My mother isn’t an Atheist. She does, however, have a love-hate relationship with God. To her, there is a huge disparity between the ‘good’ in the world and the ‘bad’. God took her husband away, deprived her children of a father, and gave her eldest child a chronic illness for which there isn’t a cure. Her catchphrase for the past few years is, “If prayer worked, there wouldn’t be sick people in this world.”
Ironically, my mother faithfully sends a prayer to the Almighty every morning and night. My brother and I have questioned her bold display of hypocrisy many a times, and her response remains unchanged, “I pray out of fear. I don’t want anything bad to happen to either of you.”
My mother typically gives a good argument; she supports her opinion with examples, facts gathered from the crime channel, and a bold, fiery anger that could easily be mistaken for passion. On one of my ‘bad days’, when illness has my mind on lockdown, I am unmistakably my mother’s daughter. I cling to her righteous anger like an unborn attached to the umbilical cord. I question the way of the world. And I dismiss the power of prayer as yet another illusionary construct created by man to cope with hard times.
And on my good days, I pause and reflect on all the times that prayer has helped me. But has it really been prayer all this time? Or has it been my fate, my destiny, to overcome a predetermined set of obstacles in the manner that I have?
Answers don’t usually come to me in a grand manner. I haven’t had the proverbial lightbulb randomly go off in my head (Eureka!) and I have yet to emerge from meditation with the answers to long-standing questions at the tip of my tongue. It’s more of a slow realisation that gradually dawns on me. Kind of like how a computer or cell phone downloads a large app.
My mind was downloading some kind of epiphany one night as it played back the day’s events in rapid succession. My brother, panicked and afraid saying that he’d had a major tyre blow-out on a dangerous highway. My boyfriend and I jumping into my car, determined to find my brother using Google maps. My boyfriend, brother, and I locked inside my car, waiting for the tow-truck. My breath catching in my throat each time some stranger walked past us. All three of us playing a nerve-wracking game of “I spy a potential hijacker.” The tow-truck arriving two hours later.
As I lay in bed beside my mother, the sounds of her snoring nothing but ambient noises, I still couldn’t decide if it was prayer or fate that led to our safe return home. Bad things could have happened that day. But they didn’t.
I kept replaying what my mother had said about fate being set in stone the second one is born. And I kept picturing my 88-year-old grandmother, tired and slightly out of breath, walking around the temple, her belief in the power of prayer so strong, so palpable. Two different women, two different life stories, two distinctly different perceptions.
Then my busy mind connected the dots in an unspectacular but still rather rewarding fashion. We all have our own stories responsible for shaping our perception of the world. My mother believes in fate. My grandmother believes in prayer. And me? I’m still collecting life experiences to formulate my own hypothesis.