Am I really as smart as I think? (God and Other Minds??)

I can see you already rolling your eyes at the title of the blog. Smart??? Before I go any lower in your estimation, let me jump right into what this post is about. Let me ask you a question. “Who is God?” Scholars, historians, religious symbologists (Robert Langdon anyone?) and basically every person with a social media account will try and answer this one. There are so many theories, verifiable and non-verifiable facts, so many assertions and just as many contradictions. So much so, that we have all collectively agreed to disagree on what we each believe and that’s putting it mildly.

I myself staunchly believe in God and the verity of the faith in which I was raised, if not all the rituals. The incident that I am about to narrate amused me greatly but also made me think. This post is one more drop in the ocean and can easily be dismissed as the PoV* of a child; but maybe you can dig deeper on this one and find yourself surprised at the results of that introspection.

Before you go thinking that this post is about 25 practical ways to improve your memory or helpful hints to elevate yourself from being part of the ‘Great Unemployed’, let me step in and throw a spanner in the works right there! I never promised you a practical blog. That stuff is for the movers and shakers of the blogging community. Me, I’m content with eschewing all ambition (personal and professional) for both me and the world and settling for just critiquing anything and everything that I perceive with my jaundiced eye (I’m at the top of my own list. Maybe I should have just been a columnist).

“Mami*, what does the word grant mean?” piped up the voice of my husband’s 5-year-old nephew Varad. He was completely hidden by the back of the recliner in which he was sitting. This boy with his insatiable curiosity and appetite for knowledge was a pleasure to have around.

I was glancing through the newspapers as I absentmindedly looked up and located the source of the question. “To grant means to give someone something” I mumbled and went back to the paper. I should have known better than to think that that was the end of that.

“Do my friends grant me presents on my birthday?” Varad persisted. He was a kid who liked to have all his facts straightened out. I scrambled around n my mind for the right way to put the meaning across. “No kanna*, the word grant is usually reserved for someone bigger and more powerful giving us things” I managed, not entirely certain that I was doing justice to the meaning. There are so many different contexts to the word after all. From my torturous engineering days, I even remember some tosh about grant and revoke commands. Does the computer qualify as a higher power? Let’s not even go there. 

Normally with kids, you just give them the simple explanation, the fundamental meaning regardless of context and they are satisfied and you, in turn, can rest assured that you are still smarter than them. At least for the time being. With Varad, it’s not that simple. When it comes to him, I cannot always be certain that I have satisfied a curious mind or helped him gain more insight into something. Instead I am left wondering if any person in their right mind would admit that I was the smarter one.

I should openly acknowledge that when it comes to dinosaurs and well *ahem* a load of other GK trivia, Varad is the authority, no question. Who are we kidding? It is only because of him that I even manage to pronounce a few of the names of those prehistoric behemoths. I remember once when we were looking through a picture of the prehistoric ocean and I spotted a shark and said “Varad, look at that! Sharks lived millions of years ago and still exist today” with the air of one who is imparting an unknown factoid of information to a small child. He shut me up effectively with a calm “Yeah. That’s a megalodon.” Do I even need to mention my ignorance in this quarter? You get the picture. (And yes, I’m seriously rethinking the title, OK?)

In this situation we came up with God and members of royalty as possible candidates for being able to grant stuff. Typical of him, he wanted to know who else could grant someone something. ‘He is a child!’ I told myself firmly and, in a valiant effort to give him a smart answer, I informed him that a Genie could grant wishes provided of course that one finds the magic lamp and proceeds to rub on it.

It was heart-warming to see the childlike look of wonder and the beatific smile that blossomed on that little face. He is still a child after all.

My sense of satisfaction at having successfully reverted him to the mental confines of one characteristic of his age, lasted a minute and a half.

“Can we all make our own Gods?” was the next question. I gazed at him stupidly for a couple of seconds before I blurted “Sure! Of course, we can! Why not?” and after all, truth be told I couldn’t see why we shouldn’t so why not indeed?!

