I had meant to put this down for quite a while.
I consider myself very very fortunate to be born to my parents. Both my father (Dada) and my mother (Aai) never never forced me to do anything. This meant that I was exempted from visiting temples (boring places to me), performing religious rituals (meaningless to me) and such things. One exception to this was when Aai used to make me come home for studies. The other exception was when I was required go through the rigmarole of my own munj (thread ceremony) when I was eight. I cried and cried through the rituals, eyes burning by the holy smoke. But I suspect, that must have been under pressure of my grand parents , uncles, and aunts. I say this because Aai prevailed upon the both the clans and avoided shaving off my hair ( a must according to the rituals). The reason: I had curly curly hair which she simply adored and could not bear even thought of shaving them!
My parents had consented to my decision for a purely civil marriage but others who had a say had different ideas and the smoke of havans was there again.
My parents were themselves very religious yet I had all this freedom. I grew up in a Middle Class Maharashtrian Brahmin household that followed religious practices but I was exempted from the rituals to the extent possible. I have never in my life felt religious about this god or that god and I have never visited a temple for the purpose of worship. I may have accompanied others and may have done what was ‘required’ in that place, but that was all.
I have at times told my friends that I wish to understand how people feel emotional about Gods & temples and how they become sentimental enough to endure the dirt and the chaos that characterize many of Hindu temples. Really what makes them do it?
I have, at times of distress, prayed to the god for deliverance but in general I never liked the idea of asking for something from the god.
I think ‘Live and let live’ was one of my beliefs then and is so even now. may be simple and simplistic, but so be it. I thought that I was a liberal, I think I am now. My parents were liberal despite being religious.
So, I never was religious and I am not one now. I went to RSS during my school days. The ‘liberals’ might say there you go! But never, either at home or at the RSS I recall being told to follow religious practices and \or to hate other religions. Hate and exclusion were never part of growing up being a Brahmin or participating in RSS activities.
I was non-religious then, I am non-religious now. Yet I am proud of being a Hindu precisely for the above reasons. There are many more reasons -about them, later.