As anyone who has visited this space would know, I don’t do personal on this blog, but blogging lately has become a trifle more personal.
On social media and offline, I find a lot of opinions and beliefs shared, about religion and politics, about faith and power. So while blogging, it seems necessary to clarify what I stand for, lest I fall for any old shit that comes my way.
Like any writer, I’ll do this with a story.
Last week, we took a Grabcar, here in Singapore, and were curious when we saw a tiny sculpture of the Hindu god, Lord Ganesha, on the dashboard. We’re not used to elderly Chinese gentlemen driving around with Ganeshas in their car, and a baby Ganesha at that.
(Sidenote: I’m not big on rituals, but I don’t mind Ganesha–a tubby God, with an elephant’s face, an appetite for sweets, who rides a mouse. A God who must be prayed to before all others–he’s the guarantor of success, and the remover of obstacles.)
We asked the driver, and he told us how he came across a neglected Ganesha shrine at his workplace, which he helped keep clean. Then, one day, in a drunken stupor, he ended up at a Ganesha temple, where the worshippers helped him with his plate of offerings.
Afterwards I googled this Ganesha you know, he said, who the hell is he, and then I found out all about his Father Shiva and Mother Parvati.
And then one day, according to him, Ganesha saved his life.
He wanted to take a right at a stop. Ganesha ‘spoke in his head’ and asked him to take a left, and moments later a huge, berserk trailer smashed into the right side of the road.
That same day, he put that baby Ganesha statue in the car, to guide him.
My daughter used to say, dad you love money, but it is not life. She is right, he said. I’m trying to change now.
He carries a card written in Tamil (an Indian language he cannot read or write), with all the accounts of his donations of rice, noodles and curries, as well as his ancestral and family names. He rattled off several Sanskrit prayers.
We bade cheerful goodbyes, and I came away with this story. And yep, we gave him several times the fare.
But what are your names, he said, visibly shaken, I must give your name at the temple.
Pray for everyone, we said, may the Ganesha bring peace and good fortune to one and all.
So, profound or not, here’s what I believe in:
–cab drivers all over the world have stories to tell, you only need ask them.
–a man who eats pork and beef (forbidden for Hindus) everyday, visits a Hindu temple on the weekends, and is made welcome
–money is only good for the smiles it brings people.
–a religion is only as good as the peace and love it creates.
–faith can be toxic, but it also has the power to turn a man towards compassion.
–I may not give Ganesha an offering (it was his birthday a few days ago), but he knows how to get one. Sly God, that.
What do you believe in? Have you heard of Lord Ganesha before, or happen to worship him? To my Indian friends who celebrate the Ganesha Chaturthi, what did you do this year?
What is the importance of faith, and religion? What have you been blogging about lately? Does your blogging involve any religion or politics?
Got any interesting stories to tell?
I co-host the monthly We Are the World Blogfest: I’d like to invite you to join, if you haven’t as yet, to post the last Friday of each month a snippet of positive news that shows our essential, beautiful humanity.
This monthly event has brought smiles on the faces of a lot of participants and their audiences, and somewhat restored their faith in humanity. Here’s a sampler. Click here to know more. Sign up here and add your bit of cheer to the world on the next installment of September 28!
Please join Daily (w)rite on its Facebook Page in case you’d like to be heard by this community. If you liked this post, you can have posts delivered to your inbox: CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL.
I enjoyed this post so much (especially your questions at the end) that I reposted it on my own blog. So, thanks for the article.
I have a few of my own quote about the topic on my Wise Words page but the core basic is as follows…
Faith Heals – religion kills!
I think it whittles down to personal equation. I am agnostic but pray to Ganesha since it’s a positive energy spreading vibes. Enjoyed reading about this entire connect with Ganesha. We all have our tales to tell, I guess and we could do by being tolerant to each other, unlike social media slug fest arguing whose religion or values are better.
I believe in me, in Sarah, in you, in people around me, in people I interact with online and also the world at large. I believe in Mother Nature and her gifts to us because all this connects us with each other and the Supreme Power.
Sharukh–that’s a wonderful belief system. I believe in you, in Sara, and my online and offline friends, in humanity. And Mother Nature, and the connectivity of all things.
How wonderful to dip into the blog world again and visit you to find this happy-making story. I love your philosophy. We were in Chicago this summer visiting our daughter and her husband. We took several taxis during that time and were so very heartened by the international mix of taxi drivers and their almost universal warm-heartedness towards the world. We heard many stories.
Thanks Hilary, and so glad to have you back! I hope this means we get fascinating posts from you on a regular basis again.
I am so glad you are doing personal posts- this one is just amazing D!
I loved reading this leap of faith that the cabbie took and how he re-told it to you; you were destined to hear it from him that day! And I loved the last line about how he gets his offering – very powerful thought my friend.
