Tuesday, August 22, 2006

That weekend

St. Joe’s Peninsula on Florida’s Emerald Coast has a beautiful park with miles of sugar white sand dunes, blue-green water and a campsite a few minutes’ walk from the beach. It was here that a group of campers descended one evening in late August. They set up the tents, and then, still sweating from the exertion of unfurling the precisely symmetrical tents and banging the pegs into the earth, started the campfire. They grilled mounds of expertly marinated chicken, drank Pepsi frosty from the icebox, and played cards.
After eating all the food and drinking all the drink, they decided that a walk to the beach would be nice. They did so, flopping on the silver sand and talking in the purple darkness. They went for a walk through the trail in the forest, spotted two pairs of glassy eyes in the distance and became convinced that they were to meet their deaths at the claws of these fearsome wildcats. Alas, the creatures turned out to be deer.
Then someone suggested a drive. So a drive it was, the sounds of the sea always just outside. Two hours later, they stopped at a gas station and stood around in the neon lighting, drinking bad coffee. An hour or two of sleep in the honestly assembled tents, and then the sun rose: a glorious pink and blue and gold. A couple of them walked on the long boardwalk near the white dunes and flew kites as the sun came up, taking pictures that would unfortunately be lost once they started getting passed around from party to party.
About a year later, a larger group made the same trip. Alas, it was cut shorter than originally planned, by a considerable margin. Why?
“There were too many mosquitoes. And many other kinds of bugs.”
Evidently, the Camping Gods do not always smile.

Comfort food

Traveling on a train recently, I had the marvelous experience of refusing the food offered to passengers. When the attendant came around asking if I wanted a “vaj” or a “non-vaj” meal, I shook my head and said, “Thanks, I have my own food.”
There is something to be said about your mother packing her special fried chicken into neat little silver foil packages, divided into lunch and dinner, with all the accoutrements.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Are you there, God?

So there seem to be miracles happening all over the country. First we had sea-water turning sweet. Now we have idols drinking milk again.
People rushed to drink the miracle-water as quickly as they could; they stood in it and scooped up great handfuls of it. Sweet or salt, that water did not look particularly clean to me and it probably wasn’t. The few visuals I did see on TV proved that there was plenty of filth in the surrounding areas. But faith will make you walk into murky water, stand in it, and drink it, I suppose.
And about our idols drinking milk- how does this start? Some devout sort in a temple starts spooning milk into the mouth of a deity, and then whoops in delight when the deity obligingly sips his offering? It seems to me that there are better and more deserving recipients of all this nutrition than idols made of clay and stone. Such as the millions of street children in this country. Meanwhile, idols all over are being ‘fed’ with spoons, while the majority of the milk offered drips to the floor. Also, is there a preference? Does full-fat milk work better than double-toned?
Maybe it is just the jaded side of me, but I cannot help wondering as to why the Almighty would choose to signal anything to us humans by turning a small patch of sea-water mildly less salty. Or by suddenly slurping milk out of spoons. And that too, selectively- a few people testified grumpily on national TV that the Gods had refused their offering.
Or maybe the real issue is that miracles just seem more attractive to us in these troubled times. We’re all so battered and have nowhere to go, emotionally. What better way, then, to grab on to an unusual occurrence and label it a miracle? Maybe it really gives us hope and sustenance. And maybe that is the real miracle.
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