“Jai ganesh …Jai ganesh…Jai ganesh devaaa……Maata jaaki parvatiii…..pitaa mahadevaa..!”
Hubbyji and I sing along with the song playing on the youtube video on my phone. It is the final day of Ganesha festival at home and we are performing the last pooja of the year before the little clay idol will be immersed in a bucket of water.
Ganesh Chaturthi is the Hindu festival celebrated in honor of our elephant-headed god, Ganesha. At home, an appropriately-sized clay image is installed and worshiped with family and friends for ten days. At the end of the festival, the idols are immersed in water, symbolizing a ritual see-off of the Lord while taking away with him the misfortunes of his devotees.
We are sitting cross-legged in front of the small table on which I had set up Lord Ganesha’s seat. The song ends and after yelling “Ganpati Bappa Moryaa!”, I get up and do the rites. I first apply turmeric on the forehead of the clay ganesha and after rotating the lit lamp clock-wise in front of the idol three times, I pass it on to hubbyji and sit with my hands folded, praying. Hubbyji is in a comical mood today. He takes a laddoo (indian sweet-meat) and keeps it near the idol saying-
“Here you go Ganeshji! My wife only made sweets on the first and last day of the celebration and rest of the eight days you had to make do with a mixture of dry coconut and sugar for all your meals…but she did it for you! You can do with losing a little weight around the middle, you know!”
I purse my lips and glare at hubbyji angrily. I nudge him to stop his tomfoolery. After the pooja, we take the idol out to the porch and immerse it in the bucket of water, as per the ritual.
“Come sooner next year Ganesha! We will wait for you!” I say.
“Ofcourse, I will Mrs Chaudhary!” hubbyji mimics in a heavy voice, obviously on Ganesha’s behalf, “Eventhough it’s not in my hands when I will come. I arrive each year according to the calender that humans invented and even this festival has been invented by humans but I will stil……”
“WILL YOU STOP IT!!!!!!!!!!” I burst out angrily and turn to face hubbyji, who takes a step back, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU? USUALLY YOU ARE AS SERIOUS AS A HEART-ATTACK BUT YOU CHOOSE TODAY OF ALL DAYS TO BE MR FUNNY GUY! WE CELEBRATED TEN DAYS OF FESTIVITIES WITH ALL OUR HEARTS AND YOU ARE MAKING A JOKE OUT OF THE WHOLE THING ON THE LAST DAY?”
“Will you just relax?” hubbyji says, walking back into the house “Your God knows I am kidding. What’s the big deal?”
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN- YOUR GOD?” I snarl “ARE YOU AN ATHEIST?
“Well, No!” he shrugs “but I have a very different idea of God. You know that, right?”
“NO, I DON’T AND NEVER SAY THAT AGAIN!” I shout.
‘What? I am just being honest!” he says, “and by the way, he is THE GOD!!! He knows what’s there in my heart and how I feel anyway, isn’t it?”
“Well yeah…..” I say, scratching my head.
“And you say that he is our father…..so don’t we joke with our parents? They know the jokes are harmless.. so why won’t God?” Hubbyji goes on, smirking.
“Ya but….” I mumble.
“and lastly, I am not an atheist. I believe in the ultimate power that created all of us. The plants, the trees, thousands of species of animals and birds etc.. but yes, I do not believe in idol worship per se because that is something that we humans have created. Did you know, that Ganesh Chaturthi was started by the Indian freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak so that revolutionaries would have a platform in form of public celebrations to exchange secret messages? I bet you didn’t. I still follow all these traditions with you whole-heartedly because that half-hour we spend sitting with our eyes closed makes us put aside all our thoughts and thank the power who created the amazing world we live in. Otherwise we will never give a thought to God for a single minute throughout our busy day. Close your mouth or you will break your vegan fast of ten days right here by swallowing a fly”
I am gaping at hubbyji and when I could not find a suitable answer to give him, I huff and stalk off from the living room. Did all that just make perfect sense? I think to myself. Well, even if it did, I can’t let him know that, can I? (Married people will get why!)
I am working in the kitchen later that day and as I see grinning hubbyji approaching, I turn away with my nose high in the air.
“Hellooo!” he says, tapping on my shoulder from behind.
“Hmph!” I grunt.
“Let’s make up. You know I get extremely sad when we fight!” he says.
“You are smiling from ear to ear!” I retort coldly.
“Yeah, I guess I am.. he he!” he says chortling “you wanna know why?”
“No!” I say , chopping the vegetables so vigorously that I can almost imagine them screaming with pain.
“Ok, if you insist, I will tell you!” hubby jumps and sit on the kitchen counter “ It’s because this is first time in history when I have managed to completely convince you in my favor during a fight. I mean, you not being able to come up with a retort? THAT NEVER HAPPENS!”
