In case you are wondering how to spend a lazy Sunday, what to cook on a lazy Sunday afternoon, leave everything to Cafe Chinois. Well that’s what we did last Sunday. Located on the Frazer Town road, above Daily Breads, next to Global Access, this is a nice and cozy restaurant serving pan Asian cuisine. The best part is the Sunday brunch at Rs. 250/- only this includes soups, salads, rice, noodles, curries, deserts, a non alcoholic drink, cold cuts, breads, eggs, preserves coupled with very warm staff and equally warm owners.
Photo Courtesy:- Vinayak (lighttripper)
I get a very strange feeling when I see old dilapidated houses. I mean for me, there is only home and not house. So when I see old ruins of abandonment, I see abandoned homes. This photo also gives a very sad and haunted feeling juxtaposed with mystery.
I am so intrigued by this photo that I feel like going and knocking on the door where people once came and were welcomed by the lady of the house. I want to go inside and touch the walls which echoed the shrill cries of a playful child. The courtyard where grandmother must have put mangoes to dry for pickle. The bathroom which troubled mother with a leaking tap. All has been left behind, the bricks peeping through the walls in hope…just in case…
Old houses are like old parents, children grow up and leave behind old parents. This house also has been left behind by its owners, unkempt, uncared for, alone…
Mother: Soooo… you want to become my son-in-law. Suitor: No, but I don’t see any other way to marry your daughter.
In the month of Jaishtha , there is a festival among Bengalis called, Jamai Shoshti -a celebration meant for the beloved son-in-laws. Usually during shoshti, the sixth day of the lunar mothers fast for the well being of their offspring. Shoshti in the month of Jaishtha is dedicated to the son-in-law. On this day, the mother-in-laws pray for their son-in-law’s good health and fortune. After prayers, they are treated to a scrumptious dinner and new clothing.
This year Jamai Shoshti fell on Monday, 9th June. I was feeling lazy since morning so decided to bunk office. Vinayak stayed at home to give me company and 12 p.m. when I finally woke up, the carpenter was there to repair the Kitchen door. Vinayak’s 1st Jamai Shoshti after our wedding, started on an insinuation, when the carpenter quipped, “I would not have come to this house had I not promised to come. This place stinks.” Yes, our home stinks because of the always pooping dogs that we own.
Maa lives in another city, so she had given me special instructions to make Vinayak’s day very special and cook all his favourite food. But the kitchen was virtually sealed for us and we ordered chocolate mousse, crab masala, prawn fry, mutton pepper fry from Mangalore Pearl. By the time we were all ready to go out to celebrate Jamai Shoshti, it was 8 p.m. We decided to go out, pick booze and food. We bought wine and some cold cuts from Food World and I made some sandwiches after coming back home.
In the evening as Kenny Roger’s crooning went on, we were reasonably drunk and decided to do justice to the wine by making love to each other in all our tipsiness..
While we were at it, we could hear the clanking sound of Allepey’s heart shaped leash locket. But we did not care. When we came out, there were empty plates which once had food especially laid out for my Vinayak on his special day. Our two puppies had partied on all the food that was there when we were busy coo chi cooing in the middle of the night.
So there it was Vinayak’s 1st Jamai Shoshti feast in the tummy of our doggies
They asked, “Do you believe in God?”
I said, “Yes.”
They said, “Great, we are doing a Vishal Bhagwati Jagran. We need you to support us. Please donate some money for the cause.”
I said, “But I don’t believe in all this.”
They said, “But you went to Vaishno Devi last year and you just said that you believe in God.”
I said, “Yes, I do believe in God but I don’t believe or relate to Vishal Bhagwati Jagrans. I don’t like all the loud, screechy bhajans that you guys and all those women sing for the entire night in the name of God. To me it all looks like a big show off to flaunt your money to support such extravagant cause of performing a Vishal Bhagwati Jagran. Why cant you use the money for something better?”
They said, “But you donated to the Ram Lila samitee, are they not loud? Don’t they make a lot of noise the whole night?’
I said, “Yes, I did give them money. But that was not for any religious purpose. Ram Lila is an art form and I associate my cultural identity with it and that’s why I support them and encourage children to celebrate Janmashtami, Rakhi, Bhai Dooj. Its for no religious reason but for a cultural, ethnic identification. These things have been a part of my growing up days. Part of being of who I am, my country, my city.”
They said, “Ok, so you mean you are not religious but you believe in God. Right?”
I said, ‘Yes, I don’t think religion has anything to do with my belief in God. Because I don’t associate God with a Jesus, a Ram, a Durga or a Kali. To me God is plain and simple my belief in something more powerful, unknown. Someone who is supervising all my actions and helping me in all my acts. Punishing me for all my karma, keeping a track of all my deeds, giving me company when I am sad and lonely.”
They said, “OK so you are one of those spiritual beings. It has become a fad these days, you know.”
I said, “Spiritual. Well I don’t know if I am. I don’t know what it takes to be spiritual. I don’t do any of those things which any spiritual person would do. The dhyaan, Samadhi, sadhna, mantras all those esoteric thing.”
“I just believe there is something which I can’t see but I can feel its presence everywhere. I have talked to that entity many times . Its something I can’t explain to other but I know it has always been there.”
They said, “Whatever, we can’t understand. Anyway, the Vishal Bhagwati Jagran is tomorrow from 9 p.m. onwards. Even though you don’t believe in all this we would still want you to be there. It’s a community affair you know.”
I said, “Yes I know. Thanks for calling me, I will be there.”
