Wish I could say that this post ends with me having a change of heart and embarking on the path of godliness. But years of disbelief/skepticism in any kind of religious practice don't go away in just an instant. I always say that I believe in God but not in religion. Maybe, because when religion comes into the picture, people tend to forget God, and then religion becomes of prime importance.
A few days back, I visited Haji Ali and Mount Mary Church. This was a very unusual trip for me, because I cannot recall the last time I had set foot in any religious place. As far as I can remember, I have never been to any mosque; I have probably visited more temples/churches. So, I set forth with an open mind, not knowing what to expect.
The first thing that struck on my way to the Haji Ali Dargah was the crowd. As I walked past the hawkers selling brocade sheets to lay upon the tomb, I passed old, young, infants, beggars and even a goat or two. The mosque stands about 500 yards into the waters of the Arabian Sea and the walk leading up to the mosque was simply splendid. Inside the mosque was a different story altogether, jostling my way through a crowd of devotees, trying not to crush a poor infant cradled in his mother's arms and worrying about my wallet/cellphone getting stolen, did in no way make me feel closer to God. Moreover, women were not allowed to touch the tomb, and I didn't feel that having the caretaker swing his peacock feathered broom over me would bring out any devotion in me. In the end, I came out after going halfway into the shrine.
In contrast, the visit to Mount Mary Church fared a little better. It was a lot more peaceful. If I had known how to pray, I would have certainly done so. But I couldn't decide which of my problems needed divine intervention and which needed my own intervention! All I asked for was to let me be strong enough to deal with whatever life throws me my way; be it happiness or sorrow.
As I left the church, I could understand a little bit as to why anyone would want to blindly believe in God, or why anyone would want to stick to prayers/religion as a means to feel closer to God. And as I said at the beginning of this post, this trip didn't bring about any enlightenment in me, but neither did it do any harm. So if any heavenly light were to shine upon me, or if I were to have a paranormal experience, I promise not to be skeptical and to keep an open mind.