I am a… Part 2

Okay, my previous post led quite a few readers to reach out to me and express their happiness of how well they identified and could relate to my situation. Thank you. That inspired me to delve one step further and clarify in my head what prayer means.

I think prayers are of two kinds, the standard one and the custom one. Let me explain. A standard prayer is printed somewhere or is carried forward from generation to generation, like the Lord’s prayer or Naamam as per Hindu traditions. The custom prayer of your personal outcry where the language is yours, words are yours, style and mood is what you define, an original piece of art. As a child I was never taught a standard prayer at home. I was that kid who came from Bangalore to central Kerala every summer with a suitcase and frocks in a taxi ambassador or Jeep. Cousins would gather to see what was in the suitcase, what frocks I had, and to hear about the magic of a distant land called Bangalore. Bangalore was the US of the 80s for most Keralites and I was privileged. So during one of those summer trips I found my aunt telling my cousins as the sun set to wash their hands and feet, light the lamp and pray. I followed them because as cousins you just copy each other. In my borrowed pavada-blouse (long skirt-blouse) I sat down with them. They started chanting the “Naamam” which is a prayer in praise of the Hindu Gods. I had no clue that something like this existed. I was surprised why my mother didn’t teach me these things. I just enjoyed the routine with my cousins, happy to wear the borrowed pavada-blouse and feel like a real Malayali.

My custom prayers almost always happened before the exam. My father told me to think of his deceased parents for blessings and write the exam, in the hope (he was sure) that they would help solve that crappy chemical equation or the long math theorem. Anyways I diligently obeyed prayed to them and aced my exams.

As I became more aware of the world, yonder world, souls, God, or to put it simply, as I increased my Spiritual knowledge, the magical Destiny kicked in. I started to believe that everything was destiny. If there was a supreme power that defined destiny, maybe. Until I read about and attended Dr Brian Weiss’s session. It was all about the soul. I still believe is Destiny but the soul and destiny define almost everything there is to life. So then going back to my original question, what is prayer? Are you really talking to God or the creator or the supreme?

No.

You are talking to yourself. To your inner conscience. When I “pray” asking for strength there is no magic happening where an ounce or pound of strength is invisibly pumped into you. I am telling my inner conscience to become stronger. Before all those exams I wrote, when I prayed to get good marks, nobody changed my answers on the answer sheet to make a 70, 95. What I had learnt and wrote got me the 95. Let’s take this example, you are going through a rough phase. You pray for help, strength, happiness whatever. 9 out of 10 times (unless your destiny is totally crappy) in a few hours or days or months the rough phase will pass. And you think, God made this happen, He turned things around. But really, did He? Look at it from the opposite side, good things were in store, so before that there was a low, that is how destiny plays out. Everyone can’t have good times all the time and everyone can’t have bad times all the time. So, did prayer do the magic?

So then why pray?

It is to create a layer above you. Otherwise we would simply drown in our ego. The layer you are creating above you is your conscience. It is your conscience that you should uphold at all times, irrespective of what you do. From times unknown or from religions created around the world, this layer has been called God. So we pray to God.

This is where the whole concept of custom prayer sky rockets way above my head. How can there even be a custom prayer? And that too loudly recited? Whose inner conscience are you reaching out to, your neighbors? Because the emphasis is not (most often) on feeling or meaning each word but play catch up. If you are slow you skip words to make the chorus sound right. It is funny and sad. People’s belief in custom prayers has blinded them from their inner conscience, is my personal take.

I am not an atheist. Atheist is one who does not believe in God. Do they believe in their inner conscience, maybe not is what I can guess. I am not sure. The only staunch atheist I know is my brother. Yes isn’t it a paradox that my father a staunch Brahmin and his son just the opposite.. 🙂. Having said everything I said above, I am starting to think that I am in between.. I believe in my inner conscience and I call that conscience God.

I want to teach my children to pray, so they believe in their inner conscience and can reach within for answers. That is what is important is my deduction based off what I wrote and read and spoke over the last few days. Not religion.. not practices.. what they decide to call this inner conscience and the practices they decide to adopt is upto them.

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I am a…

Growing up I was told we were Hindus. My father born in a Brahmin (priestly) family staked claim of how superior we were. My mother kept it neutral, her father was a Namboothiri (priestly) and mother a Nair (not priestly). None of this deterred them from sending me to Bishop Cottons a Christian School. Here I recited the “Our Father in heaven”, every working day for ten years of my life. Teachers read from the Bible, we learnt the hymns and it was all Christian. Irrespective of the faith your family followed, every student followed the same Christian rules.

My family’s Hindu-ness was limited to the corner of the kitchen adorned with photos of Hindu Gods, a lamp was lit everyday and the yearly trip to Guruvayoor (a Hindu temple). There was absolutely no other show of religion in any manner. So I grew up amidst the Hindu believers at home and Christian believers at school which I think just neutralized the whole concept of religion in my mind. Was I divided? I don’t think so, it didn’t matter much. I prayed before an exam, before I got my marks, or to win a competition. That summed up religion for me.

Muslims were a different category altogether. My father has been blessed (pun intended) with the skills to identify a Hindu from a Christian from a Muslim and immediately tag them with certain behavior. I am glad that my mother kept me grounded and taught me to respect the person first before their religion. So wading between these beliefs and catching up on Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Bible on the television shows aired on Doordarshan, I grew up.

