Since arriving in Kerala nearly three weeks ago, I’ve spent most of my mornings waking up to the sounds of temple prayers and chanting.
It’s a sound I’ve been correlating to India; something I knew I’d take back with me to the States when someone asked me to describe this country.
But in the past few days, while recovering from illness, the sounds have been more of a re minder of the presence of God in this state.
No matter what city we’re in, the culture of respecting faith and honoring God (or Gods) in prayer and deed is paramount.
Religion is an inescapable component of life in India. Even if you don’t want to participate or practice a faith, your eyes and ears and nose will not allow you to avoid spiritual practice for too long. Spirituality is all around you, holding your senses hostage.
I’ve spent a great deal of time in bed the past few days, sleeping and trying to get well. I’ve been saying my own prayers during that time for healing and recovery from pain and discomfort in my body.
It has only been during that time that I’ve allowed the sounds of Indian chanting to remind me that God is near. The chanting also reminds me that someone, somewhere is praying for my healing and that God is hearing those prayers.
I’ve been the beneficiary of some incredible care givers of late, who continue to go out of their way to make sure I’m getting better.
One of my favorite Hindu Rotary couples in Cherthala, Babu and Beena, have been so kind the past few days, even arguing about which one of them would stay behind to take care of me during the day.
Beena, a traditional maternal type, calls or appears at some point during the day to make sure I’m eating and taking the medicines on time. Two nights ago, after a Rotary meeting I probably shouldn’t have attended, Babu handed me his cell phone and said, “Talk.”
“Hello?” “Hi Jenny-fer. Beena. My husband says you are not taking food. Why?” I immediately giggled, which temporarily distracted me from the pain in my abdomen. “I plan to eat. I think everything here might be too spicy though. Don’t worry, I’ll eat.”
Later, her husband drove me to fetch some chicken soup and a 7UP soda from a local hotel. He watched me slurp the soup and smiled at me the entire time with such proud eyes.
Yesterday morning as the morning chanting subsided at the temples, Beena delivered me a hot cup of black tea with lemon and said, “By God’s grace, this will help you feel better.”
I’m not sure if it was the chanting or the tea or my own desire to be healed, but it was the first time I felt like I was a participant in India’s religion, rather than a simple observer.
Until tomorrow, Victoria.
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