Can anyone name the most revered and the most fought-upon three letter word in English? Okay, that might be a tad obfuscating. Here’s a clue. The word, when reversed, gives the name of a canine. Rings a bell, doesn’t it? 😉 With all due respect to the guy who’s “watching us from above” and who is THE supreme authority (at least for a good number of the populace including me); I present before you the story of my enlightenment, amply backed by his/her divine intervention! Forgive me if this already sounds too corny, but trust me, it’s not.
I was born to an atheist father and a devoutly-religious mother. My dad being a ‘tolerant’ atheist, mom and I were spared from lengthy discourses on his lofty philosophies. However on being questioned about the deviance in his religious inclinations, dad always gives a standard reply. I’d like to quote him:
“I’m not a hardcore atheist, as you, ostensibly, might have thought. I neither frequent temples, nor do I ‘fear’ God. But that does not mean I’m totally against the concept of temples, churches, mosques and other places of worship. The fact that people believe in the existence of a supreme authority above them gives them some form of intellectual solace. In these troubled times, it’s hard to remain sane! So people accept the power of the supreme authority. Prayer is an intellectual outpour in pursuit of mental satisfaction. But I believe I’m intellectually sound, and I don’t need to trust in a ‘God’ who simply does not exist, to keep myself fully sane!”
Whew! Looks like dad spent a few years to arrive at such lofty schools of thought! 😛 But I’m doubly sure that this vagrant explanation is just a façade which veils some deep-rooted issue that prevents my dad from praying. I’ll find that out someday, for sure! 😉
Anyways, dad’s tolerant attitude helped mom mould me into a devout Hindu. I frequent temples and pray daily (well, if not daily, at least twice/thrice in a week). I know the essence of Bhagvat Geetha. I’m also trying to analyze other Hindu scriptures so as to have a more spiritual and deep-rooted understanding of the religion I staunchly put my faith in. Often I indulge in lengthy religious discussions with like-minded cousins or my Brahmin friend Narasimhan. All this inclination to Hinduism doesn’t mean I’m totally against other faiths/religions. I make it a point to pray at the Chapel at Loyola School whenever I pay a visit. Sometimes, instead of my favorite ‘God’ “Krishna”, I call for help from Christ himself. I haven’t had much opportunity to read/know more about other religions, but I respect them the way I respect Hinduism.
Nevertheless, despite my firm religious credentials, I guess dad’s anti-God thoughts have had some impact on me. Atheistic-moorings I stumble upon in the net and elsewhere sometimes shift me to momentary agnosticism (doubt about the existence of God), only to slip back to home ground, clinging strongly to my beliefs! 2008 was the year that almost brought me to the brink of atheism/agnosticism. All the while, I was plagued by tribulations from all directions. I found myself pinned-down by life, terribly-demoralized and my feeble-ego shattered to chunks. Prayers gave me little solace and the sheer amount of anti-God literature I laid my hands upon started having their ill-effects on me. News reports of riots and massacring in the name of God moved my psyche. “Isn’t religion a fig leaf that hides the roots of self-destruction?” I mused. I found myself shift away from my religious duties I once pursued with zeal. Mom was aghast at my growing lack of interest in prayers et al, but I didn’t relent. However, anti-religious moorings didn’t have much effect on my luck and I ended up getting more screwed up by the day.
My conundrum was quite peculiar in it that my life seemed perfect from the outside. Friends routinely raised their eyebrows when I shared my fears with them. Few empathized with me, and even those who did, saw me with a cynical eye. Still, I was more-or-less sure about my impending fall-from-grace. Perhaps I was trying to make myself ‘comfortable’ listening to friends’ sympathies. Parents too voiced their concern about me by restricting my freedom (and intellectual liberties), adding salt to my already-battered, intellectual wound.
Then, there came the breaking point. The human mind is like a rubber-band. It can be stretched, but there’s a limit to the force you can apply, which would snap it. I got the feeling the very instant my brain snapped. I tossed and turned in my bed at the middle of the night, trying to find sleep. I couldn’t. The pain was so excruciating. I thought I would go mad. I felt spasms through my body. Sweat was oozing through my face. I raced to the dining room and gulped half a jug of water. Then I rested on the sofa in our drawing room. The water helped to some extent, but I was still tensed at large. My heart raced. Sweat still rushed through my face and through my body, wetting my t-shirt. My life flashed before my eyes. Every single mistake and each momentous gaffe played back in repeat mode. The blunders were so numerous that my life itself seemed like a momentous faux pas. As I’d joked to my English Teacher back at Loyola while I was gifting a chocolate on my birthday: “This is to celebrate the 17th anniversary of the greatest mistake ever made by my parents!” Looking back, it was one of the greatest truths I’d ever mentioned.
