April 21st, 2015
Some of my most beautiful memories from my childhood are those of waking up inÂ the mornings of weekends to the tunes of certain Hindu devotional songs that my mother used to listen to while she went around her daily morning ritual of cleaning up the house and preparing for breakfast. Some tunes, called bhajans in this case, have made an incredibly deep impression on me and, as I discovered today, they still have the kind of power ofÂ transporting me toÂ my past which is simply unavailableÂ through any other means. MusicÂ of a certain kindÂ contains within it that elusive key to my past which I can never seem to grasp during moments of coherence and control. Some specific tunes are simply made of nostalgia, built up, as it were, completely of beautifully chosen moments from crisp winter mornings when I used to wakeÂ up rubbing my eyes to the sights of fine columns of Sun pouring in through the window and to the intoxicatingÂ smell of semolina being cooked in ghee.
IÂ was listening to, among other bhajans, the brilliant rendition of Payoji Mainein by the ever sonorous Lata as I felt being transported to a time far separated from the present. In that moment of, for lack of a better word, clarity, IÂ realized something which I hadÂ not realized earlier, at least not with the same force. In the great debate between religion and atheism I have always, and without hesitation, taken the side of religion, even though I can only describe myself as an atheist. In that moment I felt what an incredible loss it is to lose the ability to have faith. This conclusion has been a consistent conclusion of mine for some time now but seldom have I realized it with the same kind of gravity. That tune, with its aching beauty and with the immense weight of culture that it carries on its shoulders with such effortless grace, stands mockingly in contrast withÂ the ugly, shambolic, and bitter structures of reason. SoÂ while I may beÂ cursed withÂ knowledge I stillÂ lay claim to some morsels of my own humanity. And that humanity allows and forces me toÂ vote for beauty over mere process. And to the modern and proud flag bearers of reason and science, I can only offer my perplexity. That they are proud and not miserable can only mean one thing; theyÂ don't understand their terrible predicament yet.