I do believe in God. I believe in the God who resides inside all of us. I am not really sure if It also resides in Temples, Churches or Gurudawaras. I honestly have never tried to find God in such designated prayer zones. I feel people running these prayer zones use God as an excuse to make money, accumulate power and kill people. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that that most evil in todays world, actually happens in the name of God.
In this context, I am averse to anything that people do in the name of God – like festivals, rituals, sacrifices. I like celebrations, but when those celebrations get tied to pleasing an external entity (like Goddess Lakshmi), it turns me off. Having said that, I do participate in rituals and functions as a token of respect for the elders in the family. I am pretty sure there is no one inside the Ganesh Idol, but if offering new clothes to it, brings a smile on the face of those I love, there is no harm in going along with the sentiments.
I have lived through hundreds of festivals like this. But yesterdays Diwali made me realize I had changed. After years of staying aloof from the preparations, somehow, this Diwali, I was looking forward to them. I woke up early, prepared sweets, lighted the diya in the temple, offered a prayer, decorated the house, dressed the children and generally celebrated Diwali the way it should be done.
All along, I kept wondering, what was wrong with me? Why did I suddenly start believing in Festivals? I was still pretty sure that Goddess Lakshmi would visit us, but that would be because of all the efforts put in by our team. My poorly cooked sweets would, if anything, make Goddess Lakshmi abandon me for good. But then, I did continue the rituals in the house as my mother in law would have. If she was there at home, she would have cleaned the house, spread the best linen, created elaborate meals and lighted the whole house with smile and cheer. So that is what I did. By evening, I realized that it was not my belief about God that had changed, but it was my love for my mother-in- law that had changed this Diwali. Not having her at home for this festival, made me realize how much I loved her and missed not having her around us.
Relationship between a mother in law and daughter in law is complex. It cannot be compared to that of a mother and daughter but then in many ways it is far beyond that. In a joint family, it is the mother-in-law in conjunction with the daughter-in-law who defines the life that each member in the family leads. We are the partners working behind the scenes making sure that the engines are run efficiently at home. This Diwali, I missed my partner. I missed her warm smile, her food, her jokes. I missed her bustling in the kitchen and asking me to run small errands.
Each day, as she fights a stubborn infection in the hospital, I fight with the maids at home. I keep telling them that Amma is going to come home tomorrow, so you better clean the house properly today. But then, that tomorrow has stretched on for 2 weeks now. I am sure the maids see through it now. But I still believe that it can be as soon as tomorrow that she is back at home.
It is times like this, when I tend to look at God somewhere outside of me. Involuntarily, I look up at the sky and ask Him if He is there? Of course he doesn’t answer me directly, but when I see the eyes of our parents, I think I see Him there.
So yes, when God chose to be present inside my mother-in-law each day, I should not have any reason to worry about her. God will take care of her. But I still miss her a ton at home! It just doesn’t feel the same without her. So dear God, please send her home soon.