Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Scandal

The crowd gathered around slowly, horror building up on their faces. Nothing like this had ever happened in this building before - at least not in public. This was, after all, a decent society: a fact that brought pride to many of its residents. That kind of stuff just didn't happen here. And now, suddenly, out on the open...! What would the children think?!

Well, the children did think, as they were the first ones to have come across the scene. But their expressions were different, reflecting more of curiosity and amusement. The horror and embarrassment seemed to be the exclusive property of the grown-ups. A few of the parents tried to pry their children away from the scene, silently praying that this would not have any bad effect on the kids. They didn't quite say what that bad effect was though - the possibility of promiscuity when they grew up, or the possibility of reaching home and asking the parents "What were those two doing?"

News was starting to spread. Word of mouth. Hushed whispers. Even a mention on the official WhatsApp group. Horror and embarrassment was slowly starting to change into anger and disgust.

How dare they do this in front of everyone?!
There were children there. CHILDREN!! Imagine the effect this will have on them!
This is why I had said from the beginning - these types should just not be allowed to live in our building!
I agree, but who listens to us. "We should open our doors to everyone," the others had said. Now look at what's happened!!
All the children know! I heard them talking about it!
My girl even asked me about it. I quickly changed the topic, but I know she'll ask again!
We should get them out of this building! We have no place for such indecency.
We should get all their types thrown out, just to be safe!
Oh... But then those activist types will start...
Let them. Our children come before all this charity.

As the whispers grew, so did the size of the circle. Disgust didn't stop them from gathering around. Fingers were pointed. Rumours were spread. Eviction plans were made.

But for their part, the two culprits just stood in the middle of the circle, doing what they felt compelled to do, their tails wagging from left to right, mostly indifferent to the crowd, but somewhat confused as to why these humans had gathered around and were suddenly so interested in them.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Compliment

"Heyyy! You've lost so much weight! You look great!"

There it was. The statement I'd heard directed at me rather often in the last few months.

And as always, I didn't quite know how to respond to it.

Sure, one might say I don't know how to take a compliment, but the question that always races through my head is - why is this a compliment?

And just like that, in that one moment, through that one question, I find my smile freezing up, while a million thoughts and memories flash through my mind.

  • Hitting the teenage years, which brought with them lethargy and weight-gain.
  • Being constantly reminded by people that I was over-weight.
  • Being told that certain clothes wouldn't look good on me, unless I lost some weight.
  • Mom and me, not discarding my old clothes, in the hope that one day, I'd fit into them again.
  • Watching friends go on diets, and seeing their horrified expressions that I didn't want to do the same.
  • Giving in, and finally deciding to go on a diet, only to give up after ten minutes, when I realized I wasn't allowed to put sugar in my coffee.
  • Being told over and over how much better I'd look if I just lost a little bit of weight.
  • Going from someone who used to love posing for photographs to someone who was suddenly too self-conscious.
  • Feeling disappointed every time I looked into the mirror.
  • Hearing people around me comment more on the weight of actresses than on their acting.
  • Hearing people around me comment on the horror of fat women wearing tight clothes or bikinis, because it just didn't look good on them.
  • Hearing a friend get excited about having an appendicitis because she heard it might cause weight-loss.
  • Seeing people look elated at having lost a few kilos, and depressed when they put them on.
  • Watching people all around me striving towards better body types through a variety of fitness regimes.
  • Never quite having the will-power to do the same.
  • Watching advertisements for weight-loss products, and feeling tempted to try them out.
  • Speaking up lesser and lesser, to avoid drawing attention to myself or my body.
  • Learning about stereotypes, body shaming, media portrayals, and finally starting to realize that perhaps the problem wasn't my body.
  • Feeling an anger rise at the media and society around me, that forced people to start hating their own bodies and lose every ounce of confidence in themselves.
  • Still having people around me feel the need to comment on my weight, and the weight of every single person they came across.
  • Moving to India, and losing weight as my lifestyle automatically changed with work.
  • Feeling happy at the weight loss.
  • Going to college and putting on that weight again.
  • Feeling sad about the weight gain.
  • Subconsciously trying to lose weight before my brother's wedding, while simultaneously trying to tell myself that I was fine the way I was.
  • Feeling tired of having my happiness depend on a weighing scale.
  • Refusing to be a part of the circus I'd started to hate, and resolving never to go on a diet again.
  • Using this new-found-anger as an excuse to not exercise, under the garb of refusing to follow the body-shaming bandwagon.
  • Arguing inside my head, trying to separate weight from fitness.
  • Trying to argue with others when I heard them body-shaming someone.
  • Not being able to stay away from the weighing scale myself.
  • Meeting new people who never felt the need to comment on my weight or theirs, and sought to discuss bigger issues plaguing the world.
  • Finding solace and inspiration in the new friends surrounding me.
  • Finally resolving to start running, in an attempt to increase my stamina.
  • Telling myself, over and over again, that I was doing this for fitness and health, not for weight or looks.
  • Feeling elated at being able to jog 1 km.
  • Feeling elated at being able to jog 5 km.
  • Realizing that I actually enjoyed running.
  • Going for a run with my dog.
  • Over-time, shedding some weight.
  • Continuing to shed some weight.
  • Having my clothes become looser.
  • Still telling myself, over and over again, that I was doing this for fitness and health, not for weight or looks.

