🌻

A shadow engulfs
My heart
When i remember
The sunshine
My lover was

And like a little girl
Off i went
Running in the park

Mother said,
Come back, before it gets dark.

But I was gone too far.

I was helpless.
For one doesn’t
Escape the sunlight.
One can only surrender
And so I did,
I ceded.

Threw in the towel,
And lay down on it.

Soaking in the golden sun
With every inch of me
Drowsed by the fondness
Of the tempest heart,
Raging to be devoured.

I don’t know
how long
I lay there
I wish it were a lifetime
Because when I woke up
It was dark, and
Winter had arrived

And now,
the night doesn’t end.

Hope, a dear friend

Dear friend Hope had settled down in the corner of my mindspace like an unwelcome guest indisposed to leave. With utmost politeness, I tried to raise this subject several times over tea or during one of our late night dialogs until I couldn’t be polite anymore, ‘don’t you think it’s time for you to leave?’ I asked, almost agitated. 

‘But didn’t we have such a lovely day yesterday? So much positivity!’ Hope answers like a child brimming with possibilities. 

‘Look, not that I do not like having you around but this time I truly believe it’s a lost cause.’ 

Hope is quiet for a moment as if carefully choosing her words. 

‘I will, I promise. Tomorrow.’ She replied in her placid voice and that was the end of our conversation. 

Days turned into weeks and weeks into months but Hope was showing no inclination towards leaving. On the contrary, she regularly had a nice little get together with her other friends such as Delusion, Irrationality, Over-optimism and Fantasy.  

‘Oh, come’on! Don’t you see their actions? How blind are you? It’s high time that you leave. Please.’ and that was when I first lost my temper.  

‘Also, Acceptance wants to move in and he can’t until…you are OUT, you know.’

For once, Hope seemed to be embarrassed. ‘Of course, yes, I will,’ she muttered under her breath trying to get her bearings together, ‘I’ll start packing right away.’ 

Hope had such a pleasant face that it made me second guess myself every single time. 

But, I was wrong. Three years passed, maybe four. At some point, I realised that Hope had no intention of leaving at all. Whenever we had a fight she would just disappear for a while and then return saying that the ‘situation’ has changed/progressed and she is, wait for it, ‘hopeful’. So I decided to throw her out of my limited but precious (head)space.

I try to drag Hope outside my head but she refuses to even budge. Unable to contain my anger, I end up punching Hope’s face. For a moment she doesn’t react but then she kicks my guts so hard that blood spills out from my mouth. I am furious now. I leap at hope and pin her against the floor. My hands are closing around her frail neck but she is rapidly moving her limbs trying to break free. In that moment, I know that I want Hope gone forever. I am crying because I haven’t killed many things before. Just some childish dreams here and there. Between my tears, I tell Hope, you must die. I can’t live with you. And then just few minutes later she stops moving. She’s dead. Hope is dead. Yes!  I am exhausted at this point but also giddy with triumph. Look, I got you. Now I can live in peace with Acceptance.

Ah, how lovely. Acceptance indeed is lovely. Healing will join us any day now.

Only a few days have passed, as I lie with my eyes shut on my bed. Or maybe I was walking through the market or was it the office corridor. I was perhaps in the kitchen chopping a perfectly round tomato when I spotted something lingering. The ghost of a lost cause, my dear friend Hope. But at least, I lived in peace for a full week after all. That’s longer than ever. 

Until one fine day, she never returns at all.

//“Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.” – Friedrich Nietzsche//

The Other Woman

I, have a confession to make
The truth is
I like being the other woman.

Yes, The One
Hated by all
But revered by
One

I like the questioning eyes
that follow me
when I step out
their gaze like a red carpet 
rolled out 
right in front of me 
to strut over. 
I like the judgement
bestowed upon me 
from the moral high horse
The scoff,
in their tone. 
The smirk,
on their lips.
The surprise,
in their innocent eyes. 

The freedom.

Ah, the freedom!
Maybe, I want you
Maybe, I want you too.
And why not?
I like driving’em crazy.
Feet on the accelerator,
The car's gonna spin off.

I like knowing 
We are headed to this 
Beautiful town called ‘no-where-land’
Where we make no promises 
hence, dispense no misery.
But there’s adrenaline
and ecstasy
and love
As selfless as promoted 
in the archetypal world. 

