My old man was really something else. For a man who didn’t have the luxury of formal schooling, he educated himself enough to write his name and signature in English. And when he impersonated our Protestant Catholic neighbor and said – Yes, No, What and Where you go?, my Papa Bear looked the cutest.
Dad worked in a factory which made tin cans. The union strikes always hit our family the hardest. But even in those difficult times, he ensured his kids got the best of the education for which I will forever be grateful.
Effortlessly, my Dad’s principles and beliefs have been embedded in my conscious and influenced my life in a big way. And of all the things that he taught me, the most important lesson was to keep ourselves above religion.
As a Hindu family, in our home, we had a small altar with pictures of Goddess Laxmi & Sarawati, Ganpati and Sai Baba. Dad, however, also had a Guru (a holy man) called Parsi Baba whom he would visit every Thursday at his Dargha and whose framed picture hung on one of our living room walls. Going to a convent school, kissing Mother Mary’s statue at the grotto and applying holy water on my forehead during exams was something all my friends did irrespective of our religion.
I don’t remember a day when Dad took me to any temple. Even at home, the little rites of lighting a diya or essence stick for the deities wasn’t asked of me and that’s how I grew up… A believer of God, but ignorant of religious rituals.
Today, as an adult I may lack religious social norms and many a times feel out of depth when matters of religion are discussed. I am, however, grateful for this precious gift that Papa Bear has bestowed upon me. His religion free learning has set me free and so the only thing I do to please God is be a good human being and do the right thing. Is my God happy? Yes, I believe so, for my life is happy and beautiful.