Pic.: Anand Sreedhar
“Pray as though everything depended on God.
Work as though everything depended on you.”
- Saint Augustine
This Wednesday night, around 9, as I was getting into our building lift, I saw my immediate nighbour Sherry getting out of the lift holding his mom’s hands.
“Going out for a dinner?” I asked spontaneously.
“No sir, going for the Novena.”
“Okay, okay,” I said hurriedly as I closed the lift door, “Pray for us, too.”
“Certainly, sir,” Sherry promised with a broad smile on his face, “We will.”
I have been living in Mumbai for over 35 years now. But, let me tell you, I haven’t been for a single Wednesday Novena held at the famed five-hundred-year old Mahim church. Nearly 40-50 thousand devotees, both Christians and non-Christians, devotedly attend nine masses – popularly called ‘Novenas’ – to seek solace from Our Lady of Perpetual Succor.
Sherry is a young Hindu. He has been faithfully observing the Novenas… and, on this Wednesday night, when I heard him saying, “No for dinner sir, going for the Novena,” I felt not only a lot moved, but also a lot ashamed of myself…
“Though I am a Catholic, I haven’t been to Mahim shrine even on a single Wednesday!” I was relenting.
Just a week before that, on a Tuesday early morning, my wife had met, Nidhi, a Maharashtrian young mother. She was returning from the revered Siddi Vinayak temple… walking barefoot! Again, my wife had innocently asked where the lady was coming from and why barefoot… Yes, the answer had humbled my wife, as well…
And, at home, when my wife narrated to me the incident, I, too, went into a silence!
Nutan, another neigbour on our floor, just disappears time to time… and, invariably, we will come to know later that she had been to Shirdi! She does it to find solace and come back rejuvenated!
“Faith is the bird that feels the light,” said Rabindranath Tagore, “when the dawn is still dark.” Whether it is Sherry, Nidhi, Nutan or me and whether we are a Hindu, Muslim or Christian – faith and prayer are what keep us sane and grounded… I am aware that I have not been to shines at Mahim, Prabhadevi or Shirdi… But, I have 'felt the light' whenever I have encountered a sincere pilgrim…
I think, that, too, is devotion… a pilgrimage!