And so, as the memories continue to flood, I find my smile frozen on my face. Do I say thank you, and accept that my weight loss is actually something to be celebrated? Do I give them a lecture about body-shaming, and how, unwittingly, they're contributing towards it just by the means of that one statement?

But the truth of the matter is, that every time someone compliments me on losing weight, a part of me, one that's hidden deep, deep inside, reacts with a twinge of elation. It's the same part that, despite all my knowledge of body shaming and stereotyping and social norms screwing up so many lives, secretly feels happy when I look at the weighing scale now.

And as I stand there, listening to the 'compliment', I feel a surge of sadness wash over me.

Despite everything, I can't stop my weight from affecting my happiness.

Despite everything, the damage is done.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Traffic Jam

I sat in the cab, busy scrolling through the Facebook app on my phone, oblivious to my surroundings. It was several more minutes before I realized we weren’t moving. Looking up, I saw the line-up of cars sprawled around me, each one occasionally letting out a deafening honk. I craned my neck a little to see what was causing the jam, because I knew there wasn’t any traffic signal in this area.

Wait, that’s right. There was no traffic signal here. But there was a crossing, and as is the driving norm in India, cars had pushed their way forward from every direction so astutely that they had all managed to trap each other in an entangled web. None could move while the other stood there. And, well, the other could do little else except stand there.

The traffic jam was well past the point where anyone could reverse their way and ease the flow. It needed someone to physically guide the cars out of this mess. Option number one would have been a traffic cop, but there wasn’t one around. Option number two would be – well, anyone else. But no one really moved. Everyone remained in their cars, continuing to let out their frustration by pounding the horn and yelling occasional abuses at their general surroundings.

Do it.
No way.
You know you want to.
Yes but…
Just do it. Get out of the car.
I’m sure someone else will fix it.
Why not you?!
It’s just that…never mind. Next time.
If not you, then who? If not now, then when?!
Seriously? Seriously?!
I have more quotes where that came from.
Don’t even…

My mental battle raged on, while the cars outside provided the relevant sound effects. I knew what I wanted to do, but I also knew that it was highly unlikely that I’d do it. The idea of stepping out of that car, standing in the middle of that traffic jam and navigating the cars out of that web sounded – absolutely amazing and liberating and unrealistic.

It’s strange, how in moments like this – and by this I mean being stuck in a traffic jam contemplating your role in this world – your mind turns sociological and philosophical and existential. There’s me, as I am, and there’s me, as the version I’d want to be. That version is fearless. It doesn’t overthink situations. It does things – small and big things – without thinking enough to stop itself. It hands out money to every single person who asks for it. It helps out strangers without waiting for them to ask. It talks to anyone and everyone without any hesitation. It writes the stories it has been wanting to write for the last few years. It has difficult conversations without skipping a heartbeat. It challenges the status quo without caring about the ‘but what ifs’. It takes decisions without hesitation. And it bloody well confidently helps clear out a traffic jam when it sees one.