“OK Mami, let’s get started!” he shouted and ran forward before turning back to me and saying in a business-like tone “I’m gonna need some paper, a pen and crayons to draw my God and once we’re done with that I’m gonna need some balls, boxes and more crayons for my model.” We began our unsuccessful hunt for all the above. It is a source of constant amazement to me that I can never lay my hands on a pen or paper when the need arises. I am quite skilled at finding it easily at all other times.

“Why don’t you pray to God for all this? He’ll find a way to bring them to you” I encouraged. Varad looked at me for a second and then unhesitatingly made a beeline for the pooja room. Bringing his hands together in the customary praying position, I could see him focusing all his energy into voicing his request to God. With that out of the way he got down to the nitty gritty of the whole operation. “Will God make them all magically appear before me?” he wanted to know. Like I said, the kid is nothing if not thorough in his quest for information. “We-ell not exactly” I hesitated. “He would make sure you get what you want but through another person. Say Thachi for instance.”  Thachi is how he refers to his grandmother (my mother-in-law) and like in most houses we know she is the resident search and rescue officer. As far as this house is considered, if we can’t find anything, she’s the one we all go to, though how she manages to unerringly keep her eye on everything from where stuff is hiding to what’s happening in every corner of the house is beyond my comprehension (Now’s probably when you will be getting the feeling that I am the resident Dodo).

Thachi happened to be bathing and upon coming out duly gave Varad everything he wanted. I still remember the look of incredulous happiness on his face when he looked at me and positively shouted “It worked! My prayers worked!” He saw his prayers answered almost instantaneously and he responded with all the innocence of a 5-year-old child. Kids are so adorable! He didn’t dwell on it for more than a few minutes though. Accepting God’s phenomenal rate of response, was all in a day’s work for him. He set to work drawing his God with great concentration. Once done, he proceeded to tell me that his God was Rishi and a kiddo God, not a grown-up. He was all of 7 years old and was a fat God. God knows why, but he was pretty convinced of that aspect. Getting into the spirit of the whole thing, I began asking him questions that would describe his God in greater detail. “Is he blue like Rama/Krishna/Shiva? What are his super powers? Where does he live?” and so on. Varad was elated and began answering all these questions happily. Most of the details including the name Rishi came from stuff he’d known or seen of course. Rishi happened to be the name of his best friend and his superpowers were chiefly inspired from watching a host of shows on Nat Geo WILD. He could run really fast. Obviously. He rode a cheetah, though he was faster on foot. Who cares about logic at this point? And he lived on Jupiter.

Amused and entertained, I listened to him excitedly expound all this, but I couldn’t help but wonder about us, all of us, vociferously proclaiming the superiority of our religious beliefs or lack thereof to everyone else. When the mind believes hard enough, things do happen. I’ve seen that time and again. And the power of a stronger universal force that guides us all is undeniable. But the fact that we associate certain powers with certain Gods, the fact that we pit one religion against the other in terms of worthiness and effectiveness is suggestive of limiting an all-powerful and benevolent force. And it is sad. Superpowers are OK when we’re discussing the Justice League but when we think of God?

We are all born into the families we grow up in, for a certain reason. I believe that. And I strongly believe in the goodness and principles that my faith has taught me. I wouldn’t give that up for anything. But what if we don’t need to subscribe to any one way of thinking? What if like children, we keep our minds open to the possibility of multiple equally valid points of view without feeling the need to convert another’s way of thinking or to shame another’s belief in something? After all, all superheroes are cool, aren’t they? We all have our favourites but no one is uncool right? (The unenlightened me used to reserve that term for Aquaman but that was before Jason Momoa, you get what I mean? So, I credit him with helping me evolve into a better human being.) Maybe all it takes is to achieve world peace is accepting that other points of view can coexist with your own without feeling insecure (Someone sign me up for a beauty pageant already!). Think about it. Maybe we have hope for the future after all.

*Mami- Refers to aunt

*Kanna- Term of endearment for kids. Lord Krishna was also called Kannan.

*PoV- Point of view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *