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Chapter 9: Rejoicing in Existence

My principal in high school was a very strict man, a very hard-core disciplinarian. As I entered high school from middle school, my struggle with him began from the very first day. There used to be, at the beginning of morning classes, a collective prayer. I remained silent. I did not participate in the prayer in praise of the Hindu god, Ganeshwar, the elephant god who has the body of a man and the head of an elephant. He called me and said, “This will not be tolerated.”

I said, “There is no need to tolerate anything. Do whatsoever you can, but remember I will do whatever I feel right. To me prayer is nonsense, and it is particularly hilarious to pray to this type of god. I cannot pray. I can be silent.”

He said, “I am a very hard man.”

I said, “I don’t care. You can kill me - that’s all you can do; but I will not participate in the prayer, alive or dead. I don’t believe in any god, and particularly these nonsensical ideas of god and images. And I am not a Hindu. You will have to come with me to the court.”

He said, “For what?”

I said, “For forcing me into a religion to which I do not belong. It is against the law. Come with me to the court.” And I had one of my father’s friends who was a good advocate.. I said, “I have my advocate there and I have always told him that whenever I need to, I will come directly to the court.”

The principal said, “You seem to be a very strange person. You are taking me to the court?”

I said, “Certainly, because you are doing something criminal. I am not a Hindu; why should I participate in the Hindu prayer? This school is not a Hindu school, it is a government school. The government is secular. Come with me to the court so that I can present the case to my advocate and put you before the magistrate.”

He said, “My God, I never thought that you would stretch things to such extremes.”

I said, “I am not stretching. You forced me to stretch. Otherwise forget all about your hardness. And this is the first day, so it is a good introduction. I have known you, you have known me - now any time anything happens, remember that you are not dealing with any Tom, Dick, or Harry.”

I said to him, “Today I can forgive you because this is just your first mistake, but next time you will have to come with me to the court.” And I went out of his office. He remained silent.

That evening he came to meet my father and said, “What kind of boy is this?”

My father said, “We cannot manage. You are a well-known hard disciplinarian and he is just a little boy - you can manage him.”

He said, “He is not a little boy. He has threatened that he will take me to the court and he can do it! He has an advocate already. I know that advocate and I have seen them discussing together many times” - the advocate lived just next door to the principal. “They are friends although their ages are very different. They are very close friends; they talk as if they are of the same age. So what am I supposed to do?”

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