My first religious steps and struggles
I am a native from Mauritius, born from an Indo-Mauritian father and an African Creole mother. Religion has always been a huge part of my life since I was born, but it was my mother’s religion which was mostly predominant, whereas it should have been my father’s religion which should have been mine.
Most Hindu families are built under the patriarchal authority, but it had never been the case for my parents, since it was mostly my father who was bending under my mother’s authority.
My mother came from a Roman Catholic family, which made that I also got christened by my half-sister (my father’s first marriage daughter) at the Ste Therese Church in Curepipe, and by my uncle, who is my mother’s elder brother. But though I was regularly assisting the weekly masses, and though I also did my Holy Confession and Holy Communion as a Roman Catholic, I also very often assisted in parallel to the masses from the Anglican Church of St Thomas in Beau Bassin together with my father. However, I didn’t do my confirmation at the age of 10 since during that period, I felt a partial disinterest and demotivation in keeping on following the catechism at school, though I kept on doing it for again 4 years when I started secondary school. But after my last year of catechism, then I stopped practicing and had no more steps to follow within my religious vocation. At a moment, my mother felt I had to follow another step, and then she put me within the Anglican Diocese of Mauritius, as a part of the Parish of St Clement in Curepipe. For four years I was part of the Church and actively participated into some church and diocesan activities, such as being part of the Youth Group, Adults Choir, Youth Choir and responsible of the Anglican Liturgy within the Youth Group as well. Unfortunately, because of my father who always kept on making scandals when I attended my church activities, since he always feared that I would fail in my studies, I couldn’t continue anymore attending the activities, and had to lessen them by force. I also got some conflicts with some of the church members, who disagreed with me on a lot of things while I was trying to give my best during the participation of the church activities. But the straw that broke the camel was especially the lady who was responsible of the Adult Choir of the church who reproached me of being too much absent to the rehearsals, and who scolded me with bold words, saying that if I couldn’t be regular to the rehearsals, then it would be better that I wouldn’t be anymore a part of the Adults Choir. Her words made me the effect of a knife blade in my heart, and not only did I leave the Church forever, but I also left the Anglican Diocese forever, for never coming back again. My father, who forgot that he was the one who discouraged me to follow the church activities, then started blackmailing me for going back to church, until I couldn’t bear it and told him, with eyes full of tears, how the Adults Choir Responsible lady scolded me lastly… But I didn’t have the courage to scold my father for the discouragements I had to bear from him since he forced me to lessen my church activities 😦 But today I am writing that part of my religious journey, a religious journey full of ups and downs during all the time that I was at my parents’ place.
An unexpected upsetting
When I turned 9 years old, another unexpected event came into my life and was also indirectly responsible of my religious instability. One morning, two ladies knocked at my parents’ door. One of them was a French lady with Italian roots, who married a Mauritian person. Both ladies were… Jehovah’s Witnesses! My mother got so deeply influenced by their words, and mostly by the Italian French lady who was a very charming person, that she let them coming in the house. Since that day, lots of mess started getting created in the house. When my grandfather bought that house for my father, who would become the first doctor of the family, that house belonged to a French Mauritian owner before. Though my patriarchal family was mostly Hindu, there was a statue of Virgin Mary in its cave in the garden, face to my bedroom’s window. Since those two Jehovah’s Witnesses came in, they forced my mother to remove that statue, and also all the other religious icons that my mother settled for prayer, including some pictures of Father Laval, a Saint whom all Roman Catholic Mauritians worshipped on his tomb at Ste Croix in the North Part of the country, and a beautiful picture of Merciful Christ, which still appears on my mind very often each time I think about Lord Jesus! Not only were the icons forbidden, but even some events were forbidden as well, such as birthday cakes, Easter eggs, Christmas trees etc! The more my mother was following their rules, the more she imposed them on the whole house instead of keeping it for herself only, and the worse the atmosphere at home became topsy-turvy and unbearable, and worse again since my mother abandoned her Roman Catholic religion and turned as a Jehovah’s Witness at her turn! She even tried to influence my father to follow some Biblical courses with the Italian French lady’s husband as well! But when my half-brother came to know about our father following those courses, he laughed out lord, finding our father really ridiculous, since he knew very well our father would never follow the Jehovah’s Witness rules and remain Anglican, and since he knew that our father wasn’t a regular practising as well. Thanks to him indirectly, my father had to bend and to stop following his religious courses, which he admitted being boring to him, and which he did not for his own faith, but only to please my mother and nothing else.
