On religion

When the OA and I fell in love, many people wanted to know how we’d handle the issue of different religions. Too caught up in the first blush of romance it wasn’t an issue to us at all. Young and crazy, neither of us was particularly religious and religion seemed like something that the masses depended on for entertainment and the old used as a crutch. So in the face of much opposition we got married and planned our strategy right then. We could choose to be either totally secular or celebrate both our religious identities.

We chose to celebrate life. Double the fun instead of a sterile life, so long as neither of us had to do anything that went against our beliefs. Perhaps the best words said in this matter were by my brother who gave the wedding toast at our reception. “Religion,” he said, “according to the dictionary, is something you believe in. Today, my sister and her husband have chosen to be each other’s religion.” The words brought tears to my eyes.

Once we were legally wed though, we began to work around our differences and boundaries. And I stuck to my habit of reading my Bible and praying each night. The OA although not one for prayer, fell into my habit. And so each night, we sat side by side in our marital bed, one of us reading a Bible, another chanting mantras from a hazy childhood. Those few minutes of prayer each night were indicative of how we dealt with religion – peacefully and amicably. As years went by though, and a third little being made its way into our home and lives and bed, the prayers fell by the wayside. Between dirty diapers and snotty noses we’d fall asleep the moment our heads touched the pillow, praying only for a night of unbroken sleep in the same voice.

But I think there was more to it than falling out of the habit just due to sheer exhaustion. Although we’d been dating for a while, marriage is a whole other ball game. We were each trying to mark out spiritual space out in a way least offensive to the other. Trying to say, ‘You are important to me, but I’m not giving up my personal God.’ We had our share of dissent, but it’s only given us a better understanding of ‘the other’. Sometimes, bringing us even closer. And nothing that any other couple with different political allegiances wouldn’t have gone through.

Soon however our confidence levels in each other grew to an extent where we no longer felt the need to do protect the core of who we were. Where we knew our basic beliefs would not be invaded by the other but protected and defended. How can you feel differently when he is balanced precariously on a ladder hanging up a Star of David on the balcony. Or when you are hunched down, tongue caught between your teeth, concentrating on a rangoli for Diwali? I largely thank the family that supported us because we’d be nowhere without my father holding up his grandson to ring a temple bell or my mother holding a little hand steady for another to tie a rakhi on it. I think in my parents case, religion was not God but family. To them it was more important to support their daughter than worry about what the Church might say.

Life they say, is what happens while you are busy making other plans. And God, comes to you in moments when you don’t expect Him. Over the last years few years I’ve  caught a few glimpses of God. In a loving caress, strong arms holding you through the night, a smile across a room, a house becoming a home, the quickening of a baby in the womb, the curl of a baby fist, unsteady first steps and a gurgle.

Our two beautiful children are proof that God blessed this union. His God, my God, our Gods, some God. I buy them books on the birth of Ganesha, he reads them to sleep, telling them tales of David and Goliath. They fall asleep whispering a baby prayer thanking Jesus for the lizard on the wall, and just as you think of sneaking out of their bed to your own, a lilting baby voice breaks the silence to ask you the name of Hanumanji’s mother.

Has religion ever been a real issue with us? Only when people want to pigeonhole us and can’t in their narrow minds envision a home where labels are unnecessary. Only when someone is offensive and I want to punch their teeth in and the OA has to literally pull me back. But there’s a growing tribe of us who have married for love and not for God, and in them I put my faith and my trust and my hope for a better, more sensible world. Also, a post by Unmana that I love.

This seems like a good time to remember Lennon (the only Beatle I can stand!). So, Imagine

 

This post was selected for Blog Adda’s Tangy Tuesday picks.

 

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92 thoughts on “On religion

      • Because the rest of the post is wonderful and subtle, whereas the words “marital bed” seem so loud and totally unnecessary, especially as they are preceded by “Once we were legally wed though…”. Do I make sense? they are just very bollywood-seque and over the top – just something that stood out for me.
        Anyhow, its not the point. Love all the stories this post has evoked in the comments- wish more of India was like that.