“Will you just leave?” I say, narrowing my eyes and gesturing him out with my knife.
“No!” he says, still grinning “Okay, listen..LETS DISCUSSSSS…..women love discussions, right? Let’s discuss how right I was and how WRONG you were”
I roll my eyes and jab my knife hard into an onion while hubbyji continues to rant.
“Think about it. We sit inside our homes and pray in front of a clay idol that is man-made but never step outside to admire the actual gifts that God has given us in form of this Earth. We never realize that nature is not just something on the outside in our environment, but a part of our very being. There are miracles all around us. We just don’t see them. How beautifully the Gravity has been created that we do not feel that force at all and at the same time we are not floating like helpless bodies on the air. The same water that flows in the ocean runs through our bloodstream. The same vitamins and minerals in nature are the very substance from which your bones and body are built. The oxygen that we breathe is a symbiotic relationship between humans and trees in which we both provide the necessary element for one another to live and thrive. Isn’t that alone a big miracle? Where did colors come from? Who created them? Even after millions of years into the human civilization we haven’t been able to perfectly replicate elements like water, rocks or the organs our body is made of. This universe has been such superbly designed and yes, I believe in the power which created this earth so perfectly. I close my eyes and feel the amazingness of this life. I feel grateful for having a life that is far more better than millions of people on this planet. That’s praying for me. We spend all our lives ignoring the magic that we are surrounded with on daily basis.”
I pause from my task and look at hubbyji.
“Wow!” I say, “It really gets busy inside that head, huh?”
“Did you hear a word of what I just said?” he asks.
“Yeah! I did.” I say, going back to my chopping.
“And….? Does it make sense?” he asks.
I shrug and noisily continue dicing the vegetables.
“I know what you are doing!” hubbyji jumps down from the kitchen platform angrily “You are just not going to give me the satisfaction by telling me that I was right, are you?’
“Maybe,” I say, my lip twitching “and you were still wrong in fooling around while performing the rituals back then. If you decide to participate, you should do so sincerely”
“I was sincere!” he said “I was just proving my point that God doesn’t “get angry at the jokes”. It’s us who has made him into this persona who gets pleased or displeased at the drop of a hat. Most people are religious, very few are spiritual. We do all the rituals to please God and get his blessing, basically at our convenience. From childhood we are taught that god will punish us if we do anything wrong but never taught that we can be forgiven for our mistake to avoid people getting mislead in their life. WE FEAR GOD, WE DON’T LOVE HIM. We are confused. We don’t have a clear idea of how we interpret God. We never question the practices we indulge in or their significance. We just close our eyes and sing songs and ask for things from God. That philosophy I don’t agree with. For me, this magnificent nature represents God. I can’t see the power who created the first atom of this universe and therefore, I see God in this whole nature, in his creations.”
Ending his passionate speech, hubbyji turns to look at me, obviously expecting a reaction.
“Verrry impressive!” I remark, bowing low in front of him with my hands folded.
“Leave it!” he shakes his head and walks out of the kitchen “I won’t be able to convince you. The only thing I am happy about right now is the fact that we will be having chicken curry tonight after ten days. Can’t wait!”
“We are not having Chicken curry” I whisper, dramatically.
“WHAT?” hubbyji stomps back in the kitchen “WHY NOT?”
“You know, just like that” I say, innocently “Since you were 100 percent right and I was 100 percent wrong, I just wasn’t in a mood to cook something so extensive. I will just make vegetable soup and a quick salad, then I will go to my room and really think how wroooong I was.”
I smile sweetly at hubbyji and blow him a kiss as he stands glaring at me, fuming. He finally stalks off into the bed-room, angrily muttering “Women…hmphh…grumble grumble….why did I ever marry….”
I finally let out a laugh and take out chicken from the refrigerator to marinate it for dinner.
Hubbyji and I have been together for a long time now and if not fully, he has actually managed to change my perception about the idea of God to a great extent. In truth, no single answer exists. We all have different theories and all that matters is that we respect each others’ faith. Coming to hubbyji’s philosophy, I do actually have come to understand his take on this aspect. In all these years, he has made me shed many orthodox superstitions that I followed all my life. We still aren’t on the same page about the idea of God per se, but have met halfway about respecting and participating in each others’ belief. He is a staunch nature-lover and has transformed me into being one too, for which I am immensely grateful. He has made me reconnect with Nature and I personally believe that it has deepened my bond to God that is something that I have always felt very deeply about.
Nature is a meaningful mentor. She communicates through bird songs, give-and-take rhythm of the waves and recurrent cycles of the moon. I see meaning in every action and creature. Whether you realize it or not, you experience nature directly all day long every day. The air you breathe, the sun on your skin, the water in the tap, walking under the trees. Think about any interaction with nature that left a positive impression on you, it may have been simply hearing the birds this morning. Nature is a collection of various forces at work, much like the many aspects of life. Our Earth is full of surprises; she houses a variety of ingredients and offers a rich complexity of ever-changing patterns. Many a times, we take it all for granted.
