The festival season makes me wonder at the kind of privilege Hindus routinely show. Loud bhajans blare out; young men come around asking for donations for the neighbourhood pooja, people send forwards to their entire contact list invoking Ganesha(or some other Hindu god)'s blessings. It annoys me: I can only imagine what people from minority religions feel.
Last year, the Guy and I visited a friend's house on Diwali. Our host and his roommate performed pooja: they also insisted that we join them in the rituals they were performing. The guests in the room were the Guy and I, both atheists; one Christian woman; and one Muslim guy. The Guy and I were merely amused at the procedure, but the Muslim friend seemed distinctly uncomfortable. It's unfair to abuse your privilege as a host to make your guest take part in a ritual that is against his religion. (And yes, the Muslim friend had politely remained outside the room and only come in after he was asked to more than once; he sat in a corner for some time but was repeatedly asked to participate; and he finally left the room. He was too polite to voice disagreement, however.)
I have witnessed (or endured) marked signs of privilege in north (and to an extent, west) Indians. The other day I was told confidently that everyone celebrates Raksha Bandhan or Bhai Dooj or some similar festival to celebrate brothers, right after I mentioned that it was not celebrated in Assam. Being asked whether I was fasting for Karvachauth merely displays an ignorance of my culture (Karvachauth isn't a part of either Assamese or Gujarati culture, so there's no reason why the Guy and I would celebrate it even if we were religious). But being asked something of that sort - or whether, for instance, we had done a pooja for the house - also makes me wonder why the questioner assumed that I am Hindu (because a name or a face isn't a good enough indicator, is it?) Is everyone assumed to be a Hindu unless proven otherwise?
I am not singling out any particular community, though. One of the most rude comments I got was from an Assamese acquaintance who, on learning that my fiancé and in-laws were vegetarian, suggested that they should be fed non-vegetarian food. He was extremely surprised to learn that I was vegetarian as well (because, of course, in his limited mind, one has to be born into one's life, not make one's own choices: I'm surprised how people of such mental capacities manage to get jobs and earn a decent living).
We Indians are surprisingly intolerant of difference, given how many different communities and cultures there exist in the country. I suppose it comes from being part of relatively insular communities. I can only hope there are so many inter-community marriages that the lines between communities blur.