Faith and Firsts

Sunday, August 07, 2022

I went to a temple today after two decades or so. 

I know, I am just as shocked. 

The whole experience felt similar to that of accompanying a friend at a gig where you know the opening band but are not a big fan. What do you do in a scene like that? You hang tight, next to your friend, copy their movements, and mirror their signs; if they headbang, you try to headbang, if they mosh, then, well you awkwardly stand protecting your peace. 

Right, the temple then, it was a lot like being at a gig. It was loud, smokey, and an overload of smells— sweat, tears, alcohol, fumes and flowers. Alcohol? Yeah, they use whiskey to treat and honour God. A sensory overload but a bad choice of brand for the alcohol, not one, but all. 

We didn't prep to make it in time, but the evening prayers were on in full gusto. I went into a spiral of thoughts— the first school picnic where they took us to a temple, and my then best friend and I refused to go inside ("communal" but never mind that we went to a Catholic school); that time in Varanasi where my college best friend and I refused to step foot inside the temple everyone recommended us (my grandfather was especially disappointed to hear that I went all the way and came back) and then again at the crematorium where my grandfather was laid to rest. I travelled back and forth in time and felt adequately discharged, emotionally bankrupt by the end of it. The music— conk shell, drums, bells— the works were all rising by the seconds, getting louder, like a fully rehearsed set going to the finale; with the devotees ending it with praises to the god. I felt it was wrong for me to be there, as an agnostic, as someone who doesn't identify with the facets of the religion offers, and yet, I somehow belonged there, by the virtue of my second name, the family name, but there's only so much the name can help you with. Can you possibly be in dissonance with your identity carved for you as an infant when being born in a family defines your faith? 

There were other firsts this week- taking charge of my emotions after a long fucking time and knowing when to pull the cord. Sunsetting something good is never easy but purging what needs to end is a critical part of life. This week, I scabbed at my wounds, pulled the plug off a promising relationship and ended my journey on the dating app as well. Regardless of what "well-wishing" friends say, it was good while it lasted and as always, there was a lot to learn and grow from. I don't want to count the pleasant vs non-pleasant and recall the sentimental parts which made me feel strong enough to bet my whole future for a boy in a different city but there were takeaways from it. I know I have it in me to write a lot more than I do, I know I lived enough of life in the last two months than I did in the past two years combined, it was a whirlwind, it was honest and it was painful; all of it was strong enough for me to quit what I signed up to, take a month's time and write a script. 

But life, 

it doesn't work in a way where we can justify everything on vibes. 

We can script fiction but real life doesn't allow us to miss flights to make new connections, fuck everything to spend a day in bed with someone we never once met and spend the next morning making promises that we never will fulfill. Real life is made up of small moments, where you go to the washroom and put your hand in your hair and stare at yourself in the mirror wondering if your morning face threw the man off or whether it was your ability to be vulnerable and tell him you expected this to be nothing more than a one night stand when you were both hoping against it? You live a lifetime in those tiny moments, in between a washroom break at work or walking to the coffee machine for your morning fix. But in fiction? Those tiny moments amplify to become huge, you order a club sandwich from room service, you tease one another and mutter silent "i am sorry" when you're taking a work call. You are awed by their kindness when they want to just help you and please you as you wonder, what did you do to get there with them? Someone you didn't know 24 hours ago is now holding your hand and clutching your heart. 

You didn't do anything to get there with them. Your faith created a fiction so potent in your head that you lived through it and convinced yourself you earned it, you deserve it and you made it. 

You didn't make anything. It was just fictional. Like the gods, we worship and pray to and make alcohol offerings. The difference is, that one takes place in a plush hotel, on comfortable sheets, white enough for you to make lies on and the other takes place in a public space that you share with a hundred odd people, feeling giddy. 

You don't belong in either one. You belong in the office washroom, living in the moment. Staring at yourself and wondering if you've aged ten years in the last month or if it's your haircut. 

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