“Maa, why do we have to come to the temple if God is everywhere?” - 12-year-old Ankur asked while climbing the temple’s stairs. He had to leave the India-Australia cricket match in between to accompany his mom to the temple.

“What kind of question is that, Ankur? We come here to show our love & respect to God.” - Rama replied.

“But we can love and respect him from our home too, no? It’s so hot outside.”

Ankur was an inquisitive child. But he was still a child. Or else, his brain wouldn’t let him assume God to be a him so easily.

“Ankur” - Rama gave him a stern look. “I know it’s about your match and not the heat. But don’t ever talk like that about God”.

Better sense prevailed and Ankur decided to keep quiet. An angry mom is though a cute mom, it’s not a pleasant scenario to deal with. They left their slippers at the temple’s gate and went inside. Rama performed aarti, put a tika on Ankur’s head, and kissed his cheeks.

Ankur got his post-aarti Prasad (ladoos) and started gorging over them. Rama was relieved as the ladoos kept him quiet. They came out of the temple and distributed the Prasad among the beggars outside. Afterward, Rama called the driver and they got into their car.

“Maa, why are the beggars so poor?” Ankur asked innocently.

“Beta, they are beggars because they’re poor. And not the other way around.”

“But why so?”

“Due to many reasons. Sometimes due to laziness. Sometimes due to circumstances. And sometimes, God punishes them for doing bad things.”

“Ohh! So rich people must never do bad things, right? Because they’re obviously not poor.”

“They do. And that’s why some of them become poor eventually. That is God’s way of punishing them.”

“Why does God allow them to do bad things then? He should just stop them before they turn bad, right?. That way, God won’t need to punish anyone and all of us would be rich.” Ankur failed to understand why such a powerful being was allowing bad behavior among his creations.

“Because we’re responsible for our acts. God only rewards or punishes us based on our acts.” Rama was a bit irritated by now. Though she didn’t allow it to reflect from her face.

There was silence for 5 mins. And then Ankur buzzed again:

“Maa, if God can only punish or reward us but can’t control our actions then don’t you think his powers are pretty limited. I mean yes, he is more powerful than us. But is that enough to be worshipped?”

“Ankur” - Rama raised her voice. “How dare you judge God and his powers? Is that what I have taught you? To disrespect God like that. How do such ideas even come in your mind? Do they teach you these things at school? Understand this for once and all - God is the supreme being. We are nothing in front of him. Absolutely nothing. He made this world. He made us. We have to be thankful to him. Do you understand that?”

Ankur shook his head in affirmation - trying to hide his dismay.

10 minutes passed. Ankur was still silent. Rama was surprised at the longevity of this silence and also a bit worried.

“Maa” - Ankur said sheepishly.

“Yes, Ankur. No questions on God now.” Her worry got replaced by relief and annoyance again.

“No, no - I don’t doubt God. But I think if he is powerful enough to stop people from doing bad things but is still not able to, then he must be busy with other important stuff. Like running the world, ensuring sunrise & sunset happen at correct times, directing rivers towards oceans, etc. He doesn’t have the time and attention for us, I guess. Like I want him to make India win the match today. He might want to grant my wish but just doesn’t have the time to fulfill it. There are so many more important tasks that require his attention - urgent & important matters. We are insignificant in his grand scheme of things. Wouldn’t you say that?”

“Yes - that might be true”. Rama conceded some ground this time. She was still agitated but also content as Ankur was now believing in God’s supreme powers and massive responsibilities.

“But then what’s the point in praying to him? He wouldn’t have any time to listen and act on our prayers. Why should I come to the temple if he can’t make Sachin score a century today?”

Rama found her content melting away.

“Ankur!!” - she almost shouted but then controlled her voice realizing that the driver was watching them.

“God has time for all of us. He protects us. He loves us. And if we keep doing good things, he will also listen and act on our prayers. He will love you for coming to the temple today. And if you’ve asked for Sachin’s century with truth and love in your heart, God will grant your wish. He is the kindest being.”

“No, Mama. I don’t think so. If he makes Sachin score a century then he will listen to my prayers. But he will also reject the prayers of a child in Australia, no? The Australian kids don’t want Sachin to score a century.” Ankur was confused.

“That’s their and their God’s concern. Our God will grant our wishes. Because ours is the most powerful God.” Rama replied. She couldn’t wait to reach home to get some much-needed rest from Ankur’s nagging once he gets his match to concentrate on.

“Wow, Maa! A fight between Indian and Australian Gods? That would be so awesome! I wish we could witness it. It would be like Shaktimaan vs Superman.”

Rama didn’t care to reply. She was tired of Ankur’s questions by now.

10 minutes passed again. Ankur was looking out of the window - lost in his thoughts.

“Maa, I think God should not interfere with cricket matches. Otherwise, every century will seem like an act of God. Not Sachin’s performance. I wouldn’t like that. I like my cricket matches better this way.”

“Sure. But stop bothering God with your stupid matches now. He is capable enough to decide what to work on. If you keep questioning him, his powers, and his motivations, he will get angry at you. And then you will become a beggar like the ones sitting outside the temple.” Rama tried to scare Ankur.

“Are the beggars poor because they don’t believe in God?” Ankur asked again - unaware of Rama’s anger.

“Yes”. Rama replied - seething inside.

“But we only visit the temple once a week, Maa. Beggars go there daily. They must have done really bad things to remain poor even after visiting the temple so many times.” Ankur wondered.

“Yes - they did. And that’s what I want you to understand. Once you go down that path and make God angry, it is very hard to come back no matter how many times you visit the temple.”

“But how about that cute kid in that beggar’s arms, maa? The one with the blue t-shirt who asked for an extra ladoo. Why is he poor? The poor kid hasn’t even lived long enough to do bad things. I don’t think I will ever understand how these things work.”

Rama was silent. Waiting to burst. Ankur was least bothered. He kept giving those carefree confused expressions that only kids can.

“I don’t think God is fair to that kid. It’s not a bad idea to not have a God at all. Either he is not powerful enough to stop us from doing bad things or he doesn’t have the time to do so. Also, he isn’t fair to that poor kid. Why does God even exist? Does he even exist?”

That was it - enough was enough. Rama decided to put some sense in him. She yelled at him.

“Ankur - one more word and I will slap this crap out of you. God is everywhere. He is all-powerful. It’s a matter of faith. You have to have faith in him. You can’t go around questioning God like that. He has created you, me, and everything around us. You must believe in his ways of working. You must believe that he knows what’s best for us. You have no experience of life and the hardships it can offer. You will realize how important God is when you grow up. You will understand the magic that can happen if you just keep your faith in him. Never doubt God. He knows what he is doing. He is God for God’s sake. Never allow your faith in him to be questioned. You must keep the faith.”

By the time she stopped yelling, they had reached home. They got out of the car. Rama was tensed. Ankur was stunned by this sudden outburst. (It wasn’t sudden but it’s Ankur we’re talking about).

He ran to the living room and switched on the TV. Sachin was batting. The camera moved from Sachin to his fans in the ground. It zoomed on a poster:

“If cricket is religion, then Sachin is God.”

For the first time since morning, the idea of God made him smile.

Written on September 27, 2020