A friend in class IV told me she always murmured the words of the aarti during the assembly, instead of ‘Our father who art in heaven’ in our Christian school. I had gone home and told my mother proudly, that I was going to do the same. She told me it did not matter what words or language we used, so long as we prayed from our heart.
Our Moral Science teacher talked to us about praying before we went to bed. Every night, we had to tell God what we did all day, if we did something we shouldn’t have, it was time to promise to ourselves, we won’t repeat it. This prayer time was a time to make promises to God.
She talked to us about ‘conscience’ or a little voice inside us which always tells us if we are wrong. And those who listen to that voice, she said, will never do any wrong.
She talked about compassion. She talked about how, like a loving parent, God was always there for us, his children. (She called God ‘Him’ always ;))
Were these Christians beliefs? She did not say which God. And under the Amar Chitra Katha influence I used to pray to every God I could remember, for several years, and any new name learnt was promptly added to the list.
We also had a Sanskrit teacher who didn’t approve of us giggling, and said those who laugh too much today were going to cry later. But we loved his stories. We argued when he said every family must have a son to carry forward the family name.
One of his biggest influences was the story of Dhruva – he said the North Star was named after him. I wanted to know how standing on one leg for months could get someone to meet God. He explained that basically ‘tapasya’ meant Will Power and Discipline, that both could get us anything we wanted. I still believe that. As a kid I followed his advice and practiced building a strong Will Power very seriously by giving up Orange Bar ice cream. 😉
Once a friend told me there was a ghost on a tree near our place. I was terrified until my mother said the way Bhootkaal meant, ‘past tense’, bhoot meant past. She must have sounded like she meant it, till today ghosts don’t scare me.
My mom says her dad taught her to be careful of humans instead of fearing ghosts. When she said she was going to tie a rakhi and make a class mate her brother, he told her class mates could only be friends, only her brother could be her brother.
But all early influences are not permanent. Some make us rebel. My mother strongly believed in marrying within the community. She thought we sisters should dote upon our only brother. Our Sanskrit teacher’s talk about religion often veered towards gender bias. My grandfather thought girls should not care for their looks.
So perhaps we just pick some and leave some? I wonder how much can we be influenced. Are these early influences permanent? I guess some people change more easily than others do…