My father, spirituality and some memories. (In Progress)

I was born into a huge joint family in Hyderabad, India. My childhood was simple and quite the average middle class experience. Growing up in India is a lesson in itself if you are open to it. Lets come to that later. As a child, I grew up in a home full of books. About 20,000 at that time. From the Koran to Mein Kampf, My Experiments with Truth to Environmental Law and the Bible to Why I am not a Christian. The family I happened upon had just come out of near poverty. With just enough for a satisfactory life in what was then the outskirts of Hyderabad, which by itself was hardly a city, we had it good. 

My father is an eternally patient man with the heart of feathers in a pillow, the will of mountains against the wind and the appetite for knowledge of an infant with a new toy. He had grown up in an orthodox home with a very strict father and had vowed to be better with his children. His method of parenting was simple. Teach values, not actions, teach wisdom not just knowledge, show experience and not just teach. As an inquisitive person himself, he cultivated that virtue in us as well. I vividly remember a turning point in my life. 

I was 14 or 15. I was told by a classmate that it was all the fashion then to denounce all religions and call oneself an "atheist". I ran home after school, the heavy bag bouncing on my shoulders, thinking of telling my father this and impressing him with my "forward" thinking. 
I remember my father laughing for a long time. When he finally calmed down, he asked me to lie down beside him and drawing a circle in the air, he asked me what was outside our house. 
The courtyard, I answered confidently - having climbed the many trees that lined our farm like home. Outside that?, he asked. 
The hills, I said - remembering the peacocks I watched perched on the hilltops, their beauty on full display. 
Beyond that?, he asked.
The whole city nanna!, I said, thinking of the roads we often took to reach my grandmother's home across the city. The sweet and spicy taste of Sambar filling my mouth as I remember her feeding me while telling us the stories from her childhood. 
Okay, he said, now what lies beyond that? 
I pictured my geography teacher showing us the map of India and Andhra Pradesh, my state. I wanted to know where this was leading and I said, almost irate now - the state, then the country then the WHOLE world! 
Laughing, my father beckoned to me and asked - whats next? 
The model of the solar system in one of the encyclopaedias I had sprang to mind. The solar system, space and the entire universe nanna!! Why are you testing me? You know I know this, you taught me yourself, I said, confused and irritated. 
He came close, and asked - what lies beyond that? 

It might not seem like much now, but imagine how it would have been for me, a kid whose entire life revolved around learning new things, going through an encyclopaedia a month, a book a day and solving the mysteries of the Agatha Christie Novels that lined my shelf. My father had opened up a door that I never knew existed and told me that no one knew what lay beyond. 

Is there someone or something after that nanna? I asked after a while of thinking. That, he said, is what everyone calls God. Be it Vishnu, Allah or Christ, they all arise from this effort to make sense of our universe. Different people believe that many enlightened people came through to us to help us find this God and that it is everyone's teaching that God is one , the creator, destroyer and maker of the world. Each person follows the enlightened one that is closest to them. The one that they can most relate to. Who do I relate to, I asked. That is for you to decide bujji, he said. 

For me to decide? I was flabbergasted. My entire life, I had been told by many people I had met that I was Hindu, a Brahmin and I had pledged allegiance of sorts to my family deities. Can I choose to not be Hindu, I asked him. Your choice, he said, has to be a true one. One made after study and understanding. Your path is your own, choose one religion or them all, choose what is right for you but only after introspection, study and knowledge.

So I did. I am almost twice that age now and I can proudly say that I have never given up that search. The search for my own path, the one that I alone can and must follow. My search has led me from thinkers like J Krishnamurthy to writers like James Redfield, business gurus like CK Prahalad and his unintentional (perhaps) spirituality in the book Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, philosophers like Alan Watts, celebrated atheists like Richard Dawkins and many more. For over 12 years, I have been forever refining, redesigning, destroying and creating my beliefs. One belief though, has stayed with me. The path everyone takes is his own. Whether he is a Muslim, Hindu or of any other religion. 

My spirituality stems from my inquisitiveness and that comes from my Father. Of the many things I am thankful to him for, this is just one small instance.


Popular Posts