I like keeping secrets
And also being one. 
I am the secret,
I am the truth,
I am the sin and
The forbidden fruit.

I like pulling the strings 
I like being worshipped
And I like the taboo
I am the taboo.

I am the taboo,
Yet you are drawn 
Like moth to a flame - 
Unable to retract 
what you started. 
Even if you wanted to. 

But don't take me
Otherwise. 
After all,
It was you who started with
“Everything is fair
In love and war”
And when we meet 
In the folds of midnight,
When the world drowns in darkness-
It's a dance of both.

Walls

The walls were
pretty high
when you first started knocking.
No, I wasn’t behind the walls.
I was curled up
Under the bed, behind
the walls.
And you walked straight in
like you
owned the place.
You started talking
And looking around,

fiddling with my things
while i was still under the bed
I kept listening.
I can’t remember
at what point
did I decide to peak a boo-
Was it when you called me home?
Or was it when you told me about the time you decided to kill yourself?

Was it when you told me
you can’t sleep without me by your side
I can’t seem to recollect the exact moment
When i changed my mind
I wonder if it was when you told me if you hadn’t felt this way in a while
Or was it when you told me
that you had never felt this way before.
You said it
So many times
That i believed you
And slowly i crept out
From under the bed
And sat on it
Right where you were sitting.
And you put your
Arms around me
And told me
Your deepest darkest secrets

And i can’t remember when
But somewhere at some point
The walls came down
Oh, I cannot seem to remember
The exact moment when
I changed my mind about you.

but I know it doesn’t matter anymore
Because just when
I changed my mind
You changed yours too.

That first sip

That first sip of morning coffee
The music that trickles down my ears to my soul
The mirths of laughter
that make my body come alive from merely existing
That book on the bookshelf
The warmth of happiness
that spreads across my chest
like sun
on a winter morning
when my dog runs in circles
chasing his tail
just as I do
time to time
A call from a friend
lost in the race against time
A poem
transforming a lonely night into
a gathering so magical
that now I don’t want to shut my eyes
Watch my mother
adjust her bindi
in the mirror and
tuck that loose strand of hair
behind her ear
because she knows it’s time
and dad’s about to come home
A gesture of kindness
from the one I thought needed saving
A gesture of love
I thought had no feelings

Make me wanna keep coming back
From the precipice
to witness the colours of life
and to laugh
with him, with her, with them
laugh so much that
now I want to cry
Because once I believed
very firmly
I’d never laugh
this much.
again,
or ever.
What else could I ask for?
What else is there to live for?

I should have known

I should have known that the world has become a shallow place,
a little vain
But the values from antecessors
Remain.
To give us a reminder of
What we’ve lost
And what we’ve gained.
It’s a confusing
time to be alive
To be forever torn
To be a semi-fit
Rather, an ill-fit
To have a grounded body
But a fluttering soul
Like a bird about
to take off
And off I would have gone
If I could
But only that
I cannot be everywhere.

do everything
not possibly.
There’s a limitation
There’s a price to pay
For one to be born as
Nature’s proudest experiment
To be its finest creation.
or a cosmic joke
Equipped and armed for
any adversity
But,
Only on the outside.
There’s a universe
Vast on the inside
That cannot be
Fathomed
Can never be fully explored but
Only survived.

The Price of Freedom – A Short Story

Inspired by real events


August 19, 2019, 9:20PM

Aditi

Tonight is going to be a long night. I look at the clock and I know it’s showtime. My father laying still in front of me. Ah, what a sight! His chest heaving up and down to the rhythm of his torpid breaths. I almost want to paint this tranquility. I want to capture this serenity, this moment. The tables have turned. Today, I am in control. Today, I am spoiled by choice. I could talk to my boyfriend, I could be out till late at night, and I could watch a movie. I could do any goddamn thing under the sun. Today, I am a bird and I will spread my wings. I think I want to dance.

Overwhelmed by choice, I decide to play some Frank Sinatra. Music calms my nerves. It’s time to examine the subject. I go near my father and slap him just to ensure that the sedatives have kicked in. He doesn’t move. Impulsively, I slap him again. This one’s for taking away my phone. Then another, for throwing away my skirts. I am enjoying this now. One more, for forbidding me to fall in love and for hitting me. One, for being alive instead of my mother. And last one, for taking away my freedom. His cheeks have flushed red at this point but he doesn’t move. I know he won’t move for a while.

