I was at Shirdi this weekend. I find it very crowded and all that, but I love sitting at the Dwarkamai when I’m there. It’s very soothing. People inside that quadrangle are much calmer than those who compete for a longer glimpse of Sai baba inside the temple; who push aside older ladies and snarl at children wriggling through queues to locate their mothers. If one could gauge or measure such things, the space inside the Dwarkamai is on some other frequency altogether. I was sitting quietly in one corner when a man came and gave me some prasaad. It was a ladoo. I remember thinking that the yellow of the ladoo would look very nice on a lotus.
I like the Sai baba statue in Shirdi. The marble is a beautiful moon-shine white. In fact, it has a bluish-vein tint to it if you look at it from certain angles. But the best bit is Sai baba’s expression. It’s so joyous – he looks like a loving, indulgent grandfather.
When I was there, I wondered where I’d gone wrong – so wrong in my judgment of people and situations; so wrong about my own abilities. Of course, I do understand that there’s nothing right or wrong about people or situations – they are either necessary or not. Any situation that’s going to make to face your fears is definitely going to come your way. There’s no question about that. So, I suppose, the deal is to not be afraid of anything.
But how can one not be afraid? How can one not balk at the uncertainty of all life? How can I not feel scared about running out of money when I get old? Or become dependent on people and not own a house or a car? Or even if I have a car, then not be able to afford fuel? And what if my parking space is taken over by someone? Or what am I going to do after my parents are no more? And what if I have no job? What if Bombay gets submerged by the time I’m 35 and then I have to move to Pune where the only food available are poisonous potatoes? I love potatoes.
Then what about loneliness? What if I go blind? And I can’t even read books anymore? I have not yet cultivated any habit or hobby that doesn’t engage my eyes – after all these years, I still need to look at the keyboard and type. It’s really weird – when one has to think of times of rationing one’s senses.
But as acutely as I was thinking all these things, I sort of got this feeling that all these thoughts are superficial. Deep down, I know that it’s all going to be okay – much more than okay. The worry is like the film of oil on water. It’s really thin and flimsy and all, but it’s still on the surface. It’s what I can see.
Near the Dwarkamai is a Shani temple. Now I’m not sure about this, but Shani is either the planet Saturn or the Lord that governs this planet. He is perceived to be the most ruthless and harsh planets because he brings destruction and loss in his wake. Shani is supposed to be the planet that compels you to pay your debts, or collect your dues if the case applies. Some bits of Hindu mythology speak of how the mandate of Saturn influences even the Gods. This planet is supposed to trigger the karmic slate to be wiped clean. With this, you begin your period for getting what you deserve and losing what you don't. No wonder, then, that people are so anxious to placate the Shani deity. Generally, people pour oil on a dark, stoic-looking idol on Saturdays and recite the Hanuman Chalisa. Legend has it that Hanuman is the only God that could control Shani. This, of course, is just one interpretation that I am aware of. I’m sure there are others.
But personally, I think people shouldn’t fear something that operates purely to give them a fresh lease of life. Why regard it as malefic? If anything scuttles away layers of falsehood so that you know exactly where you stand, if something forcibly unclenches your fist so that you lose resistance and gain liberation, one should be grateful for that kind of experience. Anything that is fair is always regarded as unduly stern. Just goes to show badly we think of ourselves – if we consider the possibility that we will get what we deserve, we assume we will get blackened, tough experiences, and not happy, uplifting ones.
Instead, people turn to alternatives that feed a fragile sense of well-being. That, to me, is so calamitous. How can you rely so heavily that can lull you into delusion? It’s better to know where you stand. There’s no act more benevolent than cleansing the soul. But I think it takes time for one to understand this.
There’s a beautiful song in a movie called ‘Gardish’ that sums up my impression about this whole dark deal. ('Gardish' is a great film, by the way.) Jackie Shroff goes through life thinking that his father, Amrish Puri, is unduly severe. Later in life, I think he loses him and falls on hard times. That’s when he reminisces about his father’s love. This song is set to that memory:
Hum na samjhe the, baat itni si,
Aap sheeshe the, duniya pathar thi...
How little we understand of all that we know.