Neither Passover nor Easter is part of my tradition, yet in September of 2007, I suddenly turned into a Hindu-Lutheran, possibly the only one in the world. Physically, no change happened, but intellectually, I rediscovered the 16th century theologian Martin Luther’s teachings about our relationship to God. They paralleled beliefs I was raised on as a Hindu that teach me that I have a direct connection to God and that intermediaries are not necessary.
My affiliation with Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Rockville Centre occurred perchance while I was jumping up and down, flailing my arms, stretching, bending, etc., at the gym. My friend Terrie by my side, mirroring the same moves, having seen the flyer announcing my upcoming concert posted in the gym, asked if I'd like to join the choir she sang in. There are no accidents I am told.
I had wanted to sing in a choir but, not knowing any Christian hymns or the practice itself firsthand, I had not bothered to pursue my interest. So, the question of whether I would like to join a choir threw me. Nevertheless, I said, "yes," without blinking an eyelid. I am adventurous and brave that way, tending to embrace the unfamiliar with enthusiasm.
Sunday, March 23, 2008, was my first up-close experience of Easter. It was chilly and the proposal was for the congregation and the choir to process around the exterior of the church clockwise (the same practice as in Hindu temples) and then come inside. On that Easter Sunday, the chill in the air made me feel foolish for joining the choir. Then again, this privileged membership begot new friends and a sense of belonging — not to mention the cakes, cookies and pastries galore, and amazing coffee during the after-service social hour.
When we processed outdoors, the temperature must have been just above freezing. The choir robe alone, over my clothes, was not enough to fight the nip. Boots, instead of shoes would have been a better choice, too.
My mind was more on the chilly weather than on God, though the jubilation among the believers at Christ's resurrection was more than just palpable. The kids in their cool, colorful and elegant outfits and cute hats and bonnets took the cake. Their boisterous hunt for the eggs hidden in the bushes and other places and the "Christ is Born" hallelujahs turned the place into a fairyland. None of this unfamiliar experience felt foreign: Joy is contagious and transcends all barriers.
A celebration is still a celebration no matter which religion, which culture. Happy is happy, and myths and traditions are needed to keep us going forward. Otherwise, life would be too monotonous, even dreary.
Resurrection and reincarnation are beliefs that, though fable-like, offer hope of renewal and rebirth; and spring, the glorious, color-burst season of cheer and reemergence of life and unbridled gratitude all around, is when hope springs eternal. Without hope what is left?
I have celebrated 10 Easters and other Christian Holidays at Holy Trinity that led to deep friendships and my learning a whole bunch of beautiful hymns, which to this day, I hum and sometimes get emotional over. It pleases me to no end that every Christmas the heavy silk, gold-thread-brocaded, red-and-green sari I donated adorns the feet of the cross bearing Jesus' body. It belongs there, not in my closet.
God works in mysterious ways, and my joining the choir itself feels like it was preordained.
Rohini B. Ramanathan,
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