I have been an atheist ever since I got to know about religion and god, it was honestly just an easy way out, and practical. The belief of not believing in anything allows you to be everything but nothing, it gives you the space to create your own ideals and to be free from the idiosyncrasies that religion perpetuates you to follow. It was also my privilege, I suppose, to be able to simplify life as I wanted it to be. However, no sooner I realized that faith only comes alive when you are the most helpless.
In the wee hours of 11th December, I lost my mother. It was sudden, she was just there one moment, and gone the other, in a matter of just few minutes. She had a severe heart attack. She was my home, my source of comfort and my life. She was the person I went to, in all adversity, not necessarily to share but to just feel the security and the unconditional love. This time I didn’t know, what to do— how can one deal with the horrible news if the horrible news was the best way of dealing with any kind of horrible news.
I was left alone, without any guide book which teaches how to deal with grief, and the feeling of “what now?” My dad found solace beneath the vast ocean of afterlife religious literature as he explained me, that she has moved on to a better life now, nearer to moksha, to freedom. It was comforting, but that led to proliferation of questions in my head.
“What do you intend to believe in?”
“Well, why don’t you just accept the fact that she is gone. We are nothing but machines, when the body dies, the machine shuts down”
“You know, it’s the sheer end”
“What’s the point of even thinking about afterlife, I mean, there is no proof.”
All these questions and answers were too practical to be liked, or to be comforted with, they are almost too harsh to be dealt with during the time of crisis and emotional drain. The reality of death is far and away the most immediate and challenging aspect of my atheism. Death has affected me in a profound way, it has hit the spiritual barricade that I have raised all this while. It is so real but still, nothing feels more unreal. It makes me want to jump the barricades and accept the platitudes such as “She is in a better place now” and “I know she is smiling down on you”, “She will always be there”, just for consolation. But then, I wait and think, this may perhaps be a way of avoiding the reality of the ultimate end.
Atheism is practical and it permits you to face death without any glory—just as the sheer harsh truth it is, but religion, it helps you to avoid death. It is something common in all religions, let it be modern or ancient. The tales have mentioned it again and again, “When we die it’s not the end, in fact we transcend into a better place.” There is a choir of angels, or perhaps 40 virgins or maybe Nirvana! The end of the cycle of living—to be a part of the universe in another dimension.
The philosophical contortions are never ending, we can use it to cling on life, with hope that life would be there for eternity, notwithstanding death—maybe in this form or the other. Or we can be an atheist, face the finality of our end without any comforting aid. It won’t be easy, but well, neither is life—something both theists and atheists could agree upon.
The fragility of our existence stared at my face earlier this morning as I was hanging on the footboard of the viciously crowded Mumbai local. I almost slipped, but thanks to my luck and that angelic aunt that I’m here typing this and not, waiting to be another nugget in tomorrow’s newspaper. Posing as the protagonist of the sorry article on which everyone feels the pity, and then it is nothing but an archive to be forgotten.
The mental investment on the issue of over-crowded trains is so little, that there is no necessity to understand the problem or to care. This is because everything keeps going on non-stop until, it hits close to home. There are thousands of people travelling in the rush peak hour from north Mumbai to south, struggling in the compartment. It is an everyday gamble of life and death, the probability of the latter increasing as the population keeps increasing. It is nothing but a sheer competition of spaces. Those who win survive, while the others hang and hope not to die.
Is this the spirit of Mumbai, as they call it? The city is an infrastructural mess, but yet the financial crest. Is it a boon or a gain, I wonder. Due to the capability to generate and earn, it has successfully invited many people but it doesn’t have the capability to take in so many, and what is at risk? After every contingency, there is a quiet uproar till the problem is shoved into oblivion. Nothing is done, no efforts are made, even for mere closed-door compartments or increments in the number of trains.
We all are here to end, that is a said fact, but if the end is in such a way it is a kind of murder happening due to mere negligence. It is something that can be prevented just by a little action, a little attention.
After that moment, all I could think was, I may have been irrational considering my priorities where I chose hanging on the train rather than missing many of them for an hour or two, but it certainly shouldn’t ought to the end. I thought of my mother’s hug that I got this morning and I felt that maybe it could be the last, or the conversation that I had with my best friend would be the last. It was scary, so scary. I can’t do anything of the problem as of now, except practising caution and writing to our sorry government, but I can certainly now cherish and appreciate my life much more.
This article was published in the newspaper too :p yay!
It hurts to live when someone dies,
It hurts to do the simplest of tasks- to breath, to walk and to just keep moving on.
