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If No One Exists Except You, O God…

By Rahul Singh

जब कि तुझ बिन नहीं कोई मौजूद फिर ये हंगामा ऐ ख़ुदा क्या है If no one exists except you O God Then what this hullaballoo is about?

- Mirza Ghalib

The busiest square of Allahabad that has recently been introduced to traffic lights wakes up with a start when the bells of Hanuman Mandir start ringing in their full fervor. Whether it’s time for the aarti or not I don’t know but it certainly is the time when the temple is full of people. Restless people. It’s easy for a self-proclaimed rationalist to fall into the trap of irony apparent to people like him. Irony of people seeking peace right in the middle of the city where the sound of temple bells fuses into the sound of uncontrolled traffic that makes a traffic policeman standing right in the middle of the square go berserk with his lathi and tongue, “Maa ke l***e, bole rahe toke ki ihaan se mat jo. Bhaag b*****ke!” (mother’s c**k,

I told you not to cross the road this way. F**k off!).

A perfect intonation of the musical collaboration of the sonorous sound of faith — deeply spiritual and hence abstract — and the quotidian noise of traffic — real and necessary. Exactly like the cuss word used by the policeman — enunciation of a non-existent entity (for the lack of a better word) being a perfect expression of the fiercest of emotions — anger!

Regardless of the sound of the temple bells, the square springs into action in the evening as it is the time office-going, humble citizens are headed towards their respective homes to contribute to the quietude this city has inured in every nook and corner of its dusty landscape. The sound of the temple bells is yet another banality imposed upon the square. It has no significance at all, no reason to exist for people passing by except for the fact that it contributes to a significant portion of traffic by sheltering the huge murti of Lord Hanuman.

It is the reason it’s called Bade Hanuman Mandir.

People do come to this Mandir to make wishes. Unlike other holy sites in Allahabad, it is not associated with any ancient tale praising the deeds of any of the 33 million Gods. So, the rituals are not specific unlike the wishes. Somehow it is difficult for people to realize the grand scheme of things planned by God for this universe is too magnanimous for their petty wishes of getting a job or giving birth to a son. But they do wish for these things. Probably unconsciously believing in the butterfly effect. Who knows what job the young man might get after all and the son that was born to the newlywed illiterate couple might end up becoming the much awaited tenth avatar of Lord Vishnu! But they are not the ones to know and understand butterfly effect. Not because they are not smart enough but because they have never been exposed to such concepts. They have not wondered in awe that two seemingly mutually exclusive events might have a deep-rooted connection. But they pray anyway and genuinely believe that lighting a diya or dedicating a laddoo to the Bajrang Bali will somehow lead to the fulfilment of their dreams. Maybe it is self-awareness they lack.

But what leads to what anyway? Can everything lead to everything else? If the answer to this question is no, then it makes no sense for the people to wish for something that is not directly related to issues someone as important as God would be concerned about. Why do they pray then? Are they not conscious of the fact that God is too busy taking care of the functioning of the universe?

The answer, I believe, lies in two words — hope and faith. Unreasonable hope and blind faith to be precise. They hope that their voice will be heard by God and this obviously is a follow up to the faith that God exists in the first place. If you take your assumptions for a walk, far away beyond the realms of reason, into the romantic getaway from what is usual and logical, they metamorphose into faith and faith is a powerful tool. Even more powerful than Bajrang Bali. In fact, it is faith that lends power to the huge murti of Bajrang Bali.

But is it wrong to have faith? Do we not sometimes assume that we are the lead guitarist of a heavy metal band and at the same time a classical music maestro who mesmerizes the audience by his rendition of beautifully crafted ghazals of Ghalib and Faiz? Maybe I was too specific with my description but you get what I am trying to say, right? We do delve into the world we know we do not inhabit and that soothes us somehow. That is what art is for. For taking us away from the usual and logical stuff. But where should we draw the line when it comes to taking our assumptions for a walk? Where should we stop for a reality check?

That’s for our judgement of a situation to decide.

Let’s go back to Ghalib when he says:

If no one exists except you O God Then what this hullaballoo is about?

Has the assumption of ‘existence of nothing except God’ been metamorphosed into faith yet for Ghalib? Of course not! The second line clearly suggests the fallacy of assuming that Ghalib is acknowledging the existence of God. It is obviously a sarcastic comment made by him that leads to the knowledge of what Ghalib expects from his God — opposite of hullaballoo. Peace. What kind of peace? The answer to this question varies with the degree of metaphors you want to subject this thought to. For me, this hullaballoo is the noise of our feet stomping the firm ground of reality while we make the journey to come at terms with our faith. It is a to and fro journey between doubting everything and blindly following the beliefs ingrained in us since our childhood. It is this doubt that makes us pray to the almighty to, say, get a job while we know that he is busy running the universe. It is the sound we make to capture Bajrang Bali’s attention. It is the sound of the temple bells and traffic fused into each other.

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