I was told writers undergo a lot of emotional upheaval while creating their world. I experienced such upheaval when I started pursuing the story of Rama. Learned people who worshipped Rama had promptly told me to exercise caution. I was asked to desist from writing books about Gods. But I took up the task, shrugged off all the jinxes, and began my journey into researching the plot line of the book. There is a saying, ‘Yad bhavam tad bhavati’, meaning you become what you think. Within a short span of time, Rama possessed me.
At that time, I owned a business enterprise that had offices in the US and India. The book I was working on, and a compulsive feeling to learn more, made me go around the country. India and its temples became a part of my soul over time. Caught between a scientific world and a world built on religion, I was constantly questioning myself and things around me. I was a man of science caught in the world of faith.
My ties to India were not just built around books, businesses or travel. My elderly parents still lived in Chennai. It was the middle of 2009 and I had just returned to my US office after a few months in India. Then one night, my whole belief system was shaken. My parents in Chennai had left on a short trip to Madurai. Being a dutiful son, I would call to check on them. But that fateful day was different. A young male voice answered in Tamil at the other end of the phone: “Do not worry, nothing has happened to your parents.” And a chill ran down my spine. I knew something had gone terribly wrong and my world came crashing down. I sensed that I was on the brink of being left alone in the world and I froze. My uncle took over the call and calmed me down. I heard that my parents had met with an accident in a head-on collision with another car, and that they were admitted to the Apollo Hospital in Chennai. I pulled myself together and rushed to India.
When I reached the hospital, my parents were already in the operation room for their surgery. They had suffered head injuries. As I was still absorbing the shock and waiting anxiously outside the OT, I heard the entire story. On a single- lane traffic route, blocked due to construction, a car had overtaken and hit the car my parents were travelling in head-on. Their car slid into the ditch nearby with all passengers gravely injured. For two hours, there were onlookers and passers-by but no one bothered to help the injured passengers. Then out of the blue, two young men who had coincidentally taken the same route came to the rescue. They called an ambulance, and secured the cash, jewels and valuables. They registered the incident at the local police station and then drove my parents to Apollo at Chennai. They also called our relatives and friends who took over soon after. I was eternally grateful. But the young men had left. Despite our best efforts, we could not meet them and say thank you while I was in Chennai.
In a way, the whole episode reminded me about how Shravan and Dasarath (mythological characters from Ramayana) would have felt under the circumstances. The same pangs of separation from the ones you hold dearest to your heart — your parents and your children. Ever since I started work on the Rama story, I have had challenges in many forms. But I knew in my heart that there would be two brothers who will come to my rescue when I need them.
I am an agnostic, but I have faith that my search will be fulfilled some day. Faith and belief are mankind’s greatest treasures, and they have to be used for the progress of one’s soul. Faith is not really a science like e = mc2, but it gives results just as science does when peace, dedication and time are the parameters in the equation.