There is a pressure to let go, of the memories and the time spent,
Just to set free from the self-created devils,
There is a constant feeling of a strong presence around,
There is a perpetual hopeless hope, wishing that the reality is nothing but a miserable dream,
which will go away as soon as the night passes- as they say, after every sunset, there will be a sunrise, but this seems permanent, deep and irreparable.
Perhaps, a void that can never be filled, a scar that can never be healed.
I miss you mum!
I feel guilty of being privileged sometimes when I see my fellow humans living in absolute human misery and then I can’t stop thinking about this world, where we have adopted capitalism in all means and forms waiting for the trickle-down effect and the redistribution to take place. How much time will it take? Maybe, it will never end, the widening inequality and the injustice experienced by many or maybe it will, but till then what? Will these people stay this way? I am a budding economist, almost a semester away and I know socialism has failed in all ways, and also, that it cannot bring growth and prosperity as they rightly say, but aren’t the resources on this planet meant to be equally shared and distributed? Doesn’t everybody deserve a life where at least the basic necessities are being fulfilled? If that is not happening, I feel that maybe the system is not working and there is an urgency to do something new, to form a new order or whatever. I don’t know, I am too naïve to come up with anything. I can’t even ask people like you and me to do anything because I know it doesn’t work that way. It’s the social order, where there is always more and more that people desire, and even that seems less. We live in our very petty surroundings with people of same social standings and half the time, we don’t know what’s going around or are to nonchalant to care. It’s never enough for anybody and it will probably never be.
All I know is that when I watched this little boy trying to sell balloons on the street, claiming to be hungry. I didn’t want to buy it, not only because it was useless to me but also because I didn’t want to encourage child labor or perhaps some gang which kidnaps such kids for begging as various media sources point out. However, I went ahead and bought it, just because that look on his face was haunting me, the look of sheer distress and poverty. I don’t even know how can I expect him to go to school and study, to improve his condition and go beyond, outside this vicious cycle, because if he doesn’t work today, he will probably have no meal to eat tomorrow. The opportunity cost is high, more than I will ever know.
The other day, this withered woman was walking along with her two small kids, latched tightly to her arms as she begged around, from persons to shops, everywhere. Most of the people were shunning her away, and I couldn’t help but think, what these kids must be feeling, do they even know what dignity feels like? Well, a foolish thought I know, dignity and self-worth comes way up in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Their vision must be clouded with utmost need of hunger and thirst and helplessness.
Also, last year when I was roaming around the slums of Mumbai for my research for a month or so, I couldn’t believe the condition in which mankind lives in and ironically, that was not even the worse. Their condition was much better as many said.
And then today, something weird happened, something both heartwarming and heart shattering at the same time. I met this women at Vile Parle station and she gifted me a key chain. She was the same woman to whom I used to give water daily three years ago until she left the particular spot where she used to sit. She got a job, now she makes jewelry and sells them. It was overwhelming. I forgot her existence and even her face, but she didn’t, maybe because I did more for her than I felt as that task was nothing for me. This made me feel, maybe, little things do bring huge impacts, and sometimes we don’t even know about it. So, we should keep doing whatever we can hoping that it improves somebody’s life even a little until a new social order is formed, or until things change or till destruction takes us all away.
The withered heart and mind quivered under the new rule, unable to understand the nasty takeover that happened a little too quick to comprehend. It was just a moment of weakness, they exclaimed, but at that moment, it came back, the opportunistic vulnerability.
Vulnerability with an intense desire to celebrate its victory invited all its friends, also known as the insecurities. This clique together did a commendable job. They went on a hunt, with an aim, to find all that had been hidden and buried. The re-founded treasures were then kept as the proud thorns on the stems of roses. The difference was clear, the change was felt as even the slightest of winds started feeling like a storm. It was at this time when weakness insisted on being the natural form.The entire ordeal of growth and stability seemed to be shaken, as the mind started enjoying roaming across the cynical route.
The necessity for change started calling out loud and clear-but what seemed to be lost was the courage to work on this all over again. The never ending battle of voices in head which had ceased to exist finally found its way back, which in its deranged manner brought a hope, that the courage will return to fight. And that is when there will be a break even and a victory over vulnerability.
The flame engulfs him suddenly, ferocious but untempered,
The muscle loses its control,
The mind turns inept to garner any reasons,
The actions taken are unquestioned,
Regret that later persists stays…
The flame engulfs him steadily,
Prepared to stay there for long, nurtured enough to be strong.
To obediently shadow him around, everyday and everywhere,
With a motive, to be a part.
Decisively taking over, even more…
From mind to the actions, from petty aggressions to enormous reactions.
It is the gift that he receives all his life, until he decides to let go…
The flame engulfs him, as he stops, realising the futility.
Maybe even more, the desperation to be free.