Thursday, May 02, 2013
I was enrolled in my beloved Carmel Convent School when it was but a fledgeling Institution---and my Roll No. in the School Register was 103.I still remember being petrified of Mother Marcia--and in love with Mrs. Samuels--my first class teacher.Mrs. Samuels remained my favourite all through my School years--and Mother Marcia the disciplinarian Ogre till the very end!! How I loved that Aeroplane shaped Building set in a huge Compound filled with thick Banyan and Mango trees.The circular Montessori building came up much later but the basic serenity of our School environments rarely changed.
We grew up in an Era when many old beliefs and superstitions clung to the Society of that time.The back Gate of the School faced a huge Park--which was dotted with many big trees--Peepul,Banyan,Jaamun to name a few.We were strictly forbidden to come to this Park during both the Short and Lunch Breaks for there were fears of Kidnappers lurking in there.Many a times we'd see the gnarled roots of the Peepul or Banyan Trees spread with a Red coloured square cloth--a sure sign that the Tantriks lurked there!!We were young enough to be petrified at the sight---and when that happened we'd insist on the Rickshaw pullers who were contracted to ferry us to and from School to bring the Cycle Rickshaws in----no one wanted to end up as a victim of those Tantriks!!Funny thing is we never ever saw one--but the fear was very real and almost physically palpable!!Superstition mixed with Black Magic creates a very potent Cocktail!!
In my case my nanny Amma, was a very superstitious Hill women--firmly believing in Good as well as Evil.Her fearful,grudging respect of Black Magic rubbed off on my impressionable mind.Around the same time my seeing a Ghost in the Circuit House in Kasauli and an encounter with her "Ojha" or Exorcist firmly fixed the thought that we are all susceptible to both Good and Evil and only our personal mental strength can help us combat the forces of Evil.India was still firmly entrenched in the Ancient beliefs and though today I still respect some of these Beliefs, during my childhood these were very real possibilities and a force to reckon with.From Amma I learnt to revere Nature or "Kudrat" as she called it as a very real Power--for according to her anyone who broke the basic Laws of Nature would get their just retribution meted out to them during the course of their lives!!I think she was right--for Mother Nature is meting out her Justice to Mankind for having abused her generosity today!!
I was an extremely fanciful child with a very vivid imagination---day dreaming most of the time in School---a cause of concern to both parents and teachers alike.Despite being very popular I was basically a loner--and loved my own company a lot.Maybe this is why I've been able to maintain a normalcy since Sudhir died-----one can never have any Best Friend like oneself!!
Another legacy she gave me was a deep core of unshakeable Faith in The Almighty.He/She has always been and will always be the very base of my existence--God/Goddess was larger than Life,very,very real and tangible.Amma indulged in a lot of things--Poojas,Fasts and feeding the poor.The one thing that we all enjoyed the most was her "Nirjali" Ekadashi Fast at the height of Summer."Nirjali" means Waterless in Sanskrit and Ekadashi is the 11th. day of the Lunar Calendar.During this Fast she would not drink even Water for an entire 24 hours---instead would dole out cold sugared Water to passers by during the day.We lived in Sector 7 and right behind us one of the huge arterial roads lay--- running North to South.It was
called the Sarovar Path leading to the man made Sukhna Lake.There were a large number of shady Trees bordering this Road--blessed with a very thick foliage and it was under these Trees that we'd set up a tub of Drinking Water sweetened with raw Brown sugar and cooled with huge blocks of Ice.The aim was to serve the maximum number of passers by--but given the excruciating heat of June there would be very few of those--and we children would end up drinking the delicious Concoction by the litres---in fact at times we'd hear it sploshing around in our tummies!!
Amma actually believed in the genuineness of the Mendicants that came to the door----she'd pour a generous quantity of Whole Wheat Flour or Rice into their "Jholies" or Cloth Bags while sincerely asking them to bless her "Sa'ab and Bibiji" with a son to ease their way to their Afterlife and Infinity!!All the "Sa'ab and the Bibiji" acquired were two more daughters during the course of the next few years---but no "Moksha" giving son!!In Amma's room there was this luridly coloured Poster--showing the various stages of Hell a Human Spirit passes through after Death--a truly frightening depiction of a chain of Events!!Very earnestly she'd tell us with total conviction that this is what we'd have to endure if we were "bad" children--literally frightening us into becoming good girls!!Not that it was a bad theory--a deterrent always works!!Despite this Poster Amma's room was one of the most peaceful havens I encountered in my early life.Filled with the smoky scent of Incense and the scent of Jasmine Flowers,I'd be lying on the Grass Mat with my eyes closed---listening to Amma recite her numerous Prayers and Invocations to various Gods gave me the feeling of being in a Temple.The soft cadences of her voice rose and fell with an almost hypnotising musical lilt-----and these are some of the moments that I escape to during my Meditation Sessions.They refresh me and help me to face my life ahead with a semblance of Peace.
Over the years I acquired a questioning mind while studying the basic fundamental Ideas that form my Religious Beliefs.I am a product of a devout Hindu upbringing with a large sprinkling of Catholicism thrown in thanks to the Nuns--and later acquiring a healthy respect for many other Religions of my beloved Sub-Continent thanks to the people practicing those and with whom I came in close contact.Today I believe in looking at Humans and doing the best I can to help people I come in contact with---for there is nothing like giving of yourself and your means freely to Society.Today I follow what my heart and my head preach to the inner me----the positive tenets of a mix of Religions that appeal to me.Though loosely I can still be classified as a Hindu, I am more of a follower of the Religion of Humanity--absorbing the best that each Religion has to offer!!