[Short Story] FLYING

FLYING
I was flying. It was all that I had dreamt of. I was one with the Ether and free from the clutches of earth and water.

I was flying and it felt good.

#

Ever since I’ve known I wished to fly. Our people were a grand and noble race, who had for generations lived on the Land of Rock and Sea, in the shadow of the Great Eye. The Eye was the mighty beacon that had watched over us from its high silver tower. It was our silent sentinel, our protector, savior and judge. It had silently stood watching our race for generations, from a time before time, or so my mother had told me.

Even now I remember my father soaring up to the sky, flying close to the silver tower. It was beautiful, as I watched him from the nest, crowded with the other hatchlings. From afar, I knew not how he communed with the Eye, yet in my heart I felt it — the power, the urge to soar up and be one with the Eye. I watched and I waited, for the day when I too would be able to spread my wings and make the pilgrimage to the tower of the Great Eye.

I waited and I prayed – for strength to bear the wind on my wings, for wisdom to comprehend all that the Eye shall reveal to me when the day came.
Slowly as time passed, we grew big and our feathers long. It was then that I noticed that I was different. My brothers and sisters grew big and strong with majestic wings, but I didn’t. I could see them flap their wings faster and faster, yet mine felt like great weights.

As we grew even older, I saw each one of them join my father and the others in flight. I watched them fly up to the abode of the Great Eye and receive from it the wisdom needed to traverse the Great Blue Yonder. I watched them, touched by the Kindness and Grace of the Eye, cavort in the feel of the wind and the spray. I watched and I waited. I lay in the nest waiting for the dregs they brought back for me out of sheer pity.

I didn’t know what others thought of my condition. Whenever I hobbled over to where they were sitting, there would be an uncomfortable silence followed by an even more uncomfortable attempt at pleasantries. The feeble attempts would end abruptly as each one of them made excuses and flew away.
I had grown used to my solitude. I was cursed. The Great Eye didn’t will me to fly.

I knew not what transgression I had committed in my life or before. Every night, when the others fell asleep, I lay there quietly, watching the Great Eye shine among the stars. And I prayed – for strength to be able to fly for once in my life.

With time, my prayers grew desperate. I began asking the Eye questions of ultimate heresy.

“Why, o Great One? Why Me? Is not the Great Blue for me? Why hast thou forsaken me?”

Not a single answer came back. I chided myself for doubting the Great One’s Grand Design and prayed again with renewed fervor.

It was then that I had the Vision.

#
I was flying.

The Great One came to me in my dreams and made me fly.

For the first time in years, I woke up with hope. It was clear what I had to do. The Eye had shown me the way. If I were to take the Pilgrimage to the very top of the silver tower, the Eye shall grant me flight.

#

The next morning, I waited till my brethren had flown away. I trudged up across the rocks towards the tower. ‘Twas a long and hard road, hobbling over the slippery stones to get to the tower.

I fell many times.

But my faith gave me strength. I soldiered on the path that would lead me to my destiny. In the ever deepening gloom of despair, my belief in His Greatness kept me afloat.

As the sun dipped own to kiss the sea, I finally made it to the tower. I heard the cackle from the nest I had left. My brethren had returned from their flight, yet I didn’t for once look back whence I came. For before me stood the portal to the Realm of the Great Eye, the Stairway to Heaven beckoned to me. The sight filled me with renewed vigor. I slowly pulled myself up and began climbing, one Celestial Stair at a time. As I got nearer to the Sanctum, I could feel the presence of the Eye. With each step, the pull became stronger, the call louder. The Great Eye was calling to me.

In my mind’s eye, I was already soaring.

#

Finally I reached the hallowed chamber of the Great Eye. He that Was, Is and shall be for all Eternity. Tired of body, yet Joyous of mind, I beheld the Eye in all Its Glory.
The Great Eye — the orb of dazzling light that turned and watched over all Creation. In turn it gazed upon the Rocks, the Sea and the Ether. As his Vision chanced upon me, I stood there feeling a sense of Bliss I had never felt before. His Light shone down into my very soul and washed away my sorrows and sins. There was nothing He did not see. I fell to my knees in rapture, for such was the power of His presence. The thunder of the surf that had filled my ears all my life, was but a muted chant, a paean to His Glory.

I felt the Eye whispering at me to come closer. I prayed for strength again and felt the wake of the Great One’s revolutions caress my feathers. In my rapture I drew very close to Him. I didn’t notice the Great Eye come at me and brush me aside our past the barrier on the edge of his tower. He blessed me and cast me into the Void.

The Eye had given me the one thing I longed for.

#

I was flying and it felt good.

THE END

Author’s note

This particular story is special to me. Nearly 16 years ago, I wrote a story for the first time ever in my life. I had seen a copy of Jonathan Livingstone Seagull in a bookstore and I was at a particular juncture in my life where I had questions about Faith, Religion and Spirituality and no one to ask them of. So I wrote this story as a sort of exploration of those questions.

