When I lied about something…

   
 ( A chit chat with Him)

Recently, I lied about something to escape an uncomfortable situation. It was a small lie… did not hurt anyone nor did it bring any major benefits to me. I just escaped a situation. But a lie it was!
My heart felt a little heavy. So, I thought of talking to Him and asked – Will you forgive me for my tiny sin? 

He said – It is important that you forgive yourself. I love you the way I have always loved you. It is you who have to take care of your Self.

I defended myself – I have not done wrong to anyone. I just protected myself with the help of that lie.

There was no answer from Him. 

I nudged Him again –  Is a lie wrong in all its forms?

Thankfully, He answered – if your heart is light nothing is wrong, if your heart feels heavy. You have done some damage to it. Remember, every sin sickens your conscience and weakens your Self. You get weakened over time. It has nothing to do with Good or Bad, Right or Wrong. It affects your Self. There is no external force keeping a check over you, it is your Self, who is the witness to all that you do. I am and will always be with you until you throw me out of your heart.

I asked further – And how sick is my heart?

He answered – You are a better judge! Just remember that as long as you feel the heaviness after committing a ‘sin’, I am around. With time, people learn to ignore the heaviness. They start believing in deception. Deception makes life easier but  with time, you will be disconnected with your Self. I make life heavier but I connect you to your Self. 

I said – Is that all you do, mighty God? You just connect me to my Self?

He laughed – Yes, that is all I do. Rest, is all your own doing. You create your own paradise and hell. And remember, try never to alienate the ‘self’ witness, the moment that connection breaks, life may seem easy but you would be lost forever. 

I asked –  But how do I heal the heaviness in my heart?

He said – By admitting that it was a fault and resolving to tell the truth. Damage control is important. 

I asked – And why do I need You as a mediator between me and my self?

He smiled – It is your choice. Establish a connection with your Self and you will not need me. I and your Self are no different. I am just on a large scale. Presently, you need me because you have been taught to listen and pray to me, all your life.

I said – Well,  much ado over a small lie! You certainly look a little less dreadful to me, now that I know that you do not punish  people or send them to hell.

He laughed.

I said –  Okay, I think I will not repeat that lie again to strengthen my Self. I find it funny to realise that my life is all about my Self. This Self creates heaven, it creates hell! And poor religious fundamentalists, they have been fighting and killing for You. 

He said – I know. They are the lost ones…

I said – So, will you always be around no matter what I do…?

He said – Yes, I will always be around as long as you don’t start avoiding me. I do not avoid people, they avoid me!

I simply said – Alright, that means, I will have to stay clean, so that I don’t avoid you.

He smiled – Yes, my dear!

I smiled.

The blessed soul of Lucy Gray

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“The cemetery spread along the area known as Devils Abode.” People believed that the entire stretch was haunted.

But actually, the Devil lived there!

Contrary to popular belief, the devil was a perfect gentleman. His task was to aid God in finding pure souls by luring away the sinners. It was his duty to be mean and conniving, so that only the best could reach God.

In the last few centuries, Hell had been a crowded place. And the good-bad balance was going haywire. And then along came Lucy Gray!

The child had died in a snowstorm while looking for her mother. The seven deadly sins had failed to lure her soul into hell for her faith was deep.

Now, it was His duty to tempt her.

But He felt He was fighting a lost battle for a change. To His relief, He was no match to the simple little girl’s pure soul. Lucy belonged to nature and God.

(This week’s response to Mondays Finish the Story is a tribute to one of my favourite poems Lucy Gray or Solitude by William Wordsworth. It is a great work in ballad form emanating purity and devotion. The poem is about Lucy Gray who got lost in snow storm while looking for her mother. My story is a fictionalised account of her life after death. You can read the poem here – Lucy Gray )

This story is a part of the wonderful ‘Mondays Finish The Story Challenge’ by Barbara Beacham. She provides us with a photo prompt, the first sentence, and approximately 150 words with which we are to use to write our story. To take up the challenge click here – MFtS

5 Most Powerful Thoughts of My Life

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There are times when we are sad, depressed, dejected and morose for real or imaginary reasons. Sometimes life is so hard, so unjust, so evil…it is easy to fall prey to the sin of despair. But I have learnt with experience that at such trying times, it is our own thoughts that can either make or break us…they can make most lethal of enemies… Or they can be better than the best of friends. The choice is ours only.

