Returning from a Veda class K is part of every Thursday when I am away learning business, he casually mentioned a Satyanarayan Puja at one of his classmate’s place. Weary of pujas and trying to express my new found skepticism for anything to do with religion and faith I paused before I asked if he really wanted to go. He nodded convinced. Putting away the decision to join him or not, I filed away the information in the recesses of my brain.
This morning checking email, he brought the topic up again. I’ll go I said. With 20 minutes to reach the puja on time, I debated between a saree and a salwar. Opting for the latter I was ready in a jiffy and we set out. On my ride there I was worried if I would find anyone I knew, if I would be uncomfortable in the midst of men and women discussing their kids. Putting my party face on, I walked in to a cheerful woman who introduced herself as the hostess. I immediately felt comfortable. I handed over my jacket and looked around and saw a couple of people I knew from different social circles. Finding a spot at the back of the room with a wall to lean on over the course of the two hour puja I settled comfortably. Saying hello to a couple of new people I elected to watch people rather than talk.
The puja got underway and I was amazed at how I fit in naturally. Repeating after the priest there was a warm familiarity in the words, the intonation, the chorus of voices raising and falling in waves. I enjoyed his rendition of the chants, pausing in between to explain what each hymn stood for or interjecting with appropriate stories to keep us entertained. Sitting at the back of the room I realized how the priest had become so much a part of the community we lived in. Much like the friendly grocer who called to let us know of the rice bag that had come in or the owner of the desi restaurant who knew our order even as we walked in. The very things that annoyed me merged into an understanding and acceptance. As he wrapped up the puja and started the aarathi, I was glad I went.
The evening proved to me that faith and rituals are an anchor in my otherwise rocky journey. I may not know or understand the inner meaning of the words I say aloud or the rituals I follow blindly but the actions and the words moor me to something beautiful I cannot express in words. As I pick and choose what I follow and what I want to discard, I realize I can never be agnostic. I will probably create my own customs or morph existing ones to suit my needs but deep inside me I believe in the existence of a power beyond what I can comprehend.
Buoyed by vibrations in the room I felt, I stood in line to fill my plate from the food laden table. The motley bunch of men and women welcomed and intimidated me in turns. Finding a spot to sit in silence to ruminate on the evening I soon found myself in animated conversation with the people around me. I realized it did not matter that I was in the company of veteran moms. The conversation jumped between food and home and kids and professional lives. Like faith, for the first time, I exercised control on what conversations I wanted to be part of and did not feel sidelined or awkward. For the first time I felt in control of my feelings.
Back at home, adding the email id of a new friend I made today to my contacts list, a smile plays on my lips. I feel like I am entering a new phase of my life. One in which I feel in control. One in which the possibilities are endless. One in which my faith has reinvented itself.
To new beginnings. Cheers!!!