To this day, I am not entirely sure what it is about her that captivated my heart, but somehow the goddess’ tales left a mark on me. In fact, I remember staying up late that night, conjuring images of goddess Durga charging into battle. I began to draw inspiration from her virtuous nature — how she, a woman, held her ground in the face of every obstacle and spoke her mind without fear or hesitation. Every time the boys at recess refused to pass the soccer ball to me, every time a hairy spider climbed the walls of my room, every time I bruised my arm after falling off a tree, I channelled Durga’s strength, determined not to cry, not to give up, not to complain, but rather to fight.
I loved her, I wanted to be like her, and somewhere along the lines, I submitted myself to her. I became a Hindu. And for years, I remained one. I visited the local temple, I offered prayers to the deities and I sang hymns in Old Sanskrit.
This all changed, however, when my sixth-grade history teacher announced that my classmates and I would soon be learning about Hinduism and ancient India. Upon hearing this news, I remember sixth-grade-me feeling elated, eager to share my knowledge about yoga and dharma, the story of the Mahabharata and how Goddess Durga saved the world from evil with my non-Hindu peers.
What I didn’t know, however, was that instead of focusing on the main tenets of Hinduism, the textbook would focus on Brahmanism and Aryan Invasion Theory, two topics that have been repeatedly debunked by historians and theologists around the world. I didn't know that the curriculum would focus solely on the caste system, failing to mention that its original purpose was not to pit people against each other, but instead to establish order. I didn’t know that the textbook would link sati, the practice whereby widowed women commit suicide as a result of their husband’s death, with Hinduism, even though there is no such relationship between the two. I didn’t know this.