To put it lightly, I may have been confused with religion from the moment I started to comprehend anything. You see, my parents are immigrants from India who were hell bent on giving their children the education they had wished for themselves. The horror stories they heard of public schools just didn’t cut it. Their next step was to find a private school, and unfortunately for me, the only one near us was a private Christian school. So I started kindergarten at a Christian school, where religion was probably the only thing they were educated enough to teach. And to make things worse, I remained at that school all throughout my elementary years.
Now you may think that this can’t be all that bad, but let me just add that I definitely was not Christian and was fully devoted to Sikhism. Every Thursday, after praying to God for hours and memorizing different Bible verses, I went to the Gurudwara (a Sikh place of worship) to attend paths (prayers). I woke up early for Sunday school every Sunday where I learned all about Sikhism and its beliefs. When I came home, I did my Bible homework to turn in the next day. Every single day before school, I did path for blessings; however, in the same hour, I would go to school and recite Bible verses to repent. So you see, I was actively practicing two religions by the time I was 5 years old.
One day, all of it disappeared. I was in middle school at a charter school that practiced no religion. Conveniently for me, the local Gurudwara had closed down at the same time. This meant there were no more Thursdays or Sundays spent learning Sikhism. Suddenly, religion ceased to exist beyond the little prayers I would do if I was in trouble. My belief in any higher power started to decline along with it. At this time, there wasn’t a single moment that I had felt secure in any religion.
I think this situation would have been confusing in anyone’s mind, especially a little kid who believed everything that they were told. The damage this left me with continued to affect me for years. Whenever I was in trouble, I cried and prayed to both God and Baba Ji hoping that one of them would hear me. I stayed up in the middle of the night wondering if Heaven was real or if I was really bound for hell because I genuinely could not get myself to believe in Christianity. I constantly thought about the moment when my 5th grade teacher announced that not everyone in the classroom was Christian and some of us were bound for hell. I remembered exactly how my classmates looked when they turned around to stare at me.
For years, it stayed this way. There were times where I was hopelessly devoted, relying on religion to help me. But other times, I hated anything to do with religion. I hated the mere thought that there was someone up there because I could not figure out what I believed for the life of me. Most of all, I hated myself for not being able to trust in a single religion.
It was finally at the end of high school that I came to terms with the situation I was put in and the mess it had created in my head. I began to understand religion as an entity; it didn’t have to define me as a whole. It was at this time that I was finally able to peacefully practice Sikhism. I finally believed the words written in the Gurbani without comparing it to the words written in the Bible. I finally saw it as something I chose to believe in, rather than being forced down my throat.