By Dr Vijita Ningombam
Everyone has a story to tell, everyone goes through different pain in life. Some created by themselves. I`m not going to weigh anyone`s pain. I don`t know how to do that.
I came across a pain too that intrigued and troubled me. A different kind, not created by the individual, nothing that happened to me but a pain I saw in someone`s eyes. It pained me, not because this person was someone close to me, not because I know him too well that I cared about everything he went through in his life. It pierced me deep, because I knew deep inside that this is not his story alone but of a million others as well.
Who were having the same pain I saw in his eyes? The answer is intriguing. This is what prompted me to write these few paragraphs. But before I continue his story, I have to tell you few of my thoughts about god and religion. I want to share my understanding of these notions after reading a lot and also after stupid things I always do, which annoy me because I tend to overdo it – the so called THINKING!
What is religion? What does it mean? What religion do I belong to? My birth certificate says I`m a Hindu, the way I live is probably like a Christian and the Quran happens to be my best book because I find a lot of interesting work there, I would love to be called a Buddhist, I`m curious about Zoroastrian, Jainism and Judaism because I have read very little about them. And what fascinate me most are the local religions.
But again my list goes on because we have Taoism, Confucianism and many more. “I`m just curious about all religion. I have no definition, but I understand that different religions are simply different ways of life.”
This person I was talking about (let’s call him Happy), called himself a Muslim. I didn`t know it until he told me. To me he was just a man who I met every time I went to the coffee shop, he was writing a book which happened to be a topic of interest as I was doing the same. He was cheerful and fun every time I saw him. A guy who was always smiling and who mingled with everyone around him and made them happy too.
Religion does not at all show in someone`s face. Then I thought again and wondered why and how they also came to be divided. From different sects of Hindu, to Catholics and Protestants, Sunni Muslims to Shia, Mahayana to Hinayana Buddhist, Digambara to Svetambara Jains and so on.
My thoughts start branching and I tell myself, enough! And stop right there. But that cannot happen because we have something more fresh called Scientology which I just couldn`t miss thinking about. Am I on the road of being an atheist? No, I would like to believe in god. Not because I have seen him/her but because after reading psychology I have realised we need to believe in something which will guard our superego so as to be good, ethical human beings.
I like to believe in god because every time I can`t get an answer or reason to something in my life, I, in my mind just point out at him in my soliloquy. Because perhaps of this curious sense that he has all the answers right? Well, this time I didn`t get an answer.
Our man Happy had gone in search of an accommodation. He wanted to buy an apartment somewhere good in Delhi. He wanted a place which was located in almost the heart of south Delhi where every other good place would be reachable. He chose Saket in south Delhi. He found his house and he was happy that he found it so fast. The landowner was overwhelmed at their first meeting and they had a good conversation. Until he saw Happy`s identity card and read his name Mohammad Yasin Aktar. What has religion got to do with buying a house you wanted?
I love reading history again and again because it does clear out a lot of my questions. I have tried understanding the birth of believing in god and also religion. Finally I went up further on the road to asking myself the very pertinent question, whether god really created us? I got my answer. It was the elements in the universe that created us, living organisms. So, god might have created the universe then? Yes that was true before we knew about the Big Bang theory. Then the Big Bang must have been god`s work. But here we have to think of Stephen Hawking`s words where he says time itself did not exist before the Big Bang so when was that time god created the Big Bang.
Well, for me these questions mattered less than my understanding that every time we humans don`t have an answer we think it`s god’s work until we find the answer. Then I thought of how god started getting a symbol or a face, the times when he was not associated with religion at all. Pre- historic era?
Humans cared only about filling their stomach then and all they did was roam around in search of food until the first human learnt the method of agriculture where they finally could settle down in a place. To cut the story short, they slowly formed groups which finally were called tribes with a head who created a symbol for their tribe as an identity.
Human minds however different are also similar, so most symbols were of the moon, sun, tree or animals. Most of all, they depended on the forces of nature for their agriculture hence food. So they started praying to rain, sun, earth etc. Years later these symbols became a symbol for god.
For Happy, his word for god is Allah. For the landowner, his word was Bhagwan and the different idols he worships as he happened to be a Hindu are the symbols of the same notion. While analysing the different symbols of god, I found some which were very different. Not animals, or from nature, some what like a human yet a face like an animal. Figures so different and unreal.