The first time I wished to be away from my father was when I had to go through a whole year without buying a single new piece of cloth because I hadn’t scored all ‘A’s in my third standard. When my grades didn’t improve, the cable connection was cut off next year and this feeling of wanting to be away from him intensified. I felt like a dog on a short lease. I was only rewarded when I performed. Worse, I felt like a circus animal. A performing animal. But I really wanted him to be dead when he almost beat me to death for falling in love. There is this boy with who I want to spend my life, make babies and my father almost kills me for that. I remember laying in a pool of blood. My blood. I felt molested as there was no part of my body, his belt hadn’t touched. The scars were all over my body. My flawless face wasn’t so flawless anymore. My reflection almost irked me. He not only took away my beauty, but also a part of my life. Today, it’s my turn.


August 20, 2019, 5:59 AM

Dad

The rain is relentless. I hear it thrumming on the metal roof and running down the broken pipe into the mud, and I moisten my cracked lips with my tongue. I wonder if they’ll bring me food and water. I wonder if they’re coming at all.​ The last thing I remember was going to bed and the next thing I know I am here, waking up from a hazy cloud of numbness. I am wearing the same clothes that I had worn to bed last night, my white ​kurta pajama which are now mildly soiled as if I have been dragged through my bedroom to the living room to the porch and further down my garden until here. I feel paralysed with my limbs tied and my mouth taped shut. My mouth feels as parched as it gets on the morning after a continuum of inebriation. My head weighs like a hundred kilos. I realize I may have been drugged.

I could hear the thunder ripping the sky outside. It seems even the Gods are furious. It hasn’t rained like this in New Delhi during the past six years.

I am almost certain that this must be a case of robbery as I do not have any enemies that I know of. I suddenly remembered my daughter and wondered where she was. A current jolts through me and I become fully alert. I realized that she was not here so she must be inside the house. Has she also been left to die somewhere like me? But goons don’t just tie up little girls. She could be raped. She could have been gang raped and then killed. No. No. No. No. No. ​Dear God, may they not touch her. Dear God, may Aditi be safe.I​ tried to call out her name but I cannot. There were just stifled cries.

Almost 10 feet away from me, is our backup LPG cylinder that we keep here, as it is safer to keep it outside the house. Next to it stands an antique wooden cupboard that contains a whole arsenal of weapons: a tool box with a hammer, pliers, handsaw, screwdrivers, and knives amongst other things that would have helped me untie myself right now, if only I could reach them. I know this because I assembled this kit myself over a span of 14 years that I have lived in this house and today, I have been held captive in my own garage. I have been tied to a hinge that I planted myself almost ten years back. I helplessly looked around. I observe that there are two sets of muddy shoe prints all over the floor. One must be around size 10 and another it’s half. Probably a male and female.

I must have been dreaming because I see the door storm open and Aditi walks in. She glides in like an angel in her spotless white school uniform. I almost jumped with happiness to see that she’s alright and unharmed. Hot tears once again streaming down my cheeks. ​It’s over.


August 20, 2019, 3:00 AM

Aditi

You know you are soul mates when even your thoughts are in sync. I remember seeing Praveen almost three weeks after the incident. My whole body melted when we embraced. With my best friend’s help, we managed to meet after school at her place. I wept that day in his arms. His strong protective arms almost felt like a warm blanket. He stroked my hair and softly kissed my scars. He told me everything will be alright. “Nothing will be alright till that man is alive…” I said somewhere between my cries. “Then let’s get him out of our way,” he said. I looked at his face to fully understand what he was saying or to search for any traces of humour but there were none. I knew he was suffering too. Praveen and I are not just any high school sweethearts but we have actually battled hardships together. We are endgame. He was the only person by my side when my mother succumbed to her illness and father drowned himself in alcohol without a care in the world. I knew Praveen truly cared for me. We hadn’t been with anyone but each other in past three years. In my heart, I knew I couldn’t live without him. No one else matters. In life, I know you are either a hunter or the hunted. I choose not to be hunted. I choose life.

