“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…”
These words from the beautiful John Lennon poetry reminisce my story while growing up. I am born to parents who follow separate religions, my father is a Hindu and my mother is a Christian. This fact when stated makes few mumble in amusement and makes few smirk, pitying my loss of identity or my lost sense of belongingness to a particular community or clan.
Since a very early age, I was exposed to two completely different cultures and ways of living. One where eating pork was no big deal and the other where there were selective non-vegetarians and few (from the older generation) whose eyes popped out on hearing “eggs” and grew as large as the size of an omelet (in utter shock)! But this mush up liberated my mind.
It made me open to different people, different backgrounds and different tastes. It made me look at a person with unbiased eyes, and it is learning still in progress.
Amidst the chaos you slowly start to choose your own ways and form you own different associations. To me these were some simple connotations:Church ——————————–> Candies Diwali ——————————–> Crackers, gift & sweets Christmas ———————-> Cake, gifts & Santa (who never put anything in my lone sock that spent the entire night out) Ganpati —————————–> Dance, Modaks (a sweet rice dumpling made with steamed rice flour and coconut filling)
I chose my gods, for a purpose. Jesus was to be prayed during the exams and Ganpati for the results. And they were carefully allocated based on trial and error and the results were nothing but that of sheer probability. As I grew older the distinction blurred because I realised that be it Hinduism or Christianity at the end of the day they all teach you to become – Good people.
To be good to yourself and to others.
I have friends who are Muslims, Sikh, Parsi and I enjoy the diversity each one of them offers, and the philosophy that our surnames or religions make us different in no way. If there is something that does, it’s our characteristics as different beings.
I would not say that it was all a happy song; I had my share of frustrations when as a child I did not know how to perform the rituals of any one religious circle. I was never allowed to take Holy Communion. It was my Holy Grail; something I always saw but never felt or touched. Often people used to pull me to their sides, “Oh, so you are a Hindu, one of us!” These were also the people who for their own satisfaction assumed that I go to the church to make my mother happy (and not to destroy the sanctity of my inherited religion). But they did not know that though I did go to the Church to please my mother, I also enjoyed listening to the Bible and cherished the serenity the premises offered which was similar to the peace I discovered in temples.
I have grown up in a small town where there are as many swaying tongues as trees, but thanks to my parents they never let me bear the heat. They always told my brother and me, “When you grow up, you are free to choose whichever religion you want” (I am glad I did not choose any). But all this while my mixed identity never really bothered me.
It does not matter, if you do not let it matter.
Does religion really matter?
Are ways of worship more important than relationships?
Does a Christmas cake taste better than a rice dumpling (modak)?
Doesn’t all festivals mean celebrating together, with people you love?
Do you find your identity based on the above or you choose the best and leave the rest, for the world to pick their brains on?
As for me, I have found my identity, by losing one.