Bamboo Flower, A novel – Part 9
“Bamboo Flower”, serialized here, is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
continued from last Sunday
He continued: We live today in anticipation of a better tomorrow. Otherwise, why do people commit suicide? What is that state of mind when a person decides to take away his own life? Or what are the colours a dying person sees? Will I see rats when I close my eyes to die?
Then, he said in his mind: As humans get smaller, places of worship get bigger. Are not religions loud? If they are not loud, why should there be such big and imposing places of worship? Or are the followers of different religions making “statements” by such huge structures? He quietly resolved that if he could have his way anywhere he would profess for less elaborate and more humble structures. Wasn’t it a delight to recall that the “Sylvan Deities” he was familiar with, had only little quaint temples in very natural surroundings with old and big trees covering them as canopies, he told himself.
For him as he again closed his eyes the more visible religions in general in Manipur for long have been Hinduism, Islam and Christianity and now there are also “Sanamahism” as some began to call the old Meitei religion and as distinct from Hinduism, Buddhism in a small way and a host of Hindu sects, cult believers of like Sai Baba and groups like the Brahmakumaris and of those Baha’i believers and any number of Christian denominations and then there are also the devotees of Lord Krishna of ISKCON or International Society of Krishna Consciousness.
He was unstoppable : what about those who have been leaving Manipur to migrate to Israel thinking that they were leaving their “temporary homes” to return to their place of origin, believing that they are “children of the biblical tribe of Manasseh” and they claim to be descendants of one of the ten lost tribes of ancient Israel even if these tribesmen whose physical appearances are not any different from all their neighbouring tribes, were converted to Christianity about one hundred years ago from “animistic beliefs” and yet it is believed that they followed religious rites similar to those of Judaism recalling that they arrived at Manipur via southern China, Mongolia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
He liked what he was thinking and continued: We, humans are such slow learners. Yet, once we learn something, we tend to keep what we have learnt for long. What relationship does insecurity have with religion? Our insecurities probably drive us to seek “beliefs” to calm ourselves. Otherwise, why do we rarely change from the religion into which we are born?
He knew that the religious beliefs he was referring to were of the people of his homeland who could broadly be called “Ancestor-Worshippers” in addition to be professing modern-day religions. So, he again started thinking if there was something different from the so-called world religions. Then, he added one question in his mind: Is there a proto-religion?
He did not want to finish what he had started and told himself that managing the “self” must be the most fundamental human instinct. He also added in his mind: In this quest for “managing the self”, religions were born.
Whether there was Ancestor-Worship, Animism, Pantheism or Shamanism in his homeland there was the “self” to take care, Rajen reminded himself and murmured: I, Self, pursuing for the Self; managing the Self; my Powers, am I strong? Respect the “I”, when do we look for others for one’s own safety and security? Don’t you first need to feel safe and secure to be happy? Safety, security and happiness are all that we chase. Is fearlessness not different from being feeling safe? There seems to be a higher value in being fearless.
He would have been happier to continue thinking. Finally, he told himself: My thoughts are my own. Others can access everything else.
The Universe, the Solar System, Earth, the World, Asia, India, Manipur, then my locality, my house, how do I make all these a better place? were in his mind. If I can do something to make life a little better by doing something to control the spread of rats, I will be contributing to the well-being of all, he reasoned.
When he saw his wife approaching, he only said, ‘Death is real.’
‘Yes. Of course. We will all die one day. Some sooner than later.’ The wife replied
‘My grandfather had a good death.’ He said
‘Why make distinction in death? Death is death, good or bad.’
‘No. Dying at home with your near and dear ones around you is good death. And having a natural death is different from a dead body found floating in the river. Well, some are worse. You know there can be death and yet you may not have any proof and you may not get to see the dead body itself. These are not good deaths.’
‘However, the most prized possession of a living being is “life” itself.’ He could not help saying. His wife only nodded and said, ‘yes, of course.’
‘Stories of dead bodies found in the mornings by the police have only increased.’ The wife added.
‘They say that most such bodies were of young men who were once “underground”, present “underground” cadres or are “informers” of the security forces.’ She continued.
‘No. It is not as simple as that,’ was all Rajen could say. After saying this he began to think about his cousins and wondered if they would also become just bodies soon.
‘Why should we not be weary of the explanations for the killings and atrocities?’ he was to ask, more to himself.
He knew the wife wanted to say something more. He went in to change. He had been waiting for this. The mike sending out words of “Beliefs” and wisdom of the Priestess, Shaman was now quiet. He could now walk to the temple. He would pray alone. It was the concluding day of the festival and he knew that since the mike itself was quite for a long while now the Priestesses and the caretaker himself had left the place.
Then, he remembered long time ago, to begin the “last rites” he had bathed the dead body of his grandfather because he was the closest available surviving male descendent. His cousins were “underground”. It was an eerie feeling when he entered the enclosure to be near the body to lift the white pall that covered the upper open side of the coffin. However, once the task of using water and towel was underway there was an overwhelming fulfillment. This was the only time the Brahmin left him to be with his grandfather’s body during that act of giving passage of the dead into the unknown, so he thought. After that it was again in the hands of the Brahmin to be cremated at the village cremation ground. There were Brahmins and Sanskrit at such occasions because they were considered Vaishnavite Hindus, however strongly they believed and practiced their ancient beliefs and rites, he reasoned.
………to be continued
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