I gave it couple of days before paying her my next visit. This time I walked in just before she closed for lunch. She seemed to expect me.
‘I was just about to close. Would you like to join me for lunch?’
‘That will be nice. I really would like to get another book after that. I read the book you gave me again. I always find it amazing how the same book which is never changing can have a different impact on you in relation to the time when you read it.’
She smiled. She knew what I meant. It was a movie. She had seen it when she was young and it had the most profound effect on her, and after marriage, she had insisted her husband to rent this movie. She could not stop raving about the story line to her husband. After dinner they had sat down expectedly to watch it. She, gleefully holding onto her husband’s forearms in excitement. But the movie proved to be a damp squid. The story seemed so ordinary and full of drawn out dramas. The actors seemed to be overacting. The heroine seemed so melodramatic and childish. The problems they faced seemed so petty. Her husband had tried to put on a ‘this is a great movie’ front for her benefit which irritated her more. What had happened? She had changed, evolved, grown. Her perspectives had changed.
‘I know what you mean’ she said as she switched off the lights and turned the sign to ‘Closed’. I stepped outside and waited while she locked the door.
‘I normally have my lunch at this restaurant on the corner. Its only walking distance away.’
I nodded. I followed her to the restaurant. It was not so crowded yet. We found a table near the window which faced the street. I like watching life go by. I told her to order for me also; something light.
After the waiter had taken the order and left she faced me, looked at me squarely.
‘I am really sorry about the other day. I thought about what you had said. I have to admit that there’s truth in what you said. I know that I believe in something that I have no experience of. I am not a very spiritual person. I don’t try to understand the great mystic reasoning behind life. I am a housewife who is also working. I got my own worries. I got a son who is ready to go to kindergarten. We are not financially well off. I try to do my part by taking this job as a librarian. I don’t even read.’ She laughed. I smiled.
‘What I am trying to say is that, when you said all those things, you were being cruel. Or so I thought. Later on I realized that you had not done that with an intention to hurt me. I am the one who initiated the conversation and you told me what you thought....’
‘Know’ I said quietly.
‘What?’ she seemed surprised by my intrusion into her monologue.
‘Know…what I know, not what I thought.’
The waiter came with our order. He laid out the dishes and left. We remained quite until he left.
‘I don’t understand. Your opinion about that is always an idea, like you said mine were. How can you state that it’s the way things actually are? How can you for certainty claim that what I believe in or the faith that I follow is wrong?’
She seemed more in control today than our tirade before. I was glad that finally we will be able to discuss this without an outburst.
I took the salad leaf with my hands, ignoring the fork. Always liked touching what I eat. Using these senses. It was so beautiful. She waited while I chewed the crunchy lettuce leaf.
‘Have your lunch, while I devour this salad. Since you asked me, I shall tell you but you must promise me to listen…truly listen with your ears. Let what I say be understood by your head. Detach your feeling when you listen. Pretend as if you are reading a book. What we are having is a discussion, not an argument. Understand this. My intentions are not to hurt you nor am I saying this in any personal context. The truth is simple, its you who complicate it’
‘Not you personally but all of human beings. You expect things to be complex where it is not. You seek to hide. You don’t want answers, you want orders. You are a scared race. Fear is your driving force.’
‘Fear?’ a piece of chicken dangled from her fork which she held in her hands.
‘Yes, fear. Think about it. Forget your religious books, let’s not even go there. It’s filled with words to inspire fear. Look at your life. You live in constant fear. You are taught to fear early on in your life. The boogy man will come to get you if you don’t go to sleep. You will grow thin and die like those kids on TV if you don’t eat. You will be living on the street if you don’t study. You will spend all your life alone and miserable like that aunt if you don’t marry at the correct age. You have to put up and compromise your needs in your marriage if you don’t want your husband to leave you or worse find someone else. You have to have a child for ‘what will the others think of us’ and then you do the same to your child. You live in constant fear. So it’s not surprising that you are scared about your god also. You created him to be a fearful god.’