My young adult years without religion
Because of all that mess caused by my mother’s obsession for the Jehovah’s Witness, and because of an immature mistake I did by asking God to allow some insane things for me, which God refused to give me, instead of recognizing that I did a mistake, I put all the blames on God, which made that I turned away from all religions for a very long period of my life. Then at a moment in year 2002, seeing that I had no religious steps again, my mother, since I refused to be part of the Jehovah’s Witnesses despite her first influences, then chose to put me at Christian Centre, under the supervision of its leaders, a couple of French Mauritians. But the praise and worship didn’t bring into my heart the results I was expecting, and I didn’t succeed into finding the peace of heart and soul that I was looking for. At the same moment, I was very unstable in my life, especially in my sentimental life after so many love deceptions and one-night stands which made me more and more deceived each and every day in my life. The biggest deception was especially my latest ex-boyfriend, whose parents categorically refused that he would marry me in church, elsewhere he would be given damnation by his family! Because of our religious and cultural differences though my ex-boyfriend used to pray at church while studying in Europe, and due to the increasing family pressure he was facing with his parents and sisters as the only son of the family, our relationship drastically splitted after only 6 months and broken promises and left me fully heartbroken for one month, until I met in August 2004, at his younger brother’s marriage, the one who is today my husband and the father of our young and unique son who was born from our union in May 2011.
New religious struggles appeared after marriage
Since I was still Christian before marriage, and under my parents’ influence and authority, I couldn’t follow my husband’s steps and had to stay in my own corner each time he had to go to temple and to pray. When my husband, who was living overseas since a couple of years, came back to Mauritius or went back overseas, there were some rituals which my future in-laws used to do with him and, one afternoon, I was asked to stand besides my future husband to receive the blessings, though I wouldn’t accompany him in the aircraft. But since I was still Christian, I refused to stand besides my husband and frankly said I didn’t have any right to participate in them since I was still Christian. I still remember how everyone was shocked when I mentioned about it, but my sister-in-law said that I have been really courageous to have declined them, since she would never have that courage if she was at my place. During the marriage preparations, I have been also trapped by my parents for the same purposes. There was a time during childhood, where I didn’t mind about wearing a white wedding dress and veil for getting married, since we assisted a lot of Roman Catholic and Anglican weddings for years. But since I witnessed one of my elder cousins’ Hindu Marriage and visioned her wedding ceremony which was filmed by some extended relatives of ours, I was so seduced by the way Hindu weddings were celebrated that I was no more interested into getting married in Church, and I really meant what I was saying. Unfortunately, my mother underestimated me and thought I was telling that only on a whim… and she imposed the celebration of our Christian wedding just after the Hindu wedding ceremony, by inviting only her family and some VIP people whom my father cared about as their personal doctor… And by avoiding inviting my in-laws and my patriarchal family!!! That wickedness from my mother deeply hurt my in-laws, who never expected how my mother could stoop so low, and in such a way that my father-in-law very often menaced to burn our Christian wedding costumes if he had those costumes within his hands! My husband, on that day, was feeling very sad and lonely, and I could feel it, though I tried to distract him with two little nieces of mine who came to us to destress the atmosphere. Despite my mother’s wickedness, my in-laws fortunately didn’t reject me and accepted me as their daughter-in-law, but they permanently lived in the fear that I would influence my husband to turn Christian instead of letting him keeping his Hindu religion, and since they knew how my mother was an excessively authoritarian and exigeant person when it came on my education! that influence continued during the first month of our marriage, though I accompanied my husband in his Hindu prayers, but what disturbed him was when I was doing my Christian prayers, though I had nothing to hide, all this because my husband always had that fear that I would force him to turn Christian, despite having warned me several times and so severely that he categorically refused, since he didn’t want to be rejected by his parents, and since I always respected his decision and kept on fighting against my mother, who kept on influencing me about turning my husband as Christian!
