Friday, July 8, 2011

The Birthday

“When was God born?” asked a fifth grader in my General Knowledge class today.

I fumbled, broke pace and glanced out of the third floor window. Right across, invisible to the eye but just beyond the school boundary wall was the Jain temple. Walk past it on the right, a few paces and you were at the famed Sai Baba Mandir. Local lore had it that he school’s happy and prosperous air derived from the positive vibes in the proximity. Several Lodhi Road inhabitants including many of my colleagues were regulars at the temples. ‘Prasad’ in one form or the other, was a recurrent component of my school snack. While I functioned as the school hostel’s deputy warden, some of our student examinees were persistent in their desire to visit the temples right before their critical exams. Early morning sandal tilaks were common on small foreheads, as were the red coloured religious threads on plump forearms and wrists.

We celebrated the days of the birth of Vivekananda, Pandit Nehru as also India, the nation but God’s birthday? Was He born? At all? Ever?

I turned back to the forty odd pairs of eyes with their question marks flashing at me. The author of the query stood close to my table, patient and expectant.

I cast about in my mental hard drive. God as in a representative figure like Jesus or the Prophet or the Avatars?  There were historical figures available to pin their arrival on the planet. Would that be an age appropriate and accurate answer? Although, were they God or His sons? What really went on before them? Is God an immutable reality or an idea that sprung forth after the Big Bang and in the first man’s head, of all the things? Or does it work backwards, to say that God existed before existence came into being.

I heard a notebook fall to the ground followed by some scraping of the chairs. “May I drink water”, asked the originator of the train of thoughts!! I nodded absently and gazed after the hurriedly scampering form.

Like most Indians, I dipped my head just a shade when within visual distance of a religious place. At every significant family happening, there was the mandatory thanksgiving trip to the Gurudwara. My conversation was peppered with the word ‘God’. Thank God! Good Lord! Wahe Guru! Hey Ram! God promise! Lord have mercy! Allah be praised! In the name of heaven! God willing!

But when was God born?! 
I gathered my cerebral tumult as the end of period bell jangled harshly. One look at the rapidly disintegrating class and some words fell out of my surprised mouth, “It is hard to say since there really is nothing like time in reality. It is us humans who made calendars and days and hours.” I stole a quick glance at my audience, gathered up my teaching paraphernalia and made good my escape just as their trance dissolved and they began to nod their heads in acceptance, reserved exclusively for the junior school teacher. 

Note: Pics by Aqseer

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