Firstly Blessed Easter greetings from me and my girls to all of you and yours. I am hoping if you had participated in the Great Lent, you have come away with some lessons, some new self realizations and a better understanding of the universality of God.
For me away from home and loved ones and so far away from the daily lenten season offerings at dinner time that mom or the maid lays out for me when I used to drag my sorry tired ass home after a day of maneuvering traffic and all types of people, I found that I either was going to subsist on milk and oats or bread or really expensive tiny portions of Indian takeaway for meals.
So being me, I sent some urgent sms-es to mom back home and got a crash course in cooking stuff like dhal and south Indian sambar. I even found tinned tofu (soya bean curd) and managed a dish I'd pulled from memory and maybe this spice and that condiment.
All in all I survived lent by being innovative with the stuff I found and rigged up. From mushrooms stir fried, in a creamy spicy gravy, to curry with button mushrooms - go figure. But I was pretty excited at the fact that I was not afraid to try something and I kept improvising.
Cooking in Dubai to me is quite like the way I've been taking to life - mad adventures, since finding plans go awry no matter how much planning you put into it. The problem with plans is all parties have to subscribe to it otherwise it's going to go belly-up kaboom.
So I lived lent and creative cooking to keep me fed ... although I learnt that even though am a partial vegetarian by choice, I do still need the occasional meat dish. After 50 days, I found myself so terribly exhausted at the end of each day and so drained. I guess this is part of growing old. From times when I used to fast till sundown, to fasting till noon prayers, to going completely vegetarian for the duration, I am wondering how with the onset of years will I keep up. I guess one just have to make up one's mind and keep to the trail.
But I also came past the 1st quarter of 2011 finally feeling things were looking up career wise. Small steps but I will get where I want to be ... move it a decade or so back from original plan but it's working slowly but surely.
I found that also I although I have in the past taken a long sabbatical from community worship due to my little delusion with God, and with people I had grown up with, when I started going again thanks to some cajoling from some really old friends, I found my spirit strengthened and recharged.
To be frank, since I returned to Dubai in January, I have not attended any Qurbanas here. The impersonal indifference of the parish and parishioners unlike the familiar people and mango trees in the small little place I've always called my place of worship in Brickfields, makes me stay away.
The priests and it's no fault of theirs I am supposing, just that people do everything in fast forward here, run through the Sunday evening services (Sunday being the start of the working week) leave me breathless and completely disconnected from the entire service that I love so much back home. Orthodox services are never short, but I love the services and the beauty of the whole process and the whole attending community in sometimes out of tune singing but there was a common link to hold us together.
Here I am anonymous. No one knows or cares to know me. If they did, I'd be excellent fodder for gossip and disapproving looks because I dress different, I talk different, I am not fluent in the lingua franca of the Indian Orthodox church i.e. Malayalam. Although I can fluently follow the services in transliterated Malayalam, I don't read the text in original, I cannot carry an Spanish Inquisition type conversation.
Anonymity works wonderfully if you want to hide from the world. But at church? Why would you hide? Lacking that sense of camaraderie I have back home with childhood friends, church elders, youths and young children, I feel like an alien in my own place of worship. And almost certainly Sting's Legal Alien comes to mind.
So I stayed miles away (literally too) from the compound of the St. Thomas Cathedral in Dubai. Having my own prayers in the evenings, conversations and contemplations.
But I learnt something. There was a purpose in the idea of community coming together in worship. If I've reached a spiritual thirst, I'd have to say it is now. I want to feel my soul resonate with the presence of God. I see my mother and my sister - to 2 really prayerful members of my family. My father and brother do pray too but the conviction in their prayers I see in my mom and sister. I on the other hand have this strange relationship with God.
I find peace sometimes in sitting through the ritual like Orthodox prescribed daily 7x prayers. Sometimes I find calm and serenity in speaking out aloud to God like he was sitting next to me. In these sessions, I find myself angry, remorseful, contrite, forgiving, soul searching. And in most instances it ends with me sobbing my heart out to God to help me make the right choices for my life as I try to make them for my girls and family's future.
The strangest of sensations often follows such an emotional outburst, I find that I feel like my head gently caressed and soothe as I lay it on the lap of the Lord. He knows my heart best, better than myself. He knows my wrongs and rights. He carries me through all life has thrown me.
During the final weeks of lent, the one we call Passion Week, I chose to read Mitch Albom's book Have a Little Faith. And what a resonating voice of God I heard. It may not be everyone's piece of cheesecake and coffee, but I found the ideas of both the rabbi and the pastor - both central figures of this book give structure to my own personal view of religion and faith and God.
I know I am a child of God in my imperfections. But I do not use my imperfections as an excuse to hurt anyone, if anything I try very hard to think of myself in the other person's shoes. I am a long way from my stairway to heaven, but I have to pull myself together and go pray in a community environment once in a while too. I should start going to church in Dubai even though it makes me pine for home more and more.
God is ever patient, and ever loving. He waits for me to find his plans for me, of that I know. Always He is there in my life, in all the people that I meet and interact with, in family and friends, in the simple gestures of strangers.
Blessed Easter everyone. You me everyone God Blesses us regardless of what religious faith you subscribe to. If only we could openly embrace each other without bias, suspicion or fear - this world would truly be a nation of believers that one should do unto others as one wishes others to be unto them.
My love to all ..... God Bless!