  1. Hey MM,

    Commenting after ages…been super busy etc.
    But had to jump in on this one. I am a product of a mixed marriage. My dad is a non-practising hindu and my mom a christian. Me and my bro were brought up in exactly the same way as brat and bean. Exactly. My parents were proud to be secular/tolerant etc. I dont know about brat and bean, but I dont remember being confused/conflicted/traumatised growing up.It’s the best thing-really. As far as my folks were concerned, I could marry a muslim/buddhist/irish/japanase anyone…and practise any belief I wanted, that is the kind of background I come from.

    You know already about my conversion story so will let that pass. I am passionate about following Christ now, and will confess to being disappinted if my child was to marry outside the faith. However, I do also strongly feel, our India in particular needs marriages like your’s and my parents- we need the love! More than anything else, young people should be encouraged to set examples. And what better way than ‘lou marriage’. Ha ha ha.

    Btw, back in 1972, my parents were gifted 200 INR for marrying inter-religion by the govt!!! Howzzat?

    Cheers,
    harshika
    dubai

  2. Your brother’s toast was simply profound! Loved it!

    In our case, though we are both Brahmins, M is a total atheist and I am not. We knew this about each other even before we got married so the adjustment was not at all hard. He drops me off to the temple and sits in the car listening to the evening news while I go in and do the needful. I don’t ever force him to attend religious functions. We respect each others space and do not impose our views on the other person.

    Some friends and relatives still cannot fathom how two people with such differing views can co-exist peacefully. I cannot tell you just how many times I have got the “just make him go inside the temple with you and pray, whats the big deal” spiel!

  3. That’s a wonderful piece, MM! Ultimately it is the faith in love and in each other that keeps us bound together. Congratulations to you and OA for finding it in each other.
    Best wishes,
    Yogita

  4. Love love love this…..Evs and I are in the same boat – just reversed religions and are currently riding the wave of peaceful secularism in the home with a few bits and pieces thrown in for family. Religion has never been an issue for us in all the almost 10 years of dating, and almost 3 years of marriage…(man I am OLD!! :P)

    I’d like to think when we think about having children we’ll bring to them the same peace – not necessarily secular, but respect and belief in faith.

    More and more though, I find myself thinking I should learn about my own religion beyond the aarti’s and stories my parents told me as a child so that I can pass them on with the best knowledge and reasons that I found without them seeming like mindless traditions….

      • Hahaha…how fast we grow up. MM – nothing has changed lol. I’ve gotten a little fatter, Evs has gotten a lot more skinnier (from the damn 1/2 marathon he just ran!) and we are both still trying to make our way in the world. I should really get back to blogging 🙂

  5. “Today, my sister and her husband have chosen to be each other’s religion.” – Simply love these words. You are blessed to have the support of your wonderful family.

    Awesome post MM. Cant comment anything beyond this.

  6. This post of yours touched my heart to the core….brought tears to my eyes! You have a very beautiful way of putting across your thoughts. This post gives me a peek at your soul and what I see there is beauty, sheer beauty of human nature at its best.

    God bless! As I say, God, by any other name…

    Nilu

  7. though i am a regular reader i have never commented but this post just hit very close to heart. i really hope the world becomes sensible with such love marriages 🙂 🙂

  8. Religion is not God, but family. And I feel sad for the people who cut off their family for the choices they make in marriage, career, lifestyle, kids and parenting, you name it, in the name of religion, tradition, community or what is considered taboo. Your brother’s toast said it all.

  9. Sweet post MM, very very sweet. I think religion’s getting growingly irrelevant… My marriage to a Sikh wasnt an issue with my Hindu folks, just like a horde of inter-religion marriages of a lot of friends’ wasnt to theirs.

    but a shared experience in childhood does bond. i mean, me and my husband are from different religions, but knowing we grooved to the same songs as kids, grew up listening to the same events at similar ages blah blah are a far stronger bond than a common religion could be.

    • funny you should say that. its exactly how I feel. my bonds with people are over similar lifestyles. I’ve bonded with Hindu friends whose homes sit down to dinner with a full dinner service because that is the way we ate at home. crisply starched napkins and jazz on the stereo 🙂 all that was home to me.