I’ve spent far too many moments in my life visualizing and dreaming up the image of that other version, or far too little doing anything about it.

Enough thinking, I decided. Just do it. Heart racing, I picked up my bag. I blurted out something to the cab driver along the lines of waiting for me on the other end of the road when he’d managed to get through. And just like that – I stepped out.

Trying to ignore the thumping heartbeats, I began making my way through the immobile cars. I think I got quite a few quizzical looks along the way, but I’m not sure: everything was a bit of a blur. As I approached the big entangled mess at the centre, I took in a few deep breaths. It was time to cut down the blur and bring in some focus.

Scanning the cars around me, it became even clearer just how much of a mess this was. Every single car had pushed its way forward until the last few inches, leaving no room for anybody to even try and back up (not that anyone would have volunteered). The din was crazy here. Each driver was busy jamming their horns as they waved their hands and hurled abuses at the other cars around. Standing there, taking this scene in, I could feel my stomach clamping up. This was not a good idea.

I continued scanning the cars, trying to find a spot where there some possibility of movement. This felt like that game we used to play as kids, where everyone would stand in a circle and then get themselves tangled up, only to have the ‘doctor’ come and untangle the mess. I didn’t recall being particularly good at that game as a kid, and I didn’t feel particularly confident going into this one.

I don’t quite know how long I stood there, trying to figure out where to begin. I’m pretty sure there was a lot more that went into my delay than just the jam. Fixing this traffic jam meant getting all these drivers to listen to me – a random stranger. And I couldn’t quite see why they’d do that. Sure, eventually someone always does fix the mess, and the drivers to listen to that person, but that person is usually a guy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman fix this kind of mess. Let alone one in pyjamas and carrying a backpack. Something seemed really off about this picture.

Screw it, I decided. Spotting an opening towards one corner, I made my way there. Four cars were trying to push forward from every direction, ensuring that none of them could actually move. Holding up my right hand as I’ve gotten used to doing every time I cross the streets now, I signalled to the cars to stop. In return, they merely shifted their abuses in my direction. Trying hard to ignore the clamminess and the abuses, I kept the hand steadily up, while using the other to motion one of the cars to move slightly towards the side. It took a while for the driver to realize I was actually signalling to him. Luckily, by then, the other cars had stopped trying to inch forwards.

It took some manoeuvring, but eventually, the car was able to find its way out. But this solution would go for a toss if the remaining cars all rammed their way in again. Putting up both hands to signal to those other cars to stay where they were, I motioned for others to move ahead. The abuses continued, though it did feel like they were directed at the general air and not so much towards me – or perhaps that’s just what I told myself.

Bit by bit, some of the cars were able to move. Each time, however, some space was created, other threatened to accelerate into that spot. I found myself glaring at several drivers as I firmly kept my hands up in the air, telepathically threatening them to stay in their place. I didn’t quite realize it then, but the glares became firmer with each passing second, and the hands stayed up more confidently. But man, those cars did not seem to end.

Eventually, and I have no recollection of how long this actually took, many of the cars were able to move forward. The navigation became easier, and the honking seemed to go down (the hand never did). Getting drones of cars moving, I finally felt my breathing return to normal. I could do this. I was doing this. Some of the people driving passed smiled at me or gave me a thumbs up; most just stared. Occasionally, someone would honk in irritation behind me, and I’d turn and look at them. It took me a while to realize that they weren’t glaring at me out of anger; just, frustration. And I got that. This was the Indian road. We’ve all been there. Didn’t make this situation any easier to bare, but we all got that.

