1 Jan 2011
If there is one thing all my friends, relatives, colleagues and acquaintances know about me, it is that I fast every friday. Rain or shine, even when I am traveling, I fast without fail. Yet, I am not a religious person in the way my mother or my mother-in-law are. Lighting the lamp and offering prayers on a daily basis are not my strongest forte.
I started the fast on March 5th, 2004. At this age and stage, I have already started to classify all events, except for the girls’ birthday, by month and year, because the brain is becoming throughly incapable of remembering dates. Last year, I forgot R’s birthday and my birthday because I have already blurred over the date and have filed it in my head as ‘sometime in Oct’ and ‘sometime in Nov’. But I remember March 5th, 2004! Is it because one always remembers the days their life changed for ever?
The funny thing about days that change your life is that, many a times they are so irrelevant and hardly seem monumental when it is actually happening. In fact some time in middle of April 2004, I had to look up the calendar and think back to narrow the date to March 5th. Even then it did not seem so big. Over an extended period of time, one grows, develops associations and the before you know it something irrelevant has already been coined as ‘life changing’.
On March 5th, 2004, the friday I started the fast, to me, all was lost. The only request I had for the higher power I was calling out to was to help me find happiness. In some way, may be the time was right or may be because I stopped fighting or may be all I had was faith, it worked and I did find happiness.
The quest to bear a child was over. But I held on to the fast determined that I will stop fasting after I have a second one. Three years and two children later, I was still fasting and told myself that I will finish the fast when the children turn five…. or may be fifty five…. That is when the warning came from an unexpected source.
My amma, though we have different perspectives on many things, asked me, ‘What are you trying to do? Holding God on a bind? Is it a retainer of some sort? What are you demanding her to do? Fasts must have an ending, that way you stayed focused.When something goes on for indefinite period of time, it gets diluted and loses meaning’. That is when I realized how painful the Friday fasts have become for me. I was irritable, always craving for food, demanded special attention from R – because I was doing this sacrifice for his children, I wanted him to put me on a pedestal at least every Friday. Plus many get togethers, pot lucks at work, fancy lunches at work, corporate evenings out A.L.L happen on Fridays and obviously I haven’t been a part of it. As my amma pointed out there were days I accidentally did something that was not be a part of the fast. Those days I was not just miserable, I was in terror. I imagined that it was a sign that something was to go wrong with my children. Fear without any basis is probably the worst torture that the mind can come up with. I decided to reevaluate my fast.
I felt what had started as a quest for hope had changed direction so much that it was back firing. This was around the time Tharini recommended Eat, Pray, Love to me. Certain experiences Gilbert wrote about deeply resonated with me.
What did I do by fasting?
I was asking, like Elizabeth Gilbert would say, the universe for something.
Did I get it?
When I started the fast, did I truly believe that the only thing that would bring me true happiness is to become a mother?
So essentially I was asking for something and I got it. In fact I got more than what I asked for and I got it at the right time. I have a good thing going. May be I must celebrate that instead of being terrified by the future. After a lot of thought, I decided I must continue fasting every Friday, but not as a preventive mechanism, but as a celebration.
Today, as I tell any one who enquires, I fast because it is my thanks giving. As life goes on, there are new demands, expectations and disappointments. In this process I can possibly get thankless and greedy. Every Friday brings me back to reality, it grounds me to the very basic of my being, teaches me to be truly thankful, never to lose hope – no matter how tough things seem to be and to focus on what is truly important.