Monday, February 14, 2011

On Valentine's Day

Contrary to the expectations of the young lovers, the sun on Valentine's Day did not resemble a giant heart dancing high up in the sky, and neither did the nightingale sing Justin Bieber's Baby. Valentine's Day has so far proved to be just like another day, at least for me. My interest in Valentine's Day  took a nasty turn when a few months back I was studying a book on the history of English literature that in its account of Geoffrey Chaucer's work had a gist of his famous dream-poem Parliament of Fowls. In it Chaucer is transported in his dream to a Garden of Love that contained a dark Temple of Venus. In the garden the goddess Nature presided over the Parliament of Birds: it is on Valentine's Day when fowls and birds chose their mates. Now, a romantic as I am under normal conditions, even I failed to derive even as much as an iota of romanticism from this lovey-dovey account of birds calling for their mates without the thought ringing inside my head to check to if I have a rainbow tail to go with my romantic nature, or wonder how well I can sing a cuckoo song of love. Such ghastly notions spoiled my love side, and for several days I felt misembodied.   I blamed the blasted Chaucer, Father of Poetry though he undoubtedly is, for killing my poetic side. Two eagles vying for the hand of a formel, let's face it, is not romantic.

Every year around this time as the smell of spring cloaks the air, people start talking about Valentine's Day. They take sides shouting for or against the customization of love around this very day. Some feel that this day is a hoax created by rich companies with the express intention of ripping us, while others feel that it is good to have a day dedicated to love. And in the middle of it all rests another largely forgotten group, the clan of latitudinarians who is a passive audience to the spectacular display of emotions presented by the V-day lovers and the non V-day lovers. The procession of arguments for or against the love issue doesn’t bother them very much; some things are not worth caring about. I think that I belong to this third group of people who love to see the butchering of lovers initiated by supermarkets, but would keep their hands clean by not being a sacrificial goat themselves and spend their cash on tchotchkes like a dollar box of China made chocolates or a forty dollar bouquet of flowers. But even if you want to stay away from the Valentine's Day brouhaha, you just cannot ignore it: this morning I was reminded by Godiva that today is Valentine's Day, and I ought to celebrate it with a box of their premium chocolates; by Pantene that wished me a happy V-day and added, like a good salesperson, that the new Pantene 2-in-1 products make falling in love twice as simple, how you ask, well, I don’t know, I did not finish reading the email; and Pillsbury that asked me if I would be interested in sharing the Valentine doughboy with by friends on Facebook, the idea behind such an action is totally unintelligible to me.

 Once you are married and you get it into your nut that Valentine's Day is a day when you shall kick your spouse if he doesn’t show up with gifts, you have reached the second stage of the profoundly tender passion--true love, and cannot but be relieved that you shall not have to dance with a banjo to impress a prospective lover anymore. To celebrate this respite I am willing to part with fifty Jacksons! But Valentine's Day is all about the pursuit of love, you say, and may be I give the aye to you for the idea; still how you can express true love in a stifling restaurant smelling of food and bustling with a thousand equally deep lovers like you all vying to express courtly love under candle light, beats me. May be we are stretching the thing to an extreme bit; may be Valentine's Day is more personal than we want it to be; may be true love really doesn’t need cards and chocolates to commemorate its presence. But today we shall leave the argument at this point and wish the lovers all the very best in their love pursuit.

I would, however, end my blog post with an unromantic personal revelation. Last evening as I was cleaning up my apartment, I discovered the burlap full of love notes and cards that I had sent my husband via the Great Indian Post before we got married. The box had been marinating in our closet since a time out of mind. I had first discovered the box two days after I came to stay with him, and that was four years ago, that time I had tenderly gone through the mushy revelations and prided myself for composing such priceless tokens of love. The total weight of my love notes was an astounding ten pounds; and since the airline would not allow me an extra-suitcase for my love letters, I had to discard them before we pack our suitcases for our journey back to India. I felt sad for a while thinking that I was jettisoning romantic love for the purpose of practicality, but these days the world demands you be practical and mature. Moreover, back in the apartment, when I discovered my husband deliberating which restaurant to take me to this evening, I realized that in the confusion, I may have struck the right note somewhere, albeit without knowing. I bade my love cards a final adieu and proffered to enjoy Valentine's Day in a more practical way.

