The first time when someone confronted me about my belief in God was when I had just started medical school. “So, you don’t believe in God?” she’d asked. “Of course, I do believe,” I replied almost indignantly but I still remember being taken aback at the question and the point-blank manner in which it was put forth. Well, she was a senior so she thought she could.

“There’s no temple, no deity in your room, so I assumed,” she said defensively.

“That’s because I don’t believe in idol worship,” came my reply which didn’t do much in clearing her confusion but thankfully she dropped the discussion.

It’s almost 25 years since this conversation happened but it has often come back to me and I have had enough time to dwell upon it. Let me just talk about this today then.

Why are we so presumptuous is my first question? Being curious is still understandable but assuming something based on that curiosity is preposterous. Presumptuous are preposterous… I like the sound of that. But no, I ain’t letting this gloating take me away from what I have to say.

Why is religion and belief considered synonymous? Religion is something we may not get to choose. We are stamped with it the day we are born. (And judged on it for the rest of our lives… sighhh…).

Belief is something we build as we grow up. It’s our relationship with God, the supreme power or whatever we choose to call Him. Religion is our introduction to God. It’s an almanac. Our interpretation is what forms our belief. Religion may show us the way but faith is what helps us walk on it.

I am not overtly religious and unless compelled to, I ain’t ritualistic either. Idol worship doesn’t come easy to me. And yet every time I have been in a tough situation, it’s my faith that moved the mountains for me. My father often quotes a couplet by Allama Iqbal;

Masjid to Bana Di Shab Bhar Mein Iman Ki Hararat Walon Ne
Mann Apna Purana Papi Hai, Barsoun Mein Namazi Ban Na Saka

(The believers built a mosque overnight; but our heart couldn’t become devout in years, the old sinner that it is).

That kind of sums it up for me. Rather than indulging in rituals, I choose to work on my faith which ain’t an easy job. That said if I have to thank the Lord, I’ll fold my hands in gratitude than, may be, genuflect or kneel.

I was born in a Hindu family, my mother being an Arya Samaj follower, that came the most naturally to me. I studied in a convent, then a DAV institution and went on to have friends from various religions. My conclusion is that all roads lead to God.

However, religion is subject to misuse if we allow it. It has been successfully used to divide us but it’s our faith that will always bring us closer. Let’s not use religion as a tool to judge people. And like all relationships, let’s keep our relationship with God, personal.

-Dr. Shivani Salil

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