Books I have read recently have only convinced me how faith is what you derive out of any particular word, book or symbol. Anything can give you faith and it has absolutely nothing to do with religion. It can have signs, it can be rituals, it can be meditation or it can be gazing into a big tomb of a book.
If you have faith, it doesn’t matter where it helps you from. Which also means the books really had nothing to do with it. It’s how I chose to interpret what I read. Since books forms such an important part of my life, it made complete sense that cementing of faith had to come from a combination of them.
I’ve read a varied series in the last few months and each one left me awed — for all different reasons.
The first was – Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book had taken the world by storm and in my experience, most such books can be full of hokum.
While this book talks about one journey one woman makes, it doesn’t necessarily have translate into a lifestyle solution, ‘now available on the shelf’, for the reader. Which is what I think the book aimed for.
The book starts off well (but I have a sneaking feeling I loved the beginning only because the gastronomic treat the first section is). It’s very easily divided. Italy, the first part of her journey, where she lives for a few months to learn to speak the language better. Pray, when she comes to India to discover herself (I know!) and Love, when she lives in Indonesia with a healer for a focus that seemed blurred.
It’s only when you reach Pray section, the second phase, you realise her epiphany-laden journey may or may not continue in the same vein, for you, the reader. This part is based in India and I had to fight against my innate objections of India being typecast as a place to come and ‘discover your true being’. Thankfully the book does not classify the whole of India but only that ashram, as the very place to achieve oneness.
At this point in the book I remember thinking it takes very little to go from a non-believer to a believer. She thinks she knows what she wants and yet her body tells her of other things she needs. It’s a painful time for her. But it’s faith that keeps her going. Not faith in any one person or one philosophy. Just faith that she needs to get from one point to another.
It told me how a path of ‘getting better’ does not necessarily mean improvement or ease of method. It was like something made complete sense after that. It did not mean I need to go into an ashram but it meant believe in what you want, your actions will reflect what you believe in, therefore a self-fulling prophecy.
The third part in Indonesia was the blurriest to me. It spoke about love. It spoke about generic love and spoke about the need for love and for some reason, there was no resonance. It ends just like it starts, with no apparent focus. But that’s the best part. The open-endedness of the whole journey. Allowing any reader to go on it, and come away with what you are seeking.
The second book to partially alter my thinking stream was Bill Bryson’s A short History of Nearly Everything. (As an aside, this is how textbooks should be written).
It’s a book that, among other things, makes you aware of your scale. How big or small or important or insignificant you are.
How are there are *so* many things you still have no clue about and how there are stranger phenomenons that have to happen to convince you of your reason to be.
Last few days, even weeks, I have been going through a faith upheaval as it were. Nothing I say or thought matched my actions. And I wondered what was teaching me a lesson.
I lamented the lack of an obvious focus and need to prove myself. Like I heard in a bad movie some days ago, I stopped betting on myself. Suddenly, after an argument yesterday, it became clear. I had vaguely formed my milestones but that argument cemented it. It was the change faith had shown me but I was refusing to accept it.
Now how I reach the other end of the milestone is another matter altogether. But that’s where a third, unrelated book comes in. The third book was the Book of Ram by Devdutt Patnaik. I was reading the book in continuum to understand Sita better but did get a different takeaway.
The books says: “According to AdhyatmaRamayana, Ravan is our ego, that part of us that is constantly seeking external validation. Having submitted to adharma, our ego has abducted Sita, our mind. That is why we constantly seek to dominate the world around us and that is why we do not accept it for what it is.
We have to rescue Sita. We have to unleash the power of Hanuman, our intellect, cross the sea of life, overpower Ravan, burn his golden Lanka and reunite Sita and Ram, who await discovery within us.”
This emphatic conclusion of the book is reminscent of that one powerful line from one song of Swades:
An interesting speech to read in these times of the Jinnah Controversy.
I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.
PS. I am pro-choice (that’s pro-abortion before it became politically incorrect)
PPS. Can anyone tell me why is the issue of abortion dividing America this deeply? Is it largely due to religion? Nothing I read online tells me why the divide is so strong that they go on to killing doctors doing abortions. I can’t understand.
And no capital G please.
An uncle of mine, many years ago, entertained some scientists from abroad as part of his job. As they were leaving, when asked what they would remember most about India. Their answer, among other things, was that they were going back believing in god. Why, asked my uncle. Once we came here and saw how things work and how such few people work but so much actually gets done. There has to be a god, else this would never work.
That line stayed with me for a long time. And these days, I often catch myself saying how is this even possible? Things I see in the paper, observe elsewhere, small things like stray dogs searching for water on scorching days or public transport drivers not killing anyone in the face of such unorganised mayhem or traffic police and the sheer impatience in the world and how my mother is still holidng on to 27 year old grudge and so on…
The entire Naxal movement, as an example. I of course don’t know much about it, and it is largely based only on what I have read, which, I am certain, is one-sided. But I see the anarchy, the one-sidedness of news reports, read stories of how they conduct their own trials and have their own judicial and other civil systems in place, see the violence happening rt now in bengal and wonder if they even care that the country can see them on television, in this anarchy. How oppressed (this could be a wrong word) they must be to come to the point of not caring. There is so much that we don’t know, and don’t bother to find out. But India still moves forward, they say.
The north east, the state of Kashmir, other conflict-ridden states. the perennial and perpetual conflict there. One story occassionally leaks ‘out’ and the rest of India gets outraged. But what about their daily struggles? We don’t even hear about them. Journalists who go there come back with stories of constant oppression, rapes, humiliations and that’s just the beginning and at the hands of Indian soldiers. And we still move one.. progress even. Not in the least bothered.
It’s on every level — nationally where governments make or break on cash; on on a state level where a seven year old girls turn up dead and people fall over trying to hush it up; Or on a city level where four-day weekends are more important that coming out to elect your new government. Or on a surburb level where I am yet to see any road ever without any kind of digging happening — gas, phone, concreting, metro — for the last at least 10 years in Andheri, Mumbai. Or on a mohalla level, where an illegal temple has taken over one entire exit in my lane, and today boasts of a permanent structure for the temple, quarters to stay, and illegal electricity and water, which I am sure I am paying for.
Every day there is at least one story in one paper of some woman somewhere in India getting raped, molested or killed. One being reported for many others that are not. But we still have blinders on or are ruing that India lost out in the T20 World Cup. Stories of political murders, briberies, fudging of reports, granting accessibility to more slums, giving ministeries to non-performing party members — all are important stories but nothing moves us into moving off our collective butts. Crimes unpunished; undertrials whose lives are spent waiting; goons who claim to govern; rapidly depleting water tables and resources, increasing emissions, growing intolerance; accepting intolerance; when did we become so apathetic?
Just as I struggle to come out of this miasma and shake off this helpless-nes; I come across this paragraph in an article:
Indians have the political freedoms; now they need economic ones. The government needs to do less, so that its people can do more. India now has the consensus it needs. There is something noble about the faith and support millions of Indians continue to pose in their politicians. It is time they earned that trust, so that India can demonstrate that democracy and development are not mutually exclusive.
May be there is power somewhere else in the universe who helps us, because we certainly aren’t helping ourselves.