Then I had to think wider and read more. Finally I had to think of possibility of aliens, I watched videos of UFO`s and a lot of discussions about it with friends as to why the aliens haven`t contacted us yet if they do really exist? Why can`t they just come to earth and say a hi!
And then I thought of my own theory of humans and ants. I love to watch ants some times. I`m fascinated by how hard working they are. Sometimes I just drop a piece of food to just see them pick it up, go back in the queue, sometimes I get jobless and draw a circle and watch them get stuck in the middle.
But most times, I would rather just sit back and watch them because I know my existence creates a haphazard in their normal life. I am an alien to them and so I sometimes think the aliens of other parts of the universe must be doing the same. If the ants had brains that think like us, I would have been god for those ants I gave food to, and for those who were there when I drew a circle, I clearly would be a devil to them.
So as to tell others, both the category of ants would have drawn a picture of me and showed them. And in their generations to go, a modified version of me is either god or a devil. Hence we have some weird looking figures from the past which could have been the times when aliens contacted us. Though like how I like to sit back most times and watch the ants, the aliens would rather sit back and watch us.
I don`t believe the theory about aliens too deeply, but yes that could be it. Then the next era comes where humans started this new thing called religion. A guide to live life in the right way as told to us by the gods. Really?
I think of another word called culture which is a set of values, conventions and social practices, also a guide to live life. One happens to be related to god, other happens to be born out of generations of humans. To me both are the same, created by us- the humans.
Happy was obviously a Muslim and that was why the landlord didn`t want to sell the house to him. As soon as he came to know that Happy was a Muslim, his body language changed, he spoke differently now. The conversation was not a good one anymore. He reacted to everything Happy said, whether he what thought was right or wrong. Both happened to be from different religion which was the only reason why the landlord did not want Happy to live in his building.
Happy narrated his story to me. He was not a cheerful person any more. He told me how much it hurt him and how he felt like a Pakistani who was in India. He said he loved his country but didn`t feel like his own any more. He looked quieter than any other time I saw him. He had lost the confidence he had in himself, the confidence about his whole life itself. He had left Kashmir and had come to Delhi so that he could get better opportunities and he was in the middle of his book about improving the economy of India. But here he was sitting right in front of me, with tears in his eyes which he was trying to hide. He said, “I think I`ll have to go back to Kashmir”.
At that moment I couldn`t prove it to him that there are a bunch of us who don`t care about religion because he wouldn`t believe it. His pain was too deep that he would probably nod his head but my words wouldn`t have been able to reach his heart. I made him sit for a little more time while I explained to him about a house I too went to see for myself.
I told him I wanted to rent a place too so I went searching everywhere until the broker took me to this one. The one I felt was perfect. The sitting area was enough for a get together for me and few of my friends, the kitchen was a small one but I didn`t care much because I order out every day ( I know that`s the worst habit). There was an extra bed room which I thought would be useful and perfect if my parents wanted to visit.
And then in the end I had my bed room. It was huge! I loved it. But that room had this wall which was wet, a little fungus growing on it too. It had become green because of the ecosystem around the fungus unlike the rest of the room which was painted white. The air condition had been leaking for ages and I knew I would fall sick if I stayed in the room so I had to say no to the broker and search for a new house.
So I told Happy to think of the landlord he came across as an object, like the fungus covered wall I saw and I would never want to stay with. That was all I could tell him but he had already packed his bags to go back to Kashmir.
Believing and following either a religion or culture is good. But one should also know that since both are works of humans, either a religion or a culture cannot be perfect because we all know humans are not perfect in every way. We need to make that judgement on if what is written in the religious books are logical or not and we shouldn`t just follow it blindly unless you want to behave like a sheep in the herd.
When one reads these religious books that guide with a logical approach, one will learn to discard the unnecessary and realise that all the books say the same thing and slowly the line between cultures and religions also fades away. If this is it, why do we have the need for different religions, they all mean the same – a guide to live life well. After all don`t we all come to the world as people without identity, without a religion or a name.
Remember when you die, from the spot of death to the funeral, you are referred to as “the body” and not by your name. And after all, do we not get buried in the same soil?