‘Created God? We didn’t create god, he created us.’ She had stopped eating. Yet this time I didn’t feel from her repulsion, she wanted to know.
‘You do believe that you are made in the image of god?’
‘God is attribute less, which means that you can attribute any qualities to him and that too will be him. You take away any qualities, yet he will not diminish. He is experiencing himself through his creation. So you can give god any mask and everything will fit. The god you worship is created by you. All forces in nature are neutral. You can harness those forces. God too is neutral. You can harness god to create anything. Like electricity, wind, sunlight, gravity…anything. Think about it. Electricity is responsible for the light in the bulb, but you created the bulb to harness that electricity to create light, you created the heater to make electricity into heat, the electric car to create transportation. The forces exist for you to harness any way you choose. So too is god. Nothing is hidden from you. You can learn and understand the working of the infinite by just observing the world around you. Nothing is complicated, everything is simple. Your fear prevents you from accepting the truth.’
I stopped here. The salad was beckoning me. I let the time I spend eating for her to assimilate what I have revealed to her and to give her time to finish her food. She ate in silence. So did I.
We didn’t say anything even when the waiter brought the bill, which was paid by her, absentmindedly. I smiled at waiter and thanked him before following her out.
We walked towards the bookshop.
‘I still got 40 minutes more before I open the shop again’, she said. ‘ I normally go and sit in that park until its time , sometimes I bring a magazine. Would you like to join me? I would like to continue the conversation’
She lead the way to a park near the restaurant. It was a median converted into a park, with couple of benches and some trees offering shade from the sun and well manicured lawns. She sat on a bench which was not too sullied by pigeon shit. I sat next to her.
‘ What about evil? If what you say is true, then you can harness god for evil purpose also.’
‘ Yes you can.’
‘ That does not seem right.’
‘ Why doesn’t it seem right? You are assuming that god will reject any evil purpose done through him. Is gravity responsible for the death when you push someone from a building? Then again what exactly is evil? Is not good and bad a perception ? Sati was considered in ancient times as an honorable way for a hindu widow to die, today you find that barbaric. Women were tried ,tortured and put to death in Salem in the name of witch craft, today you would laugh at the reasons which could have condemned a person then. A man murdering another is considered by you as evil, yet when your courts sentences him to death, that becomes justice. Everything is relative. In the natural order of things theres no chaos. Everything is perfect, where it should be, how YOU want it to be .’
‘ How can you call the world around you perfect?' She retaliated, ' What about the thousands dying of hunger in Africa when surplus food stocks are being destroyed or wasted in other countries? Why wasn’t the earth created with equal amount of abudance ? Why are some fertile while others are not? Why are some cruel and others kind? Evil exist all around us and only by god’s intervention can we hope to survive in such a hostile world. Its only by his benevolence that we can understand and be good human beings in this world. I belive that we are punished to live amongst evil and if we hold god within us we can surpass the evil around us and become one with gos and live in paradise. I belive that we are given this so that we will strive for paradise….’
‘where is god in this picture?’ I enquired.
‘Stop! Let me complete' She snapped, 'I know what you will say. This is all to do with us. Where does god picture? God exist all around us just like evil. All around us is the battle between good and evil . Just like there are good people and bad people. Just like there are fertile areas and deserts. By going with what you are saying and that if I have to understand the working of the universe all I have to do is look around me , then what I see is a constant struggle between bad and good. If everyone obeys the commandments that has been given by god himself , we can make a heaven on earth. Jesus has said that the kingdom is at hand, I believe that if we can all strive to be like what has been told to us to be, then we can remove evil and change the very world that we live in and make it the kingdom. We can have heaven on earth.’
She stopped. I was ecstatic . Finally she was speaking , revealing.
Passion . What is life without it?
Questions…what is life without it?
Anger…what is faith without it?