I have to admit that this was the day when the seed was planted. This was almost two months back. But when last week, he found out my secret phone inside the pillowcase, he not only smashed it against the wall, but also declared that I will be sent off to an all-girls boarding school, almost 5000 miles from Delhi. That was the exact moment when I decided to kill my father and I am not sorry about it. Only I have the decision to choose my own life. No one else can choose for me. Not even “my father”. With Praveen by side, I knew I could do this. Nothing is invincible.

I thought about this decision for days. My decision only became stronger when I realized how much there was to gain from it. After all, one cannot put a price on freedom. I may not have been a class topper, to my father’s plight but this time, I had done my homework. I had watched at least a hundred documentaries and read at least a dozen books on the subject. I am almost excited for my future for the first time in years. I know I will get away with this. I had called Praveen from a friend’s phone and asked him to be here tonight. He should be here any moment now. Outside, the rain hasn’t stopped pouring for hours. It looks like God’s on our side. Amen.


August 20, 2019, 6:15 AM

Dad

I see that Aditi has carefully locked the door behind her. Her angelic face looks eerily calm and composed. I felt a pang of guilt for treating her the way I had been for the past few years but children tend to be lost and they need to be guided. Her grandfather wasn’t the one to spare a stick and that made me what I am today. I am thankful to my father and I know in my heart, one day she will thank me too.

“So you are up, huh? Sooner than we expected.” she says as she looks at me without blinking. “The pills were supposed to knock you out for at least 15 hours.” She continues speaking as if it’s business as usual. She crinkles her nose as she comes closer. “Did you piss your pants, Dad? Ewww!”

I realize the questions were rhetoric. My mind’s running haywire now. Why hasn’t she untied me yet?

“Praveen will be here soon. He’s probably late because of the rain.” She announces. For the first time, it begins to dawn on me that perhaps it is not a case of robbery and maybe, I have been held captive by my own 15 year old daughter. “This must be a joke.” I thought.

“What now? Why do you look so shocked? Don’t act like you didn’t see this coming.” she says as if reading my thoughts. Her voice laced with childlike rebellion. “Did you really think that you could get away with trying to sabotage my freedom? Not-going to-happen. ​Dad.​ ”

There have been a lot of times in the past 41 years when life hasn’t made any sense to me such as when the only woman I ever loved died a slow, painful death right in front of my eyes and there was nothing under the sun I could do to save her but this moment definitely takes away the prize. I hadn’t felt more futile in my whole life. After each chemotherapy, I could see my wife withering away until there was nothing left of her. I knew that life would never be the same. And now, it seemed like my own daughter, the only thing left from my wife, had trapped me in my own house and is on some kind of childish mission to teach-me-a-lesson.

It wasn’t long before I heard another knock on the door. Aditi unlatches the door and strides in the boy whose face is etched in my memory. He too is in his school uniform which is drenched from the pouring rain outside. He’s the boy who took away my little girl. The animal in me awakens, I want to tear him apart. He’s the boy who’s fucking my daughter. Period. There’s no other way to put that.

I still remember the night I first saw this scumbag. I had come back home after a hard day at the shop around 10:30PM. As I parked my car outside, I could hear the music coming from my house. This was unusual. Aditi usually slept around this time and almost never had any friends over. As I walked inside my home, the music got louder. I realized that it was coming from Aditi’s room. I opened the gate at once and there he was, merrymaking with my daughter. The room was filled with cigarette and Aditi was smoking one herself. The room was lit by fairy lights. She was draped in only a bed sheet. It seemed like a scene from a movie. I did what any father would. I grabbed the little bastard by his neck and kicked that piece of shit out of my house, naked in the middle of the night. No warnings were left to be spoken. The message was clear. I wondered for how long all this had been going on, under my own nose. In my own house. I wondered if the maids and the neighbors knew before me.

My daughter, as beautiful as she is, like her mother, walks up to me and rips off the tape from my mouth. That hurt but I didn’t make a sound. I realized I was choked.
“What’s with the tears now, Dad? Do you really expect me to buy all this drama especially when you never gave a shit about my feelings? Huh?”

“Are you going to kill me now?” I asked, sarcastically. She wouldn’t, I knew. We were blood after all. But I felt like I had to ask.