As the traffic finally began to move more smoothly, I found a grin creeping up on my face. I had actually done this. Not just thought about doing it, not left it to someone else, but actually done this. Why had I hesitated so much? Why did I always hesitate so much? Maybe it really wasn’t that big of a jump from who I was to whom I wanted to be. I could feel a high rushing over me as the cars went past, a confidence I hadn’t felt in a long time.  A feeling like I could do anything. Nothing in that moment could take away that feeling of –

I jumped up. The car door had just been shut. My cab driver had sat back down, announcing that the traffic was finally moving. Unnerved, I looked around, taking in my surroundings. I was in the car. The car was in the jam. The honking was as loud as ever. Nothing had changed.

The car began moving slowly. I sank down in my seat, letting it all wash over me. I was still in the car. I hadn’t moved. But someone had. As we passed by the centre, I saw an auto-rickshaw driver standing in the middle of the road, navigating the traffic out of the jam.

Someone had stepped up. Someone always did.

And it wasn’t me.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Education - Back to the Basics (Part 1)

Education's important.  
That's a fact, not an opinion.  
Or so we've all been told. 
And so we take that importance as a given.  

All around,  
there are campaigns  
urging parents  
to send their children to school. 
Everywhere you look,  
advertisements of coaching centres  
offer you a glimmer of hope for a bright future,  
in exchange for a few years of your life.  

Anyone I meet,  
likes to proudly talk about  
the degrees attached to their name,  
or feels ashamed  
about the lack of them. 

Everywhere I read,  
are stories of parents  
who spend their life working excruciating hours  
just so their children  
can afford a good education  
and have a better life. 

Yet, at the same time: 
Every other day,  
a child commits suicide,  
succumbing to the pressure  
of exams, of marks, 
Of 'education'.  

In almost every classroom,  
scores of children sit quietly  
with glazed eyes,  
silently copying notes from the board. 

Each time 
A family celebrates the top rank of their child 
Is another student 
With shattered confidence 
From the public declaration 
That he stands at the bottom. 

Almost anyone I talk to  
points out that what they studied  
really has nothing to do with  
their work or life afterwards. 

Most importantly,  
anywhere you look,  
there are enough people  
with degrees attached to their names,  
People who we call  
who don't hesitate  
to hurt,  
to destroy,  
to discriminate, 
to rape,  
to kill. 

And so,  
I continued to wonder:  
what is the point of education?

It’s been six years since I entered the field of education (well, 28 actually, if I were to count my time as a student). I remember when I had joined the Teach for India fellowship, the general response from people around me was pride – pride that I had joined a sector as important as education. What I never said out loud to them, however, was that I wasn’t sure myself if education really is as important as it’s been made out to be.

As someone who had voluntarily chosen to join the education sector, I was expected to believe in its power. When I began my foray into this field through teaching, the thrust for getting all children in the country enrolled into schools was at its peak. I’d constantly come across campaigns talking about the importance of education. I’d pass by families living under flyovers getting their children ready for schools. And the whole time, I’d keep wondering – why?

Why is education so important? How is a lesson on phonics or place value or addition or EVS really going to change this child’s life? Sure, the skill of literacy would open doors to reading more books, but is that it? And numeracy – most kids would pick it up in their daily interactions even without schooling. So really, what was it about learning theorems and rules and formulas and spellings and dates and events and facts and piles and piles of information that would transform a child’s life?

What was the point of education?

I left my two years of teaching with this question reeling in my mind, and enrolled in an MA Education program hoping to find an answer to it. By the end of that program, I wasn’t even sure what we meant by the term ‘education’. Initially, I felt a bit ripped off, having paid for an education looking for some answers, only to be left with many more questions. But as time passed, I realized how important it was to really deconstruct everything that we’ve grown up with, question every single assumption we have, and really just begin from scratch – What. Is. Education.

Seriously, what is education?
  • Is it about going to school?
  • Is it about learning to read, write, and do maths?
  • Is it learning to be obedient and disciplined?
  • Is it learning? Period? Does it then need a school?
  • Is it about getting jobs? Can I actually do some of these high-end jobs without ever having gone to school?
  • Is it a way of preventing children from being forced into labour? Or is it another form of child labour itself, wherein children are forced to spend six hours each day in a confined space and obediently do tasks they have little interest in?
  • Is it about learning and remembering information?
  • Is it about learning the right ‘moral values’?
  • Is it about learning to behave like the so-called upper classes of society?
  • Is it about learning the basics of social interaction, and just providing a space for that?
  • Is it about learning everything we can to survive as a human? But if that were the case, shouldn’t our priorities be to learn how to grow food, build houses, make clothes, etc.?

