I regret the inconvenience caused, if any, but you know
How I feel about things being forced down my throat. To go to places
I do not wish to or bow in front of idols I cannot respect.
When I was young I announced I was an atheist, I would not
Enter another temple or church in my life again. Unperturbed,
My father smiled, “you can take care of our shoes and things,”
He said as he handed me his wallet and belt because they were made of leather.
I often thought it was weird. To ban things made of cowhide but allow the flowers
The flowers that were killed to string into garlands to be squashed underfoot
The feet of worshippers who asked the ‘God’ for favours with half closed eyes
Yet would give none back in return to that hungry beggar.
How come those flowers had to die but the hide of an animal long dead
Had to be kept away? What was a God that allowed such a transgression?
In any case, what was a God that allowed such misery to fester
Like the open sore on my father’s neck as he lay dying of cancer.
My father died of Cancer, did I tell you? They told me to pray
Murder some flowers to offer it in a temple and touch the dead flowers
To my father’s forehead. Surely that would heal him where the doctors had failed.
What would I do with my leather handbag, then, who would wait for me outside
The temple door, my shoes in hand? Or, light a candle in the church, they said,
Even that will do, the light would shine and heal. Would it help the doctors see the cure?
Would it have given sight to one in need? They said I was foolish and I had to believe,
One must believe in something or there was no point in life. Everyone pointed
At Gods and idols and said they would pray for me. I had to find direction;
They shook their heads, how will she cope, she is still young, and callous too.
Don’t think I did not hear them, Oh, I heard every word, even the ones muttered
Behind open hands, look how she is remorseless, have you seen her cry, she always
Was the odd one, thoroughly spoilt. How could I cry? With their Gods breathing
Down my neck and the only man who understood me covered in a thin film
Of sandalwood powder and clarified butter, waiting to embrace the flames?
I would not cry, the tears remained buried like molten lava that erupted
Only when I was away from everyone hot geyser coursing down my face
Burning everything in sight, pieces of volcanic rock still strewn
On the mountainside. As for being spoilt, I wish I was, there are worse things in life
Than being loved a bit too much. My childhood, like most others was not simple
How can any childhood be simple, when those are the years that make you
Who you are? Like every child I had my terrors, the monsters that hid
In the closet, the hand that waited under my bed. I was taught to be strong.
To face things as they were, to make no excuses whether in pain or in jest. To accept
My failures. Yes, that is what I do best. Your Gods have failed to impress.
They could not help me in my weakest moments, they failed to give me strength
Even when I thought I needed it most. So do not tell me about your half baked stories
Of miracles and how not eating the flesh of a cow will ensure I live the ideal life.
It’s not that I never visited a temple or a church again, when I did, it only affirmed
that no God of yours was living there. Yet they still ask me to believe, to unlearn.
All that I had worked so hard to learn. This disbelief did not come easy, this freedom
from Gods that wander into my kitchen and dictate how I should pass my years
Upon this earth. My Gods, who I call by other names live and laugh with me.
We meet in ill-it cafes and in open sunshine, we share a drink, chatter
About our lives as if they matter, we laugh boldly and loudly, we share tears
And while away the years and we know we have each others’ backs.
My Gods make no demands, no proof of my purity or even my belief,
No restrictions only because I am bleeding. I never asked to belong.
I am a happy outcast in your world of incense and the clanging of bells. I do not pray.
You already know that. They said I should close my eyes and concentrate on God.
Odd, but when I close my eyes, the only face I see is of my father.
But he was no God, he was just a man, a mere mortal who waits for me
Outside the door, my shoes in hand. Until my time here is done
And we can walk away together in a life without end, without Gods
Where flowers remain on trees and leather is neither shunned nor abhorred.
Any inconvenience caused, will of course, be deeply regretted.