August 20, 2019, 6:47 AM​

Aditi

Praveen was finally here and he had brought everything that we would need today. I looked at my father who was looking at me intently. His face was almost unreadable. I didn’t like that. I wanted him to be scared. Like I had been of him all these years.

“What’s in there?” Dad asks looking at the container.
“Just petrol.”
“What the hell are you thinking? Release me right now, you dumb goat!!” He yells, just as he always does. Yelling is his first reaction to everyone and everything.
“How does it feel to be tied up, father? To feel that your life is in someone else’s hands.” I asked playfully. I could finally afford to be playful after all.
“You have gone mad. Release me right now!” He commanded again.
“Why did you had to be so strict, Dad? Why couldn’t you just let me be? Let us be?” I wanted to know. “He is just using you, you dumb girl. Boys use girls like you and then they leave when they find another one. You think I don’t know anything? I had lived in a boy’s hostel for 8 years. I know how young fuckers think. Your naivety almost terrifies me.”
“You terrify me!” I yelled back but realized now is not the time to lose my cool. “It’s too bad, these will be your last words.” I told him.
“Open the fucking knot…” He almost pleaded. His voice almost begging. I looked at him and for a moment, it all seemed too unreal. He didn’t seem like a man who could hit anyone, let alone his own daughter. He looked so sweet. So vulnerable. I wondered if I was doing the right thing. But it’s not like I had a choice. If he lives, I suffer. I become the hunted.

“Don’t look at me like that, Dad. This story is real. Maybe, a bit too real. No one is going to come in to rescue you. It will be short and simple. You will die and I will get my life back. It’s really that simple.” I told him calmly. I did not want to be angry at him in his last moments.
“Wouldn’t you wish me Happy Independence Day, Dad?” I asked, as I lit a cigarette.


August 20, 2019, 14:59 IST. Times News Network.

Delhi: Businessman killed after fire breaks out at residence in West Delhi

A 41 year old businessman was killed after a fire broke out in his garage at his West Delhi residence on Tuesday morning. The victim lived with his daughter in the house. As reported by his daughter, the victim had gone to fix the garage door early morning when the fire broke out due to a faulty cylinder, supposedly after he lit a cigarette.

“The fire department received information at around 7:30am regarding the fire. We rushed to the spot with two fire tenders. The fire was doused before it could spread to the rest of the house,” said a senior Delhi Fire Services officer. The victim was a widower and is survived by his 15 year old daughter.


29/9/19.

PC: Unspalsh. elijah-hiett-ISUqlGMU7o0-unsplash. ❤

Why Me?

I don’t go to a temple often

Neither do I go to a

A mosque or

A church

or anywhere else

Get the drift, right?

But yesterday I went

To a temple

Not too far

But the one in my home;

It was awkward

I have to say

The face off

With Him

Like meeting an

Old lover.

So I cut straight to the chase

And asked –

Why me?

I stood still and

Waited for an answer

Minutes passed

But nothing happened

No one spoke

None of the statues moved

But a tear did trickle down

My cheek

And I collapsed

On my knees.

Ok. I am on my knees.

Now, tell me.

Answer me.

Why me?

First, I howled

Then I pleaded

In a mumble

That barely escaped my throat

I submitted in a barely audible Why me?

I waited for a sign.

The hibiscus or the marigold

To fall on my feet

Or a cosmic intervention. Anything.

For I am stranded

in a vast

pitch-dark-room.

But, nothing happens.

So, I wanted to unhinge the temple,

slam it on the floor.

Watch Their smiling faces shatter

Into tiny little pieces

Perhaps then they will talk.

But they were quiet

As a stone could be.

And I collapsed further

My warm cheek pressed

against the cold floor

I need an answer.

See. You got me.

You got me on my all fours

for never bowing

before You the

Omnipotent

Omnipresent.

Now

Tell me-

Why me?

I did everything by the book.

I followed protocol.

I need an answer.

A reason to go on.

I laid there for a while

Made myself

Comfortable.

Maybe His holy Highness

Is busy

I laid there for

I don’t know how long

Like a wounded animal

Only wanting to be relieved of

her misery.

Wondering why people

Are so scared of death after all.

As I studied the scratches on my floor

I realised

Perhaps

The silence is the answer.

