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September 15, 2004 01:09 IST
God suffuses any average Indian household with his presence. You pray before you go for your exams, pray before you go on a vacation, pray after a bath...
I too was brought up on doses of religion and spirituality. My single-line solution to all that happened to me was: Whatever God does is for the good. It became a habit – justifying every event in my life with that aphorism.
I was content with whatever God had given me. Even as a school kid, I would always fold my hands whenever I saw a temple and say, "God, I hope I can be a good human being." It may seem rather mature for a child, but then I was the eldest of three sisters.
I don't know if God answered those prayers, but I did well academically and went on to become a professor.
When I met my husband and decided to get married, my faith in my motto was strengthened: He was the most wonderful and caring person I had ever met. We worked in the same area, shared the same interests, liked the same kind of music... What more could I ask for? I was so happy and really believed that "whatever God does is for the good".
Then my son was born and life was just beautiful.
I guess it was too much happiness to ask for, and my life took a nosedive. My husband was detected with cancer at a stage where nothing could be done. Here I was, in a foreign country, with a child not yet one year old, and there was my husband, dissolving into a mass of rampaging cells before my eyes.
How could this be good for me? How could going through hell watching my husband go from looking a healthy and fit 40 to looking like a shrunken, emaciated 70 year-old be good?
When my husband passed away, a part of me was happy that he did not have to take the pain anymore. But I still ask God, what good came out of this?
My two-year-old son does not have a father; he will never know his father except through his mother's eyes.
What did I do wrong to go through this? Do I still believe in my mantra, 'whatever God does is for the good'? I don't know. Why was my faith shattered so badly? I don't have an answer. Does anybody really?
Dr Sutapa Roy Ramanan
The soul of drama
A time bomb was ticking. Our Higher Secondary Certificate examination results were expected any day.
Soon the day arrived. I went to my close friend's house to take her along as we both studied in the same class.
As I reached her place and reminded her about the results, her welcoming face suddenly changed. She went pale and the smile vanished. This was understandable; I was in a similar state.
But I was not prepared for what I went through for the next one-and-a-half hours until we reached the college.
In a fit, my friend removed her earrings and bangles, dressed up in simple clothes, and looked completely colourless.
She cried all the way to the college, ignoring those in the bus and the train that we had to take. In the train, while I was trying to console her, I was also trying to control my anger: the entire ladies compartment looked on us with amusement. It was very, very embarrassing.
Finally we reached our college, and picked up our results. My friend had passed in the first class with good marks.
Suddenly the sun was out, and she was all smiles again.
But I had had enough. With much sarcasm, I told her that she would make a great actress some day.
It turns out I was right! My friend today is an established Marathi stage actress and recently won a prestigious award instituted by a popular television channel.
A body to shop
My brother had passed out of engineering college and got a job in a software company in Hyderabad. Home for a holiday, he was telling us about his experiences on his new job.
His company, he said, indulged in 'bodyshopping'.
My cousin, who had just completed his high school, did not understand the concept, but stepped in gamely.
"If they do bodyshopping, then I will surely get the job," he said. "I have a good muscular body."
We all burst out laughing.
The mall sanctuary
When I was visiting my father in Toronto, we went visiting the huge shopping malls in and around the city. My father pointed out that here one would often find elderly people just sitting on the many benches available, enjoying the buzz about them. Spending time at the mall, a sort of indoor park with central heating, was a better proposition than sitting at home alone watching television re-runs.
Malls are new to India but, like in the West, they seem to be becoming popular destinations for both the young and the old to hang out. For example, R Mall in Mulund, one of Mumbai's largest, is on any given day filled with people, not all of them out to shop.
In fact, most people come in and buy a single item, then just walk around and take in the sights. The central air-conditioning that keeps out Mumbai's muggy heat only adds to the charm. Here, unlike in the West, one can just get away from pesky relatives and let one's hair down.
Let the air force in
The PT (physical training) master in my school did not have good command over the English language. So over the years we collected some golden quotes from him.
When he found two boys fighting in the library, he had this to say: "Why fight library man... go middle-ground fight."
On a hot summer's day, he told one of his students: "Please open the window. Let the air force come in."
Some other pearls of wisdom that emanated from his mouth:
- Cut your haircut.
- Wait a minute for 5 minutes.
- Both of you three come here.
- Stand in a straight circle.
All these have become folklore among students of my school, and never fail to evoke laughter whenever we gather even after all these years.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh