Friday, November 08, 2013

In the name of God

Alisha, one of my ever-curious students, came up to me and asked me if I was a Muslim. I asked her how it mattered. Immediately came the next question, "Bhaiya, do you believe in God?" she asked.  Knowing Alisha, I knew she would remain relentless in her interrogation. In the spirit of maintaining transparency with my students, I honestly told her "I don't in most cases, I do in some." She continued her inquiry by asking me, "What do you believe in then?" I told her I believe in reason, logic or science in most cases. She asked me then, "When do you believe in God?"  I thought for a few seconds and then asked her "There are many questions to which science does not know the answer. For example, from where did the first things in our universe come from? When it comes to questions like this, I think there is God's magic at work somewhere." She finally stopped asking her questions. As is the case with all religious conversations my students had with me, I told her that while I am not religious, I do respect every person's choice of religion and belief and will never force what I think on anyone. She then changed topic and began discussing with another teacher. I took a sigh of relief.

While I was honest with her, I did not explain to her what the other scenario in which I believe in God is . Some call it luck. I don't believe in luck. I call it serendipity - all the phenomenally good things that happen to you when you don't expect it. Serendipity is not winning a lucky draw. Serendipity is not getting through a job interview in your dream company. Serendipity is when you escape being killed or gravely injured in an open firing by a terrorist when your friend coincidentally cancels a dinner meeting with you. Serendipity is when your flight gets cancelled giving you the additional few hours with that one person to tell her she is the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. Serendipity is a sign that God exists and he is looking out for you just when you are about to fall.

My family has just finished a week long Diwali celebration. Being a Hindu on paper, I do participate in the rituals of the festival for the sake of conformity. Being a science teacher and working with a non-profit, I do question the logic of many things that people do during the festival. Why do you need to wear new clothes on a day when you have enough old ones? Why do you have to do things in a pooja whose rationale you have never tried to understand in the past many years? Why do you give a bonus to your maid on Diwali but not give them fair minimum wages and contractual rights? Why do you light crackers adding smoke and noise in an already imbalanced environment?

I believe God does not want me to go to the temple, church or mosque. God does not want me to perform rituals, sacrifices and donations. God wants me to be humane and live in harmony with everything and everyone on our planet. God wants me to be true to my work, my family, my friends and myself.

I believe in Him, but I also believe in reason. What has been happening for centuries may not find a rationale today. When I see our actions in the name of God, I do not see any other reason behind them except one - tradition. Let us not make Him an illusion of our insecurities and keep doing things in his name. 

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