The quietude

The still flowers

The motionless figurines

Because you see

I had never raised

this question earlier

Never had I wondered Why me?

When self absorbed

I had strutted around

Like an

Entitled

Little

Snob.

Ashes

I walk through ashes
Left behind
From the fire 
that consumed my dreams.
The ones I concocted 
As a little girl
Sprawled on the grass
Under a tree
beneath the sky
Of chocolate houses 
And unicorns 
Swaying with the swings
thinking-
monsters are four legged
And fairies have wings.
The dreams 
Uninhibited Vast 
Lark, Open. 
 
Quite a fire it was 
Ignited by a spark
Of doubt. 
 
I walk through ashes
That fly
From the fire that
emblazoned my reveries 
The ones I concocted 
Sitting in the classrooms 
Bedrooms, parks and places 
Comprehending the
quagmires of the system
And their measures 
of artistry
Knowledge 
Decorum and
Duties  
Via books and lengthy monologues 
Telling me about the foundations 
And a way of life.
 
Quite a furnace 
it was 
Ignited by incongruity
Of the preacher that practiced
Hypocrisy and atrocities. 

I walk through ashes
Left behind
From the fire 
Which consumed my dreams
From when I was younger 
And walked with a 
Cloak of invincibility
That years 
Will bring clarity
Less, if not much 
Half, if not full 
And a Change
shall commence 
Sooner or later
For 
They must 
see their oversight,
their error.  
The dreams 
of walking alone
For those who seek love 
are weak and imbecile
And friendships don’t fray
Just as flowers don’t wither,
That honesty must win 
hard work must pay.
 
Radiant it was 
The pyre of 
My visions and dreams
Or lies force fed to me 
In legacy. 
 
And then the world tells me
They think I have changed
In ways they don’t recognize 
Of course!
Of course,
They do not recognize 
The immolation, the devouring 
Of my dreams, in the fire
That raged within me 
An inferno in my core 
That singed my soul 
Time after time
They tell me
I am not the same
But they do see a
Flicker of
light in my eyes
And 
a fleck of ember
When i speak
at times. 
Caught off guard
I don’t know what to say. 
I lean forward
Closer to their ear 
Unsure how else to cover  
I clear my throat 
And I tell them-
Likewise. 
 

An Ode To My Lover

Dear darling,
this one is an ode
to the love lost
to the world
in which I myself am lost
the world that lured us
with other fantasies
and we got sold to what seemed to be best.
But must I say that
appearances my darling,
can be a fraud
and life a witch
only revealing as much as it wants
till one day,
it’s too late.

An ode
To the love lost
to the world.
the world as a stage
on which we’ll never bow together
for our acts are different.
the world as a circus
but we will never perform together
we will walk this life
alone or worse, with someone else.

This one is an ode
For the museums we will never visit
the gardens we would never stroll
the roads we will never kiss on
the mountains we will not take on

An ode to the poems
i will not send to you
the love songs I will not
sing for you
to the nights
i will not come back home to you
the days i will not spend with you

this one is an ode to
the prayers i will not say for you
and eventually will come the days
i will not think of you
and apart we will drift
tell ourselves-
it all happened for the best.
as if beggars are choosers

My soul, darling, feels cold
Feels hollow.
Is wounded.
Is bruised.
it’s too scared to be touched
by anyone else
But you.
and the heart doesn’t trust itself-
it’s never been this unsure
for the only thing it was sure about
was you. was us.
but oh, quite a joke.

the heart, darling, is still not listening
to the silence that came
with the absence of you
it’s being silly darling-
stubborn as a child
who thinks crying will get it what it wants
but life is a strict teacher
and soon it will learn
this teacher rewards the smartest. the bravest.
heart is a slow learner, darling.

but i wonder- does it not break your heart-
to go on without me?
it looks as if it doesn’t.
It clearly, doesn’t
because you darling don’t rest till you get what you want.

but then,
why does it break mine?
does it not break your heart
to embark on this journey of life without me?
to not celebrate your victories with me
and to not have my shoulder to cry on.
if this-
none of this-
doesn’t matter to you
doesn’t render you sleepless
doesn’t make your insides twist
then i might as well
prepare for this journey alone.

this one is an ode
to the future we do not hold.