I have had many a conversations with cabbies here in India and though none were like this one, most were about their hardships or how other passengers behave with them. I generally chat them up; unless they are rude or dont give a good vibe.
Please do keep writing about such tales.
Shalini, I love listening to stories–and most cabbies are only too eager to tell them. I don’t do much personal stuff here, because my personal life is boring as dirt.
This was an exception, because I wanted to relay a story, and also clarify what I stand for–I’m too small to make any difference to anyone, and will pass on without leaving too much of a trace, but till the time I’m here and this blog is around, it should be clear what it is about.
Thank you for stopping by, and your support, as always.
Great post here. God works in mysterious ways 😀
I said yesterday on Facebook and I’d like to reiterate again, that this post warmed the cockles of my heart. And the last line, takes the cake, really. Sly God!! Ha! Ha!
I’ve had some very meaningful conversations with my cabbies, in SG, back in those old days. We once were returning from Esplanade, after watching the Cats, the musical. The cabbie asked us how much we had paid for the tickets and when we told him the amount, he simply came up with this rejoinder, ” I pay that much money to buy chicken the whole year, lah! Why you spend so much money to see people pretend act, lah”
In Delhi/NCR one is never comfortable striking a conversation with the cabbies. And you know why. But I have had some interesting conversations with cabbies in Kolkata.
I don’t enjoy politics, so I steer clear from it and neither do I blog on religion per say. I practise Buddhism, and we don’t call the Soka Gakkai Buddhism a religion, rather a way of life or a practise, per say. So yes, if that doesn’t count I keep religion and politics a mile away from my blog. I have narrated some wonderful gems of wisdom from my Buddhist practise and woven stories around them.
I was very tempted to bring home Lord Ganesha, this Ganesh Chaturthi, but I let it pass. I love the festivities that surround a God, the fervour, the joy, the prasad, the little rituals, the coming together of family and friends in prayer. I did worship Ganesha for many years and I still do believe in his magic. It’s just that now with Buddhism my hands are full. I not just chant morning and evening, but study, visit members-chant and study with them, and support them in their lives. Thus I have little time left to pray to my Hindu Gods. 🙂
Wow your post really got me thinking, didn’t it!?
Thanks for your well-considered comment, Natasha, and sorry I didn’t see it earlier.
I’m glad i’m not alone in chatting with cabbies–I’m sure you’ve had some delightful conversations yourself.
To me, Ganesha and Buddhism and islam and Christianity are not different things–they’re just different paths to compassion and peace.
The aspect of religion we embrace the most is cultural, the rituals, because they’re familiar and comforting, and give us a tribal sense of belonging.
It is hard to belong to humanity–because it is so diverse and vast—7 billion, and because it allows for a very broad definition.
Religions are just a narrower, smaller way of defining our identities–to make it more comfortable, something we can take for granted, without too much thought or questioning. They come with the benefits of community interactions, and of course, faith and prayer, which are good sources of support during the tough times.
I don’t know for sure if God made us, but we certainly need a God to hold on to in this big bad world, and this short, uncertain life.
Thanks for the read!
Bukoski said, “those who preach God, need God.”
Not everyone needs the same answers, as long as their paths lead to love and well being.
Absolutely. We don’t need the same answers. As long as it is love and peace, to me it is all good.
You are very right cabbies and auto drivers have lot of stories and if you want to get the whiff of social and political trends they are your go to people.
They do. When i was in London, a lot of them said Brexit would happen, whereas the general populace seemed to think the opposite.
I believe in love,
Though I do not know it very well.
I believe in death,
And in my own quest for immortality
And my children
This was really interesting and encouraging, Damyanti. I’m a Christian. My blog sometimes refers to my faith and sometimes doesn’t (my personal blog, that is—my editing blog shows no personal leanings, other than my preference for the Oxford comma). But I’m so saddened on a regular basis at how many supposed Christians act in such hateful manner in the name of their God. That’s not the God I serve. I’m also consistently encouraged by how much love is shown by people who believe very differently than I do, and it makes me want to shake everyone else to remind them that we are all in this world together and that hatred due to ignorance has no excuse.
I’m not a religious person, but I can understand your sadness at how some Christians behave. I’m all about compassion and peace—anyone on board with that has my support.
So good to see you on my blog after a long while–I’m off to check yours!
Such a wonderful and deeply reflective tale! Thank you so much for sharing Damyanti. Personally I don’t blog politics or religion. Although I do believe in that saying of, “birds of a feather flock together” … Why? Because with my poetry blog I seem to attract like-minded souls who share my deep belief in love, beauty and Mother Nature. Few in number yet rich in kindness, inspiration and soul evolution.
