For someone who doesn’t follow any religion, oddly enough, one tends to find oneself in the vicinities of believers. I’m fascinated by the varied paths that lead to God, exactly the way I am with men (kissi aanken achi he, kissi ki awaaz achi he) but ask me to live with one and I will flee, in the opposite direction. I do enjoy the show, let me admit that. People frantically prostrating in front of a book, kissing a door frame, idol worshipping, beating oneself up in the name of God, all of it is quite lovely to watch and capture. Javed Akhtar, once declared during an interview that if you didn’t give a child a religious upbringing, he /she would be much more logical and feel no need to follow anything, or anyone. I have my doubts about the logical, but with the rest, I concur.
The Qawaals at Qutub Sahab’s Dargah, find my what my brother called ‘nastik’ ways, odd. Ever so often, someone will ask, ‘Andar’ and I sheepishly smile. ‘Apne mein to hum jaate nahin, janaab aap walle mein kyaa kare jaake?’ I want to ask. But people are usually appalled by real talk. So, I buy the flowers, spread them in front of of a door, sprinkle some ittar around that area, light the agarbatis, not at all for a God or for a wish to be granted but for all those who will end up kneeling there, hoping the Sufi, a friend of Allah, will help convey their message to him. There’s undeniably a beautiful energy at these places, that activates a part of you, which is normally dormant and I love the music, all of it, whether it’s the arti, a qawali, a hymn or a kirtan. So, even if you are an atheist, an agnostic or just simply rebellious, like me, it’s a good idea, to visit places of worship just for the vibrations.
The God one believes in, can’t be found in these places, of course. Mine is a limitless one not restricted to a place, not even restricted by good and bad. He can be felt in the wind and seen in the sky. Each time I weep, in the middle of the night, he answers my prayers. He’s in my ego, my ‘chaud’ ( my father calls it), my belief that I will get through it, however tough it is, by myself, against all odds, against the entire world and its mother if it has to be. I’ve felt him in the most beautiful and the most devastating places at some of my most ecstatic and torturous moments. But mostly, I find him in the words of teachers and poets. Every time, I despair, a teacher or a poem appear from somewhere, that propel me forward. Today, the one above did the trick.