Imagine a classroom with 100 students, all of them chanting praises for you, using exquisite vocabulary to describe the greatness that you are. How do you feel? Good? Well, then, add one teeny meeny modification.
Same scenario, except, none of them truly fathom the meaning of what is so passionately coming out of their mouths. What about now? Do you feel just as good?
That is what I observe around me. Every time.
And each time I send a silent ‘I get you’ to the Father up above.
It is that time of the day, when my parents will hastily switch on the television, mother will be lighting the lamp and she would be as flustered up as ever. Father would give me that expectant look to join them on the sofa, a look that by this point he feels obligated to give. I will act oblivious, per usual. Occasionally, when they are having a particularly bad day they glare at me with two pairs of dazzling eyes or perhaps even start a fight. Not today, thank God. The last time hadn’t gone well, due to obvious reasons. It was like a scene out of some Korean drama. I truly believed there was no need for the hysterics. Our society, however, won’t allow that, especially in matters concerning something as sensitive as religion.
“Why can’t you pray?”, she demanded.
“I do pray, I just don’t find the need to pray the way you do.”, I retorted. That earned me yet another glare.
“What is wrong with the way we pray?” my dad tried to reason, the expression of utter disappointment on his face.
I simply snorted. This is probably the millionth time he had asked me this question and I certainly wasn’t delusional enough to give an answer, hoping that the millionth time would do the trick. I was perplexed as to why they were finding it so troubling to understand. Prayer, according to me, was a one-on-one communication between a person and God. Of course, I wouldn’t be interested in sitting idly in front of the television while a dozen girls, all dressed in matching clothes and wearing proper make-up, mind you, look at the camera screen and chant continuously in pure Malayalam, so pure that I found it hard to believe if they themselves understood what they were shouting. And let me not get started with the speed, every prayer was rushed as if they were in a Rapidfire game, not their fault though, there is just so much you can do when you’ve been asked to finish off an entire Rosary session in half an hour. Who cares if it serves its purpose or not. Yes, that’s right. I was expected to sit silently and watch this and that would supposedly be considered praying.
I tried not to judge for a long time. My policy was pretty clear cut, pray and let pray. But then they started judging, and I truly found their naivete hilarious. I was wrong , because I preferred praying alone behind closed doors rather than with my family, staring intently at the television screen. I was wrong, because I scripted my own conversation with Father rather than memorizing and robotically chanting prayers created decades ago by others. I was wrong, because the conventional ways didn’t satisfy me and I couldn’t force myself to adhere to them even for the sake of show. I was wrong, period. More importantly, though, I didn’t mind being wrong in this. And so kept lying on my bed, waiting for my house to start echoing with the noise of the television, a deliberate indication to the world that my house prayed.
Strangely, that indication never came. It was 10 minutes past the scheduled time of the show and house was silent. My curiosity forced me to move my lazy body and go inquire.
“Isn’t it time for your Rosary?”, I asked my parents, who were sitting by the balcony sipping on hot tea.
“No, we can’t, the TV isn’t working. Signal issue.”, my mother shrugged and then continued her tete-a-tete with father.