So, here are my 5 favourite borrowed thoughts that I chant like mantra whenever faced with trying times or any grim reality. Hope it strikes a chord with you too:

  • Be aware of me always, adore me, make every act an offering to me, and you shall come to me; this I (Krishna) promise, for you are dear to me – Krishna in Bhagwat Gita ( He is in happiness as well as in unhappiness. All is His doing, even the pain is sent to us with a good intent. So, why should we despair when He is taking care of us.)
  • All power is within you. You can do anything and everything. Believe in that. Do not believe that you are weak; do not believe that you are half-crazy lunatics, as most of us do nowadays. Stand up and express the divinity within you – Swami Vivekananda (the most positive person ever!)
  • Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you think. ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself. ― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. ( The quote is anonymous but Murakami has beautifully elaborated it.)
  • It is great if you get what you want but in case, you don’t get what you want, then it is even better….because of the simple reason that what you are getting is God’s will. And there can be nothing greater than God’s will! – (The legendary poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s advice to his actor son Amitabh Bachchan holds so much truth and wisdom.)
  • If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken, Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
    (If by Rudyard Kipling is my favourite poem. I love the last line here, ‘to stoop and build’ whatever we have lost one more time and rise like a Phoenix from our ashes.)

Hope these 5 wonderful thoughts keep you and me positive under all circumstances and enable us to fight with problems. Amen!

image courtesy Google

When I Was Dreaded and Worshipped!

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(The writer, Vikram Bhawani Singh is my brother and a guest contributor. The above caricature is my work, of course, without his permission!)

I am an atheist and my mother is a complete believer. All her life, she has tried, encouraged, compelled, forced and even tortured me to follow the extensive daily rituals practiced in our house to please the deities but I have remained stoic. My views on God and religion makes her mad but she has never given up on me and she never will! Recently, she went a step further…

I took a two-week leave from office to visit my parents and sister at Ranchi. Unfortunately, the day I reached Ranchi I got to know that my sister had caught chicken pox. It is a highly contagious disease normally associated with children. But even adults and older people are at risk if they do not have any history of this infection.

I checked with my mother whether I have had chicken pox earlier. To my disbelief, I had never been infected before. I tried to explain to her that during childhood, small rashes did appear on my skin with high fever and extreme weakness. I was told that it was Measles.

So, I was on a mission now. I had to avoid the dreaded infection at any cost. I saw my sister’s pain and discomfort and it scared me all the more. I read about the disease extensively. Chicken pox is caused by the herpes varicella-zoster virus. It is spread by droplets from a sneeze or cough, or by contact with the clothing, bed linens or oozing blisters of an infected person. The onset of symptoms is 10 to 21 days after exposure. It is contagious a day or two before the rash appears and until the rash is completely dry and scabbed over.

My sister was kept isolated in a room and I made a point to not enter it. Small branches of Neem leaves were put at various places at our apartment. Neem leaves have immense medicinal properties and their presence are considered to have soothing effect on itching and irritation caused by blisters. We were following all these measures.

However, as was destined, religion intervened to add salt to our injury! My mother instructed me that the pious Neem leaves should not fall on floor and by any chance it should not be touched by feet.

I argued, “What will happen if the leaves fall on the floor? And when it gets dry it is definitely going to fall down. I am not going to follow such instructions”. My mother replied furiously, “Mata (Goddess) has come…..Dare you displease her.”
I was taken aback. “Who was ‘Mata’?”. She enlightened me on the popular belief that chicken pox was a Goddess. I laughed at the ridiculous idea and looked for support towards my father, sister, relatives…but surprisingly, everyone was looking the other away. I was the odd man out!

Chicken pox is no less than a form of Goddess for people in whole of the eastern belt of India. It is revered and dreaded so much that people talk in whispers and perform elaborate rituals to appease the Goddess. Anger and melancholy had overpowered and I left it to my mother to do as she wished.

