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Shivanika, friend of KanikaAt a coffee shop in Delhi, Kanika thought she was spending just another afternoon passing time with her childhood friend Jo Jo, avoiding the heat and the crush of people outside. But there was something different in the way Jo Jo approached her that day. He had a special question for her: Do you know what is happening to your soul when you die? Kanika had no idea, and that worried her.

Surprisingly, in their twenty years of friendship, Jo Jo, an Indian Evangelical Christian, and Kanika, a Hindu, had never discussed their religions. That day at Costa Coffee though, Jo Jo started a long discussion, scribbling Christian themes and images on the napkins scattered around him. Kanika collected the napkins and poured over them that night in bed.

In the weeks to come, Kanika began talking to other Christian friends and considering a conversion. She knew hardly anything about Christianity and had grown up in a devout Hindu family, but the question of life after death remained unanswered for her.

Now, four years later, at 24, Kanika is at a crossroads. She has become an Evangelical Christian in secret, and her family disapproves of any reference she makes to Christianity.

There are an estimated 24 million Christians in India, or 2.3 percent of the population. In Delhi, less than one percent of the population is Christian; 82 percent are Hindu. Throughout India, Christians have faced violence and had their churches destroyed, but Delhi residents have largely avoided persecution. It is a point of city pride that so many different religions can coexist: Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, and even a small Jewish population. But coexisting doesn’t mean the lines between the faiths are blurry.

Kanika’s parents are not happy with the changes they’ve seen in their daughter. In many ways, their household resembles that of any with a young adult still living at home but testing the limits. Daily life involves regular battles over Kanika’s participation in Hindu worship. Often, Kanika finds herself “not telling a lie, but not telling the truth.”

Recently, her family planned to rise at dawn to join long lines of practicing Hindus waiting to worship Manasa devi, the goddess of snakes, which is thought to cure chicken pox, among other things. Her parents thought it natural that Kanika accompany them on their 5 a.m. journey to the temple, but Kanika resisted. At this point, Kanika is embarrassed and dismissive when she explains Hindu customs.

“Hindus worship the animals, the plants, the trees, the rivers — idols, I mean they would do a lot of crazy things. I do not get what they do and why they do it,” she said. In worshipping Manasa devi, Hindus avoid using heat. They cook food the day before and don’t use hot water. They’ll also leave food in the road as an offering to the goddess. Kanika could barely walk down her street because it was covered with offerings. In her view, it’s all part of “worshipping a weird kind of ugly looking idol.”

At first, Kanika told her mother not to wake her, but in the middle of the night she changed her mind. This would not be a battle she would take on. “I realized I should go with my mom and witness what people do and pray for them.” She secretly told the idols: “‘Okay, people worship you, but you are not God.’”

It had been a long time since Kanika had gone to temple with her family. She stopped practicing in the midst of her conversion. Jo Jo gave her a Bible, took her to his church, the Delhi Bible Fellowship, and introduced her to more Christian friends. When her parents caught on, they limited her contact with her Christian friends. When they found her Bible and a notebook filled with letters from Kanika to God, they threw them away. “It is a difficult thing because you cannot share with them, and they will not even listen to you.” Kanika was saddened, but not deterred.

Kanika’s parents want her to marry a Hindu from her caste, or social designation, the Marwaris, known as business people or shopkeepers. She can choose a man who fits those criteria or they will choose a husband for her. “I do not want to hurt my parents by going against them but I have been praying about it because I want to get married to a believer.” It’s a dilemma, but Kanika is turning to prayer for an answer.

Kanika’s family is devout. Her grandmother attends temple everyday for at least two hours. Her parents go every Tuesday, at the least. They also worship in a special room in their home, filled with images and statues of gods. Before every meal, they take some food to the temple as an offering.

“They would definitely disown me if they knew I was a Christian, ” Kanika said. There are struggles ahead, on both a daily level — whether to appease her parents by going through the motions of Hindu worship — and on a more monumental level — how to marry a Christian of her choosing. Kanika is calm though. “I strongly believe that if you believe in Christ you do not need anybody to depend on…ever. Yeah, he’s our best friend, he’s our first love.”

About the photo: One of Kanika’s fellow Christian converts at the coffee shop who attends the same Bible study group with Kanika.


Emily FrostEmily Frost is a radio reporter and online journalist. She is an Annenberg Fellow at USC’s Annenberg Graduate School for Journalism and an executive producer and host at Annenberg Radio News.

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113 Comments

The post seems to be highly biased. Minorities are very well in India than in any Christian nation.

And why do indians need to be given or brought into christianity. They have their own beleif system and relegion which is much older and encompasses much more than anything that christianity can ever dream of. Hinduism has given the world yoga, herbal and holistic healing, meditation, the concept of Dharma, Karma, rebirth, moksha, nirvana etc. It is a much deeper and broader relegion. Are we telling them that Christianity is better than their relegion and our God is better than their god.

Isnt it kind of weird that someone has taken a contract to eat away any sin a christian commits? Let alone religion does that even sound fair. I kill an animal for my food, does not the animal has the right to live ?.. Just because some book says something could you all Christians go and kill??? Let us not talk religion, let us talk firs live and let live !!! No double standards please..