“Namaste, you also a devi bhakt.?”
I said, “Excuse me? Oh Namaste! Devi Bhakt, well I don’t know. I like looking at sculptures. They all are a piece of art for me and the way the artists sometimes put life in these sculptures, it makes them look so full of life. Though we like to believe that its Devi or Devta who is about to speak to us because its so real. We always forget the effort that the sculptor must have put in the making of the sculpture to make it look so life like”
“Hmm!!! My name is Vishnu. I am a priest and you?”
I said, “My name is Devi and I am a nobody.” I smiled back at Vishnu and said, “Nice to meet you.”
Vishnu said,“Yes nice to meet you too, Ms Nobody.”
To which we both laughed.
Vishnu said, “I can see in your eyes that you have a lot of faith in Mata. You almost love Mata like you love your mother.”
I said, “Oh Really?”
Vishnu said, “Yes, I can see that. You see I am a priest and I can also read faces. I have been doing these sadhanas for a very long time. So I am certain that you love Mata.”
I said, “Ok, may be if you insist. Have you ever seen Mata?”
Vishnu said, “Yes I have, I see her almost every day.”
I said, “Really? That is fascinating. How does she look like?”
Vishnu said,” She looks like any one of us. She looks like what you want her to look like. She can come as an apsara if you want her to, she can also be fierce to look at, if you want her to.”
I said, “Wow, but why would I want my Mata to look fierce?”
Vishnu said, “Because that is also one of her personalities. The fierce, naked, blood thirsty woman as mother. Someone who everyone is scared of but when she appears in front of you, all you can see in all her horrifying site is pure love of a mother.”
I said, “Wow. You seem to be an interesting man. Tell me more. What is this Mata? Are you talking about the various female deities that we worship. Are you calling the Kali, the Durga as Mata?”
Vishnu said, “Precisely.”
I said, “But how do you know Kali or a Durga looks like anyone of us?”
Vishnu said, “Because I know, because I see them every day, every where.”
I said, “And how do you know that they are not a figment of your own imagination?”
Vishnu said, “You don’t believe me do you? What if I make you see them. What if they appear in front of you?”
I said, “Well, I would love to see a Kali or a Durga to find out if they really look like the way you described them or if they are simply a creation of your imagination. If you make me see them, I would go, see a doctor also after seeing them to be doubly sure of what I saw was actually what I saw. You know what I mean?”
Vishnu said, “Yes I know what you mean. You are an atheist. Aren’t you. A non-believer. Mata gives darshan only to those who believe in her.”
I said, “Sir, no offense. But Atheists also are believers. They are the believers of non-belief. And just because I don’t believe in your Mata does not make me an atheist. I believe in God. In fact I have seen God. I see God in every small detail of life. I speak to God every day. My God is my companion. My God does not talk to anyone else but me because it is My God”.
“We all have our own Gods that we want to believe in. We call God by different names. To me it is simply God. For you it may be a Mata, to someone else, it may be simply a question of faith and a positive thought. We all have our own Gods.”
” I don’t know if I am religious, spiritual or anything else and that is why I call myself a nobody. A nobody has no shape, no smell, no feature, no light, no darkness, no nothing. Its is Nirakar. I am sure you must have heard of soul being Nirakar. To me God is Nirakar, one who has no shape, size, appearance, face, structure, body, matter…a nobody. As Rahim, the famous poet in the Great Emperor Akbar’s court had once said, “One who has not seen God can talk a lot about God. One who has seen God can speak nothing about God.”
I continued, “How do you know that Durga wears a sari like the way we make her wear? How do you know the fierce faces that you see is of Kali’s?”
“Keep going back in your own mind, keep traveling back as much as you can till you reach a point when there is no one around. A point where all you are concerned about is your own survival in a jungle. A time when there was no language, no script, no social interaction. A time when all you knew existed was you, animals and trees and the forces of nature. A time when you did not know how you looked or what a human looked like. When you reach that time traveling through your mind, tell me how does God look like to you then? Do you still see a Mata, a Kali adorned in blood, a Krishna playing flute? What lead to a belief in the existence of spirits and Gods? What lead you to experiment continuously to find out the presence of God or presence of no God?
“The diseases that have been killing people for centuries now, were once thought to be acts of God which we now know are acts of organisms or other flaws in our own living condition. But that does not mean that there is no God. I have felt things myself which I can’t explain to myself with any amount of reasoning. I am sorry I don’t believe in what you say God or a Mata looks like. May be that’s your belief which has done a lot of good to you but it may not do anything to me. If you really want to help me, help me find answers to all the questions that I have. Questions about the facts and authenticity of astrology, Vedic sciences, Vedic hymns and their beneficial effects. The how, what, why of all the rituals that we have been performing for so many years. That one point of contact in our history of existence which made religion, belief in God and spirits, cycle of births etc so strong that today there is a huge divide between the believers and non-believers. Tell me more about the human brain that we know of and the brain that we don’t know of or can not explain, the things that we feel sometimes, the instincts, the strength that leads mind to over power matter, the intuition, the extra sensory perception, telepathy, the unexplained psychology of things, beliefs and value systems.”
“Can you help me Vishnu?”
Vishnu had no answer and we continued seeing the puja being offered. He kept chanting some mantras as the aarti was being done, I closed my eyes and said a little prayer as I waited for my share of the tasty Prasad.
I had always been an average student in school, atleast that’s what everyone wanted belive. What they did not know, that I was the “average” of all “experts”.