The first step in connecting with nature is realizing that you ARE nature –an integral part of it. We’re like plants—we too absorb energy from the sun to energize us. Find a quiet place outdoors—a corner of the park or your personal garden. We humans are the only creatures to place a shoe between the soles of our feet and the earth. The simple act of removing your shoes and standing barefoot on the earth satisfies a tribal need for reconnection. Kick off your shoes, close your eyes, and feel the sun on your face, the air on your skin, and the warm earth through your feet. I discovered that reconnecting to nature is the journey back home to the self and finding inner peace. Engage in this same type of curiosity and thankfulness for the beauty, detail, and inter-connectedness that God has blessed us all with.
Look at yourself. Observe and think (which is nothing short of meditation). Human body itself is nothing short of a miracle. Man and woman come together and a new life is born. It starts from just one celled ovum. Not only that, we are constantly growing all our lives. Look at the symmetry of our body which remains in perfect sync throughtout. Along with the five traditional senses of sound, sight, touch, smell and taste, humans have fifteen “other senses” These include balance, temperature, pain and time as well as internal senses for suffocation, thirst, and fullness. Every single thing has been thought of.
Look at the million different animals and birds of all shapes and sizes walking on this earth, each possessing an individual, unique characteristic of their own. How even a tiny ant has all the systems ranging from the circulatory to respiratory to digestive systems. The more I think about it, the more this universe baffles me!
God’s silhouettes are waiting to be discovered in creation. We may think we have to travel far and wide to find a piece of nature that inspires a connection but let’s face it, it’s not always so easy getting to that idolized beach or forest on the other side of the world. Try to notice the beauty right outside your door. It is most important is to connect with the resources around you. It’s great to travel and experience a lot of places, but it’s your immediate surroundings that have the biggest impact on your day to day life. You are invited daily, by God, to see the creative displays of who He is.
When I see the grandness of a mountain, I think, “God is powerful”…
When I watch a beautiful sunset, I say, “God is an amazing artist”…
When I see a bird not attacking another one for having grabbed the food morsel from him, I say “God is forgiving”
Nature is magic. I am part of Nature. I am magic.. and so are you. Each of us is as unique and precious as a snowflake. On a beautiful day, go revel in Mother Nature’s embrace and the time after that, run out and dance in the rain.
The truth is that we cannot see God. God is neither a male or a female. God is shapeless, colourless and to be honest, beyond comprehension. All you can do is to appreciate God by appreciating everything that He has bestowed you with. Things around you that you can see, feel and sense.
Hubbyji is sitting in the bedroom with the door closed and that’s why the aroma of his favorite dish probably hasn’t reached his nostrils yet. It’s almost seven thirty in the evening and the rain is heavily lashing on the window-panes. I step inside the room and he stiffens up the moment he sees me. Giggling, I start heading towards him but abruptly stop and shriek when I see a large spider on the wall behind hubbyji.
“EEEEEEEEEkkkkkkkkkssssss…..SPIDER!!!!!!” I shout out “Get rid of him!!!!!! QUICKKKKK!!”
“What’s the poor fellow doing to you?’ hubbyji says, without looking up from his laptop “Will he eat you up? You are a hundred times bigger than he is. He is more scared of you. I would have carried him outside but it’s raining so heavily. He will die of cold and rain”
“Aweeeeee” I say, my heart melting “My angry man is such a big softie”
“Shut up!” he growls “ I hate it when you say that. I am working. Go away”
Keeping one eye on the spider, I go and stand besides hubbyji. He stiffens even more to show that he is still upset with me.
“Come on..” I say “Let’s go have dinner!”
“I don’t want to have soup” hubbyji says, sulking “Anyway, I am not hungry”
“Suit yourself.” I say, walking back to the living room “ By the way, I haven’t made soup. I have made chicken and rice, but if you are too hungry to eat, I respect that..”
Hubbyji rushes past me into the kitchen and I roar with laughter.
“Say sorry for fooling around at the time of rituals!” I say, picking up a ladle and wagging it at him.
“Hmph!” he says, grudgingly “Sorryy…..You too apologise for messing with me earlier when we were talking.”
“Ohhhh right!” I say, stirring the simmering curry “ ummmm…..NO! I am good”
“NO?” hubbyji exclaims.
“No!” I smirk, knowing that will drive him crazy.
“I take my sorry back!” he shouts.
“You can’t take it back.” I say, snorting “ and your saying sorry means that you accepted the fact that you were the one who was 100% wrong. I win.”