"Do you know what is happening to your soul when you die? Kanika had no idea, and that worried her". That's because Kanika has not read the Vedanta, Upanishads or Bhagavad Gita, which brilliantly answers this question.

Dr. B.R.Ambedkar's patriotism and his message of patriotism to be the down -trodden in India is very clear- Conversion to non-Indic religions is undesirable and will be detrimental to the integrity of this nation and this country. The truth of this is borneout by facts - those areas where the majority Indian population has converted to the non- Indic religion, Islam had seceded from India( Pakistan and Bangladesh). In the north-east of India, most people were converted by missionaries to Christianity and therefore, they are also engaged in secessionist movements and insurgencies.

Christian Missionaries approached him to convert himself and his dalits to Christianity. They promised huge financial and other inducements . The Muslims also pleaded with him for conversion to Islam. In fact,
the Nizam of Hyderabad offered him Rs. 75 mln if he and his flock converted to Islam.Dr. B.R.Ambedkar spurned the offers of Christins and Muslims . He said: if one converts to Christianity he ceases to be an Indian. The brotherhood in Islam is confined to the Believers; that is, only to Muslims. It cannot promote universal brother-hood. I will not convert to either of these religions . I will convert to one of the religions that are born here, in this country India. Of all the various Indic religions, Sanatan Dharma, Arya Samaj, Vaishnavism. Savaism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Veerasevism, etc. Buddhism appeals to me most . It is all humanity embracing . It has no castes. I will therefore convert to Buddhism and advise all my Dalit brothers to convert to Buddhism and avoid conversion non-Indic religion.Dr. B.R.Ambedkar’s patriotism and his message of patriotism to be the down -trodden in India is very clear- Conversion to non-Indic religions is
undesirable and will be detrimental to the integrity of this nation and this country. The truth of this is borneout by facts – those areas where the majority Indian population has converted to the non- Indic religion, Islam had seceded from India( Pakistan and Bangladesh). In the north-east of India, most people were converted by missionaries to Christianity and therefore, they are also engaged in secessionist movements and insurgencies.

Evil of Christianity can be seen in South America and Africa where the faith has become rich at the cost of the people.

Conversion doesn't change anything. A person who has his/her roots south east of the Indus is a Hindu. You cannot be a "practicing Hindu". The new religion is only a cloak you wear and believe it is your skin. Conversion doesn't change your skin. Those who work hard at converting others is merely conning you into believing your skin has changed. That's irksome.

And the converts live in the delusion that they have new skin. It is unfortunate that this lady hasn't tried to look at he own skin and what goes deeper. Whatever is considered as constituent of "Hinduism", even in its shallow form, has very deep meaning and significance. I hope people make an effort to understand it before dismissing it as "Black and Ugly".

This is a greatly written script. Nice fantasy...!!!

Man created religion, religion created GOD. You believe it or not , this is true.

As Hindus or any old religion believe, there is rebirth. Athma is energy, it cannot be destroyed, it can be only transferred. Total energy (for Athma) in this universe will be always constant. Converting from one religion to another religion is not going to save you anything other than mess up with your family and your own culture. You will realize that when you are in their age, whatever your religion is. None of the books like Bible or Ramayan are faxed from heaven. It is created by an organized religion or a saint. So think before you publish anything like this.

Best of luck, you will remember this message , when at some point in your life you regret what you did. Another example here.
Kamala Surayya

what an awfully sad story,what a sham of a religion Christianity is to tear families apart like this.Islam and Christianity are one and the same rotten death cults masquerading as religions.Hope Kanika has the common sense to see that.

At first, sanatan dharm is not a political concept that religion is. not the 'one book one god'. either u do as I say otherwise I kill u. dharm means rule or law. simple logic, if god would have created religion why he would creat religion different for all person. that means human created this religious dogma. rajiv malhotra has put it perfectly: "all abrahmic religions are history centric" sanatan which prevailed the world before and it has to be revived again for 'satymev jayate'.

This could be an article about any young person slightly uncomfortable with her family's religious beliefs while growing up in a cosmopolitan city. If that had been all that this article was about it might be okay. But the author makes her hidden agenda (maybe hidden from herself too) when she starts quoting statistics and makes blanket statements about a religion facing a little persecution in a nation where it is an imported religion. And then giggling alongside while recording the confusion of this young person as she reflects on a tenet of her religion. Very funny Ms. Frost, but maybe you should take a deeper look within yourself and what this article says about you. This article is in very poor taste!

Kanika should read books like "How I became a Hindu" by David Frawley, who himself was from a family of American priests. A man of curiosity and questions, he could not find satisfactory answer to any of his questions from Christianity. Later he ventured out to study different philosophies including Budhism, Sufism, Communism etc and found the answers in Vedas and Vedantha of Hinduism. Not only he became a Hindu, he started teaching Sanskrit and Vedas in US. Another read is "Hindu View of Christianity and Islam" by Ram Swarup. This book exposes some of the psychological tricks played by Evangelists. It shows the true status of both these Abrahamic faiths when they are validated against Hindu yogic wisdom. Kanika was not lucky to have access to learned Guru to guide her and teach her what those rituals mean and how they work at the meta-physical level

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