She had a funny feeling as she listened to the teacher eulogize her at the school podium. It was like attending a funeral. That part of her had died. These people made her realize it. She was not the same person these people were talking about. They talked about her altruist nature, her philanthropic acts when young.
Foolish people, didn’t they know she had not reached where she was because of her generosity, innocence or faith in God. She was there because of her charm, hard work, business acumen and good luck. She got the right people, made the right moves and she managed to get recognition. Yes, she had once upon written extensive articles on spirituality. It is true that she had formed a small philanthropic organization at the locality. It is also true that she was once known for her religiousness, her firm faith in God. But that was then. That was a different Meera.
As a small girl, she used to worship nature. She worshiped flowers, water, stars, sky and earth. She listened to the stories and anecdotes from ancient mythology with intent. The stories and philosophies mystified her.
The fact that she could worship anything thrilled her. The conception that everything has God intrigued her. She could find GOD just anywhere and in anything. There was GOD in people, in her pets, in the trees and plants.
She liked her granny’s mandir or the miniature temple at their home, a two-room apartment. Many a times she felt that her granny was possessive about her mandir. She spent a lot of time there. She sang hymns, read religious stories/texts and smiled to herself. She had in her mandir, small but beautiful figurines of Krishna and Ganesha and took great care of them. She fanned them, bathed them and dressed them and even fed them, but all by herself. No matter what day it was, no matter if she was unwell, she never passed on her religious duties to to anyone else.
Needless to say, Meera was allowed nowhere near the idols. She could worship the idols, but from afar. They were revered and restricted.
She told her mother that she would have a mandir of her own in her room. But she had no idols. She drew a picture of Krishna, wrote om on sheet, drew a swastika, got red roses and her temple was ready. She had all representations of the God.
The swastika would bring good luck. And wasn’t Om the spiritual mantra? Wouldn’t the rose please goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu and harbinger of good luck and prosperity.
She had no gangajal or the sacred water from river Ganga , so she used the tap water to sprinkle on the temple. She reasoned that the chlorinated tap water probably came from the Ganga canal, a major source of water at her town, Roorkee. So, it was perhaps the same as the one flowing in Haridwar. In any case, if one believes that the water is gangajal, it is gangajal for faith and beliefs can move mountains.
That’s what her father had told her in the following words:
Man changa to kathuathi mein ganga.
(If your heart is pure, then you would find gangajal in the dirty water of a shoemaker’s work vessel)
Her father had told her the story of saint Ravidas, a shoemaker. Once a poor lady came crying to Ravidas and told him that she had lost her only material possession, a gold bangle while bathing in ganga. Ravidas listened to her patiently and empathized with her. He put his hand inside the kathauti or his work vessel and scooped out her gold bangle!
For Ravidas, a person with purity of thoughts, the water in the kathauti was just another representation of sacred Ganga.
Her father had also told her that there were people who had shown remarkable improvement in their diseases after being prescribed placebos.
A person may already become half dead if he is told that he has just had an intake of a dose of poison along with his juice. And Meerabai, she lived even after drinking poisoned cup for she drank it believing it to be an offering of the God.
Meera’s father, although very knowledgeable in Indian Mythology and a brahmin, was not a very religious person. He hardly went to temple but worshipped his work instead. He was a Physicist at the Roorkee University and an avid reader. He related to Meera stories from Indian as well Greek and Egyptian Mythologies.
Meera loved to hear stories about Ganesha, Krishna and Rama. But Lord Shiva intrigued her immensely.
She read a lot of literature on him. His form and persona mesmerized her. He wore lion skin, matted hair and had a snake around his neck. He danced. He meditated. He was unruly yet compassionate. He was the ascetic, and yet he was a householder. He was innocent and gullible, yet ferocious. He was the destroyer and yet was worshipped not out of fear but out love.
Destruction is necessary for construction. Isn’t it?
Meera’s mother loved Shiva too. She considered him her isht , her favorite God. She fasted every Monday with belief that it would please Shiva and that he would help her do the right thing. Take correct decisions and give her children and family a good life.
Meera followed the trend. She fasted too. She would often dream about the Majestic Lord Shiva, with milky Ganga flowing from his locks and a crescent moon on his forehead.
Meera longed to have a shivalinga at her little temple. But her Granny advised against it. She said that Shiva was also the bhootnath or the God of ghosts and his representation in form of shivalinga should be kept not inside the house but in a courtyard. A courtyard which was non-existent at their house. Meera settled for a picture of Shiva and Parvati to be put in her temple but she longed for a more accessible shivalinga for the Shiv temple was quiet far off and it was not possible for her to go visit it each day.
It was at the school one day that she was roaming in the playground with her friends that they discovered a piece of smooth stone protruding out of earth. To Meera, it resembled the shivalinga. Meera’s joy had no bounds. She and her friend decided to “make” it their shivalinga.