Friday, February 11, 2011

On Books

Modern technophiles have been predicting the doom of books as we know them: the death of folios and quartos, hardback and shinning paperbacks. They envisage that in a few decades books are going to be a thing of the past and e-readers like Kindle, etc., would become the primary source of bookish delight. The steady rise in the market of wireless reading devices are pointing to the fact that people of our century prefer to travel light; the weight of heavy tomes is too much to carry about, instead they prefer to have them all compiled in a sleek, shiny pamphlet like device which they could conveniently use. I agree that I am myself thinking of buying such a device, still I cannot get over the old bookish feeling; can a wireless device, I wonder, replace the tactile feeling of paper on hand, the smell of antiquity laden in pages stored for a long time in a shelf, the yellowish corners, the bold letters? Is the intense wish for convenience robbing us of all that we held true for centuries? Is the biblioclasm brought on by the tech-revolution, the sudden infernal cataclysm, finally killing the tradition of reading books the way they are naturally meant to be read. Are we, maddened by a sudden concentration of technological power, forgetting the great history that spreads behind us of inscription and what it had meant for us? 

William Caxton in 1476 printed the first book, and since then the lamp of literacy began to spread its light throughout. Before the advent of the printing press manuscripts were written by hand and preserving books had been a laborious task. But as soon as people learned the art of printing, they took advantage of technology to preserve wisdom. Judging from this angle, the rise of wireless devices sound sane, even justified; it becomes a case of passing the baton. Technology today, however, is highly vacillating, a new gadget becomes defunct in only a few months, in such a circumstance can we trust the irresolute hands of technology to guard the nobility of the thing that mattered to us most -- our books. What will happen in a few years, I ask. Possibly newer technology will arise. We will discover new ways to read, new gadgets will overtake old devices, and the weight of manuscripts will be reduced to a zero. If such a thing happens we shall have to accept the shift with open arms, nevertheless, we will regret the absence of certain things that reading in the traditional sense entailed.

Books mold us. They create our character and externalize our brains. Take a look at the books you have acquired over the years; don’t you think that those tomes have a story to tell? The shift from fairy tales to comics, from science fiction to Shakespeare, from love lyrics to essays; in other words from childhood preferences to titles chosen in maturity testify to a growing mind. The presence of old books is reassuring; their smell almost motherly. Without your direct acknowledgement, your old books have become one with you, and they have stayed with you through thick and thin guarding you with the warmth of the knowledge they have poured on you.  In a room surrounded by books -- torn, smelly, and old -- you tend to feel more at home than in an empty house with only a shelf displaying a wireless device. The pride in flaunting the collection you have laboriously gathered over the years is nothing short of sensational. I wonder how modern gadgetry can replace this satisfaction.

Physical presence of books in our lives goes deeper than we think. When I first came to USA from India several years ago, I felt lonely and friendless; and in my lonesome read a book called Namesake written by Jhumpa Lahiri. It is a novel about an immigrant Bengali woman and how she coped with the transition from a traditional family life in India to a nuclear existence in USA. Her story read like my story; I felt that the author has emphatically written my history and my future. And I remember holding the book close to my heart drawing strength from it to survive in an alien landscape. I still have the book, and the even though I haven’t studied it in a while, I feel a strange, almost familial attachment to it. How an electronic book can replace this feeling, I wonder.

