of travelling and really lets you get under the skin of people – whether they love the celebrations or not. BUT, and yes, there’s a BUT, the difference coming from Sweden where everything is open everyday around the year, (since we really don’t take traditions that very serious as we do capitalism) I still get surprised when the whole country literally shuts down due to the occasion. In Dakar we spent hours roaming the street looking for any possible place that would serve or sell anything eatable. In the end we found a pastry shop and bought enough sweets to sustain us for days – an act of pure desperation. In Myanmar we spent days standing by the road, soaked to the bones thanks to happy celebrators really enjoying pouring buckets of water at us while we were trying to hitch hike. And no matter how many times we tried, how many different bus companies we asked, the phrase “no buses for a week” kept us astonished and baffled. A WHOLE WEEK WITHOUT TRANSPORT?! So now, arriving in Iran and the first thing I hear is that it is time to mourn, properly mourn, Imam Hussein. Imam Hussein, I read up on was Muhammeds grandson, a freedom fighter and was beheaded and killed at the battle of Karbala. This very sad fate is apparently something the Shia Muslim world takes very seriously. So, once again, everything was closed. No, I haven’t seen the palace, no I didn’t go to the museums, and no, the Milad Tower was closed too. My days in Tehran were mostly spent wandering from closed door to closed door until I got hangry and gave up. For the last day of the mourning I managed to hop on a bus to the more religious city of Kashan, where my host happily broke all the rules of the religion he had left behind and took me to the heart of this very powerful ceremony. Though neither women nor foreigners allowed in there, hippety hop, there I was, trying to blend in discretely, tucking my blond hair behind my ears under my black scarf. Religion is a very hot potato in most countries these days. In Iran, so far all my new found friends in Tehran and then my host in Kashan has all been opposed to all forms of religion, and especially Shia Islam. It is really hard saying something about the subject which will not offend anyone, and while I was standing there, watching people hitting themselves,seeing them jump ecstatically when a papier-mache crypt was carried around the room, and listening to the hours of chanting, I tried to keep in mind it’s just the same as with sport fans. People get killed for cheering for the wrong team, people storm the field when the game is not going as they want it to. Players as well as referees in many sports get threatened to death by both supporters and other players. Hell, people even bite each other out on the pitch! And haven’t I myself been oh-ah-oh-ing along with 60000 others, doing the same hand waving as the Boss told us to do? Haven’t I danced when Bowie told me to Let’s Dance, and don’t I seriously believe that I wanna sleep with common people just because Jarvis Cocker says so? I guess each and every one of us has our own opium, may it be religion, sports or art. Enivrez-vous! as Baudelaire once said. We all need our kicks, our scape routes, our chimeras. I love living with my rose coloured glasses on, taking it way too seriously when Liverpool looses a game, being ready to spend ridiculous amounts of money and time to get the tickets to the sold out gig with Håkan Hellström. I love being in these moments, where all of us are united in the sheer belief, that what we now are experiencing is important. Cause, really, very, very few things, actually are.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Tomas Fast says:

    Thanks for sharing !


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s