The compassion of the Buddha and personal suffering combined to script a religion of pain and redemption for journalist-politician-writer Arun Shourie, who recalls the trauma of bringing up his disabled son and taking care of his ailing wife in his new book.
Shourie fell back on the teachings of Abraham and the Buddha when waves of desolation swept through him, and they helped him cling on to his moorings, he writes in the book, Does He Know a Mother's Heart: How Suffering Refutes Religion.
He began to write the book, published by Harper Collins India, in the winter of 2009 after moving to Lavasa near Pune in Maharashtra. The move came after Shourie "lost interest in what he had been doing in Delhi".
"Your neighbours have a son. He is now 35 years old. Going by his age, you would think of him as a young man, and on meeting his father and mother would ask almost out of habit, 'and what does the young man do?'. That expression 'young man' does not sit well as he is but a child," Shourie says of son Aditya (known as Adit), suffering from cerebral palsy.
Adit cannot walk. "Indeed, he cannot stand. He cannot stand, he cannot use his right arm. But he speaks only syllable by syllable," Shourie, 69, says in his book.
The father shouts at the child, curses him. "You are the one, who brought misery into our home. We knew no trouble till you came. Look at you, weak, dependent and drooling...," he lashes out.
But what if that father in question is "god", Shourie wonders. The perspective suddenly changes with the awareness that "father" is god, he says. "There must be some reason God has done this," he says.
Adit, he says, has a very high threshold of pain..."He has taught himself to bear unbelievable amount of it," Shourie says."He (god) says in his book that he alone knows what is in the womb; and how it is progressing," the writer says. Quoting ancient scriptures, he says: "God doth know what every female womb doth bear, by how much the womb falls short (of their time and number) or do exceed. Every single thing is before his sight; in due proportion. It is he who brought you forth from the wombs of your mother."
The writer, once a hard-nosed journalist who was editor of both the Times of India and the Indian Express in the late 1980s, recalls moving to religion while rushing a frequently ailing Adit to hospital. But another personal loss accelerated the spiritual journey.
"...One day as (wife) Anita was driving Adit and herself to school, a jeep coming from the opposite direction lost control. It rammed into Anita's little fiat. She and Adit were tossed inside the car. Soon after the incident, Anita began to feel peculiar sensations on her left side. Soon the stiffness developed into tremors; eventually she was diagnosed with having developed Parkinson's disease. She was around 42 at the time..," Shourie looks back in time.
It prompts him to question God's ways and infer a few eternal truths, which to the writer are strangely comforting.
For dealing with life and what it sends us, the Buddha's position is the most helpful, the writer suggests.
"Buddha explains whether the world is finite or infinite or both; whether the Tathagata survives after death or not...there is birth, there is aging, there is death, there is sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. They have to be dealt with...," Shourie says.
Shourie, who held portfolios like disinvestment, commerce and industry and communications in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime (1999-2004), has written at least 20 books, dealing with issues such as Indian law and polity, national security, religion, economics, and journalism.