My house in a mid-size town in Central India has a temple, facing East. As long as I can remember, the Gods in it have been the same. In the center, is pot-bellied Ganesha (elephant God) holding a sweet in his hand. Known for removing the obstacles of life, he is seated next to a rat, his wise vehicle. To his right, is Lord Shiva (the ruler of universe) with a snake coiled around his neck – active and sublime. To Ganesha’s left, are Goddess Durga and Goddess Laxmi – the reservoirs of ultimate power and prosperity.
Every morning, my father used to light an incense; offer a few flowers from our garden and a sugar cube. His chanting, his devotional hymns and his concrete faith introduced me to a multi-dimensional God. Hinduism, the religion I was born in, became my eyes with which I experienced this world – colorful and even fearful; consumed in an eternal cosmic dance of creation, preservation and destruction. Here, the Gods were powerful and charming; they were fatal and they could be experienced if one loved them unconditionally throughout his/her life.
All was in harmony, until I started going to a Catholic school. I was introduced to Jesus and mother Mary in a quiet chapel on the second floor of my primary school. There He was – on the holy cross, with a crown of thorns. At first sight, I developed an instant compassion for Him. In contrast to a bright, Hindu Goddess standing victoriously over the chest of a bleeding demon, Mother Mary was a quintessence of forgiveness. I felt, I could confess anything in Her presence. Every morning, I spent a few minutes in the chapel, downloading my questions. Every evening, I searched the same, in my temple at home. The answers were different but the feeling was same. I was no longer clinging to one faith or a category of Gods; I was letting in more.
I must have been tender eleven or twelve when I became friends with a Muslim girl. She celebrated Eid and brought delicious sheer khurma to school. She fasted during the holy month of Ramadan which was a new tradition for me. I watched her determination and perseverance. I observed her self-control. I wondered how her God looked like? Later, when I went to her home and couldn’t find any deities, I asked: “How do you imagine God?” “In our hearts and everywhere else,” she said. Moving from several idols to just one was tricky enough; the concept of an abstract God made me infinitely curious and confused.
As years flew, I spread my wings – about faith, rites and religion. I came across Sikhism; I was reformed by Buddhism. I was baffled often and I tasted clarity once in a while. It was a lot of information to process – some conflicting in interpretations but aligning perfectly in essence and a supreme entity evolved from millions to a solemn figure to transcendence.
Till date, I remain a Hindu – it brings mysticism to my world. It has given me a great foundation of my culture and values. And it has made me understand human nature. Yet, whenever, I see a church, I want to go inside, kneel and feel the connection, I established in a small Convent. Whenever, I hear the prayer call from a mosque, I remember my dear friend who made me realize that God is in every speck of universe – willing to guide and ready to love. All you need to do is to open your heart and see.
Word Count: 589
Above in response to yeah write #134