Monday, September 12, 2011

Thank you, God

My brother was in town recently and commented that I have the most religious children he's ever met! To hear them these days, that might actually be true! Vir has learnt the Gayatri Mantra and Ragupati Raghav Raja Ram at school. They chant "Om" thrice and then the Gayatri Mantra twice at school every day. So, of course, we have to do it at home now too. And God forbid if you chant "Om" twice by mistake. Ma'am says it's thrice, so that's the law. Oh and there's an element of "Om Shanti Shanti" at the end of the chanting too. To add to this, they taught the kids Raghupati Raghav as part of telling them about Gandhiji. Vir is totally addicted to that arati. He hums it while doing his homework, painting, playing, while in the bathroom - basically all the time! Of course he doesn't really know all the words so some of them come out really funny. The funniest variation I've ever heard was:

Ishwar halwa tere naaaaaam....
Sita ram, sita raaaaaaam
Hey bhagwan
Sita ram...

I'm sure Ram and Sita are smiling away up there too.
Of course, Tara has picked up all this from Vir and can also be found singing (squeaking) relgious aratis at all times of day and night. The funniest, and perhaps most appropriate use of the arati was when she sat in the car with my mom driving the other day! Mom hasn't been well and was driving a car for the first time in over a year that day. She was obviously nervous, and given the fervent chanting from the backseat, we think Tara was too!

I haven't traditionally been a big fan of organized religion. (Read that as the understatement that it is). Somehow though, the fact that my kids are learning things that, as of now, are all within Hinduism doesn't bother me. Over time, I'll expose them to the idea that there isn't just one way to address God. In my view, that comes naturally with time as long as you see that being believed and practiced around you. It happened that way with me. My dad was in the army and that automatically exposed me to temples, gurudwaras, churches, and even moques in small measure. I never saw my parents give more importance to one over the other. Wherever we went, the focus was on addressing God and giving thanks. Over time, I developed my own approach to praying and have always been very comfortable with that. That's what I wish for the kids too.

So, while I've never really chanted aratis or shlokas, it makes me happy that they're learning that there are some rituals that they should inculcate just to stop each day and thank God for everything they have. In addition to what they're learning at school, the one thing I do ask Vir to do before he goes to sleep each night, is to look back at his day and say thank you to bhagwanji for all the good stuff that happened. It's really sweet to hear him recount his day and a joy to realize how many small things make him happy - "thank you that I met Anjali ma'am in the mall today," "thank you that mummy gave me mac and cheese today," "thank you for my blue car." Of course, there are times he runs out of good things and then resorts to stuff like "thank you that I went and did susu." Four year olds and their facination with bathroom activities, I tell you. That's a whole other story that I will not be telling.

Tara has been copying Vir very seriously even in this part of the prayer. What amazed me though, is that somewhere along the way, she has figured out the point of it all too. A couple of days ago, she was lying down in bed getting ready to sleep and started off on her own - her own heartfelt little prayer. Luckily, I had my phone with me so I was able to type it out quickly. Just didn't want to lose a moment like that. Here's what she said:

Thank you God for the mall
Thank you God for ice cream because papa gave me
Thank you God because Radhya meri friend hai
Thank you God for mamma gave me duddu
Thank you God because went to mall
Thank you God because papa ne mera besan pancake khaya because mereko besan pancake accha nahin lagta
Thank you God because papa gave me one skittles

I just can't believe that my little one has figured out the logic of identifying good things that happen to her and saying thanks for those - even intangibles like having Radhya for a friend.

Also, I guess she really likes going to the mall!

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