Some of my most beautiful memories from my childhood are those of waking up in 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 of transporting me to my past which is simply unavailable through any other means. Music of a certain kind 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 wake up rubbing my eyes to the sights of fine columns of Sun pouring in through the window and to the intoxicating smell of semolina being cooked in ghee.
I 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, I realized something which I had 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 with the ugly, shambolic, and bitter structures of reason. So while I may be cursed with knowledge I still lay claim to some morsels of my own humanity. And that humanity allows and forces me to 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; they don't understand their terrible predicament yet.