I mean, really, think about it. How would you say when somebody is ‘educated’? Every other day, we hear stories of people being berated for not having the right educational qualifications. We look up to people with degrees, and look down at those without. What do we mean when we say someone ‘looks educated’? What are the qualities of someone who looks educated? Or someone who is educated? And is our education system really geared towards those qualities? 

The fact is, we've grown up being told that education is important, and were never really encouraged to ask why. So we joined the race. Of going to school. Of sitting at our desk. Of listening quietly. Of memorizing. Of going for tuitions. Of competing in exams. Of getting degrees. Of getting certified (of what, I'm not quite sure).

And yet, somewhere, there remained an underlying feeling that never quite got squashed - why are we doing all this? Is this really what education is all about? And if yes, why is this important? 


I don't have answers in this post. But perhaps this is one of those situations where the questions are more important than the answers. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017


For the love of dialogue and conversations...

I think you should get a haircut soon.
What?! I just had one a few days ago.
That was a few months ago!
Yea but, I don’t think I need one as yet.
Look at your hair. It’s almost below your neck.
So, it’s too long. You should cut it.
But why? What’s the problem if it’s too long?
It’s not supposed to be that long.
Her hair is so long!
She’s your sister.
Thanks, I didn’t know.
Don’t take that tone with me…
Sorry mum. But so what if she’s my sister?
I meant, she’s a girl. She’s supposed to have long hair. You’re a boy. You’re supposed to have short hair.
But why?
Enough with the ‘why’s!
I’m serious. Why can’t boys have long hair?
It doesn’t look good.
Says who?
Says everyone.
But I think it looks good.
Well, it doesn’t.
But if it’s my hair, and I think it looks good when long, isn’t that all that should matter?
If you were stranded alone on an island, then yes.
I mean, if you lived entirely alone, it wouldn’t matter. You’re part of a society. And the society’s opinion matters.
You mean the people in our building?
No, I mean society at large. All the people!
All the people as in…all the people?!
Including all the people I’ve never met?
I said all the people.
Why do I have to care about the opinions of 6 billion people who I’ve never met about the length of my hair?!
It’s not just about the length of your hair!
Then what is it about?!
It’s just that, the society has some rules. If we want to be part of this society, we need to follow those rules. And the length of hair for boys and girls happens to be one of those rules.
Look, mum, why does the society have rules?
What do you mean?
I mean, rules exist for a reason. What is that?
Rules are there to ensure that everything functions smoothly, right? To make sure people don’t end up harming each other? We have traffic rules and signals to make sure we don’t have accidents. In the same way, we have rules in society like don’t kill each other or don’t steal from each other to make sure that we don’t harm each other. In a way, the rules tell us to consider other people around us, and not just think about ourselves, right?
With me so far?
Yes, that makes sense.
So you agree that people should follow the rules of society to prevent themselves from harming each other, right?
Okay, then who am I harming by growing my hair?
Well……maybe it’s not just about harm. Many rules came up for practical reasons as well.
What do you mean?
Historically, men were supposed to fight or work in the fields and things. It would have made practical sense to keep their hair short. It wasn’t about preventing harm to others, like some of the other rules.
That makes sense.
Thank you.
I mean, it makes sense if I were going to fight. Do you see me prepping for war right now?
I didn’t say that’s the reason for it now!
Then what is the reason for it now?
It’s just a practice that has continued.
Even when the reason is no longer valid?
It’s become a norm now, hasn’t it? That’s how most things around us work. I don’t really see the point in challenging the rules.
By that logic, we’d never challenge any rule. Nothing would ever change.
That’s a little extreme…
Seriously, do you actually believe that we should continue to follow society’s rules just because that’s the way things have always been done? That the rules should never be challenged?
I’m not saying that all the rules of society are great. Some are already harmful, and they need to change. But there needs to be a proper reason to change it.
For example?
Well, take dowry. It’s been a societal practice for many generations, and has led to the abuse and death of so many women. So that seems like a very good reason to challenge this rule and to push for a change.
But growing out your hair – what reason is there to do it?
I want to do it.
That’s not a reason.
Of course it is. Being told that I have to keep my hair short makes me unhappy. Growing my hair will make me happy. Why isn’t my happiness a good enough reason to go against a rule?
That’s hardly the same thing.
I’m not saying it is. But at the end of the day, if a rule makes someone unhappy, isn’t that enough of a reason to change it?
Perhaps, if everyone felt that way, then yes. But I don’t see all the other boys in your class trying to grow their hair.
That’s like saying if one woman was abused because of dowry, but others’ weren’t, she shouldn’t push for any change.
The two situations are completely different.
In the extent of happiness and misery, yes. But they are both still about happiness and misery.
Misery is a strong word for a haircut.
Fine, unhappiness. How does that change anything?
Look, you keep talking about change, but it’s not an easy thing. You think the first push to challenge dowry would have been simple? There would have been a lot of resistance, people pushing back, even adding on to the abuse. But that cause was strong enough for people to continue taking a stand against it. Now, if you were to grow out your hair, you’d face a lot of resistance too. Of a different kind, yes, but it would be there. Everyone would make a big deal out of it. The school would not allow it. Your classmates would ridicule you. Is the length of your hair really worth all that?
If I said yes, would I then be justified in growing it?
Really?! You’re telling me that having short hair is making you so miserable that you would rather be a laughing stock or a thing for everyone to point at and comment upon – just to be able to grow it?
Exactly. That’s what I thought.
I’m saying that I see no reason why I should not be allowed to grow MY hair, when it will make me happy, but would bring absolutely no harm to others.
I just told you the reason. Everyone around will make your life that much harder.
That’s a reason for why it would be difficult for me to do so. Not why I shouldn’t do it at all.
I feel like you’re starting a revolution in this house.
It does feel like it, doesn’t it?
A revolution for hair. If only Gandhi could see you right now.
Correction: A revolution for personal choice.
Fine. Do what you want.
Well, in another few weeks, your school is going to call you up to have this exact same conversation. So we’re really just talking about a few centimeters of hair then. I can live with that.
What makes you think I won’t be able to convince the school?
You know what? You actually might. Now that would be a conversation worth getting a front row seat for.
Thanks mum. I can just picture you sitting there in the parent-teacher meeting with some popcorn, enjoying the show!
Just let me know the date and time!
So we’re good here?
I think so. Wow. I can’t believe we spent all this time arguing about the length of your hair.
My thoughts exactly.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Time to Pray

