I park and zip my rather loose fleece jacket as I step out the driver’s seat. I open the passenger door and Ammu and Pattu clamber out. I remind Ammu she needs her light jacket. She pauses as if to challenge me and reaches for her old faded grey fleece. I remember to lock the car and we walk towards the wide double doors of the local church that is also our polling station for today’s local elections.
The place is wide and we meander until we find a red arrow marking the way we should be headed. The voting process is simple and I am number 119. I sigh inaudibly as I realize how unimportant exercising their franchise seems to my fellow citizens. My children pepper me with questions on whom I voted for and if this means our 45th President will no longer be President. I break it to them that we have three more years before we get a chance at that.
On impulse, I stop at the front desk. For a year now, I have been meaning to take my children to church. Their mom advised me to look for something non-denominational. My voice is hesitant as I introduce myself and ask the young woman if their church is non-denominational. She answers emphatically and eagerly and proceeds to walk me through their large campus. The interaction is fraught with anxiety and what feels like fear to me.
We walk out a half hour later clutching a sheaf of brochures and two beautifully illustrated Children’s bibles. The children sit on the sofa and leaf through the book stopping at each beautiful picture, tracing the lines and trying to sound out unfamiliar words. I take a picture and call my Amma in India. Even as I recount my adventures from the morning, she laughs nervously as she cautions me against being evangelized. My answer is equally frivolous but I can sense the fear in me.
Back in my study I lean back in the chair and run through the morning one more time. All my life I have considered myself spiritual, agnostic and at times a practicing Hindu. My convent education meant I had scripture classes, visits to the chapel and a rudimentary knowledge of the bible. I possibly had a copy of one through my growing up years. In the exuberance of young adulthood, I considered Krishna and Christ to be one and the same. I reveled in my embrace of all religions. Or so I thought until I was standing there in a church asking about what it takes to attend a service, be part of the church activities and introducing my children to a whole new world.
As I dig deeper I realize my fears stem from a place I do not understand myself. I love what my religion has given me. A sanctuary to retreat into when the world is overwhelming. A power in which to place my insecurities and be held until I figure my way out. At times in my life when I felt like I had no control over my life’s narrative, I have relied on oil lamps, temple visits and an abiding faith in a power greater than me to carry me through.
I realize I want my children to have what I had. A place they can go to within themselves when the world outside is overwhelming. A moral compass that shows them the way when they are confused. A set of loose rules that offer the comfort of a structure. The familiarity of what I have, the comfort I gain from walking along trodden paths is what I am comfortable passing on. In exposing them to something new, I realize I have to walk that path with them. By holding on too tight or impressing my fears on them, I will only hold them back crippling them from being truly immersed in what constitutes part of their heritage.
To walk the walk, to be truly open to embracing all parts of their heritage I need to let go of this thing holding me back. I need to embrace it with an open mind and walk with them as they are exposed to something new. Hopefully, as they grow, they can find for themselves what I have for me.
In a moment of clarity, it comes to me that the reason I feel secure in my faith is that it was never imposed on me. I was never required to pray or visit the temple. I was never told that this was the way I was to be. I absorbed what I wanted to and formed my version of faith that works for me. With any luck, my children will have that too.