  10. Lovely post MM! My cousin married a Muslim and though initial days were tough for the families – they’ve adjusted fine! Now they’ve a lovely daughter who is the apple of everyone’s eye in the family:-) They both practice their religion and as long as my bhabhi feels at home and with family what religion she follows is no longer a matter of discussion:-)

  11. That was the most lovely toast! I also loved the way you’ve realised so many things while being together, like when you say, ‘You are important to me, but I’m not giving up my personal God.’ I was stumped…Dunno how long it’ll take for any body even to wake up to this fact and then accept the same too…Love the way you string them so simply…
    The post warmed my heart in a nippy Nov morning…
    Hey missed your name in this issue… 😦 was happy to see the name pop up in one article though…

      • Reading your blog for the last three and a half years, i havent seen your name anywhere? 🙂 You know what,I dont want to know. You are the mad momma:)…Hubby asks daily, ‘So, what did the mad momma say today’ 🙂

          • I luv the way Vidhya has included her hubby in the mad momma world tryst…I can so relate to her…I keep on sending links to the hubby .I gloated and gloated the day we met, till he heard the story for the nth time…

            • Na ji, before I pick up any issue, he chimes in…luk luk the MM…and reverified your quitting from this issue…so be rest assured u’ve the fan club growing coz of the mad wives club 🙂

  12. Nice!

    The Guy and I were talking yesterday, about how we as atheists feel a little left out around festival time. If we’re invited to celebrations, we’re usually expected to take part in pooja, which makes us uncomfortable. We need to find friends like you whom we can celebrate with. 🙂

  13. Husband and me- same religion, same cast and all that. But our families had different beliefs. I come from a family where before every wedding my grandmother would call the pandit and say if he didnt come on time she would go ahead and conduct the wedding. In husabnd’s family everday and everything includes pandits and hindu calenders.This is just to give you an idea.
    Very early in my marriage I decided I was not going to follow this, because I never understood it, it was very chaotic and some of it was simply humiliating. I had horrible three years. But I persisted and to be fair to the in-laws, they left me alone and though they dont like my indifference to rituals and customs, they dont force me either.

    After six years we finally have a lovely system in place and I can breathe easy on diwali.Also I am very proud of what we have.

    PS: This just might be a long senseless comment. 😛

  14. MM, I think this is one post in which I loved the comments as much as your views. They gave me hope for this battered country of ours…

  15. I so fully agree with you coz i am one of the tribe. Yes me a hindu and my husband a catholic. The children ofcourse have his last name, but they know about both religions. We put up a christmas tree and bring home a ganesha. Our altar has both the pictures and so far no one has ever fussed. We had a church wedding and a hindu ceremony..and NO nobody forced me to convert. Even the priest who conducted the wedding was so understanding. I wish more and more people think this way..our country would defenitely be a better place to live in.

  16. religion should ideally be a non-issue, sint it?! its a pity that everyone oesnt think like this.

    do you think staying on your own (that is just the OA and you) made it easier? i know couples who within themselves have absolutely no hang ups and find their own middle / common path, but when they love with parents, following it becomes difficult because not all parents are as cool! bah!

    may the harmony stay foreva!

    cheers!

  17. Very nice post. Agree with every word. We are borderline agnostic the both of us but the celebration of festivals and life itself – very similar to what you guys do.

    • Most of us who make these choices, are pretty much indifferent to the whole religion issue. Else we’d not make them, na. At least that is my understanding of it. the celebration of festivals is only for the cultural aspect. nothing else.

  18. U make it all sound so easy..which it is obviously not. And I say this in a good way ! It needs so much effort from both the partners and close family and friends to make this work the way you have got it working. So, hats off to everyone who is on ur team.

    To me, God has always been about faith in someone/something unseen. A way to keep going and not lose hope. God and religion were never one in my mind. And ditto with festivals…they have always been about celebrations. An excuse to make merry, to wear new clothes, to get a day off, to eat yummy food, to meet and greet and exchange gifts with people u love. And it has always been our habit to do all of these things on Diwali ( and other Hindu festivals when we are in the mood) and Christmas. Never mind that mine is a family full of Tam Brahms.

    Here in the US, around the 25th of Dec..it is important to be politically correct and say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. I mean, really?!?!

    My 1st year in the US..i realized how lonely our home and we felt without a Christmas tree during that time of the year and so every year we decorate our Christmas Tree with the same spirit that we decorate our house for Diwali. During Thanksgiving we look online for Vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes, ‘coz we don’t like to feel left out and can use any excuse for celebration.