As I was browsing through my collection of books yesterday, sorting them, choosing the ones to keep and discarding the titles I thought I wouldn’t need anymore, I couldn’t help but feel a little perturbed. The logical part of me dictated that I must discard certain titles since I couldn’t carry it all back to India, assuring me that these days bookeries in India carry all kinds of books; still I felt sad thinking what hands would sift through the pages of my discarded books, what hands would imprint their marks on them. I hoped they went to worthy hands that would love and treasure them. Still all is a surmise now. Shakespeare was true when he said in sonnet 73 the following:
 This thou perceivs’t, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well, which thou must leave ‘ere long

To me the thought of leaving behind the books that have comforted me in lonely hours, matured me when I ran to them frustrated by the unceasing hum of the laptop, embraced me and taught me, is similar to leaving behind a part of me.  Still it is satisfying in a way to think that the fragments of the moments of triumphant absorbing of written wisdom will remain with me, half forgotten, half remembered, forever.

The wireless devices available in the market may include the substance of the books, but the emotional weight of my once owned library, their physical evidence would nowhere be found. The fickle newbie technology will yield brilliant magic tricks, one outwitting the other, and, in the middle of it all,  will try to try to eat away our love for books, but without books we are a set of wayward travelers with nothing to glue us to our foundation; without books  we "might melt into the airwaves, and be just another set of blips."

  Reference: Due Considerations by John Updike

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Deal or no Deal -- An account of my Craigslist transactions

What a piece of work is man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! -- Hamlet quote (Act II, Sc. II).

Human beings are such fascinating beings, and the more you know them the more you realize they are perhaps the most intriguing creature in the universe, apart from invisible aliens, of course. My recent knowledge about humanity is totally based on earthy experience though and has nothing to do with aliens, spaceships, or robotic creatures. Recently, I have had the fortunate chance to meet a sea of myriad humanity--some strange, some nupson like, some smart, some more balatronic than can be described, and a handful of standardized normal specimens. 

My fortunate encounters with this sea of eclectic Homo sapiens hitherto unknown to me were the result of the ads I posted on Craigslist. My husband and I are on the brink of a big move and needed to sell the furniture and other items of our household; hence we created an account and listed the items that were for sale. Think of a time before a big storm when nature usually sits breathless resting itself for the big strike. The initial moments after we posted the ads seemed similarly benign and calm to me. And then the storm came striking the shore first in the distance and then started spreading, its boom and uproar broke reboant on our lives. We received calls in great profusion; the phones never stopped ringing. I felt as if I was running a call center in India, a task, you are fain to think, coming naturally to Indians. Unfortunately, I don’t belong to the revered clan, and after a brief period of forced enjoyment, began hating the task only to forcibly starting to like it when the thought of Jacksons and Lincolns crossed my mind. To cut the long story short and head to the crux, much to my dismay, I attended the calls. Some of our stuff sold pretty easily and we thought that the rest would go effortlessly as well. Only it didn’t.

After the first week of grand success, I began to think of myself as a Craigslist diva with tips and tricks under her belt ready to unleash at a moments notice. I assured my husband who had started to think of Goodwill and Salvation Army already, to cool down and let the cash flow. Tell me- after turning off the hypocritical signal, of course-- is there a better charity than self-charity? Besides most of my household stuff cost a good deal of money, and I didn’t want to let them go without some compensation. Call me human or sub-human; I am practical when practicality calls. So, there I was ready to pocket a truckload of cash, but my (ig) noble intention took a ghastly turn in a few days.  My cecity to the inefficiencies and fallacies of humanity, that hadn’t bothered me much before now, took an illuminated turn. I saw the light, if you know what I mean. In case you don’t, take a look at the two priceless responses to my postings that I received in my inbox: the first is a reply to our posting of a chest of drawers, and the second a response to our posting of our dining table that included an area rug for free. Here, I must tell you, that the first one was harder to digest than its successorJ. And these two were just prologues, previews, if you will, the real show was yet to come.

