Friday, August 28, 2009

For God's Sake

I stood there- in the sanctum sanctorum of gilded gold, surrounded by a throng of people feverish with piety and fervour. A gentle breeze wafts through the temple and the curtain flutters. A collective gasp- was it going to reveal its secret?

13 hours ago, I had reluctantly willed myself into a car to go to what is commonly considered one of the greatest pilgrimage sites in India. A place where they said dreams came true. A temple whose presiding deity is generous to a fault to his devotees.

Uh- slight problem- the religious thing really ain't my cup of tea.

It wasn't always like this. As a kid, one invariably follows one's family in matters of faith- in fact I seem to remember (rather wistfully, I must admit) days when I had a set of some 12 Sanskrit prayers I'd religiously recite every day. Days when I even put flowers on the idols.

Even a highly embarrasing moment at my munji- the sacred thread ceremony- where my panche fell off in front of a whole lot of people didn't really deter me from assuming that somewhere in the skies lurked a god with four hands with a conch, a lotus, a discus and one hand raised in blessing.

Come to think of it- there isn't really a moment when I stopped believing. It was the idea of the thread that put me off. This ornament that supposedly set me apart from others felt too foreign- too unfair to my dreams of normalcy.

Yes, I wanted to be like everyone else- I didn't want to be unique..

Ah-the innocent stupidity of childhood!

The breeze dies down. 250 people exhale. Then it begins. A low clang- growing steadily louder. At its zenith, the drums produce a deafening sound. Sanskrit chants accompany the drum beat- the whole sound blends into a symphony of sounds that cannot be separated from one another.

Make no mistake, the idea of 'God' was hard to accept to begin with. All juvenile arguements laid aside, it just didn't seem possible. Miracles, I put down to coincidence. Good marks I put down to hard work. Those who survived in hospital I put down to great doctors.

Never to Him.

But in times of need- somehow one has an automatic tendency to ask God for help. And that's wrong said everyone- don't pray to God for help. Pray because you believe. And then ask him for what you want.

Fair enough.

But if He's omniscient, surely He already knows what I want? And because I've never offered propitiating sacrifices, never whole heartedly lit the lamps, never really prayed- I don't mean recite shlokas- but actually prayed because I believed, admired the architecture in his temples more than him- He's not going to give a crap about me anyway!

And strangely- that gives one a quiet satisfaction. If people believe that praying to Him everyday will keep him happy- so that when you really want something, He'll grant it- well then they're really praying out of fear, not piety.

And so I never felt right asking him for favours. Not in the most dire of situations. I had no buisness doing so.

The drums go on. The people around start chanting. A security guard grins sheepishly and scratches his unmentionables- this is all probably too blase for him. The whole atmosphere- loud drums, the perfectly pitched Sanskrit chants, the bells, the breeze, the devotees swaying in unison- different people united for perhaps the only time in their lives- unknowingly stirs memories- why, (if I may say so) only God knows..

Someone whispers- The time is close....

And then in a flash, the green curtains are drawn.

And out of nowhere- from some primeval recess of the mind, knowing it is wrong to do so, one asks Him for something...

If only I could have her back.
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