    I wish everyone looked up religion in the dictionary !

  19. it’s a non-issue in our home as well. mainly because both of are irreligious. but the child who can communicate is turning out to be rabidly god-loving. how did that happen?

  20. The only Lennon you can stand? All those who think the Beatles are their religion are going to get you.

    Thanks for putting me in there. We started the same way – celebrating both. Now I feel we celebrate neither? Maybe because we are away from each others’ family and I am trying to find what is ours. Maybe because I feel no need to identify myself with a religion, I don’t know. But I feel secure the way you do – that I don’t need to protect myself, close my eyes or ears. I am more secure in him that any religion can provide.

  21. Good for you kid.. Yoy may not agree but it helps if one side (parents/inlaws) are supporting.. as for your brother toast.. I stopped beleiving in relegion/faith when my son was born

    Kid, keep on doing what you are doing.. chances are that you will give 2 good kids to INDIA

  22. Awwwww. I’ve been waiting to read this post, ever since you first mentioned your plans of writing one. I had assumed (very wrongly), that you perhaps were one of those people who didn’t take religion personally enough (not necessarily seriously, only personally – I am sure you get the difference). You proved my assumption wrong (gathering from many posts). This is a beautifully written post, but you know what I think was even beautiful?
    The Brat thanking Jesus for a meal at his table and the Bean professing love for Ganesha, the elephant god – that spoke for itself so beautifully and so eloquently.
    And THIS is why I read mommy blogs – that is a whole lot of learning up and passed on experience, why would I pass up the chance? 😀

  23. great post MM…nicely written..loved your bro’s toast.

    off topic: many of your blogging friends are churning out books, when is yours coming out?

    sorry got sidetracked. speaking of religion – its what you make of it. both hubby and i are non-religious. its a non-issue for us and we want to keep it this way for the sake of our kids.

  24. Today, my sister and her husband have chosen to be each other’s religion. I think that pretty much sums up everything. Love is your religion. 🙂 Loved reading this….

  25. this is such a lovely, thought-provoking post. wish more and more people thought like you guys do.

    LOVE your brother’s toast. so true.

    so all that mush shown in films about there being no room for religious fights when you are up to the neck in love with each other is true. 🙂

  26. It takes a broad mind and sound thinking to be like you describe. That is why this happens to few good people. Enjoy many more such moments.

  27. “Only when someone is offensive and I want to punch their teeth in and the OA has to literally pull me back.” Was that about somebody who annoyed you in the recent past or, you just let your heart out?

  28. Okay, others have said all the sensible things. I have a super-sensible thing to say: Let’s clone the OA. And your brother, too (how could we not, after that wonderful toast?). Come on now, don’t be selfish, and say yes. 😛

  29. humanity was the only religion i learned growing up. thankfully, found a husband who learned the same. both of us being from different organized religion families made no difference absolutely. there was no adjusting phase at all. there was no need of it. as for our kids, i am sure they’ll learn to appreciate a gurdwara just as much as a temple just as much as a church … as both me and my husband did growing up.

    • you make a great point. growing up in a different community shouldnt prevent one from appreciating another set of beliefs.
      also, i think coming from religions that have the same root make it slightly easier to adjust. i would never say its easy – hell even two people from the same community find a different home hard to get used to. but if the beliefs veer in the same direction its easier. particularly if you’re not getting into a relationship with a ritualistic person.

      • Exactly. I agree :). It would suck if pati woke up every morning to sing on top of his voice to appease the Gods ;p. Or if I was insistent on starting the day with a live transmission of kirtan from harmandir sahib :D. Neither of us really care to follow any rituals. We go to gurdwara for food and mandir for a break from routine, and doing that, we work very well together without any religious adjustments. But yes, it can be quite some work for strong believers in their faith coming together. Esp when the two religions do not have a similar ideology or practices.

  30. I seem to have read this post before but not seen my post linked – discovered it because visitors seem to have come from here. Thanks!

    And Happy Diwali!

  31. It does seem like a happy picture.

    Just to put things in perspective, didn’t u and the OA face any problems at all bcos of your diff religions in the beginning of your marriage ? Either between you or from either set of parents ??