The realization stung every chamber of blank mind. I felt the pain spread over from my brain, down through the inner-recesses of my body. “I’ve become so numb, I can’t feel you there.” Lyrics of my favorite Linkin Park song blared from my mobile. Ah, poetic justice. My life is living breathing irony! I ignored it and climbed two sets of stairs, up to the terrace at the top floor of my house. It was chillingly-cold, like any other October night. Even now, I was sweating as if I’d stepped into a furnace. I walked to the parapet and looked down. If I jump from the first floor of my house, head down, my chances of survival would be zero. It would all be over, after a moment’s pain, maybe. Ah, pain. Nothing could possibly be more painful than the pain I was going through. Maybe I could e-mail a suicide note to Chetan Bhagat; he would make it his fourth novel! (That part of Three Mistakes was gross. Period.) Yeah, my life’s story was a perfect tragedy-movie. I sat on the parapet, my body angling outward. One push would liberate me from the pain.
The process was gradual. I first heard a shrill voice within my brain. I had almost made up my mind to jump. The pitch progressed geometrically with time. Finally, it engulfed my mind and I could no longer bear it! A wave of gnashing-pain seized my forehead. It was as if someone had cut my eyebrows with a blade. I stood up from the parapet and lay flat on the terrace-floor. The pain began to subside, and within a minute, it was over. I sat up. The beads of sweat from my body were now disappearing and I began to feel the chill of the night. The numb sensation in my mind was gone. I felt a sense of calm overcome me. Had it not been that sudden sensation, I would have transformed myself into a useless pulp of human flesh a couple of minutes ago. I shuddered at the very thought.
Then, I found a ray of hope! I suddenly felt I could overcome all problems I’d once deemed insurmountable. I had tackled different versions of them before at earlier stages in my life. All I needed was will power. I’d been a lifelong slacker. I had neglected my long-term goals and focused on short-term targets. I could reprioritize my life. There was still time. I just needed to free my mind of all the sh1t that had accrued in it. I ran down to our pooja room, lighted the lamp and joss sticks. I sat, cross-legged, eyes closed shut, chanting the name of my favourite God “Krishna”, trying to focus my thoughts into an imaginary-orb with the symbol “Om”.
It was tough at first. Thoughts would creep into my mind from all directions like velociraptors pouncing on hapless-prey. But I tried, tried and kept trying, not with much success, I felt then Time was perhaps an illusion to my mind, for I didn’t notice it tick. When I opened my eyes, I could see rays of light sifting through the windows. It was five thirty A.M. Yes, I had meditated for four hours straight! I’m someone who can’t focus on the work I do for more than fifteen minutes straight, mind you! Four hours of continuous meditation was a feat in itself. However, strangely, I didn’t feel any amount of surprise at that achievement I once considered impossible. My back was perhaps sore from sitting cross legged for hours, but I didn’t feel that too! I went through a sensation of undisputed calm. It was as if all my problems were solved and I had nothing to fear. I didn’t feel sleepy either. I went down and did something that I rarely do. I STUDIED!
The rendezvous with myself changed me in ways more than one. True, the fear and apprehension about the problems returned with all the associated gargantuan stress, still I grew less unsure of myself. I found my aspirations written into my psyche in golden imprint. I found new directions for my life, new reasons and new will to work hard. I even saw significant shifts in my character. I dealt with most issues facing me in a calm fashion and even cut down on my unvented aggression. Not until long before, I was a frequent user of the F word, using at least 100 times a day to unvent my frustration. That habit died as a direct result. The depression that loomed large in my mind was wiped out by the new gusto of hope!
I don’t know whether my ‘experience’ would come under a strict ‘divine intervention’ tag. But the sudden ‘push’ that prompted me to change paths and meditate… believe it or not, that thought didn’t really originate in my mind. The pang of pain was so involuntary and sudden. It, perhaps, was the catalyst for me. I’m still not sure. Having tried out meditation before, I’ve never been able to concentrate for more than twenty minutes. But that day, I clocked a record four hours! I don’t know about you, but my rational sense forces me to believe the hand of a third person in my experience. Anyways, I reached a singular conclusion.
There exists God. Period.