My grandfather was a Muslim, my mother a Christian, and I am a Hindu – Nalini Rathnam

Seventh Day Adventist Publication

Nalini RathnamShortly after my baptism, on entering my teens I had lots of questions about Christianity which I would pose to my parents, siblings and the pastors in church. Suffice to say I got no answers save the proverbial, “Have faith. Do not question. Just believe.” – Nalini Rathnam

I hail from the most nationally integrated family I know. My maternal grandfather was John Ali Baksh. (John? Ali Baksh? … Yes!) Ali Baksh was a zamindar in Lahore—in pre-partition India. He was 17 when the missionaries gave him refuge in the church when he was being targeted by his uncles and step brothers for his father’s property. Ali Baksh was considered a real “catch” for the missionaries: he was not poor or downtrodden, he was heir to his father’s vast lands and wealth, and above all, a Muslim. My mother was born a Christian, her full name was Margaret Olive Mehrunissa Ali Baksh.

My father hailed from Kolar Gold Fields in Karnataka. His ancestors were weavers. There was a time when a worm got into the cocoons and the crops were lost. Dad’s ancestors were Hindu—but, of course! Dad was poor as a church mouse and studied under the proverbial lamppost to complete his education. He was a bright student and a phenomenal stenographer. The missionaries got to him. He converted and served the mission as an evangelist and the best stenographer the church had ever seen. My father was a Seventh-Day Adventist. Like the Jews, the Adventists consider Saturday the 7th day of the week, hence the Sabbath—following the Gregorian calendar. That is pretty much where the similarity ends. Adventists believe in Jesus being the Savior unlike the Jews.

Dad saw Mom in a church ceremony in Lahore and fell in love with her. They married, had 8 children—the last one being yours truly. We were raised as Seventh Day Adventists.

As a toddler and later when I was well into my teens, my memories are vivid of being taught “you are in the light and all your Hindu friends are in the dark … you must bring them into the light.” I remember how in school, I used to feel sorry for all my Hindu friends (many of them are friends till date)—as they were in the “darkness”. Our banter used to be—me saying, “God and Jesus created the world in 7 days”, and my Hindu friends saying, “How silly … Brahma created the world”. So on and so forth. I remember how much of a “sinner” I felt growing up as I was not able to bring a single friend “into the fold and into the light”. I was very confused, angry and guilty. I could not preach.

At age 11, after attending Sabbath school regularly—I took a decision to get baptised in the Seventh Day Adventist church in Spicer College Pune … then Poona. That was a really holy day. Being baptised by my favorite pastor—Pastor Crump was the most liberating and awe-inspiring experience of my childhood. Our baptisms are carried out in the exact same way as John the Baptist used to, except not in a river, but a huge tank filled with water. We wore long grey robes, stepped into the tank, and the Pastor said, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit I baptise you”. Then he covered our mouths with a clean white handkerchief, dipped us in the water and pulled us back up after a few seconds. Lo and behold! We were now free of our past sins and we were pure. As an 11-year-old, I now wonder what “sins”?

Shortly after my baptism, on entering my teens I had lots of questions about Christianity which I would pose to my parents, siblings and the pastors in church. This is not the time or place to go into them, suffice to say I got no answers … save the proverbial “Have faith. Do not question. Just believe”

Over the years, I was drawn more and more towards the tenets of Hindu philosophy. (Can we stop calling it a religion, please?) I must say here that my mother always had the Bible, Bhagavad Gita and the Quran next to her bedside table. She told us about the good things in all religions and her knowledge of Islam as a religion and as a culture was manifold. Except for the fact that she was a Christian, her upbringing was more along Islamic traditions, and her language was Urdu. She could not read Hindi. She was a Montessori teacher and in her spare time taught Urdu to hundreds of students till the day she died.

She believed though that her saviour was indeed Jesus.

I married a Hindu and had an Arya Samaj wedding. I consider myself Hindu and have long ago stopped worshipping in a church. I have conversations with Ganesh, Ganapati … and in my heart I am a Hindu. I do not visit temples regularly nor do I want to convert anybody to my way of thinking.

I wish as Hindus, we would stop being apologists.

