by Niharika R.Bandaru
“Still your mind in me, still yourself in me, and without a doubt you shall be united with me, Lord of Love, dwelling in your heart.” 
-Lord Krishna, Bhagavad Gita
Hello All, I’m Niharika Bandaru, a 2nd year Environmental Engineering student at the University of Windsor and a practising Hindu since the past 20 years. I hail from India -the land of the holy Ganges and the Himalayas; where temples, mosques and churches can all exist harmoniously on the same land and where cultures dissolve in each other as smoothly as sugar in water.
Every person in my family has been a Hindu till date. Till the age of 7, my parents and I lived with my grandparents, who were both devout Hindus. My grandmother used to wake up early each morning to pray to the numerous gods and goddesses that we have. My grandfather sang out verses from the holy Bhagavad Gita. Our family used to drive to the temple every weekend where we were to join the priests and other Hindus in singing and praying to our deities. Every festival was a show of pomp and fervor in our household. All this would lead one to believe that I am as “Hindu” as one could be, as devout as my grandparents would have influenced me to be.
Forward 13 years, and religion has a much different role in my life to play. I do not pray to my deities every morning, nor do I read verses from the Gita, nor is the celebration of festivals as grand as it was earlier (sometimes it’s just an early shower, a quick prayer and keeping away from meat the day of the festival) and visiting temples is something I do only when I manage to get a ride to the temple here in Windsor. Does all this suggest I’ve lost the influence of religion and God in my life? Or have I chosen to be a selective Hindu practicing only rituals that suit my convenience? In reality, I’m still as “Hindu” as one could be.
I remember God every day, and I remember to thank God every day. I help people, perform my daily duties, respect my elders, lead a healthy life and respect the food I eat. I meditate when anger overpowers me… and I LOVE.
Hinduism is a way of life. It does not provide me with rules to follow, and it does not punish or penalize me for my wrongs. It does not require me to pray to an idol and it most definitely does not restrain me. What it does do, is give me the liberty to look at life the way I want to…and it helps me in doing so. It helps me distinguish the right from wrong and to know that no one is bad; everyone has different perspectives and a few incorrect habits.
And most importantly, it gives me the patience and strength to learn all this.