Illusion

What if all

I had been

Seening till now

Was a mirage

An Illusion

My mind’s tricks

And games

And now that I have fallen

Flat on my face

The spell has been broken.

The Paradise has disappeared.

I see nothing for miles

Just me

Amidst a sea of sand

But I wonder-

Who tricked me?

A feeling tells me

From the memory or a dream-

Perhaps

I did.


Does God Exist? – Speculating the relevance of Religion and God in present times. [7 minutes]

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It wasn’t long ago that ‘Happy Navaratri’ messages started flooding my phone and pictures of Hindu Goddesses started flashing over my social media. The auspicious 9 days were here and suddenly people around me had begun fasting and some of them had gone to the lengths of not drinking water, while for others not consuming alcohol and non-vegetarian food is their equivalent of fasting for next 9 days. I wonder if the latter category of people think that God too is a hypocrite? It probably is okay for them they think that as per God, it is okay to butcher animals for 356 days a year but these 9 days should make up for the bloodshed. A counterintuitive argument could be God created food chain and put us on the pyramid to probably not abstain from eating only what is natural. But, nevermind. Coming from a Hindu family, none of this comes as a surprise to me however the question remains: why is there so much suffering in this world if the God is as loving, kind and powerful as the scriptures say He is.The feminist in me cringes while reading the last part of this sentence, but as a matter of fact, God is imagined to be a male across most religions. All the more questioning the authenticity of the omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. There has to be some logical justification for the holocaust, wars, famines, floods, rapes – some rationalization except for Drake’s two words: ‘God’s plan’.

Interestingly, almost 1.2 billion people on Earth are non-believers, agnostics or atheists. This numbers is almost equal to Islam followers which is world’s second most followed religion. According to the philosopher William L. Rowe, ‘agnosticism’ is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist’. Until something earth shattering occurs and we decide to base all our beliefs on facts, eventually becoming an atheist. Despite this, 75 percent of world’s population continues to practice some form of religion or another. Believe in God or not, religion is so deeply ingrained in our society that sometimes it’s presence is overlooked.

After all, what drives faith? Also, how relevant is the concept of religion in modern times?

The most accurate description of religion that I came across on the internet is, ‘a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.’

The origins of Homo Sapiens dates back to 200,000 years ago but inconclusive evidence suggests that origin of religion goes back to Homo neanderthalensis, approximately 300,000 years ago, who used to bury their dead- an evidence of the use of ritual. Suffice to say, even the primates couldn’t go on for long without connecting to some kind of spiritual energy.

Even the law relies on the religion to derive its moral compass hence, making murder a legally punishable act. Imagine living in a world where killing people is morally acceptable. Most of us wouldn’t be reading this article. Another example of this would be abolition of Capital punishment in most countries that is primarily based on the fact that only God can create and take life. Even our major festivals, that deeply affect our social calendars are all for religious purposes. Diwali marks the return of Hindu Lord Ram to Ayodhya from a fourteen-year exile (vanvaas) and symbolises the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance”. Christmas is to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. For Muslims, Ramadan is a holy month dedicated to prayer, Quran recitation, introspection and fasting during the sunlight hours. Similarly, for Easter, Hanukah that have their own religious foundations.

I think a more important question is to ask oneself is can we exist without religion? Maybe not all parts of what was written thousand of years ago is relevant in today’s day and time but I believe some parts of it can be used even as guiding principles. For example: for starters, I think life indeed would be simpler if people stopped indulging in the seven(7) sins as per the Bible: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath and pride. These sins, as per Hinduism, have nothing to do with God, but everything to do with our own self, our Karma. It’s more like ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’. These sins are not a rebel against God/deity/centralized superpower, contrary to some modern religions.

It’s beautiful how Buddhism preaches to strive for a deep insight into the true nature of life and do not worship gods/deities. Another life changing take away lesson comes from Buddhist philosophy are the Four Noble Truths, that state the Truth of Suffering, The Truth of the Cause of Suffering, The Truth of the End of Suffering, and The Truth of the Path that Leads to the End of Suffering. The First Truth is that suffering, pain, and misery exist in life. The Second Truth is that this suffering is caused by selfish craving and personal desire. The Third Truth is that this selfish craving can be overcome. The Fourth Truth is that the way to overcome this misery is through the Eightfold Path. As per Buddhism, the eight-fold path is the way to reach Nirvana- rightness of belief, resolve, speech, action, livelihood, effort, thought, and meditation.

