“Bhakti ko shakti do…”
Like I said a few months back on my vacation blog, God is Everywhere (http://cuddlebugsonvacation.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/day-10-god-is-everywhere/). This is especially true in India, particularly the India from 20 years ago when I lived there. So, faith and religion have always been a big part of my life. I mean, even while planning vacations when I was little, Appa and Amma would be scoping out the “visesham” temples in the area (Going to Tiruchi? Oooh, must visit the Malaikottai Pullaiyar temple, and by the way, Samayapuram is not that far either. Going to Kodaikanal? Well, who goes there without visiting the uber special Kurinji Aandavar?!). I used to go to Sundaram for Sai Baba bhajans every thursday with Appa (even though I did fall asleep sometimes if the bhajans got too boring, to wake up only when they sang “Subramaniam Subramaniam”, which was Appa’s and my special song). I had then that unshakeable faith in God that I look back upon with a lot of pride, and a little envy.
In 10th grade, I knew beforehand that I was about to be a top ranker in the state exams, just because I had prayed for it all summer long (didn’t matter that I had studied for it all year long!). In 12th grade, going in for a physics lab exam, I knew that I would get the “convex lens” experiment (out of at least 20 different possibilities) just because I had put in a special request with Pullaiyar the night before that I really wanted that particular experiment.
When Appa fell ill, I once again called in on my faith. I fasted for days, went on weekdays after work to the local temples, attended every group prayer and bhajan in the area that I heard about, organized Vishnu Sahasranamam chantings with friends to pray for Appa’s miraculous recovery and good spirits. Which never happened. For the first time, I had the distinct feeling that God had checked out of my life. No, I don’t expect that me and mine should be immune to the vagaries of life and death. I understand that this is the circle of life. But, with my loss went that unshakeable faith as well. Now, there are just more questions than answers that anyone can provide.
I still try to get the family to go to the temple once a month. But I think we went less than a handful of times in all of 2012, and only once so far in 2013. Still, religion is in my face every other week in Bharatanatyam class. Mrs. T, during her theory lessons, asks the children what she thinks are highly obvious questions. What does Shiva carry in his hand? Who is Bhoodevi? Which God holds the chakra in his hand? Poor little A looks at me with confusion. “What are these questions and why don’t I know the answers?”, she seems to ask. Luckily (for me), she is not the only one. There are some kids in class that do have the answers but there are several like little A too, with not much exposure to religion in an organized way. There’s no talk of religion in schools here, unlike schools in India (my BIL used to say that in his school where the founders were Hindus, yagnas and homams were conducted almost every week!). In the US, it is totally upto the parents – whether (and how much) they want religion in their lives and in their children’s lives.
I want for my kids that unshakeable faith that I had when I was little. It helped me through some (real and imagined) tough times. I felt that nothing could be too bad as long as I had my Pullaiyar watching over me. When we went to the temple this January, I was moved to see the girls quite engaged with the prayers. They recited the couple of slokams that they know, did namaskarams at every sannidhi, and came back home with foreheads covered with more sandanam and kumkumam than the saamiyars in India. The girls are certainly willing customers. It is their mom that has to get past her confusion and find her faith back. Now, how does one do that? Again, more questions than answers. Well. Time will tell.
For now, perhaps, a (loooong overdue) visit to the temple this weekend would be a good start.