Although my uncle had no time for Brahmins and temple rituals, the 2 most important women in my life – my aunt and my mother – would frequently exchange religious books and thoughts. By requiring me to read certain religious texts, my mother instilled in me a degree of spirituality beyond the rituals.
At about age 21, I waved a fist in the direction of the sky, saying “To hell with you,” and renouncing God; Ganesha had let me down. Within 6 years, after a period of concentrated study, I decided, most logically, that there had to be a Creator God, to explain the complexity and beauty of all that we could experience. Riding on that initial underlay of boyhood spirituality, I began my perusal of religion (and religions).
My father’s role in implanting significant values in me was to stress the primacy of freedom. He also pointed out that it is the eagle which flies highest; but that it flies alone. His adage “The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on” (from Khayyam?) has had a sustaining effect on my responses to life’s travails.
The frequent gathering of 3 maternal uncles in our home during my boyhood informed me of the realms of local politics, international relations, the venality of competitive fellow-humans, inter-ethnic community relations, the impending war, and so on. I wondered, years later, how perceptive these men had been, while only in their thirties.
My boyhood expired at age 13, when the Japanese military arrived. After a year of absolute frugality through my father’s unemployment, my family was re-located to the countryside. I lived with 3 men and a Chinese cook in the capital. My life became one of loneliness, lacking relatives, friends, and conversation. Being under-fed was par for the course.
Thus was formed the loner, who had now been prepared for a life of failure, hardship, and frugality. He was, nevertheless, to be a successful survivor, enjoying any pleasure that the Cosmos sent his way. There was plenty of that too, as time passed. He eventually evolved into a communitarian small-l liberal, a political orphan, but an independent thinker.
One’s destiny path may become visible only with hindsight.