The walk from our house to the local temple is five minutes long. Every twenty days or so, when my mother finally succeeds to coax me out of my pyjamas, and my cynicism, we take a little walk to the Mandir late at night.
The sound of the bells reaches me before I see the tip of the red and white arch as we turn the corner. My mother nudges me to take off my shoes as we enter.
The tiny diyas dot the entrance to the throne of each deity, giving my mother’s face an ethereal glow as she bends down to pull off her sandals.
As we walk through the temple, our footsteps quiet in respect, we bow our heads and touch the feet of each God present there.
My mother tells me stories of reincarnation and war, tales that became reasons for millions of people to willingly place their faith in someone they had never seen, heard, or touched.
We reach the final stop, the source of the rhythmic chanting.
As all of the seventy five people present there, including my mother, move their lips fervently in silent prayer, I see how much it means to all of them.
My mother had always chided me for my lack of enthusiasm as I mumbled the words of her favourite bhajan half heartedly. Every conversation about religion and God would end with an “I will pray that you see sense soon”. I guess it just surprised me seeing so many people so easily, in a way, giving up control of their own life.
Little did I know that it had more to do with finding control than giving it up.
I always used to pay rapt attention to my mother’s gesticulations as she regaled me with tale after heroic tale, even if all I did was scoff at them later on. It was because few other topics made the face of my mother, a pragmatic 9 to 5er, glow with such passion.
It was because looking at the early morning Sun would give her hope that the day would be purposeful and that in due time, everything would fall into place.
It was because every Tuesday, I was woken up by the smell of marigold (and a futile reminder to not eat meat)
It was because every night she would close her eyes and kiss me on the forehead, convinced no evil could befall her family if she believed enough.
It’s what ties human existence to something concrete and gives our lives meaning.
Be it in scientific theories or in a goddess with six hands, we seek…something.
Something larger than ourselves. Something that forms the core of our everyday activities, like a centrifugal force.
As I stood leaning against a wall in the far corner of the room, the final bell of the evening ritual was struck, the final note of the bhajan sung, and the final prayer sent to heavens high above.
The silence set in as everyone closed their eyes for a moment of tranquility.
As they opened their eyes, I could see a smile form at the ends of their lips. Their hope was reinvigorated. Their belief, refueled. Their sense of belonging, of security, enlivened. They had found their rock, Their own personal gravity.
We all seek it, we just end up finding it in different things.