Fast forward a few years and I ended up marrying a Christian. Nothing was new to me because I had said the Lord’s prayer for ten years of my life. I was baptized in order to get married in a church. At that point love was blind and bigger than religion so I said, why not? So I crossed the bridge and tried to adapt to new ways and all of those religious accessories that come with the conversion. A few years along I wake up from the dream, the love is there but not blind like the dating days and I tell my husband that I am going to cross the bridge back. To my good luck his belief in religion was also on an as needed basis. So he let me choose what I wished to follow all along. Although some of the extended family had strong beliefs, we sailed past those with some manouvering.

Now I am the mother of two teenage boys and the last thing I want to teach them is religion. They know in theory what these religions and their beliefs are, but then, what’s the point? This world is heading to a place where religion has taken precedence over humanity, so I ask myself, shouldn’t I be teaching them humanity? Based on how independently teenagers think, I don’t think ten years down the line, religion will be upheld the way it is today. Everywhere you hear news about sexual abuse in the churches, which I see the”informed” generation rejecting. There is a ton of gold and money donated to Hindu temples and I wonder why? Shouldn’t that be used instead to feed hungry children, give them an education? Why does this world need any more temples or churches or mosques or other centers of worship when one cannot uplift and uphold the human within?

I am not against religion, but dead against the belief of religion that divides people. By the law of nature there are only two categories of humans, the XX chromosome and XY chromosome combination. Every other divide whether it’s based on religion, color, race are created by some person. I am tending towards believing that the only religion that should exist is humanity. Abolish every other religion, practice and belief. Every XX respects XY and vice versa, that’s all that needs to exist to make this a better place. I know this is wishful thinking and the world and it’s people are so segregated that all they can think of is either themselves or their small community.

Is it too late to look at the larger picture?

Either left or right…

I was driving to work this morning and as I got onto Lamar Blvd, here in Austin, I hit a red light. There were quite a few people on either side of the road waiting to cross the road. As they were crossing, I noticed most of them were in athletic wear, shoes probably taking a walk or jogging. One had airpods, one had a good grade water bottle, Nike shoes, probably branded clothes… My first thought was, I am driving to work and these people are taking a stroll??!! What do they do for a living? Probably retired or telecommute-blessed people… maybe? My morning had been the regular pack three lunch boxes, breakfast, get ready, hit the road, freeway traffic, 45 minutes to get to work… the same old, you know the drill…

The light turns green, my reverie breaks and I drive on. I am on the left turn only lane at the next light waiting for the cars in front of me to drive ahead. There is a long median along the length of the left lane. As I drive into the left lane, there is a man in old dirty clothes, torn here and there, unkept beard growing from everywhere. He has a handwritten sign clamped to this chest which reads ‘need money for food’. He is walking up and down the median, looking at every car passing by. When the light turns red, maybe there will be one or two cars, who will pause their music, roll down the window and pass a one dollar bill. As I am about to turn into Barton Springs Rd, there is another elderly man starting his walk along the median in the hope that he can make one meal today.

This is the world we live in, extreme to its core. Extremism is the order of the day, be it politics, religion, livelihood, opinions. People vote a party into power and the losing party does everything it can to make the government dysfunctional. There is no need for a world war three to ensue, because we are already living in it. Every country has an ongoing war between the ruling political party and opposition. When will you do the country any good? Religion is maligned with extremists and their opinions. A place of worship has become devil’s kitchen – be it the churches where children are abused or the Hindu temples where judiciary and government are poking their nose. Leave the places of worship to the believers. Don’t turn it into a battleground. Media fills us day in and day out with discussions of left and right parties. Media is such a powerful tool, but to them, throw everything at the viewers face, and let the viewer take sides, has become the TRP mantra. They are the catalysts in this war. In this war of blowing up “my extremist opinions”, we’ve killed everything in the process, balance of life – richer are becoming richer, poorer and middle class are well, hanging from somewhere, the forests – literally destroying them to make more money and make the divide even stronger, animals and their habitat because humans are so greedy, they want everything, water – clean drinking water is one of the greatest blessings of our times, air – fart pollution into it as much as you can. When will people start sitting across the table and actually talk to make this a better place? Maybe never! Everyone just wants to make their booty bigger, take sides, switch sides and what not…

I still go back and blame the technology and internet boom, which brought information to our palms but screwed up our minds. I don’t have an opinion is not acceptable anymore, you have to take sides. Everything is becoming more and more binary, either 1 or 0! Well that’s what this entire gamut of technology splurge is based on, the presence of absence of pulses, leaving us humans more inhumane, day by day.

Michael Jackson’s ‘Heal the World’ released in 1991, we are twenty seven years after the fact, governments have changed, people have come and gone, we are simply getting stuck stronger to our extremist thoughts… Now probably there is no point even trying to…

Where is the light

The mesh around us
So high
Gates locked
They walk around morning to night
How will we run
And to where
Do they think
I don’t know where Ma is
Or Pa
When will I see them
Or will I
Where I come from
Was a mad place
This was my way to life
Path to hope
I look for the light
I look for Ma
Pa
All I see is darkness
This cage
Locked
And many
Like me.