Oh My God
A close friend never ceases to tell me that all the struggles in my life are due to my not being religious, that I don’t say prayers or perform a puja daily. He has been consistently advocating my visit to a religious guru who he claims is a god-man, and on meeting whom monthly, he gets the blessings and the support of the almighty God. A few months back, this friend in all concern also went to the extent of gifting me a diya (brass lamp) and a pre-recorded player with various chants like the Gayatri mantra, the Hanuman chalisa and other varied Hindu prayer forms. Initially scared into subservience by his words of the power of God, I prepared the wicks to the multi-faced diya and lit it every evening to the sound of a prayer-chant in the background. But it was just a few days before I abandoned the lighting of the diya and resumed my normal tête-à-têtes with God, like I had been having since a child.
My first encounter with God to my conscious memory was as a non-baptised Catholic at the boarding school I went to, before the age of five. I was first introduced to Jesus and Mother Mary, at the grotto at the school garden on the day of my admission, followed by the regular attendance of Mass two to three times weekly at the chapel and compulsorily at the parish church on Sunday. In time, I learnt all about St. Joseph and other Christian saints along with their strengths. I even enrolled at the school choir a few years and recall praying to St. Anthony- on learning he helped to communicate your wishes to Jesus faster. I also learnt the difference between Catholic and Protestant churches and practises, as I went to a Protestant boarding high-school.
I had been taken to Hindu temples much before I joined school and to Puja’s by my Hindu parents, but these were cursory visits which resulted merely in my ability to identify common Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Thereafter, with the strong Christian influence in my life year round at school, temple and festival-puja visits during vacations were like excursions. I recall my mother did her daily puja at home before the deities placed on a pedestal at a designated place in the house and it seemed that her praying was enough for the rest of the family. She always brought the diya over to where we were and with her hand over the flame brought its warmth over my head as well as that of my father and sister, thereby invoking God’s blessings on us.
Through all my years at school, even while visiting church or temple, I would communicate with God through the day that is chit-chat with him mentally. I always referred to him as God, irrespective of who I was visiting, not Jesus, Mother Mary, Krishna, Kali, Prophet Mohammed or Allah- whom I didn’t as yet have much awareness about till I went to college. I recall kneeling at the school Chapel pews over Mass or joining my hands in prayer at temples and praying to ‘God’ at both places but only cursorily, as I knew I could talk to him anytime I wanted later. Churches and temples are where I bowed down to God in subservience, but the rest of the day or night he was my friend.
Till this day I talk to God, like he were my best friend. I know he loves to test me more than most people, and I believe it’s because he knows I can endure it and will only get stronger from it. I can never think of going to a god-man or to a priest to ask him to take my prayers to God, though a number of my friends have suggested that like them I visit ashrams and spiritual gurus or attend courses like The Art of Living etc. to find the stairway to God. But in my own humble way I would like to find the stairway to God myself, through my own awakening.
Sometimes I even take God for granted, like I would a close friend. I curse him when I’m angry with him, then make up with him when I’ve cooled down and again ask him to help me, but I never forget to thank him when things go well. He dwells in me and I communicate with him anytime, anywhere and everywhere. I would never consider indulging in rituals like drowning shiv-ling’s in milk, shaving my head, squandering money on priests to appease God, yet on occasion I visit temples, churches and even Dargas, to let him know that I have the humility to go and bow down to him. Though he is my friend and dwells in me and everything around me, he is my creator and I acknowledge that.