whenever i think of that day, the word 'hope' keeps surfacing on my horizon, pastel coloured text in a loop with a white background in the sky and a bottomless, serene, sea below, like my beloved Calicut waters: quitude, peace and the word 'hope'!
had you met me about six months before that day, and asked me what i thought of religion and god, i would have told you, i was an athiest. i would have proudly said that my family and i didn't pray, or believe in god. we kept up the pretence of being sporadically devout only and only at diwali because there seemed nothing better to commemorate the day with, than a small, insipid rendition of some appropriate bhajan. a custom that had been engrained into the psyche of the family members by my late grandmother and was in all probability continued in her regard solely.
had you met me four months before that day, and asked me what i thought of religion and god, i would have told you, i had started searching for god. i would have said that something has happened in my life and i needed the support of a higher power because nothing i could do could solve my problem. the problem wasn't actually mine but a friend's. it was a medical problem and there was nothing we could do about it but patiently wait for the doctors to do their best. in the meantime i felt like i needed the support of someone ... something ... and so along with my friend i turned to god. i turned to all the gods, of all the religions that i knew of through memory alone. i did this because even when i was an atheist i envied the people who believed that god was with them - even if there was no god, they believed ... and sometimes you just really desperately need to believe! just believe! in something. so i took out my rosary, which i had once upon a time bought as a collector's item and i began to pray. i chanted all the mantras, hymns, shlokas, chants that i knew. every night i took the rosary and i mathematically, calculatively said the mool mantra, the buddhist chant 'nam myoho renge kyo', gayatri mantra, the prayer 'our father in heaven' ... ... but i didn't find what i was looking for ... i just felt guilty for praying only when i needed to, only when i felt my friend was suffering.
that day my friend took me to the hospital for company ... as i got closer to the doors of the hospital, i began to get nervous. i was nervous because of the negative connotations attached with hospitals. there was nothing i could to shake off the feeling. as i went in through the doors i instantly realized it wasn't that bad. i needed to get some paperwork done whilst my friend went in for treatment. i was nervous again. as i went searching for the room where i needed to submit the papers, i realized there were some pairs of feet following me. they soon caught up with me, held my hand and guided me through the process. those feet belonged to the visitors of the other patients in the same ward as my friend.
we went back to the ward and settled ourselves in the visitor's waiting lounge. i wrote these things down on the last page of the book i was carrying with me for company. it says:
"the air is heavy inside as if impregnated with myriads of tears of the infants, children, men and women who come here for treatment. the flourescent light from the tubelight in the ceiling is rationed by the fans rotating right below those lights ... its as though this rationed, flickering light is supposed to induce pensive hypnosis in the waiting visitors to help them through their loved one's ordeal, which is ordeal enough for them too.
despite all the gloom, there is HOPE here ... in the fleeting relationships and acknowledgments between those who are waiting ... with open hearts ... full of HOPE ... as the calm and soothe every visitor who is here for the first time."
after writing this i felt as calm as i possibly could and i felt happy and i felt hopeful and grateful. although it took me days afterwards to understand what i was feeling ...
if you meet me today, and ask me what i think of religion and god, i will tell you that i am a spiritual agnostic ... i don't think its possible to know whether there is a god or gods, but i am not an atheist and i still believe, i believe in something ...
and i sleep with my rosary next to me on my bed and every night i hold it and i count my blessings. i thank a higher power for my life and the life of those around me. and i am grateful to be finally at peace with my belief system!