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Assignments

Faith. Some days I wonder what that is and how to navigate it.


Years ago, Tarun asked me whether I believe in God. Of course, I said with confidence. I believed that when people die, they become one with God and watch over us. That comforting thought carried me on its back for decades.


The rose-tinted glasses slipped when we lost our parents and my childhood anchor in quick succession.


This anchor took me everywhere, disciplined me, demanded performance, made the impossible happen and gave me incredible experiences. He checked on me daily and made me laugh uncontrollably. He was Tarun’s buddy and my brother.


When he passed, I was not despondent. I was angry. For weeks I tried to pray and I couldn’t. I tried to calm myself, but when I closed my eyes all I could think was how we have been deprived of growing old with him. And what about my mother. How could the “benevolent being” wreak such havoc on her at this age?


When friends said this is God’s way, I wanted to scream. A geyser of emotions would form inside my head and explode silently every time I heard this. Yes, I know the Bhagvad Gita tells us to think in plural when it comes lifetime, but we can only feel and react in this one, right?


He’s in a better place, they said. Really? Away from his wife and kids and our mother and me is a better place? In that moment, this reassurance was absurd.


At least he didn’t suffer. This was the hardest to process. Absolutely nobody knows how much he suffered. So please.


I arrived at a new stop on faith: we hadn’t done anything to deserve this scale of grief. Exactly where had prayers delivered us? Good karma is nothing but an epic dud, I told myself.


And then, Tarun had the same health crisis that felled my brother and he survived. In an expression of immense gratitude, I rediscovered faith. The factors that worked in his favor seemed out of my control. Surely, there are forces we don’t fully comprehend.


I again convinced myself that our loved ones are around us at an atomic level, protecting us, loving us. I devised a way to tap into their superpowers. I started assigning non-trivial tasks to them. Look after this one while they do that, help this person with that, watch over so-and-so for this. Every night, I give specific instructions to my parents, in-laws and brother.


On very good days, my list is of gratitude; on bad ones of instructions and hope. I figure division of labor on tasks keeps us protected. Plus, my list is long enough to keep them out of cosmic troubles.


Everybody being happy all at once is clearly not allowed in the game of life. We are likely in a zero-sum game with a finite amount of happiness in the universe. When I win, somebody loses. When I cry, someone smiles. This thought motivates the assignments for our dearly departed with fervent hopes of lingering longer on the right side of this balance.


As the universe blesses and makes us stumble, I hope that faith reinforces the belief in something more consequential than us. May our loved ones do their part to keep us safe in this story unfolding without a script, perhaps a script only karma has seen.


Amen.









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