When I look back at my Craigslist encounters with the express intention of creating a list of characters that deserve some kind of award or special recognition for the marvelous character traits they effortlessly displayed, I find myself grappling in a sea of candies unable to decide which one to eat and which one to not. But in a story there can be no more than one protagonist, one antagonist and a couple of very important characters. Hence I have condensed my list and have drawn out the finest few who deserve due mention in my humble blog post for their extraordinary character and nature. I wish I had peacocks and monkeys, or at least Dundies to present these glorious few with because, to me, they are the epitome of small town virtues, the real mirror, and the microcosm of the world they came from; and they are chosen here based on the degree of weirdness they displayed.

The first position has to go to a woman who came to visit our abode to check out the stuff we had for sale. But she put a lid on the proceedings as soon as she had walked into our apartment. She was a middle aged white lady with distinctly southern looks, disheveled straw colored hair, and wore a pair of baggy trousers and a plaid shirt. She came with a child, a thin, pale looking individual that had an undeniably hungry look in its eyes. The lady appraised my husband and me for a second or two, judging us from head to toe like a medical practitioner would inspect an immigrant that had disembarked at Ellis Island than anything human. With every passing second she grew paler, until a time when she looked positively vampiric; doubtless convinced that I was a wicked witch of some kind, she held the child tightly by its hand. She fumbled, and in a word of two said that she would talk to her "sister" who wanted to buy the "things" from us, and would come back later. The poor lady had forgotten, probably under the grip of fear, to even see what we had for sale; but we thought it would be better to let her go. Her sister never called and neither did she.

The second position goes to another lady who called us one Sunday forenoon and inquired about the couch we had for sale. That morning I had shoved the telephonic duty to my husband and waited to judge his professional skill at dealing with weirdoes, or should I say, masterpieces of humanity. He started off naively, innocent as he was -- an academic in every sense of the word, he is an angel in human form-- but even angels have breaking points; innocence is short lived. The lady that called us asked my husband a series of questions about the couch to which he replied correctly; to my amazement, he gave her a long of positive points about the couch, which I believed he was too inattentive to notice. But while I was correcting my viewpoint, the woman on the other side continued her conversation with my spouse. I heard him tell her that the couch was in perfect condition and that we still use it. To this the woman gave a sharp yowl, which despite being only faintly audible, struck us like a steam hammer. "What do you mean you use it? How do you use it?" she questioned with marked displeasure. Both my husband and I were at the time under the impression that a couch is a necessity, not an accessory in a home. My husband told her in a few words about our daily couch using technique on which she brooded for a trice. Conversation continued with more questions thrown at us regarding the material of the couch, its warranty, the years it had spent in our home, etc. Finally, the tête-à-tête ended with her telling us that she was looking for something different and my husband apprising her the sacred words that you get what you pay for.

Ultimate consternation, however, came in the form of an Indian lady, a fine female who snatched the third position in this list from other worthy contenders.  She called me no less than six times about my fancy professional series microwave oven, and every time she wanted me to lower the price. I illuminated her with the fact that the ad contained the words "price non negotiable"--which, I thought, she had inadvertently missed-- but she wouldn’t have it. I guess she felt that being an Indian undoubtedly qualified her to a deserving special discount; she went on with her appeal. Somehow overcoming the strong desire of shouting at her, I calmly informed her that I had no intention of giving her any special discount on the already heavily discounted price. Later that week, she called again having seen the ad reposted on Craigslist, and this time my husband picked up her call. She asked for the same discount to which my husband, despite my vehement disapproval, agreed, and gave her our address and arranged a time she would come to pick the item up. Only that she never came. When the appointed time had passed we took it for granted that her watch followed the Indian Standard Time and decided to wait. After an hour of two if breathless suspense, my husband called her and she said that she had found another "good" microwave oven and wouldn’t come. That evening, after a trying few weeks, I realized that enough was enough, and ended up giving away our stuff to a friend. All that remains are going to Goodwill and Salvation Army in a few days.