But it’s no surprise that this is a hard path that Gautam Buddha laid down for his fellow followers, and most of the disciples (in the modern sense) eventually ended up praying to demigods (Asuras and Devas) for the earthly desires and wishes. If only escaping suffering was so easy. But the first 3 Noble truths are definitely riveting — because during difficult times, it’s the thought that matters. These wise words have the power to cure depression and impart stability and strength in face of difficult situations — a lesson that could be life-altering if a person truly believed that any suffering could be overcome.

However, contrary to a misguided belief — Nirvana does not mean to sit under a tree/live a life of a monk/chant mantras eyes shut-day in, day out. Those who think this are actually out of their depth here. It actually is a state of mind which can be practiced by anyone and everyone. Hinduism tactfully guides us towards “object of human pursuit”, or Puruṣārtha. The four proper goals of human life as per Puruṣārtha are:

· Dharma — includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and right way of living. These enables social order, right conduct, and virtuous behavior. Dharma, in another connotation, is that which all existing beings must accept and respect to sustain harmony and order in the world. It is the pursuit and execution of one’s nature and true calling, thus playing one’s role in cosmic concert.

· Artha — signifies the “means of life”, activities and resources that enables one to be in a state one wants to be in. Artha incorporates wealth, career, activity to make a living, financial security and economic prosperity. The proper pursuit of Arthais considered an important aim of human life in Hinduism.

· Kama — signifies desire, wish, passion, emotions, pleasure of the senses, the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, with or without sexual connotations. Kāma is “love” without violating dharma (moral responsibility), Artha(material prosperity) and one’s journey towards moksha (spiritual liberation). Work, indeed, is worship.

· Moksha — signifies emancipation, liberation or release. In some schools of Hinduism, Mokshaconnotes freedom from saṃsāra, the cycle of death and rebirth, in other schools Moksha connotes freedom, self-knowledge, self-realization and liberation in this life.

Hindu literature emphasizes that dharma comes first and without dharma, Artha and Kama can lead to personal and social chaos. Dharma is then preceded by Artha and last but not the least, comes Kama. That is quite pragmatically spot on. It is almost utopian to imagine a life with just right amount of Dharma(moral values) blend into right inclination toward Artha(economic resources), be nourished with right amount of Kama(love) and know exactly when to stop and reflect for Moksha. But with balance, it probably is possible to devour into depths of depth of each in order to explore and savor life to the fullest. It must be at this point, that the inherent tension between Moksha on one hand, and the active pursuit of Kama and Artha on the other comes to a resolution. A meditation in itself if one state seamlessly transcends into another. An example of the opposite end of the spectrum can be read in ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari’ by Robin Sharma.

This right state of balance where Dharma, Artha and Kama meet to blossom into Moksha is termed as Nishkam Karmain Bhagavad Gita. It means: ‘act and enjoy with renunciation, do not covet’ or ‘Detached Involvement’, further laying the foundation for ‘Business ethics’ in the modern workplace. The Karma theory provides an operational basis for constructive achievement and is perhaps more relevant today than in the Mahabharata times. The doctrine of Karma Yoga emphasizes detachment and equanimous attitude towards success and failure and inculcating virtues like sacrifice, dedication, belief and greater good of the people as the motive for action. Nishkamta doesn’t obstruct any comparisons nor does it mean that one shouldn’t have any targets.

All said and done, if there’s one thing I realized being a grown up then that is — adults are as confused as children and we spend most of our lives making sense out of this confusion. It’s some part guesswork, some research and some just a matter of chance events, mostly attributed as luck, or fate. We remain fragile as a baby despite our fierce accomplishments and the depth of our own emotions blow us away. We find ourselves on our knees more often than we imagine and comes a day we find ourselves crippled to the extent of helplessness that reaches out only to faith, at times blind.

Faith is simply much more than an option for those of us who have experienced sheer joy or immense pain, because in our hearts we know that none of this makes sense. We did nothing to deserve either this happiness or the pain. But who do we thank or blame for this haphazardness? A supernatural power sounds like a good idea to hold on to our sanity.

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