I was in 5th standard and I wanted to know how babies were born? I liked to find scientific explanations to things I see around me. But no one was willing to give me the answer to this question. I vividly remember discussing this with a friend. We had a theory. The moment a mangalsutra is tied, a chemical reaction happens inside the body which leads to a baby. But my friend asked what about other religions. We modified our theory. God might trigger the process manually after the marriage ceremony. We were excited thinking this might be the only proof to show God exists. The theory held good for many days. But then we came to know that babies were born without marriage too. This new information changed everything. Much later, a senior in school told us how it actually happens. I was scandalized. I could not believe people around me are doing it. My parents, teachers, uncles, aunts, bus conductors, drivers, the man at the stationary, the guy in the canteen, the nice lady who talks to me on my way to school. Everyone. Doing it. Despite all this, I was jubilant. I had found my answer.
While making breakfast, my mother listens to a guruji on TV. She pauses for a moment if they are telling about my raashi (zodiac sign), listens intently and then continues to work on. When the ads come, she changes the channel to listen to another guruji. This goes on for two hours every morning. And that’s the only time she watches TV (unless there is an award show with celebrities looking gorgeous). I am not a big fan of astrology because I haven’t found a scientific explanation for it. Yet she asks me to wear a ring with ruby. Fast on some days. She prohibits me from wearing dark coloured clothes. I have a cupboard full of black T-shirts.
She urges me not to eat non-veg on Saturdays. Apparently, chickens I kill on a Saturday have enough divine energy to disrupt my life. To counter my Shani’s Sade Saath (Saturn’s seven and half year cycle) I have to read Hanuman Chalisa every Saturday. After taking an oil bath. Cutting hair on a Saturday is a big no.
An old couple lived next to our house. When they returned from Kashi, they got me a black thread. Most people wear it to ward off ‘the evil eye’. When I was a kid my mother made me stand in front of the fireplace after the bath. With my towel wrapped around my waist, I see her take a handful of salt and move it in circles around my head. Thrice clockwise. I spit on it. One more turn anti-clockwise. She then throws it into the fire. I watch with delight as it makes crackling sounds. Supposedly more the sound more the evil eye. I still wear the black thread around my neck. I don’t know since when I started to find value in inanimate objects. Maybe I like it when I am 350 km away from home working on a deadline and I notice the thread around my neck. I think of home. I think of the people who gave it to me.
Mother says evening is the time when Gods enter the house. They will bless you in whatever state you are. So if I am sleeping I will be sleeping all my life. So she asks me to work or study or go out. Do anything other than sleeping. This kinda makes sense. If I sleep in the evening, then I will be up late at night. I will wake up late in the morning. And then I stumble to work. The cycle repeats. So every day after shouting and breaking off fights at school when I am lying on my bed, I have this image of Lord Vishnu with four arms and a golden crown, watching me sleep. I wake up.
My mother hates the number 3. Anything she does, she makes sure that she doesn’t do it thrice. For example, when serving food she does not put any item three times on the plate. While serving rice if I say enough after three times, she takes at least one grain of rice and serves it to make the total count four. I ask why. She doesn’t say anything. Maybe she got the idea from the rituals during a funeral where everything is done thrice. I have been seeing this for so many years. Now when I am serving on my own there is a voice inside my head that says don’t do it thrice. I can’t seem to shake it off. But to be honest, it has made me more mindful of the quantity of food I am taking.
Sometimes I wonder where is that kid who looked at things scientifically. Maybe mothers trump science. The other day I was feeling adventurous. So I wore a black T-shirt, cut my hair on a Saturday after eating chicken. Which I served thrice. I counted. I lived to tell the tale. I should stop now.