The kebabs we had for lunch were awesome. Tender, crispy, just perfect. Finished off with Cabernet Sauvignon and another perfect meal was thus ended. Later braving the irregular Boston streets and making use of the great American feature that is the expressway, we were out in the suburbs heading home, when I suddenly decided to take a detour. Just on a whim, I took the exit onto temple street and proceeded to the Ashland Laxmi temple. None of my companions said anything, but the question hung there, like juicy kebabs just about to drop from the skewer. I had just slaughtered a few innocent animals, washed them off with alcohol, and I hadn’t even showered. And here I was, at the temple, in all my non-vegetarian, unwashed glory. As I parked, one of the company announced his intentions to stay outside owing to his having consumed a goat. As I removed my shoes, I felt guilt finally stab. ”You uncouth creature…at least you could have bathed”.
Was I wrong? I personally felt that I failed, not because of my perceived sins, but because I felt guilty. I did not have any reason to, I hadn’t done anything wrong. Or had I? Was non-vegetarian consumption a sin? Surely then scores of people on the world couldn’t worship, even most Hindus. Didn’t Shiva himself live in a cemetery? Did not the ancients sacrifice goats and loll about in jars of soma? And then I thought of my people, all pious, washed, sinless and vegetatively fed. I went to the temple because I felt like it. That’s all. No moon positions influenced me. Nor did any sins ask for absolution, and for once I had no favours to ask. The temple itself is in an exceedingly beautiful area, with several small streams and woods and that drive alone is divinity. At least it is to me.
Nevertheless onward I pushed. It is not in me to reach a destination and deny myself entry to it. So I went and did whatever I do usually. I prayed, I sat quietly, I asked for stuff, I watched people affirm their faiths. And all the while I was thinking. Furiously. And I was frustrated that I was unable to reach an answer. Essentially whether I was wrong would depend on whom I asked. Like India itself there were several variations, but everyone absolutely seemed to agree on the depravity of my unwashedness. And I realize that this is a conundrum that I myself have to solve. Does a bath wash the turkey off me, like the Ganges? Does alcohol dissolve into righteousness under the cover of night, to be replaced with piousness when the sun rises? Can I eat and drink after I visit the temple?
There are no rules. There are actually, but they too are shifting, allaying themselves to the times, to popular opinion. Its’ my life, my Gods, my sins, my blessings, my dharma, my karma. Or is it? Isn’t my family linked to my karma? Why is it so complicated? Wouldn’t it be just easier to confirm, not just to appease the ubiquitous others, but to also silence the beast within? And from clarity emerges chaos again and I am drawn into a whirlpool of questions. I see all my friends clearly, meat eaters and unalike, all clear in where they stand religiously. Firm and faithful or equally firm in their faithlessness.
My road it is to drive, and I have a lifetime to explore it. Laying the Questions aside, I accept the Prasad noting that the priest has a leather jacket on to protect him from the biting cold.
PS: idlichutney celebrates it's 50th post. Thanks to all you readers. We love you for reading us. :) And the writings shall continue.