Each day during lunch they would gather around him and offered the first bite from their tiffin to him. It was only after that they ate. This ritual was followed each day during the school recess. The bits were eaten by the crows later and the children somehow considered it to be a good omen.
The night Meera and her friends discovered the shivalinga. She dreamt of him. This time he was smiling at her. “Little one. You found me.” He had said.
The girls would worship him, talk to him especially during the days their corrected and marked test copies were supposed to be out. They believed that he would made their situation better.
But for Meera, it was a bit different. She shared her successes and happiness, as well as her troubles with him. If she failed in her targets, she shared her disappointment with him. She never blamed him for she thought that he was equally agitated on her troubles and was sorry for her. HE gave her strength to move on and gear up for the next challenge. HE was her true friend. Her true guide. Her true well-wisher.
She visualized HIS presence in her most difficult times. Sometimes she would feel HIM sitting just besides her, strengthening her, bolstering her confidence in herself and HIM. Telling her that he was with her.
She worked hard in studies, and yet always thought she received more than what she deserved. Faith made things easier. She saw a divine reason behind every (mis)happening. She believed that everything happened for her own good.
There were times when she was tempted to be negative, when she felt like blaming others for the problems in her life. There were times when she felt like doing wrong. However, she did not want HIM to think low of her. Hadn’t HE promised that HE was with her no matter what. If HE was a partner with her in all her tasks, how could she make her most beloved Shiva party in her misdeeds?
So, she never did any wrong. Loving HIM made her a better person.
Secure, uncomplicated, un-complexed and Good.
“Meera Kaushik. I now request you to do the honors.”
“Miss Meera Kaushik……Miss Meera.”
A shrill voice from the microphone brought her out of her trance.
Where was she?
On the podium with people who didn’t know her. No one knew her as matter of fact. Did she know her true self?
She heard her mind chatter “I wish I could go back and be that faithful Meera again. Live and be that simple, uncomplicated and trustworthy Meera again.”
“I am being silly. Very silly.” She heard her mind counter-argue as she rose from her seat.
“I was silly then and I am being silly now. I am not here because of my goodness and faith but because I am cautious, intelligent and a scheming person.”
But faith did help her then. Didn’t it?
It was because of her faith and hard work that she got admission into her dream college: the IIT Roorkee, right in her hometown.
Days at the college passed fine. She met new folks and found them fascinating. She believed that there was good in everybody. She had a likeable personality and made many friends.
Years went by and Meera left her family for her new job as an IAS officer. She faced some hurdles and failures but it still was going okay. It was during an official disaster that her faith was greatly hurt. Despite her sincerity, hard work and good intentions, she was blamed time and again for incompetence. All this to cover up someone else’s wrongdoings. She realized that the people weren’t that good. They were all cunning and derived pleasure in putting others down. She realized that the notion that good things happen to good people was a myth. In fact, good people were always trampled upon and that in order to survive she too would have to bring others down. That was quite unlike her but she had no choice, did she? After all, she had to survive in this big bad world. The real world.
She stopped fasting. She stopped praying. HE, was not helping her. HE was not fulfilling her expectations. She who had until recently, never blamed HIM but always thanked HIM, now blamed him for every little misfortune. It was not a fruitful association and she decided to break up with him.
She became engrossed in her work and started worshipping work instead. There was no such thing as right or wrong. There was only one thing: Her aim, her mission, which was to make a name for herself. She was fastidious and diligent. She did not get time to think about him or even herself. She made good money and the money motivated her. She was proud and aloof but she was not happy. The stuff she used to do for him, her Shiva, started to look silly. She found the girls and boys with covered head and folding hand walking towards the temples, crying devotedly inside the temples, look even sillier.
Can’t believe she had been that stupid at one time.
At the school, today everything was coming back to her. She had once witnessed a famous author, an alumnus of the school, come up as a chief guest on their school’s annual day. The lady had seemed so dignified and distinguished. There was peace and calmness written all over her face.
Meera wanted that too. She wanted to be invited and come over at her school as a chief guest someday. She wanted to be somebody worthy.
Meera held her head high. She had achieved her childhood dream. The only sensible childhood fantasy she had. Otherwise her childhood was idiotic and nonsensical.
She was not an idiot now. She was better off now. She had material possessions now. People looked up to her. They were jealous of her now.
She was somebody now. She was nobody then. She kept on talking and reaffirming herself.
Convinced, she smiled.
As she moved towards the school ground with the other dignitaries, she adjusted the loose end of her saree to spread over her shoulder. Suddenly she stumbled upon something and the edge of her saree came under her sandals. She fell headlong. As the help came to her aid, she noticed what the stumbling block was.
It was HIM.