Who am I?

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I am not religious, but I don't mind calling myself spiritual. Religion, I believe, has, over the millennia, been used as a prop to perpetrate a lot of human suffering. Faith is what matters. I don't believe in the definition of God as a creator. According to me, my God resides within me. Some call it conscience, some call it the sub-conscious, some call it the soul. I don't mind calling it God. So by definition I am not an atheist or an agnostic, but by essence, I may as well be. My God does not reside in a temple, church, mosque or gurudwara. It is right here, within me.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

When Death Whispered in My Ear

How often do we complain about our life? One just has to take a real hard look around and one notices everyone carping over unsatisfied desires, unfulfilled cravings. Little do we realize the importance of this life, whatever we have. Many a times, people have acknowledged the unpredictability of life only once they experience a defining moment which shatters all their hitherto presumed ethos. Let me take you to the night of February, the 17th, 2010, to explain what I mean.

Sudhanshu is comfortably steering the Mahindra Scorpio down the road to Chandigarh. We are returning from Hisar from the marriage of a friend’s sister. Prateek is placed in the navigator’s seat. I’m listening to Remember Me Lover by Porcupine Tree with a single earphone cocooned comfortably in my left ear; Bulla, sitting on my left, is listening to the I-pod from the other earphone. Jassi is sitting on the other end of the back seat, while Sangwan and Tanuj occupy the perpendicularly placed hind-seats at the back. The road has narrowed down a bit in this stretch. Vehicles, big and small, pass us by on the other side, the glare from the oncoming head lights blinding us each time. The vehicle runs at around 100 km per hour, though the speedometer of the rented vehicle does not function to vindicate that. The clock shows 9:31 pm. It has been barely 10 minutes since we started after halting to wolf down paranthas for dinner. It is while I’m trying to focus on the ethereality of the song when I, like all of us in the car, notice that the vehicle passing us by on the other side was no ordinary vehicle. It is a tractor carrying with it a huge pile of dried hay on its back, with the width of the hay far exceeding what could be assumed as the actual width of the vehicle, looking at its headlights. The glare, blinding us like it does, does not make the line of the thick stacks of hay protruding from the sides of the vehicle visible to us. So it is only when our vehicle just crosses the line of the headlights of that tractor when Sudhanshu, along with the rest of us, notices the thick stacks of hay protruding from its sides, which make the actual width of the vehicle twice its original measurement. Picture driving at a hundred km per hour, and suddenly you realize that the road ahead of you, a puny 5-7 metres ahead, is blocked and the only way out is to steer sharply towards the left, out of the line of the hay stacks. So this is what Sudhanshu does. Our Mahindra Scorpio makes a crisp left turn, exhibited sharply, at a hundred. Before we could consider ourselves blessed for being forgiven by the ominous stacks of hay, Sudhanshu has to take a sharper right to steer our vehicle back towards the narrow road. And this is when we feel our vehicle on twos. Two wheels, in case you are wondering. Let me slow down the time for you people to picturize and vicariously feel what we felt. My minds continually wavers between the two extreme thoughts – we will make it comfortably back on the road; oh no, we are not going to make it. Let me be clear when I say this – had Sudhanshu been a bit lax in pulling back the vehicle to the road with moderate strokes of the steering wheel, or had he been less attentive, had his reflexes been slower than they were, either we would have slammed into the stacks of hay, giving an angular momentum to our vehicle at a hundred (imagine that!), or, had we come unscathed from the stacks of hay but had our vehicle not been pulled back after that, it would have upended sideways and would have undergone numerous somersaults on the unforgiving tarmac before we could count our remaining bones, that is, in case we could count at all. But life has a way of giving you another chance just at the moment you feel everything is lost. This is exactly what happened next. Miraculously, we found our vehicle steadying on the road, its right to left, left to right oscillations getting less wild each time. And that is when we realized what just happened. It all took not more than one and a half seconds.

All of us, awestruck, exchanged our thoughts on our lucky escape for most of the remaining journey. The most serendipitous thing about the event was that at our stop for dinner, Sudhanshu had asked everyone what we would like to do in case we have only five more minutes to live. Little had we known then that life has a defining moment in store for us, barely 10 minutes away. Remember Me Lover (serendipitous again, eh?) by Porcupine Tree is the song that I would have been intently listening to at my last breath, had life decided to not give me another chance. This event reinforced my beliefs with respect to everything in life. Enjoy every moment as if it is your last. Stop crying over spilt milk. Like the Rolling Stones song goes: “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you might find – You get what you need”. Life is short; only a big heart is necessary and sufficient.