Prateeksha, Mumbai May 30, 2008 10:03 am
(to be read in continuation with DAY 39)
Prayer and reverence were not a mandatory occurrence in the house. We were never guided into following a particular divinity. If we felt pious we went ahead and did what came from within.
My early years of school were spent in a Convent and later in a Christian Missionary establishment. Going to Church or the Chapel was a part of a voluntary curriculum. Around that time my Father translated the Gita in the language and rhythm of the Ramayan, a very unique rendering initiated by a gentle and benign sage of his acquaintance, and in the mornings the four of us in the family would sit and sing from it together. During College days I was taken by my Mother to visit our relatives from her side ; all Sikhs, land owners and all farmers in Punjab and UP, in Lucknow and Jullunder and Sirsa and we paid our respects at Harmandir Saheb in Amritsar. The peace and tranquility and the ‘vani’ of the Granth still rings in the ears and the purity of the dip in the Holy water body around the Golden Temple a heavenly feel that has remained with me for years. When my Mother passed away we took her ashes to the Sangam in Allahabad, to Haridwar and Varanasi and Chitrakoot – a location she was extremely attached to, and we ended that journey at Harmandir Saheb where we were joined by all her relatives in prayer. My cousins from my Mother’s elder sister recited the Granth the entire night as my Mother lay in Prateeksha waiting to be put to flames the following morning. The blessings from the priests form a dedicated presence in my house and in my Mother’s room which I have kept the way she left it, as I have my Father’s room.
When I came to Mumbai to pursue my current profession I stayed for a very extended period of time with one of my dearest friends in the city, Anwar Ali, the younger brother of the great comedian, Mehmood. During the shooting of ‘Bombay to Goa’, my first film as leading man, Annu and I visited Tirupati together; our first visit. Annu’s older sister Baby Apa who looked after us like her own children, prayed for our well being at the Haji Ali Dargah. It is a place of worship that Annu and I visit several times in the year. That and a smaller dargah at Worli sea face. After which I bring him along to SiddhiVinayak. During my overseas visits I have had the privilege and the reverence of some of the greatest places of worship. From Rome and St Peter’s to England and its historic Church’s, even a visit to the Vatican and a personal audience with the last Pope. My dear friend Anil Ambani and I have through his meticulous organization been able to seek blessings at BadriNath, KailashNath and AmarNath and some of the great temples in Gujarat. Amar Singhji, a family member set up my recent visit to Dwarka and PashupatiNath in Kathmandu, Nepal. Some of my dear producer friends in Chennai have given me the honor of paying obeisance to prominent shrines in the entire Southern region of our land – temples, churches and mosques. I have even, with them, performed the rigorous and disciplined pilgrimage to Sabrimalai with the mandatory 40 days of abstinence. During my near fatal accident in 1982 on the sets of ‘Coolie’ my room in the ICU and the space under my pillow used to overflow with sacred waters from every corner of the world – the ‘aab e zam zam’, ganga jal, the Holy Mother Mary and threads in the hundreds and ‘vibhuti’ from various temples a symbol of the prayers offered by millions for my life.
After all this, would I now go to the Almighty to ask for something ? All the above is my greatest blessing and gift. I ask for nothing. I believe that there is a hidden force that exists, one that we cannot see. There is so much in the universe, in our world, that is beyond explanation, answers for which we do not have. I revere and respect that. I go to HIM to give my thanks. To seek strength and protection to exist with honor and grace. I cannot prevent the media from making it look like a public spectacle. I do not and never have invited them to follow me. They must do their job as must they do and I mine. My religiosity is my democratic prerogative in a free society. No one has the right to question it or to paint adverse malicious comment. My visit of worship is my private moment by constitutional decree and I am not obliged to divulge my purpose. Media will always have the right to speculate on it. I may agree or disagree with it but shall fight with my life for their right to express it.
The portals of divine presence belong to no particular individual. HE is the only VIP. In HIS presence all are equal. I deny any special treatment meted out to us. For better people management certain locations have intricate procedures in place. If it is accessible to all and if I fall in any one legally programmed category I shall avail it. My presence there is that of a devotee; as one with the others.
If my visit is an inspiration I feel blessed. Inspiration is important for the human breed. It is important for progress, in art and literature and speech and belief, in our daily lives in our very existence. We are inspired to do better to improve to correct our faults to better ourselves and society.
But I will not be inspired by wrong thought and its ugly manifestations.
I am most disturbed and immensely upset and angry by anti secular comments made by certain elements on my blog. I shall not mention them by name but they must know that they will never be entertained or acknowledged here. They are ignorant and wrong in their assessments and accusations. May the LORD forgive them for they know not what they do or say !
Yes I am a common ordinary man. My beliefs and actions are similar to every other. I shall bow my head, be servile and subservient to an inspiration of faith.
Because it is our tradition.
And because my Father writes –
“Manushya ko apni parampara se bahut door nahin jana chahiye”
Human beings must not go too far away from their tradition !
In hope and peace,