Vish and I are not religious people - however we are not atheists ether. We believe in God, in the miracle of life, in the superpower that holds everything together. With religion, come murky waters - while we enjoy the traditions that our religious roots bring, the festivities, the feasting, the celebrations - I am wary of preaching of religious exclusivity and deriving your personal identity from the religion you are born into.
If you have begun to wonder why this post features in my mommy blog and not my personal blog - no, I have not forgotten my much neglected blog. This post is here because God has started appearing in our conversations with the daughter more often now, and while every aspect of parenting unfolds a better (or a more confused) understanding of your own stance and beliefs, I though it would be interesting to pen down here how we are educating our 3 year old in this context.
How God features in our everyday lives: We have hindu God idols in our house. (What is that, mommy?) Manya has seen her nana offer morning and evening prayers in the puja room to the gods. (Why does nana pray?) We talk about going to a temple. (Does God stay only in temples?). We cross a fancy church during our drives (What is a church?). Oh my god, Manya, what are you doing? (Why did you say my god mommy?) For god's sake, Manya stop screaming. (What will God do if I don't stop?)
And this is what mommy explains...
... God is the positive energy, the joy, the happiness, the love that you feel all around you.
So, is Ganesha not god, she asks me. No, I say. These are idols of god, images of god that different people create. She nods her head in understanding. He is just like a drawing, she says.
Encouraged, I continue, it is easier to pray to something that you can see, focus on rather than something you can only feel. Her attention begins to waiver - but she tries. Like I pray for play dough, she quips.
Never mind, some other day, I sigh.
Before she loses interest completely, we talk about temples and churches and how people can choose where to go worship based on the idols they believe in. She understands. She wants to go visit both. We say okay. I make a conscious effort to leave out the vocabulary of religion, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam from our discussion. I don't see the need for that.
Religion has not been the defining aspect of my personality or who I am as an individual - I don't think it does for her, nor should it for anyone. Religion is a matter of personal faith; it should not be up for display or debate. Whether I am a hindu, or a muslim, or a christian, should not dictate how I conduct myself or interact with people or judge situations.
As the years go by, I want my daughter to know about the religions that exist, the massive literary works (all those mythological stories are so fascinating) that come from them, the rich cultural traditions that find their roots in the various religions - As she lights diyas and makes rangoli on Diwali, she knows that it is in a way to ask God to visit us and bless us (She asked me the next morning, if I am feeling happy because god is happiness and god should have visited yesterday :D.). She celebrated Holi earlier this year, and Easter and Halloween too. She is waiting for Thanksgiving to get over so that we can put up the Christmas tree and write letters to Santa - I can't imagine telling her that on diwali, happiness comes to only hindus or that Santa is a christian.
I am not against religion - I am against teaching small children that they belong to a certain a religion and owe allegiance to it. Teach them slokas, and carols, and verses from the Quran, and gurbani too. Teach them how to love, help and differentiate good from evil but don't teach them to divide themselves - teach them the joy of togetherness.