After my stroke, as expected, some people will come home saying they wanted to say a prayer for me. I usually sat quietly during these interludes (except for that one occasion). I just hoped they landed up when I was lying on the bed at which time I will be doing nothing more productive than watching T.V. I also hoped that they won't come when Tendulkar was nearing a century. This was because many of them wanted the T.V. switched off during their prayers. I don’t know about you but switching off the T.V. when Tendulkar is batting in the nineties is not the best strategy to get into my good books.
I am usually shifted back to the bed at around 9 p.m. Sometimes, at about 8.30 p.m. I will be racing through an article or the last chapter of a book hoping to complete it before I am shifted back to the bed. In 'Full Moon', P.G.Wodehouse writes:
It is a truism to say that the best-laid plans are often disarranged and sometimes even defeated by the occurrence of some small unforeseen hitch in the programme. The poet Burns, it will be remembered, specifically warns the public to budget for this possibility.
Not having taken into account the poet Burns' sound warning, I will be unprepared for the announcement that some well-meaning people have come to pray for me. My best-laid plans being thus upset by this unexpected interruption will not put me in a good mood. I will get irritated and think peevishly of telling them that it is all in the mind. When they troop into the room, I will give them a baleful glare. If looks could kill! But then I will feel a bit guilty because they were nice people who were only doing what seemed to them to be the best method to cure me. And hopefully it won't take too long. But my day was over.
In fact, this was the major problem in handling suggestions of a religious nature. If they had come from obnoxious people, it would have been easy to tell them to go jump. But they will generally come from nice people who sincerely believed in what they said. They wanted to help me in whatever way they could and would have been extremely glad if anything they said had helped me in any way. Some of them will be old people who would have played with me when I was a child and I would not want to hurt their feelings by brusquely dismissing their suggestions. In 'Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)', the author describes his dog:
To look at Montmorency you would imagine that he was an angel sent upon the earth, for some reason withheld from mankind, in the shape of a small fox-terrier. There is a sort of Oh-what-a-wicked-world-this-is-and-how-I-wish-I-could-do-something-to-make-it-better-and-nobler expression about Montmorency that has been known to bring the tears into the eyes of pious old ladies and gentlemen.
I know that Montmorency-look. It portends trouble. I get the same feeling of apprehension that Clarence, the ninth Earl of Emsworth used to get when his sister, Lady Constance Keeble ('Connie') used to pay him a visit.It was tricky for us (Jaya is mildly religious; I am the hell-bound one) to know how to handle such situations politely. (According to Ambrose Bierce in The Devil's Dictionary, POLITENESS, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy.)
I rely on the fact that most people who are not regular visitors will not be sure what I am trying to communicate. It was said that Humphry Appleby (of 'Yes Minister' fame) 'used language not as a window to the mind but as a curtain to be drawn across it'. My system of communication did a similar job of leaving most visitors flummoxed. That my expressions are more like that of Srinivasan than like that of Jagathy helped increase the perplexity of visitors. Jaya had the tougher task of deciding how to say 'no' in a way that sounded like 'yes'.
During prayers, some become very emotional and teary eyed while repeating certain names or verses which I find curious. The power of metaphors and symbols cannot be underestimated. I heard of a woman who spent the whole day praying in a room, coming out only for her meals because someone in her house was gravely ill. I would be appalled if Jaya got such a brainwave and started leading an eremitic existence.