For the next seven days all the rituals were followed. Many relatives were consulted for guidelines. The respect and fear of “Mata” was ubiquitous. My mother had a battalion behind her who were more vociferous and committed to the cause. Finally, the theatricals ended and the Neem leaves were packed in a bag and thrown in a Pond. All these days, I kept aloof from the proceedings and told my mother that if I were to catch the infection, I was not going to follow the rituals.

My holidays were about to be over over. I had booked a Tatkaal ticket back to Vadodara. But on the very evening, all hell broke loose! I noticed a single acne like something on my right hand. I knew it, probably, ‘Mata’ had returned to unleash her anger on me since I had dared to laugh at her.

The following day many more blisters appeared. I consulted a doctor and came back with loads of medicines. As you all know, diseases caused by viruses do not have any medicines to cure it. However, the antibiotics and other medicines make the whole process far less painful.

The return of ‘Mata’ provided me the opportunity to enter her realm and into the minds of her followers. Everyone who came to visit me spoke in a low tone. The maids were fully devoted to her cause. I was treated like a king…no sorry…like a queen goddess..lol!

People would enter my room only after opening the shoes/slippers at the doorstep. My orders were to be followed in word and spirit. I was the first one to be provided food. I was shown respect in every way. In short, I was not me, I was she, the dreaded Goddess.

By sheer coincidence, Pundit Ji (Cook cum Priest) also came to Ranchi. My mother was happy as daily bhajans (devotional songs) and puja (rituals) could be performed more effectively by him. I strictly told my mother that I was not going to follow any such rituals. But she told me sweetly that I had to sit still for just 10 minutes. I blatantly refused. She replied, “I will spy on you and will perform the Puja whenever I find you sitting.” She was cleverer than I thought and before I could retort or scream, I was being worshipped wholeheartedly by my mother!

Every morning and evening Bhajans were sung by pundit ji and maids in an extremely annoying and cacophonous voices. And amidst all this was an atheist in whom ‘Goddess’ resided! I guessed at the reason behind such rituals. In olden days, Chicken Pox must have been a dreadful disease. With no antibiotic medicines available this highly infectious disease must have brought untold miseries on people. It ultimately was given Godhood.

It is a well known that most of us fear God rather than love Him. This fear makes us weak. It is said that faith has immense power. I do believe in it. But illogical beliefs have immensely destructive power, I believe in that too. There is a thin line between the two…one has to tread carefully!

The time has come to think rationally. The time has come to question God and Religion. The time has come to question our own beliefs. History is full of instances when men have suffered the brunt from the ideologies of Slavery, Whiteman’s Burden, Superiority of Aryan Race, Jihad etc. These ideologies justified every action of the perpetrator. The perpetrators had immense faith in their actions. But we all know that they all crossed the line and caused destruction. The world needs rationality and tolerance or Samuel Huttington’s “Clash of Civilization”. It’s time to call ‘Mata’ by its actual name loudly without fearing any sort of wrath.

Tomorrow, to my relief, chicken pox will be given farewell or to say in respectful tone, “Mata will choose her new abode”. The Neem leaves will be disposed in a Pond as done earlier. I just hope that the Goddess doesn’t return.

A conversation with my ‘Evil’ sis

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(The writer Vikram Bhawani Singh is my brother and a guest contributor. The picture is his with my older one, Adiraj)

Soon after her marriage, when my sister was visiting us, I had a conversation with her on the topic of vegetarianism. Her name is Lulu and she calls me Baigani (our nicknames for each other). She had turned vegetarian at an early age and went back to non vegetarian foods soon after her marriage (Hubby’s influence, huh). At 10, I left vegetarian food and I am still a vegetarian. I did eat eggs in between as I was not sure whether eggs should be strictly considered vegetarian.

I remember that talk perfectly. I have this special knack of recalling conversations vividly and I just love to debate, correct, counter and irritate someone. I am called Mr Precise by our family because I hate any kind of exaggeration. Little wonder then that I write my age in years, months, days, minutes and seconds (lol…I am kidding!).

Well, on that fateful day, she was my ‘target’ because she had the audacity to rouse me from my deep and sweet sleep. I just wanted to pick up a fight…so here goes the conversation 😉

Lulu: Wake up you sloth!