A professor once told us that if we want to be sure we've understood a concept, we should try explaining it to a little kid. This post sort of took off from that idea...

“Where are we going?” the boy asked, holding on to his father’s hand as they walked.
We’re going to pray.
What’s pray?
Pray is…when we ask for blessings.
What are blessings?
Blessings are good wishes.
You mean how people wish me on my birthday?
Well…something like that.
But why would I ask for wishes? Don’t people wish us when they want to?
This is different. We’re not asking people for blessings. We’re asking God.
Who is God?
God is the one who made all of us.
Huh? He makes things like the carpenter made the table for us?
I don’t mean things. He made all of us human beings. Me. You.
But I thought mamma made me.
Well, yes.
So what did god do?
I don’t mean you alone. I mean all people. This entire world.
Is god a very rich person?
He is not a person!
So…what is he?
He is…it’s hard to explain. Just think of him as someone who is much bigger than all of us people.
Is he a giant?
Listen, you will understand God better when you grow older.
So we’re going to p…pay God now?
Pray! Pray to God.
Yes, pray. So we’re going to ask God to wish us?
Well, we’re going to first say thank you to God.
Thank you for what?
Thank you for everything that he has given us.
What has he given us?
Well, our family, our house, our friends.
I don’t have that many friends…
Don’t worry, you will. You just need to talk more to the other boys. You’ll make friends.
But you just said God gives us our friends.
You won’t get friends just like that. You have to do something about it.
But then what is God’s job if I have to go making my own friends?
He…well…you’ll understand some day. He does a lot for us.
Does he do a lot for everyone?
Of course. He takes care of this whole world.
That’s so many people!
Yes, God has special powers. He can take care of everyone.
So after I say thank you to god, I can ask him for whatever I want?
And he’ll give it to me?
Can I ask him for a toy?
No, you should ask him to keep everyone happy and safe. Ask him for good wishes.
But I wanted a toy.
God doesn’t give toys. He gives good wishes.
So he gives good wishes to everyone?
Yes. To all the good people.
What about the bad people?
You don’t want him to give good wishes to bad people, do you?
What happened?
Nothing…it’s just that…yesterday I forgot to do my homework.
That’s okay. Just remember the next time.
My teacher said I was a bad person.
Oh! No, I didn’t mean that way. Of course you’re not a bad person!
But my teacher says I am.
Listen, that’s just because of one thing.
So if I do one only one bad thing, I don’t become a bad person?
Depends on the thing you do.
What do you mean?
I mean, look, not doing your homework, that’s not so bad. But things like stealing or hurting others are bad.
But my teacher thinks I’m a bad person.
She doesn’t think that. She must have said that because she was angry. Besides, everyone else thinks you’re a good person.
So if someone thinks I’m bad, and someone else thinks I’m good, who would God listen to?
The good ones of course!
What are you thinking?
You remember that man on the news who went to jail? You said he was a bad person. But his parents were saying he is a good person. So will god listen to them?
No, that’s not what I meant.
What did you mean?
Look, God knows everything. He knows who are the good people, and who are the bad people. He will take care of the good people, and punish the bad people.
So God doesn’t need us to tell him who is good or bad?
What if God makes a mistake and punishes a good person?
God doesn’t make mistakes.
But if he does?
Then he will make sure the bad people are punished after their death.
He will send the bad people to a bad place where they will be punished.
And the good people? What will happen to them?
They will go to a good place – the place where God stays.
Where does God stay?
No one really knows.
But then…how do we know that the good people go there?
We just know.
How does God punish the bad people if he doesn’t stay in the bad place?
God doesn’t need to stay there. He is everywhere.
You just said you don’t know where God stays.
What I meant was that we don’t know where the good people go exactly. But we do know that God is everywhere.
How can he be everywhere?
He is God. He has special powers.
So you mean he is here also?
Absolutely. He’s always with us.
I’ve never seen him.
You can’t see God. But he is always watching us.
Isn’t that a bad thing? To follow people around?
It’s a bad thing when people do it. But God is special.
How do we know God is here if we can’t see him?
We just…know.
But how?
You’ll understand when you’re older.
I’m tired.
Just a little bit further.
But where are we going?
I told you. We’re going to pray.
But where?
To the house of God.
We’re going to meet God?!
Uh…no. We’re going to a place where everyone goes to pray to God.
Does God live there?
Does God visit there?
I don’t know.
You said God is everywhere.
Well, yes.
Then why do people go to this place to pray?
It’s a special place.
That’s where the priests are.
Who are priests?
They are people who serve God.
They serve God food?
No! I mean, they…work for God.
God is their boss?
No no. They are important people who help us connect with God.
Well….they show us how to pray.
What do you mean? I thought we just say thank you and ask for wishes.
There are some other things also that we do to make sure God gives us our wishes.
What things?
You’ll see.
So everyone has to pray in the same way?
Well, everyone in our religion. People of different religions pray in different ways.
And which way does God like more?
He likes all ways. It doesn’t matter to him how we pray.
So then why do priests make us pray in this way?
That’s just the way it’s always been done!
What do you mean?
I mean that some things are done because they have always been done that way.
I don’t understand…
Don’t worry. You’ll understand –
- When I’m older?
Yes! Now enough questions.
I said no more questions!
Can I ask one last question?
Fine. What is it?
What is religion?