Saturday, 1 August 2009

Mice, Men and the Moon

The following article has been written by Gobind Kataria, who lives in London. He was a lecturer in English at K.C. College, Bombay, from 1962 to 1966 and then finally, before retiring, an Education Adviser in the UK, after a series of teaching jobs. He has been living there since 1966.

A couple years back, on my walk through the streets of Mahim, I saw a huge rat, the size of a kitten; pass by me nonchalantly, unafraid, almost like my fellow humans. No one attempted to kill it nor even kick it or harm it. It was a specimen of life, a form of creation, blessed by gods. It had as much right to live as I have. This was despite the fact that rats can cause plagues, diseases, etc. But, do we have any right to kill them? We are probably a superior creation, so we think, we are the creatures made in the image of god whoever that god be. And this reminded me of an old history lesson. When the invaders came from Arabia or Mongolia, all they had to do was to push cows in front of the army. We would not touch a cow, and the brave Rajput warriors stood silent while the nation was plundered. The gods on the moon looked on.

The moon landing shook my grandmother's faith. She would say, so, there are no gods on the moon. These godless Americans and Soviets, meat-eaters, beer swilling westerners have landed on the celestial part of the universe of ours. Bollywood films would be without those ceremonies by females in their half-exposed dresses worshipping the moon for the longevity of their husbands, who would always turn up late after a session at the club. Never seen a man praying for his wife's long life unless of course he is old and dependent on his partner. And now comes a little bit of the past, those golden days of Karachi – a paradise lost.

And you will ask me what is this old blogger talking about. I will of course take you back to Karachi. Memories haunt me, so I must unload them somewhere. Imagine a narrow street, our Bhagnari temple on one side, and the girls' pathshala (school) on the other side. It was believed that Kabir or some saint had left his footprint in that building and it was well preserved, and we would quietly go up the stairs on our way to the Night School. If I remember right, most of our Bhagnari young girls were educated in that Hindi school. That was the height of education. Our roles were all fixed. The society was orderly and the rules were simple. Men were the bread-winners and women were, of course, homemakers. Nothing could go wrong in that world. But then it was all reversed. Outside the temple, I stood there one day arguing with my dear friend, Issar Popley, an intellectual influenced by the Soviet system. He was one of those rare Bhagnari intellectuals who dedicated his life for a cause. Ramesh Poplay is his son, as you all know. I believed in God and gods passionately, and he was not convinced. We argued for hours. I said and still do, that God and religion are two different things. God lives through our heart and faith and love. Religion is created by men, whose business is to create a system. The rituals take over the gods, who are eventually forgotten.

God cannot be argued, proved or disproved intellectually. God can only be experienced through our heart; we can sense him, intuit him but can't prove him. A poet once wrote: we men are hollow, we men are lonely, we men are alone. Our future is uncertain, our fate predestined and our release can be through the final exit. Deep in our hearts we know we are on our own. What goes through our minds cannot be confided to our wives or husbands or friends. It is the deep-seated insecurity. Just talk to gods - they would not charge you a penny.

We can't stand our own company. So we turn to drink or flesh. It doesn't matter; he may not listen to all the rubbish we ask for. He works as a psychiatrist. You won't have to go to a therapist. God just is a great therapist. As I sit in my old sofa, meditating on the unknown gods, I say to myself: I would not see a true God, but how does it matter. We have this beautiful creation, colourful, with birds singing through the windows. Well, that is what is wrong with the western world. It is godless, too intellectual, too rational. At every street corner there is a therapist or a pub. Drink your way to eliminate your loneliness. It is fast happening in India, we are losing our gods. But then, my friend, you would ask me: Do you think God exists. Well, of course, he does, in our minds, in our fellow beings and through our love and hearts. Do not ask many questions - just see how our universe is finely balanced. Remove that force of mysterious gravity and we float in the air. It couldn't all be an accident as some scientists would make us believe.

I am in my ripe old age and when I get up there (heaven and hell are poetic creations made by the religious bigots to frighten us) I would just ask God one question. Is this world real? Well, He would say, perhaps: illusion, my son, we need the illusion, this mess, this chaos. Reality is hard to bear. Without illusion earth would be a dull place.


  1. Dear Gobind,

    A very thought provoking blog and almost like a trip down the memory lane. Keep writing!!!



  2. So very true. We look for God every where and when we have lost faith in God we have lost faith in ourselves.


  3. Hello Uncle

    your memory lane down to Karachi revived my memory of my mom talking about her childhood in Karachi where she had mentioned going to Hindi school. It must be the same Hindi school. Her name was shanti nasta.

    Also I think you are a seeker of truth and would like to talk a little about spiritualism, which is above all religions. Sahajayoga meditation by Shri mataji nirmala Devi talks just about that and we can be connected to the divine cosmic vibrations right now by awakening our kundalini.

    Sant kabir had talked about it in all his verses which we could understand better
    after our awakening.

    Thanks once again for speaking out your heart

    Mahesh Khatri