I thoroughly understand evangelism, and my problems with all missionaries is: Why do I have to change my first name or add a Western name to my birth name to prove I am Christian? Why can I not retain my Hindu or Muslim name and still “be in the fold” as it were? Why do many brides wear gowns to their weddings instead of the sari? Or like many, wear the sari but with a veil? Why does religion interfere with culture? Why interfere with the tribal culture in the North East under the garb of religion?

Why is Mother Teresa considered selfless?

Her bigger agenda like all Christian missionaries was to convert and bring people to the fold. That is the whole purpose of being a missionary for God’s sake! Pardon the pun! It’s almost like a vow you take when being ordained a priest or pastor.

Jesus told his twelve disciples the following and I quote from the Bible:

Mark 16:15 — And he said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

Mathew 28:19-20 — Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Romans 10:10-17 — For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the scripture says, Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

Why is it wrong if Mohan Bhagwat or any other says it like it is? I am not holding a brief for Mohan Bhagwat, so even before you all who are reading this … start to smirk … stop right there! I am Indian first and last! No faith, no religion, no belief, no tenet can alter the fact that I am well and truly Indian. I hold a brief for no one, against no religion—but I have the fundamental right to question.

Hence, I have the right to question critics of Hinduism, or the critics of Hindus, when they argue, “the Christian missionaries are at least looking after the poor and needy. Why do the Hindus not do the same for their own”? I always believed that the basis of Hindu philosophy was the theory of karma. Am I wrong?

No, I don’t think so. So that answers that question.

The Bible also says “as you sow so shall you reap”, but with a difference—that whatever you sow you will reap in this one life only. You only die once is the theory.

The Bible rejects the idea of reincarnation; therefore, it does not support the idea of karma.

All those holding a brief for the good lady Mother Teresa, I admired her too. But I am not into Hindu bashing nor do I have my blinders on. I know her agenda was conversion. She was a Christian missionary—if she did not convert others she would be going against the very tenets of what Jesus said.

I end with her quote at the Scripps Clinic in California below:

Mother Teresa encouraged members of her order to baptise dying patients, without regard to the individual’s religion. In a speech at the Scripps Clinic in California in January 1992, she said: “Something very beautiful … not one has died without receiving the special ticket for St. Peter, as we call it. We call baptism ticket for St. Peter. We ask the person, do you want a blessing by which your sins will be forgiven and you receive God? They have never refused. So 29,000 have died in that one house [in Kalighat] from the time we began in 1952.” 

I rest my case. – Opindia, 26 February 2017

» (Ethel) Nalini Rathnam is a theatre actress, script consultant, and award-winning casting director in Mumbai. This article is her personal story and represents her own views. Images have been added by the editor.

Seventh-Day Adventist Baptism IndiaSeventh-Day Adventist Mass Baptism India


 

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3 Responses

  1. I really liked the article, has put both sides good work and the extremities. There were wars in the past all over the world, however, wars in the name of religion, perhaps Christianity would secure very high marks. On the other hand, Hindu people would secure in the social discrimination amongst each other even though no such instructions came forth from Krishna or his teachings (Gita). The most important point I like about Hinduism is that It takes into consideration humans, animals and plant life and their well-being. Simply, being a Hindu is no guarantee to anything.

  2. The entire article sounds as if the writer is being Good Cop to Hindus. ‘I am a Hindu’ sounds least convincing. She herself says, ‘Stop calling Hinduism a religion..it’s a philosophy!’ So some dabs of Hindu culture perhaps doesn’t make a big change in her religious affiliation. From the elaborate biblical quotes to her preoccupation with Theresa, contrary viewpoint notwithstanding, the writer of this article sounds more a Christian than anything else.

    • The article is valuable because it reveals the root motivation for Christian proselytisation (in the biblical quotes) and because of Mother Teresa’s own admission that all inmates in her hospice were baptised (which is officially denied by MC sisters).

      Does the Catholic Church recognised baptism by deception as a valid sacrament?

      Probably not. A baptism without the informed consent of the victim cannot be valid.

      So Mother Teresa has fooled only herself in her eagerness to Christianise the poor of Kolkata.

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