I recently found it in my backups and edited it for spelling/grammar and some minor language (the first draft was too floral. gimme a break I was 16 at that time) 🙂 I’d love to hear what your interpretations of the piece (especially the ending) are. Feel free to leave a comment below or drop me a line. If you found this to your liking, then perhaps you might want to read this post.

PS: my only regret so far is that I have never been able to read the copy of Johnathan Livingstone Seagull, that I bought then 🙁 Never can bring myself to read it, after writing this.

Why I hate religion – confessions of a non practising atheist

I come from a family that has a varied range where beliefs are concerned. My wife is an atheist, my mother and sister are devout / religious and my father is semi-religious (in that he goes to the temple whenever my mom goes and does not forget to do an obsequious pranam every time we pass a temple). That leaves me and our family dog, Snowy. I can not vouch for Snowy, but he has this ritualistic fervor with which he urinates daily on the sacred tulsi plant that my mother has planted in our courtyard. So I shall put him down as religious and ritualistic too.

As for me, I like to think that I am spiritual without being religious. In fact I shall take it a step further and say that I hate religion. Do not get me wrong, I am open to possibilities as far as the existence of God and strongly believe that there is some thing to this cosmos beyond the tangible. But what I hate is the arcane series of rituals built on top of that simple belief in a higher being that seems to exclude any other school of thought. I hate exclusive telecast rights on the God Thingie and all derivative rights thereafter.

I believe that there is order in the universe and there is a force behind all of this. But I stop at putting a face on it and kowtowing in public every other Saturday at 7:30 pm at a designated place of worship.

I go to a temple when my mother needs someone to drop her there. I go in and stand with her as she purchases a diya for Rs. 2 and lights it in front of an idol of a deity who is competing with about 330 million others for market share. In the beginning she used to ask me to do the “maatha teko” thing in front of the deity and after three or four flat refusals, she mercifully stopped asking. I do not for a second believe that whatever we call “God” exists within a piece of stone enclosed in a temple.

I hate religion because it tries to put a face on something that is by definition amorphous and infinite. On one hand we harp on the omniscience and omnipotence of God and on the other we expect salvation only if we do puja on certain times on certain days at certain places. I do not buy that for a second. But I keep my mouth shut unless someone pointedly asks me as to the reason why I do not like religion or rituals. I do not expect others to have the same viewpoint as me and I have always tried to encourage a healthy discussion.

That is another point why I dislike the institution of a religion built on the simple idea of believing in a higher being. Religion drives believers to try and “convert” the non believers. Forcing someone else to have a viewpoint same as yours is a sure recipe for disaster. Just pick up a map and throw a random dart at any continent. (Last I heard the penguins were fighting in Antarctica over religious beliefs pertaining to whether they are white on black or black on white). Spiritualism is an intensely personal concept, where as religion is a social extension of that which brings in socio-political dynamics which then veer away radically from the concept of the one to a “one size fits many” kind of school of thought.

Religion means organization and any organization is an organism. It fights to survive. By their very nature ideas are transient. They evolve and finally give way to better ones. So does the concept awareness of the cosmos and the way it works. But when the idea grows into an organization, it becomes rigid and sometimes functions by rote only. It tries not to yield to the natural order of death and rebirth. It opposes new ideas when it should welcome them. The status quo becomes the end point of development and all religion does is preserve the status quo.

Now let us look at the central concept in all the religions. All religions basically teach us that the Cosmos is balanced and that every action has a reaction. Call it what you may, this sounds suspiciously like Law of Conservation of Matter/Energy and Newton’s Third Law to me. May be God is an equation after all, one that balances out the whole universe. That being said, I am succumbing the same trap as the one I am trying to oppose. I am trying to put a face on something that does not have a face.

In essence, in the matters of God and Spirituality, we are like the mythical blind men who met an elephant and formed their various interpretations based on which ever body part happened to be nearest to them. May be limited by the five senses and our perception of three dimensions (+ one if we count time) we each have formed our own view of God and religion simply perpetuates one of those “snapshots”.

I do not have anything against those that are religious or atheist. To me spirituality is something that is an awareness of the insignificance of self. For others it might mean different things. Each of us blind men is welcome to grope and probe the “Elephant” that is a higher being and form our own opinion. What I really really hate about religion is it tries to take away this basic option of finding something out for yourself. In stead of trying to think about such things or presenting the arguments, we simply hide behind the mask of “Religion” “tradition” and not encourage such debates.

I admire the texts of “Ramayana” , “Mahabharata”, “The Bible”, because I take them as allegories not factual accounts. Imagine if a million years later, once humans are gone and a race of super intelligent squid-baboons is the dominant form, how silly it would be if they based their religious structure with the posit that the “Star Wars” movies were actual factual incidents. On a literary level, the basic storyline of the religious texts is not much different from any Speculative Fiction epic.

Whatever your point of view is on this topic, I would like to start a discussion via this blog entry and the comments section. Feel free to post your comments and please keep the language civil as this is a public forum.