P.S. My sincerest apologies go to the following gracious and worthy contenders who didn't make it to the weird list: the African American family that came to buy my bamboo rug and ended up mentioning that the bamboo "thing" wasn’t a rug at all, and wished I had been more specific in my ad (which said "Bamboo Area Rug for Sale" and included the quality of the material in the specification list too) about the material; to the Chinese gentleman who wanted to buy "everything" I had provided I gave him all for the grand price of fifty dollars; to the young lady that emailed me about my area rug to whom the sentence "all items must be picked up" made no sense, and who wanted to give me ten dollars less than the price asked for provided I meet her at a designated place with the item.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Embracing Imperfection

This morning after what seems to me a millennial hiatus, I stepped into my patio to inhale the fresh air and enjoy the wintry landscape for a while. In the summer I had made it a quotidian habit to sit outside every morning and write for an hour. The habit had proved extremely beneficial in that not only I observed the diurnal march of nature, but also imbibed its daily sights and sounds steeped in the hustle of work-life that surrounded it to the fullest. With the advent of winter, however, the habit had to break, and, like all broken habits, it soon ceased to bother me any longer.  I added one more leaf to my archive of forgotten habits and lived happily until today when a terrible discomfort in the being caused by the stifling conditioned airwaves inside the apartment, and the absence of my lovingly paternal spouse forever worried about by health and well-being, I decided to step out for a breather. Upholstered from head to toe in winter garments and carrying a cup of caffeinated beverage and my writing book I walked out. I cleaned my red chair littered with dead leaves and dust and sat on it and almost bewilderingly observed the changed landscape surrounding me. The green trees of summer have given way to slightly shivering nude branches with flakes of dead brown leaves clinging to them like barely-there lingerie. The uncovered few bird nests looked like once comfortable homes destroyed by some mighty storm. Still, despite it all, the whole area seemed dear and calm. Having just returned from a skyscraperized city where people diverted by industrial glitter rarely notice the constellations in the sky, this imperfect landscape of broken branches, dilapidated bird nests and cloudy skies beckoned me warmly. The warmth of the chilly winter wind soothed the sinews and the whole atmosphere felt romantically somniferous.  I closed my eyes and breathed while the voice in my head composed lines that waited to be written. 

Poetry is what I wrote today, rhymed lines dedicated to an imperfect beauty. The lines came naturally, not one artificial pressure stroke was imposed on the process of creation today--the work was natural, organic. As I wrote, I wondered about the landscape more and more: I wondered how it had looked a century back, tried to imagine its uninhabited past and pondered the essence of the industrial revolution and modern virtual insurgency that has robbed a sizable portion of contemporary human beings of the finer sense of appreciating something as organic and simple as Nature. We drive to distant lands to catch its glimpse, yet we turn a deaf ear to its knock on our own door. As I observed the gray, wintry sky with sheets of clouds blanketing it, I couldn’t help but feel contented at having retained a bit of that old romantic sense in me. I don't know how many of you can afford the simplest joys of daily life any more being so much blinded and sidetracked by your enormous web-presence where joy starts with seeing yourself under the virtual limelight, calumniating a less intelligent individual, mocking him for an advertent or an inadvertent mistake, or taking part in ceaseless discussions that never reach a saturation point. Under this wintry firmament I felt all the stress of expectation, the fear of denunciation, the need to prove my might fade into annihilation. A sense of peace overcame me richer than all the riches of the world combined, truer than even the force of true ambition. In a moment everything worldly seemed so futile; the need to present myself under narcissistic limelight, to constantly provoke arguments by words or actions, all seemed fruitless. The thought made me happy instantly; my limited resources seemed sufficient, my own imperfect, blemished face seemed beautiful to the greatest degree. Yes, in the presence of imperfection, under the hood of chill and rain, I felt beautiful and happy and found myself reciting, once again, those oft quoted lines from Wordsworth's, I wandered lonely as a cloud:
"For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils."

This morning I welcomed my philosophical didactic self to play on its pedantic music and allowed it to compose a verse that has no purpose but to please myself. And pleased I was, to the fullest, to the degree humanly possible. Today I was happy to feel that in my life I am done pleasing others, done forgetting myself in the virtual deluge of opinions and constant meaningless exchanges with strangers. Today I felt complete and happy for what I am and not what I shall be.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Presence of Faith



I had originally planned to give you a hypotyposis of my journey to the New York City in this heart-melting winter and my experience at watching the taping of The Daily Show on February 2nd, 2011 in the form of an epical travelogue, yet here I begin with a subject that has little or nothing to do with my actual Big Apple tour. I cannot fancy my reason behind composing this philosophical account, but starting from the time I disembarked at the Nashville airport my mind has been caught up in an eagre of faith related queries. A moment of epiphany illuminated me yesterday leading to the poor, agnostic self finding its answers in a way it had least anticipated. And I wished to write to write about it.

 Hovering over the snow-layered landscape underneath my feet, I was at one point mulling over human omnipresence priding myself at the idea that the world cannot hide its secrets from me anymore and the other feeling vulnerable and insecure at the thought that judging from the ground level this Wright-marvel is just a speck of blue and red, when the flight hit an air-pocket and started to shake. From where I sat I had a good view of the large right-wing, and seeing it shiver as if stricken by some demonic fear, I was a bit scared. I turned my face away and began confabulating with my spouse. A second later the seatbelt sign was on and we were instructed by the pilot to buckle up and grab our seats as we would hit some more air-pocket areas. No sooner had he issued the ominous warnings than we hit another jerky spot, the whole flight shook like a plaything in the hands of a child; I closed my eyes. A terrible weight followed by a sudden emptiness hit my heart as the flight shook and free-fell a bit and then regained balance only to lose it a trice later. I grabbed my husband's hand and waited for the worst. The flight became steady and stopped oscillating; I disentangled myself and brushed my off my fears. A moment later the fluctuations began once again, and this time the back of the flight where we were sitting shook real hard; a child began crying, and I caught sight of a middle-aged woman on the left side of the aisle wearing bright red polished nails sitting with clasped hands placed upon her lap looking out the window.  Somehow her posture made me think she was praying. As I appraised her, it struck me that I had not once thought of praying in this scary moment. The flight continued to shake and each jerk made me think of terrible things: a flight accident, death, a fire, a heap of rubble, news headlines, and then, amnesia. I wondered how it would feel to die in a man made aerodynamic zeppelin, a brightly painted metal box with wings! Will it hurt, the burning? Will I feel the pain? I saw my husband laugh at my fear-stricken face and that made me even sadder. "It's nothing," he said adding that he had experienced more jerky air travels in his life and that I was lucky not to be been caught up in an air-pocket situation before. But at this point even his words could not alleviate my fears; some time back I had been to Disney World, Florida, and, against my better judgment, rode the The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror thrill ride. The bumpy airplane brought back brutal memories of that awful thrill ride, and I grew even paler. Having no option at hand to calm myself I began to pray. I couldn’t tell you if everything turned out miraculously for the better or not, but I did buck up eventually. I started feeling warm, my cold, sweaty palms normalized, and before I knew it the bouncy drive gave way to a smooth landing at the Baltimore airport. The relief on disembarking the flight was stupendous. I called my mother in India and told her how much I had missed her; she was pretty startled and I was a bit embarrassed, still I did it. I wanted to call my sister-- my best friend with whom I have no physical resemblance, yet who is closer to me than a Siamese twin--but it being very late I decided to chuck it.

All the way home yesterday I thought about faith and the overwhelming presence of it in human lives. I have been a newly-formed agnostic who has very recently started to doubt the presence of God and the importance of religion in human lives. With Scientific theories presenting explanations for natural and unnatural phenomena, pointing out the attendance of the known unknowns more deftly, and getting ready to study the unknown unknowns, the future of solemn faith in divinity has began to look bleak and uncreative. A commonplace atheism has forked the once religious or agnostic minds of the people of our generation. The left liberal principle silently entails devotion to Darwin and the Goddess of knowledge and undermines, inaudibly, a loyalty to a divine spirit. A.N. Wilson in his God's Funeral says, "The closing decades of the nineteenth century were the true ere of the 'death of God.'" And I cannot agree with him more. The rise of Science and Technology has undermined the rise of Christianity in the Anglo-Saxon era. The barbarians of the past are dead; future is glittering in the glassy-palms of Science--the new God with explanations and answers brimming inside its cranium.

Logically speaking, faith has suffered terrible setbacks over the past couple of decades and with the virtual world usurping its altar; it has now been reduced to a trite impulse. The bloody wars and terror attacks have presented to us the dark side of faith and pointed to devotion as the reason propelling unhealthy causes and has further alienated Homo sapiens from the pulpit-world. Belief in afterlife and Judgment Day though still linger in the minds of the quadragenarians, but we duogenarians seldom give the tip of the hat to God. Even people with deep religious backgrounds have rebelled against the presence of an invisible God calling him listless, uncaring and tyrannical. The crumbling images of mythology could no longer bolster its tenement; religion is similar to a dying gadget like cassette players of tape recorders. A sociologist called Mark Chaves in a 1999 study pointed out that only a mere twenty-eight percent of Roman Catholics attend Mass on a given weekend. People prefer to be pontificated over the television and the internet. And whatever religion prevails, at least in the USA, it is a friendlier, less dignified service. My life in the buckle of the Bible belt, however, has proved otherwise. I see groups of deeply religious folks attending services every Sunday. These groups upholstered in dainty Sunday clothing will reinstate in your mind the presence of faith, but after a while you cannot help testifying to the fact that modern religion is highly democratic; we are free to belief and free to relinquish faith.

I have been born in a conservative Hindu family and in our plethora of deities have tried to find out a unifying force. My mother, a devoutly religious person, instructed me the ways of a religious life very early in my life. And every time I had found myself in the yellow walled prayer room in our Kolkata house with pictures of deities pegged to the walls, I have assented to the old Hindu mythological tales of gods and goddesses with four arms and three-eyes without the slightest sense of doubt. I have found belief in religion psychologically fitting and had not the wish to ever discard it. But reading scientific texts and taking part in discussions that point out the fallacies in a given religion, the invisibility of God, His or Her indifference to the fast-moving stream of pain we find ourselves drowning in, had sowed doubts in my mind.

But if religion has taught us anything is that it is more a quantum state than anything solidly made. It tends to become invisible when examined; it is our biggest known unknown. In my case my faith has suffered big set back in my immature past when I had falsely questioned the divine spirit to provide me answers as to why my in-laws always considered me a tchotchke; an unimportant part of their family life, unfit, unsuitable in many ways to their vainglorious lifestyle? Why after terrible efforts and an admission in a prestigious educational institution, my academic dreams were thwarted because of a dependent visa and lack of student assistantships in the English department?  I questioned my faith during those bleak hours and ended up turning away from it only to turn back when prospects seemed brighter, and new avenues made their presence known. I have tried to make amends for the past follies by following my mother's example and setting up a prayer room in my Nashville apartment and forcing myself to bow to the ancient Hindu religious practices ratified by academic and philosophical luminaries of the past.

Yesterday when I was caught up in the aeronautical adventure, I had turned to faith. Even though my husband pointed out all the scientific explanations to the oscillations that scared me stiff, he couldn’t reassure me. I had ultimately turned to the warm embracement of faith and found relief. I couldn’t locate a miracle in my disembarking safely at the airport; yet I found a miraculous silver lining in the idea that despite a fair chance of mishap threatening our lives everyday in so many ways, I am still alive and breathing. You could attribute it to Omega Point, but I decided to thank God for it all. In a moment of mild despair, I was happy to locate faith in me, and now I intend to stay on track and present myself as a moderately religious, left liberal.

Reference: The Future of Faith, Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism, By John Updike