This has been one uneasy relationship. For two decades of my life, I was in and out of Catholic institutions. First, it was the Salesian Sisters in school and then it was the Catholic religious order called “The Society of Jesus” and founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in college -- that by the time I graduated I almost became a nun. For those many years, I was a Christian at heart -- praying at the chapel, learning the rosaries, the songs, the confessions... and getting tuned to "time to love God", whenever anyone asked me what the time was, courtesy Sister Teresa.

Quite a connundrum. At home, the exact opposite. Two mandirs and devout Hindus for grandparents and mother [my father was non religious for most part of his life, now he does visit the temple regularly, I suspect in memory of my mother], that even keeping the Bible was almost sacrilege. I had to wash my hands and feet every evening and take turns to light the agarbatis and sing bhajans or prayers. There were so many dos and donts and so many Gods to pray to that I found sitting in a quiet place and praying to one Jesus a lot more easier than trying to establish affinity with so many Gods. Plus, I was lazy. So all the rituals every evening before one got down to actually praying or the even more elaborate celebration during the many pujas for the many Gods, spread over the year, made me an escapist. The sweets and other goodies were the only things I looked forward to, something that churches didn't extend.

My Christian schooling did have a long influence on me. So much so, that the good versus evil, sins and prudery, morality, in short, conservative beliefs shaped my life. I knew it all came from the nuns who injected so much of their faith into me. I don't know how the influence waned. I wasn't really drawn to the relegion practised at home in fervour either, so it was easy to let go off that one. Having seen the sides of two religion from close quarters, I had the opportunity to choose one. Like my family friends, the Ranpals -- Gautam my brother's contemporary pratices Buddhism, Vishnu is a Hindu and Christopher, the third brother, has adopted Christianity. Uncle and aunty are both Hindus. Quite a secular Nepali family.

Today, I am not an atheist or an agnostic. I do have my own communion with God. In fact, I have a small worship place in my house, the idols of which were bought and placed by my mom during one of her last visits to Delhi. [She said one must pray everyday to stay protected from all evils and danger in life.] I gave in to her, like I always did to most of what she said. In it, I have a picture of Holy Mary, gifted to me by Meera Seth, my colleague, when I was ill, and a small souvenir from the famous temple of Tirupathi. Now my mom's picture too stands with the Gods. Quite an assorted mix and I do light the candles and agarbatis everyday. But like I was telling a friend, I now pray more to my mom.

But the fact remains. I am more inclined to being non-religious than religious. I wouldn't spend time going to temples or churches. But yes, I would do it for purposes of travel and curiousity. I can't relate to the sacred and divine in the way I was taught in school or at home. Trying to be a good human being is the best religion one can practise. By the same token, we are all one, and asserting religious superiority or religious morality is something that lets one down as a human being.


Jayant said...

(FYI, this is a game quite dear to certain people in my blogging circle :P )
Reading the last para was like reading my thoughts on your blog. Verbatim.

Unknown said...

Hey Indie,
It's really interesting what a convent schooling can do to any person... Although no one in the school forces you to adopt Christianity or follow its principles, the experience sort of stays with you for life. I remember a time when I wanted to run away from all the religious restrictions and become a nun. Quite a funny episode it was.
As you say, trying to be a good human is what matters the most and you already have an A+ in it. You rock :) ta.

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