At the moment Lord Ganesha is smiling down at me while I type (in the beautiful form of a small 4 inch glass statue that rests on top of my Jungian and poetry book shelves). I hope the day finds you well. Blessings always, Deborah
I do believe in Ganesh and religiously take him out of my cupboard ( don’t like to pollute the seas with clay idols ) and give him pride of place at home for a day and a half . I genuinely believe that I have a personal insurance policy from God and have experienced the wonder of His miracles on many an occasion. I too am not a ritualistic Hindu and love this aspect of the religion that allows you to do your own thing and still be a Hindu!
I loved this little story of yours and agree that taxi drivers have lovely tales to tell . I always engage them in conversation and come away enlightened in some way.
faith can be toxic, but it also has the power to turn a man towards compassion. – YES! We are seeing this every day in India. The toxicity and lies that faith and religion can spread, but also the peace it can engender. I only hope that peace wins out.
Peace will win if those of us who remain the silent majority, make our voices heard. The toxicity is from a vocal few.
Thanks for stopping by, Shinjini 🙂
What a beautiful story.
I was recently in a different city for several weeks while a family member was hospitalized and I learned the most interesting stories from the cab drivers! It’s a fascinating world we live it
It indeed is. And I try and talk to cab drivers no matter what country I’m in. They tell the best stories.
That’s a beautiful post, so inspirational. I’m not atheist but i believe religion is one double edged sword which can make you or break you. so be cautious how to use it.
SO true about the double-edged sword bit. More people are becoming more aware of this though–and it is harder to hoodwink or brainwash a person who is more aware. Thanks for dropping by, Richa, and hope to see more of you 🙂
I have only relative views of phenomena. I don’t have any absolute views that can inspire belief.
That’s the most positive attitude possible–to be flexible, and be ready for a change in point of view.
I’m all smiles while typing this. Cab drivers have the most interesting stories always. I normally strike a conversation with them and come back full of ideas. As far as Gannu (my toddler’s interpretation of Ganesha) is concerned, he’s got a place in the bed just next to the boy. So he happens to have a permanent abode in our bedroom now.
Gannu baba is in the right place, alright. Didn’t i say he was a sly God ? Absolutely adorable.
–a religion is only as good as the peace and love it creates.
–faith can be toxic, but it also has the power to turn a man towards compassion.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I wish Indians understand this soon before they kill each other over religion.
I like to talk about a lot of topics, but two things I stay away from are religion and politics. Same goes with my blog. These two topics can turn man into animal sooner than you think. Sometimes, it is just better to not talk about it and keep the opinions to self.
Very well written, D.
Interesting post ?
Nice thought provoking writeup. God has strange ways.
‘Faith can be toxic, but it also has the power to turn a man towards compassion.’ That is the whole paradox in a nutshell. Thought provoking.
Such a heartwarming piece, Damayanti. Agree you that every taxi, rickshaw driver has some or the other story to tell.
I do believe in supreme power and feel that every one calls them with different names, God, Bhagavan, Allah and many such more. For me all are one and the same. Praying to any one finally reaches that one universal power which is kind and always ready to help.
Though I belong to staunch orthodox Brahmin family, nomadic lifestyle across the globe and within India, helped me broaden my vision.
I chat with every one I meet, and let them tell me about whatever they think fit—over the years I’ve learned many perspectives on everything from cartoons to religion and social justice.
I think religion is a very personal thing that guides our moral compass and tells us who we are, where we came from and where we’re headed. It’s not to be forced on others but lived hopefully as an example of a happier better life on this earth and a hope in existence after death. If the religion you live uplifts people around you rather than controls them I believe you are on the right track. For me belief in a Higher Power is a rational evidence based life director.
I think my beliefs absolutely chime in with yours, Ian. Thanks, as always, for stopping by.
r inferences and thoughts. And adding on… Religion is just a means to guide you to live life and bring in positivity. It doesnt matter which one you choose to follow. God opens out his arms to all, no matter who he is. We need to learn to embrace the positivity of it.
Thanks for sharing this. I don’t blog about faith or religion because I consider them personal and I wouldn’t want to debate about that with someone who doesn’t understand what values I believe in. To each his/her own. Personally, I believe in the power of prayer and faith (religion and rituals – not so much) and it helps me remain composed.
I stay out of politics and religion, but these days I see religion being used for nefarious ends. This was my way of clarifying where I stand.
I think Religion= Spirituality + Politics.
Spirituality is fine, but when you add politics to the mix, it becomes the devil’s tool.
I completely support faith as a harbinger of strength. Whatever helps us, is good.
Just loved this one Damyanti. Simply in love with the words you have used to send across a message you wanted to send across. Apt description of what faith/religion should mean… Sadly most of the times it’s not.
I am a believer, I have a lot of faith. I pray and follow rituals that I like to follow. But I am not religious. Does not make sense?
It is possible to be spiritual without being religious: religion is a body, spirituality the soul within.