Me: Go away…I slept very late.:(

Lulu: Then be ready to take a nice cold bath right now on the bed.

Me: Oh wait… What’s the matter? Why are you waking me up so early? You are really irritating. I thought we have got rid of you after marriage…but you came back so soon to drive us nuts.

Lulu: I have especially come back to bug you. Seriously, get up. Exercise, eat eggs. I have also brought frozen kebabs, try it in lunch. Then you can have mutton for dinner. I want to see you strong and active Baigani. For that you need to eat non vegetarian food.

Me: Hahaha…are you joking? Even the vegetarian foods have the necessary vitamins, proteins and minerals. I like to eat pure vegetarian meal.:D

Lulu: Why don’t you give up eating leaves and plants, they are not half as wonderful as non veg! I am trying all that now. I want you to try it too. Ok…tell me why did you leave eating non-veg Swamiji?

Me: I hope you remember that incident when we were kids. I had seen chickens being killed for our food. That revolted me. The sight changed me from within. I felt pain for the animals that were killed just to serve our taste buds. And over the time my conviction of not eating these foods has only grown.:/

Lulu: You are sensitive and silly, grow up. You are saying as if no one should eat non-veg for philosophical reasons…

Me: I don’t say that. Poor people in Africa, Asia and in other parts of the world whose livelihood depends on them should and must eat. We cannot force poor fishermen to quit eating fish. Their children need proteins to survive. Half the world’s stunted children are born in India. It is because they do not get nutritious food during their childhood. Also the people who are not educated must not be forced to take up vegetarianism. The decision to become vegetarian should come from within.

But the rich and educated should definitely curb their desire. I cannot just believe how you all can eat after killing animals just for the sake of taste. Don’t you feel for a life? Is this human? Is this the true growth of our civilization? Think on it Lulu. Just pause for 30 seconds. Think of it from your heart and not from your “tongue”.

Lulu: How you love to argue and debate! Ahh…I am just remembering those tasty kebabs now…I want to be evil!

Me: Stop kidding…just think for 30 sec now. I am serious, think from this perspective just for a while.:/

Lulu: Well…I agree with you to some extent.. Baigani. But you have half baked knowledge. Doesn’t a plant have life? You eat them happily without any sorrow. Just because they are immobile…it doesn’t make them lifeless. Do you know curd is full of bacteria? Take a microscope and see it. You take so many lives in your daily routine, Mr. You kill mosquitoes, ants and do not feel guilty. Does their small size and short lifespan make their life less precious?

Me: I knew, you will bring up all these arguments. I really do not have answers to it. I only feel that eating corpses of animals doesn’t seem right to me.

Lulu: Haha…you speak so strongly. The imagery of eating dead corpse is so revolting. Dear brother, become a baba ji and go to a higher philosophical level, then give me a proper reason as to why I should be a vegetarian.

Me: Unfortunately, I am not at that level, Sis! And at my current level of spiritual/philosophical advancement, eating animals for the sake of sensory pleasure is nothing short of a criminal offence. And I do not wish to be a party to such offence. Just because a species called Homo Sapiens have evolved and became intelligent doesn’t give them the authority to kill and rule over others.

Lulu: Aha…Baigani and his arguments. You have your own sense of right and wrong kid. It’s good…keep faith in your own beliefs and I will keep in my own. You must be aware that Swami Vivekanand also enjoyed eating non veg.

Me: Listen, I have to sleep…I hope you will not come again to convert me into a non vegetarian. 😦

Lulu: And I hope you will not call me a criminal and so on…

Me: Sorry, in my opinion, you will remain so 😉

Lulu: I will not speak to you, you are a nut case…philosophical fool. Go to hell!

Me: I will prefer going to heaven. i.e. sleep 🙂

Well, we did not talk to each other for a full day and a half. But I had a favour to ask from Lulu so I was the first to break the ice.

Since then we have not brought up this topic of vegetarianism. She is happily into non veg foods, and I am a blissful vegetarian. I am writing this guest blog to infuriate her a bit and with the hope that she might consider giving up her sins…lol…!