    I needed to ask this cos I am a Hindu who dumped her christian love-of-my-life boyfriend (way too many issues), and now have a stable, parents-approved,arranged marriage with a man with the same set of religious beliefs ….And guess what ? I am HAPPY ..

    • I’m glad it seems, because it is 🙂

      and sure we did have problems. we got married against his parents wishes (have mentioned that earlier) and as you can imagine, that wasn’t a piece of cake. things arent perfect on that frontyet. but that is to do with people who cannot accept anything that is not the norm. not about a higher power. and certainly not because of us. so that wouldn’t be perspective in terms of religion. it would be perspective in terms of relationships! inlaw troubles visit you regardless of whether you marry withing or without…

      I’m sorry to hear you use the word dump, but that apart, its good to hear that you are happy with the person you are married to. if the same set of religious rules is what you are looking for in a marriage, then naturally that is what you need to do. some of us have other parameters and to that end, if you want to make it work, no one else can tell you differently.

      if you want perspective, then i’d say its all about which way you look at it. Do you pick someone for the person they are and the connection you feel with them and not for the set of man made rules/customs they grew up with and then learn to deal with trivial differences?

      Or do you ignore that love, lose that person, and make your peace with someone who has just like you, learnt to follow these man made customs and beliefs? These customs are a matter of chance. Had you been born in a different home you’d have learnt something else. had you been adopted by someone else you’d have picked up another set of beliefs. They arent in any way binding. But the inherent person you are, are you musical? sporty? brave? considerate? all that remains the same no matter which atmosphere you grow up in and to me it was important to appreciate that before all else…

      Sometimes the beliefs you share are not religious but so much more. Religious commonalities and parental approval don’t guarantee a stable marriage either. that depends on the two people involved.

      Happy Diwali…

  32. It’s funny MM, that I was always sure I would not marry out of my religion and my one reason was that festivals, ones that I love and celebrate with all my heart, might lose some of their charm if someone did not enjoy them as much as I did. Only now I realise that while I still don’t regret my decision because I found the right person, it is ONLY about finding the right person. This was a beautiful post, MM.

    P.S. I did have another reason for not wanting to marry outside my religion – I wasn’t sure if my parents would throw me out of the house, but I couldn’t risk it 😀

  33. Awesome post, MM! Your brothers toast resounded what my brother said on my wedding day, though not in the same words.
    I’m a Hindu, my husband a Christian. Both of us respect both faiths, while both of us despise the Church and the priests (at least the ones we got in touch with pre-and immediate post-wedding).

    We are also celebrating life. We both believe that GOD is not a he/she…it’s a power…and mostly love. And we’ve found that in each other. It’s a beautiful religion! 🙂

    Congrats on the BlogAdda pick. You completely deserved it!

    Blogged hopped in through IHM’s Buzz update! Let me go thank her too!

  34. Until now, I thought life for the people who are from different religions, if get married, will be very tough. I admire you for the way both of you handled the religious aspect of the marriage, MM.

    Like many of them here, I admire your brother’s statement at your wedding, I too would like to clap for him!

    My niece and her husband have handled their life in your way – her husband is a Christian, but a very nice person, though it took sometime for us to ‘know’ him.

    Be happy always, MM!

    IHM’s buzz brought me here and many thanks to her for introducing you to me, MM!

  35. Nice post..!!
    I remember having read what Khushwant Singh said once in an article. I am trying to recollect what he wrote, however not in his words but recollecting out of my memory but essence was something like this:

    “Somebody asked me – Is India truly an inclusive society” he wrote. Then he goes on to answer, “I think no. We see people of different religion partcipating in each other’s festivities; Hindus wishing Muslims on Eid, Christians on Christmas and vice versa and so on. But when it comes to marriage, when their children want to marry someone from different religious background all the hell break lose. India will become a true inclusive society only when people from different faiths marry each other without a hullabaloo.”

  36. MM,
    This is beautifully written,can totally relate to it.
    I am not religious but I think somewhere there was an element of fear… fear of losing the connect with one’s personal God; and the only two people who could have addressed that fear were yours truly and the hubby. Am happy to report fear was unfounded, we are at a great place today, to quote a friend “Where we knew our basic beliefs would not be invaded by the other but protected and defended. ”
    Absolutely love this, Thanks!

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