A Mean Man

It was our favorite place to hang out 💁‍♀️.
Those who were neither ‘canteen people’ nor ‘majnu ka teela’ folks could be found there, either just chitchatting with friends or simply completing their theory assignments.

I also used to like that place very much. In between the classes, at lunch break, during mass banks, early from the lab, for the last glance study before the exam, it was my favorite place to sit. It was green, peaceful and right next to the road to hostels on one side and to the entrance of the building on the other side. Sitting there meant one could say ‘Hi’ ‘Hello’ to all batchmates, juniors, and seniors passing by. Sitting there also meant that you could easily take part in all the laughter and the buzz around without being cut off from your assignment in hand.

One such day while completing my files, I overheard Dinesh (Name Changed) saying that he was an atheist.
“I don’t believe in God. I don’t think He exists 🙄
I heard him saying this when they were casually talking to each other.

For a moment I looked up from my file 😒 and looked at Dinesh 🤔 and then again started doing what I was doing. I saw an atheist for the first time in life just then and there, in Dinesh. Ever before I had just read the term ‘atheist’ but had not seen any atheist with my eyes.

Being born and brought up in Delhi I was raised among different faiths. I grew up studying in a school where I shared my tiffin with everybody, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists. But I didn’t know any atheist in my school (or in that age).

I looked at Dinesh, my batch mate in College.
He just said, “I do not believe that there is any God”
I knew this guy and this whole bunch of guys who used to just laugh hysterically at every joke. I used to sit there almost daily, and they were also sitting there nearby talking, gossiping, cracking jokes. I had never seen them talking anything serious, never ever. For the first time, I found them talking over religion 😕.

He casually said.
I casually overheard.
Life continued the same way. They kept laughing standing there daily. I kept writing my files there daily…

Then, it was the day of our final annual examination one day.
That place was very crowded that day.
Doors were supposed to open only fifteen minutes before the exam.
There was a commotion all around. Students checking their seat arrangements, girls pouring out all their seriousness in last minute preparation before exam, boys still rolling up into laughter…

Among all that hum I was sitting at the same place flipping pages of the notes that I saw Dinesh coming.
He was wearing this huge red ‘tilak’ on his forehead (a mark worn by a Hindu on the forehead, usually after prayer ritual as an indication of his religious commitment and affiliation). Dinesh was coming from the temple ‘maata ka mandir’.

“Oye Dinesh! Mummy Mandir le gain kya”
His friends were laughing hysterically again asking him how he could visit the temple and pray to deities when he didn’t believe in the God in first place.

“O Yaar. Exam hai na aaj. To maine socha chalo 🤭…”
‘As it was the day of the final exam and God (if any) could save him from failing’, he explained while sharing the ‘Prasad’ (a devotional offering made to a deity that is later shared among devotees) with his friends.
I saw him eating too.
He ate the prasad with all humility and respect, using both his hands, bowing the head down.

Looking at Dinesh I kept thinking…
There are no atheists in foxholes.
Neither on a sinking ship nor on the day of the exam 🤔.

Thinking of Dinesh, I think…
Did I ever see an atheist?
Or, I just saw ‘A Mean Man’ once 🤔?

And, I keep thinking…
Why this world is Upside Down 🤔.

Sisterly Yours
With full belief, ‘there is a God, and only One God’
The Might of Pen 🌹

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