A humiliation which finally forced me to change religion, though no one among my in-laws forced me to do it, and though despite being forced, I had that will to change religion
One month after our marriage, my husband’s colleague from Mauritius came to our place for dinner. When my husband showed him the pictures of our wedding, I saw him hiding the ones of our Christian marriage! His colleague didn’t say anything, but I could feel through his facial expression that he wasn’t indifferent to that secret from my husband. For my part, though I tried to be polite during the whole dinner, I was pricked and felt deeply humiliated. When I asked my husband why he did such a thing and how he could be ashamed about my religion, he said that he hesitated to show our Christian marriage pictures to his colleague since he feared his colleague, who is a Marathi, wouldn’t appreciate it! We kept on fighting for long hours before falling asleep and I cried a lot because of the humiliation I felt towards my religion and the way my husband indirectly insulted my religion… Until at a moment, I felt that I had no other option, than converting into Hinduism and giving away my Christianity. My husband feared that I was taking that decision on a whim, but after a long battle, he was convinced that I was sincere and he had eyes full of tears of joy, but mostly of relief since I took his religion instead of keeping mine, mostly because of the fear of being forced by me and my mother about converting into Christianity. His parents and relatives were so happy and relieved that they congratulated me and respected me more. Even in my family, everyone appreciated my decision, including those of my matriarchal family. Only my mother was against that sudden change of decision, seeing all her hopes of influencing my husband to be by her side eloping away, which made that she desperately tempted everything to make me changing my mind and making me believing I was wrong in my decisions… But in vain! Since that day, she still tries to influence me, but all her temptations ended with total failure all the time and I remained within my Hindu faith.
At some moments though, I was so desperate that in a moment of despair, I wrote a letter to the Lord Jesus to justify my choice, but in that letter, though I expressed a desire coming from the heart, I wrote that I took that decision mostly as a sacrifice for my husband but not of my own will, because I was too scared to hurt the Lord, who had been standing besides me through thick and thin all the time, including during all my moments of religious instability.
I am still practising my Hindu faith together with my husband and removed bovine and porcine within my food habits as well. But what changed though is that I restarted in parallel practising again my Roman Catholic religion by worshipping Virgin Mary, Lord Jesus and some Catholic Saints, and this with total authorisation from my husband and without having to make accounts to my in-laws, since I had to create some boundaries around my spiritual life to have a part of privacy for myself, as long as I have permission from my husband and as long as by my side, I respect my husband’s own religious beliefs.
Conclusion: The genesis behind that religious instability comes from my father
As we say, there is no smoke without fire, and that religious instability, before influencing me, started with my father at first. My father was raised into a purely Hindu family. But when my father was settled in Kerala, where he met his first wife, he was looking for a Hindu temple there to pray, but found only an Anglican Church there. Also, he went to pray there and felt good afterwards. That was the very first step which encouraged him to convert into Anglicanism, at the big scandal of my patriarchal family! By the same way, when his children were born, they followed Anglicanism as well and then turned Roman Catholic since my father started dating my mother after his divorce with his first wife. But despite being Christened, my father had to bend under some Hindu rituals which should have been performed for all his children, as per the conditions imposed by his family. Unfortunately he never performed them since he never believed in them, which caused a lot of problems in my siblings’ lives and even in mine, with the loss of my godmother, my half-brother who turned atheist and my religious instability, which ended difficultly, but with certitude, since I got married. When I analyse the situation in all its totality, it was as if I was retaking my father’s native religion and beliefs after marriage and that I was doing the inverse spiritual journey my father did before. By such a sacrifice, though it was very hard, I not only had learnt a lot of things I ignored, but my life changed drastically and I have the feeling that I succeeded into at the same time setting my in-laws free from all fears they had about my husband’s faith, and at the same time warding off the bad luck which took birth from all that religious instability among my parents and my patriarchal half-siblings.