‘ Let me get this clear.' I said, 'Evil exist and so does good. God is good and evil is not part of his design. You live in this world that is abundant with bad. God has given you a set of rules to live by to overcome the bad times or rather understand what is going on around you and if the whole world lives by these rules then the evil will cease to exist and you will make the world around you heaven … hmmm.. is it only me or do you also see how naïve that sounds? You had answered most of your questions in your question.What I understand from what you just said,is that you are the one who has to do all the doing. You have to live by the rules. You have to make the changes. You have to obey. You have to. My question still stands, where does god picture? The one who made the rules? He creates a world , makes it intentially evil and then puts you there and gives you rules to fight the evil and make it all whole again. Where is the reason? For what purpose? Divine plan? Whats divine about such a sadistic plan? Seems to me that the odds are stacked against you and pray, let me ask you, what does happens if you don’t partake in this game? Are you punished? Why are you punished for not accepting this game that god seems to have invented for his own delight? Aren’t you capable of understanding that you are behaving likes pawns when you are given enough sense to understand or know when you are being a pawn? Don’t you think its more pathetic when you are aware of your status and yet you continue your actions and thoughts? Don’t you think its cowardly? Did your god want you to be cowards?’
She looked at me. The afternoon heat enveloped us.
‘ So much hatred .' She wispered,'who are you? There seems to pulsate from you so much anger. Are you asking me or are you stating? Why do I get this feeling that this is not a passing debate between two strangers? You are here to get an answer. Iam no longer comfortable. I don’t think its because you are shaking my faith any longer ; its something about you. Who are you?’
There always comes a time in my existence that my real self shines through. If you meet your conscience on the street, either you will consider him your best of friends or your worst enemy . No matter who or what I portray when I approach you, I have learned to realize that , some inane sense in you always recognize me for who iam. Iam not you.
‘ Iam whoever you want me to be.' I answered,'Iam one like you, who sees things and cannot accept this drummed in concept of how our religions wants us to be. I see and understand my real nature and respects it, knowing that that what iam is the only real thing that I know exist. Every thing else is a perception . my view of the world around me. To me , acknowledging without understanding is the worst sin that I can do to myself. Therefore iam also a questionnaire .’
I sat back . The wooden bench back rest was warm. I knew that I have answered her question to satisfy her for the moment. Later on , when she is lying down in her bed with her husband she will see that I haven’t answered her real question. What am I supposed to tell her? Iam the devil? That is always such a conversation stopper.
‘ So,' She retorted,' in order to get your answer, you seek it from others? So your truth , or whatever you derive as your truth, will have to come from another? Is your questions meant to understand or is it meant as a prelude to my teaching of your truth? Either way you just negated your concept of your understanding, of your real self. If you know the truth , why do you question? If I knew the truth, I would shut up’
Sometimes you realize yourself. I have seen that for eons . In my presence you become sometimes heroic. What she said was so true. When you come upon real knowledge you will become silent. What else can you be? No one who has not experienced it will be able to understand it. Explaining it will be like the age old story of the blind men who describe what an elephant is. So, the only solution to an enlighted one is silence. The eternal paradox : I have caught up ,now you catch up.
My test for her was far from over. Like most of you, in the midst of your emotions you have struck upon a truth. A truth still remains a myth until you realize its worth , its potential to release you. So I stalled . If you can recall and still feel its worth , given time , then you know that you have stumbled on something worthwhile.
‘ Its getting late. You have to open the shop’ I stood up.
It never ceases to amaze me how much you value your work. You seem to always forget that you started to work as a mean to sustain your life.
‘ You are right,” she said, glancing hastly at her watch.
She got up from the bench and we walked towards the book shop. We didn’t speak until she reached the door. She took out the keys to open the door. The keys wre dangling from a cute mickey mouse keychain.
‘ I will see you later’ I said, moving towards the road . She turned towards me and smiled . She had forgotten.
I watched her as she entered her library and went into her automode of turning on the lights and arranging the books on the counter. Then I dissipated.
Pride. I agree . Whats the fun in being what you are if you cant be recognized?
I saw her surprise in not seeing me where I was supposed to be when she sat at her desk. But it quickly vanished , when the next customer walked in.