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.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

A walk through small town England

A group of sheep, fenced within a garden, bleating profusely
while running around excitedly

This is an excerpt from a longer piece I wrote in my journal:

After the beer at the bar, I went out. I had hesitated going out earlier because rain seemed imminent, but when this imminence seemed to be dissolving into permanence, my confidence grew. The foreboding dark grey did not seem as gloomy once I stepped out. I had spent some time on Google maps figuring out the area and trying to locate some good places to eat around, so I chose my direction and started walking. When I ended the walk, an hour and a half later, the weather was still exactly the same, I felt extremely alive, I had a take-away pack of Chicken Chowmein with me and it was nearing 8 pm, but still bright and beautiful.

The small-town streets and houses of Batley, a small town
near Cleckheaton, about 20 mins away from Leeds
The streets were lovely, with a sort of small-townish charm about the houses. I saw a girl walking her dog and also taking a brisk walk with that excuse, and a dad playing ball with her 5 year old daughter in their front yard. I saw a small dark and discouragingly gloomy exit from the main road, and through thick foliage and across a narrow wooden bridge I arrived unexpectedly upon a small pond. There sat an old man fishing at the pond, with endless patience and perseverance, now throwing his bait far into the water and now keeping the fishing rod to his side and waiting expectantly. After watching this charming spectacle for a while, I walked around the pond to take an exit to arrive upon a grassy upslope, which had caught my eye as soon as I had arrived at the pond. Across the road was a church, antediluvian and morosely stolid, hidden and silent, not expecting much from the world around it. As I walked on while the church bells clanged 7 times, the vista opened up in front of me and I saw hundreds of tombstones rearing their heads, some before the others, this one rounded and stout, that one tall and elegant, some with pointy tops, others more conservative and flatheaded. As I walked into the graveyard, reading the engravings on the tombstones, I realised there were stories abound.

The small pond upon which I stumbled where I found an old man
fishing calmly
A person, who had died at the age of 82 in 1889, was buried there. At the same place and explained on the same headstone was the fact that his wife, who died at 61, was also buried alongside him. At the same place lay their son who died at 18, and his wife who died at 74. Just this small sentence was, I felt, richly laden with stories. To start with, even at that age and time, the father had lived a long life and died at the ripe age of 82, at a time when  a lot of the communicable diseases did not allow us to live as long and carefree as we live today, something evident in their son passing away at 18 years of age. It’s interesting that only a son lay here. Did the couple have only one child? Or maybe they had only one son and the daughters chose to be buried wherever their husbands lay. Maybe they had another son who they had fallen out with, who had never stayed in touch with them after reaching adulthood. 

The old church which was right across the cemetery, silent
and phlegmatic
The wife also seemed to have lived to a respectable age of 61, but this also means that the husband probably spent the last two decades of his life a lonely man. Or did he? He could have been a decade younger than his wife, and that leaves him alone for a shorter span. Or maybe, at some charity event, he had come across an old lover who he had known before his marriage, who also was a widow. Maybe they had hit it off and had spent their last few years in each other’s company, but it would have been sacrilege for this female to not be buried where her own husband was, so maybe after she passed away, she went back to lie with her own husband, the love of the first 40 years outweighing those of the last 15. 

The graveyard which opened up suddenly in front of me while
walking across a grassy meadow
And what about the son? His early demise can be attributed to, let’s say, smallpox. But he was already married by the time he passed away at 18 years of age. His wife, facing a whole life before her, found herself at crossroads. The possibility that she remarried, yet chose to lay next to her first husband in the afterlife - the husband who had died 56 years ago at a tender age, even before she could get to know him well - seems unlikely. This leaves the possibility that she chose to not marry after her husband expired, and spent 56 prime years of her life alone and as a widow, choosing to be buried next to the memories of her husband from over half a century ago; by the time she was on her deathbed, she hardly remembered anything meaningful about him. Or maybe she lived a life of profligacy after her husband passed away, having lived with different partners in various parts of the world, but coming back to the family of her one and only husband and spending her last few years with them, finally lying in the ground next to all of them.

Or maybe, just maybe, truth is much stranger than this, way beyond our comprehension and estimate. Human lives are complex and despite so much commonality of experiences and education and world events that people end up living through, the end product that each one of us becomes is always unique, colouring our experiences with our own singular personalities. I could only extrapolate and imagine the lives of the people lying there, but the truth will always stay buried.

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