The only prayer I do is before I leave home for a crucial exam. I can’t begin how selfish is it on my part. When I was a child, I remember how faithfully my borma would make us devote our time below a small cupboard which was specifically built to keep a few idols of different Hindu gods, handy scriptures (Narayan Kavach or Hanuman Chalisa), a diya (small cup shaped lamp) and an incense stick holder. We’d wash our hands, legs and our faces to freshen up so that we could indulge in prayer at dusk. I had those prayers by heart since we recited it for the entire ten years I spent in SSA. Even though we were forced to, I would reflect on the soothing yet powerful verses those prayers contained. Sagarika Mam would always ask me to pray whenever I had the time, but I never quite got around to it. In Assam, the forces of Hinduism always had this calm approach to it. Whenever I visit a temple far away from the city, I feel at home. Nothing about those shrines give off even the slightest radicalism. The priests talk about Lord Krishna’s mighty endeavors and of life in its greatest form. But I feel morose when I think about my journey to Puri. We waited for two hours or so with empty stomachs to get into the Jagannath Temple. I can’t ever forget the way I ate after getting back to the hotel. Even though the food was rather simple and entirely vegetarian, it tasted divine on my taste buds. Anyway, as we got into the temple we queued to get into the core of it. I still remember how offensively a priest persuaded my father (who was in front of me) to ‘donate’ money into his bag. The priest pushed my father’s head down and forced him to pay his respects to God in the noisy surroundings of the temple. My father escaped by giving just a fifty rupee note which was followed by a grin I made as I held his hand and went outside. That very day, I learned of the cruel business the priests associate with God. But here, people make graceful contributions to the temples so that they can run peacefully, without any strain.
Frankly, I am not a very religious person. I only think of God when I face disasters. I pray when I want my problems to subside. My parents never really instilled a sense of duty to God in me so I never had the need to light an incense stick, pray inaudibly while I walk around the house moving the stick in circular motions and light a lamp. My parents aren’t very religious too. I never heard my mother praying loudly as other women her age do. So I don’t think she’ll offer herself to God when she gets old like my grandmother who spends most of her time in a naamghor (a gathering where mostly old people recite verses from the Bhagavadgita and talk about their woes). But then, maybe my mother does pray and I don’t know when or how. There are many things I don’t know about my mother. We are not very intimate when it comes to confiding. My father on the other hand I think doesn’t have the time to pray to God. He does devote a considerable amount of time in front of the puja plate filled with godly essentials after he gets out of the shower. He makes donations to temples whenever needed. He never forgets to visit a temple after he buys a new car (which he does after every three years). But then, I also don’t know many things about my father since he spends most of his time away from home. He can get a bit reminiscent about his youth after downing a glass or two or maybe when he’s somewhat emotional. Otherwise, he talks in short sentences but never shies away from deep conversations when he gets the chance. It’s always has to be someone else who’d dig things out of him. And what makes me happy is the joyous mood my parents share whenever we visit the temple. My mother turns into this calm woman which I seldom get to see. We make a whole day out of it. We eat out, engage in warmhearted conversations and get back home as night falls.
But it is often that someone asks us if we believe in God. Each individual has varying outlooks on everything, and particularly on God. Of all people, Gaurav has one of the most sublime analogies on God. He says that he thinks of himself as God, someone who is his creator and also his destroyer. What he wants (I think) to express is that he found his place on Earth after getting pushed out of his mother’s womb who is also like him, a human being. So there is no way he’d think of a superficial existence that is superior to him. The very fact that God has different names and shapes for different types of people around the world gives him concrete reason to believe that there is no God. God might just be a belief. I was watching Boyhood (a personal favorite) and a scene came up where a priest talked about Jesus in real life. He enunciated a story about a man named Thomas who didn’t believe in God but upon seeing Jesus in the flesh felt guilty and devoted his entire life to his faith. The priest said with utmost clarity that it is better for us to believe in things if we can feel, see, hear and smell it. And since we haven’t seen God, the best we can do is feel and believe in the spirit. And that’s what I deem. I believe that there is a God, a superior figure, a powerful existence in this world. I don’t need to know its name or how it looks. It is just above me, looking over me. I don’t have to categorize it or worship it. The very belief for me is enough. Wherever I may go, I will know that God is examining my every move and will direct me throughout my life. This is the reason why I look for omens.
I kept thinking about how I’d conclude this ode to God and what better way to paste a quote from the internet. What caught my eye were a few words by Joel Osteen who said, “I believe if you keep your faith, you keep your trust, you keep the right attitude, if you’re grateful, you’ll see God open up new doors.” His words are every bit as gold as is the belief I bend my knee for.