I got all my religion from school, friends and cousins- that is whatever I got of it, which by the way things have turned out is not much. Though I did turn out to be very multi-culturally respectful of whatever everyone else believed in. I suppose it was a “They do god, we do math” thing. Or at least it seemed that way.
And yet by the time I was in senior school, I did believe in something. Perhaps not the bearded old gentleman the Bible seemed to be about (pictures on the Sistine Chapel are proof enough), nor even the many limbed deities most festivals seemed to be about. And certainly not a vengeful formless creator who seemed very concerned about how much skin women showed. But something for sure. Vague, kindly understanding, and in general a benign deity who seemed to listen to fervent pleases of “let me do well in this exam”. But there were rules. I could not do the “let me do well..” routine, unless I had studied hard enough, made good notes, memorized what I needed to, practiced Math. The “let me do well…” was a just-before-the-questions-were-handed filler, in between the drawing margins on the paper and filling up the fountain pens. Anyhow it was churlish to wish for results without putting in effort.
The year I passed out of school was a fairly horrible one. My father had a brain tumor surgery and was diagnosed with lung cancer in the final stages. Now, cancer was not totally alien. My mother’s parents had both battled with it and succumbed. The “what will happen now” was a foregone conclusion. Especially since the doctor said “Three months” too. So, when one of my cousins, who had recently found the divine in a multi-national property, expensive cars and jewelry owning Mataji began the she-is-amazing-she will-effect-an-immediate-cure, it was not only ridiculous, it was heartless to the extreme. As were the discussions on “performing the last rites” and other extremely human activities in the following of a supposed divine will.
Personal tragedy did not lead me to any disillusionment with the creator of the universe. I was very much of the “as you sow, so shall you reap” school. It was just unfair to lay the blame on something out there. Even though life had changed rather drastically. I just began to pay a little more attention to what seemed to be divinely ordained or blessed. And the ridiculousness began to strike me. “Our car was in an accident and no one got even a scratch. God saved us. ” Yes, but there was an accident in the first place. Or the presumptuousness of “XYZ was saved during the **insert natural or other calamity**, which devastated **insert number** XYZ ascribes it to praying to **insert favorite deity**”. The great divine intervened specially on the behalf of XYZ condemning all the others- that is some favoritism I did not like at all (reminded me of one of my teachers for whom no one could be better than one of her pets)- this was so Human, and so not fair. And the cricket players, or Oscar winners (I do not remember if the Miss Worlds did it too- they may have, they seemed empty headed enough) whose victory was because someone/thing out there was specially arranging things for them, that just seemed plain silly. I also began to wonder about the divine which needed to manifest itself through milk drinking idols (capillary action, it was actually) or appear on bits of toast, chapattis, sliced through tomatoes or brinjals to make itself belief worthy, even as war, hunger, famine, poverty, disease, insurgency seemed to be thriving.
So, I stopped praying. And found that the frequency at which they were going unanswered was the same as it had been earlier.
India and the United States