all around me, people pray. they wake up and say their morning prayers. then they pray while bathing, while watering the holy basil plant, while walking on the road, while and before and after eating, and so on. everyone is of the opinion that prayers are important. i was such a person once upon a time. i used to pray like hell. sometimes for myself, sometimes for others(they want children- please god, or she is dying-she wants to live please god). and at one fine and important point of my life i realised that in my whole life none of my prayers were answered.
at that point of time, i was very angry. i was dejected. how come god never listens to his devotees? what does he do then? lot of weight on my little brain then. what about the others? are their prayers answered? what do they ask for? so, i set off to the temple. i wanted to talk to the people there. ask them the real reason as to why they came to the temple.
there was this lady there. she seemed very calm. her hands were gripping each other. her lips were moving, but i couldn’t hear a thing. she was sort of like, silently praying. i decided to ask her first. so i sat down next to her and waited for her to notice me. for what seemed like ten minutes or so later, she offered me the prasad. i took it with a mumbled thanks. then i asked her, “aunty, why do you pray? are your prayers answered?”
she was smiling, “yes darling, all my prayers are answered.”
i was a little shocked. she saw it. she then asked me,”what do you pray for?”
i told her, the so many times, i had prayed, sometimes with tears streaming down my cheeks, pleading over and over again. she gave me a light hug. then i asked her, “aunty, what do you pray for?”
her beaming smile, was somehow, oddly attracting. she replied, “i pray to have courage.”
“oh, but everyone has courage”
“no beta. i myself never had courage. let me tell you a story. when i was small, my mother got cancer. we did surgery after surgery. i was around twelve. my dad and i would take the best care of her. she had lived with that cancer for three years. somehow, at that time, it seemed that god was listening to me. all the chemos went successfully. mothers condition was improving. dad was finally smiling. i was very very happy.
and then one day all of a sudden, she was dead. she died in her sleep. i was shocked. i would cry and cry. i wouldn’t talk to anybody. i didn’t attend school. i was depressed. all day, i would curse god. this way, a year passed. no progress. then my dad came to me one day. he was very worried about my future.
that day was my birthday. he told me, “honey, lets go to the temple. today, you have turned thirteen. dont we have to tell god that?”
“what’s the point dad? god is very busy with his other problems. he wont listen to mine,”
“oh, he will. what will you ask for?”
“i will ask for mother” my eyes were welling then.
“you know that is not going to happen. and wouldn’t mom be happier now? free from all the painful surgeries, all those hospitals, all that pain?, why do you want to bring her back now? to go through all that again? what is the point? why make someone live only to inflict that one her? honey, if she would have lived till today, she would have been a shrivelled up corpse, that breathed. would you want that now?”
“no papa” i had said among my tears.
somehow that little conversation with him helped me. i recovered. i went to school. i began to live normally. hell, i became a doctor! and yes, i believed in god”
i was listening to her closeley. every word. i could feel the pain in her words. the heaviness in her voice. at the same time there was some sort of happiness in her. an infectious sort of happiness. “but why? how?” i asked. “you asked god to keep your mother alive. and god took her away. he did the wrong thing. he betrayed you. how could you still believe in him?”
“but beta, how could he have answered my prayers, when i had been asking for the wrong thing? how can i expect him to keep someone alive? or dead? he doesn’t make people, to kill them. it was not his fault that my mother died.”
i was tired now. i was angry too. angry that she was so calm. “then what is the right thing to ask for? ” i snapped.
“the right thing to ask for, is courage. the courage to sustain. the courage to lose someone, and still survive. the courage to accept the ups and downs of life. the courage to assist someone in their grief. the courage to be happy, and satisfied with the million problem in life. the courage to believe in him, when you lose all hope.”
“are you courageous now, aunty? does god answer your prayers now?”
“if he didn’t, i would not be here, talking to you. it is only with the courage he gave me, that i faced all that came to me. and i have survived, unharmed and unhurt until now.”
then, she got up. pressed her hand on my shoulder for a brief moment, and left. leaving me pondering over what she had just told me.
did i have courage?
no. i break down for the smallest of things. i grieve for too long. i depress myself too much. if i had courage, i would be like that lady. going to temples, meditating with deep calm. i would be happy and satisfied. i would be facing challenges with a brave smile, rather than the wary one i usually carry.
ever since, i have been praying. i must admit, im a bit more courageous now. so god does answer my prayers, although slowly. but, hey, at least he does!