In my ten years of blogging, I haven’t touched upon religion, but based off what I’ve been reading on blogs and social media, I wanted to clarify where I stand on all of this.
I am totally with you on this one. Great read.
Hi Damyanti – my blog just does its thing … quietly … but bringing notice to anyone who reads about what might help others, or educate … I don’t discuss religion. I would love us all to live together in peace and harmony, sharing all things, conserving and protecting all things … particularly nature – as without it we will be nothing. We really should learn and understand … and be gentle to others … take care – cheers Hilary
Thanks for sharing, Hilary. In the years I’ve visited your blog, I’ve always found it a positive space.
I don’t blog a lot about my spirituality – I hope it comes through in my work. And politics – oh my. It’s important to stand up for what you believe and not play nice just to appease followers. But then I’m in the US where it has become critical.
It does come through, as I hope it does in my writing and my blog.
It has become critical not just in the US but all over the world now. The world has never been more connected, and paradoxically, never at more peril.
Well, blogging to me is reaching out to an audience which shares similar passions and zeal for writing. Ganesh Chaturthi for me is yet another chance to share hapiness with the little one. My son (2 Yrs) and our caretakers daughter (5 Yrs) are great friends. So we brought some gifts for the little lady and made her feel special. New dress, some basic makeup stuff and choclates.
I love that you’re letting your children mix without any boundaries, and thus teaching them empathy and love by example. Great way to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi—I’m sure Bappa would approve.
Hi – what an interesting story! I hadn’t heard of Ganesha before. I ‘try’ not to blog on politics. I believe God is not a politician. I am not ‘religious’ as some are. Jesus hated religion in His day and the leaders and their false love, pretending they were more pious than others. I am a born-again Christian and sometimes I blog about it, not always, but on occasion. I was once a world philosophy student. When I was perhaps 18.. a friend of mine gave me C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Chronicles of Narnia.’ I remember thinking, ‘if God was like this, I’d be on board.’ Not terribly long after, I became a Christian, realizing there was no other religion like it, all others require works. God has given us forgiveness before we even knew we were in big trouble. The thankfulness for this should only give Christians the desire to share this like a beggar who knows where to find the bread for the starving and help those in need. We are to love. Not hate. We are to pray for everyone, not just ourselves or family. But the door to faith is narrow, and there is only one way, and that’s through Jesus the Son of God (and so many people do not understand the Trinity it’s nuts). I have read many religions through my college philosophy class, and later, realized, Buddha is not a god, Nirvana is only the best pizza…, and Allah is a very mean idol-god (stars and moon are worshipped, but the believer there has to work hard to please Allah). That is not to say folks that worshipping other false gods are necessarily bad, just in the pain of working so hard. But there is only 1 thing we Christians do to accept this grace (getting something we do not deserve) is to recognize our wrongs and confess out loud that only Jesus can save us. That. Is. It. Hey… you asked! 🙂
I respect your beliefs, Claire, and I support that you believe that religion should be all about love and peace.
All religions started off very well, with tenets of empathy, compassion and peace. All have veered off track, I find.
To me, compassion is the best faith: not wrong others—man or any other creature and let everyone do their thing as long as they’re not hurting others.
He found a greater meaning to life.
My Christian faith is reflected in what I blog about it although I might not mention it directly. Love speaks stronger in actions that in words anyway.
Alex, good to see you back online and hope your area did not see too much damage.
Your actions have always been kind in all the years I’ve known you—and you have my greatest respect, both as a blogger, and friend.
Recently I came across the problem of water crisis that India is facing. It’s not very obvious, but all the reports have been warning about the impending doom in a matter of 2 to 3 years. I pledged to do my bit by working towards water awareness and water security, and also research on agricultural crops that would consume less water (than rice and wheat), because I found that the most of the water usage in India is in agriculture. No, my blogs relating to these do not mix politics or religion. It’s purely a taking care of the situation approach that I do using my blogs. Thanks.
The crisis is real and you’re right, no one talks about it. I hope that the initiative of minds like yours will bring about much needed reform in how India manages its water resources and expenditure.
Thanks Damyanti, for your kind words. I am working on creating a community of people who are interested and passionate on water and food, so that we take steps in the right direction, however small the steps may be. Thanks.
Sounds like my kind of guy!
haha yep. He’s definitely my kind of guy, as well.
I think my beliefs are best summed up on my about.me page (https://about.me/keithchanning):
I’m not driven by the quest for money or recognition. I just enjoy writing and sharing my output with anyone who wants to read it.
I have no religious affiliation myself, but I will always respect anyone’s sincerely held and practised religious belief, as long as they don’t disrespect my position, or anyone else’s beliefs. Deal?
Oh yes. INFJ-T.
Sounds quite a bit like my worldview, Keith. Thanks for stopping by, and sharing your take.