As readers will know by now, I am an ardent believer in karma. What you sow, you reap. We earn everything that comes to us, whether it is a lottery or a bankruptcy, a marriage made in heaven or in hell, robust health or an ailing frame. But what then, you may question, is the role that God’s grace plays in the matter, if everything is meted out to us with mathematical precision? Does it exist or not?
I believe it does, and I experienced this when my own karma began to play out. For one thing there is grace in the time it takes for our karmic accounts to ripen. Events happen to us only when we are ready to bear them. Until then a compassionate Universe will forbear and give us fair weather. In other words, only that comes to us, which we have the strength to overcome and triumph over. We may not know this as we flounder in the tempest and curse our fate, but as we come to grips with the situation most of us will develop the courage, the patience, the perseverance and whatever else we need to rise above it. Looking back, such people will always express gratitude for that adverse situation because of the gifts it brought with it.
I recently attended a litfest in Mumbai where the chef, Vikas Khanna, happened to be a speaker. Khanna’s early childhood was dogged by pain and discomfort, for he was born with misaligned legs and feet, and had to wear heavy boots to rectify the problem. Unable to play games with others, and often teased for his appearance, the little boy sought solace in his grandmother’s kitchen, and learnt the secrets of Punjabi cooking through her. What a custom-made karma for a future Michelin chef. Had he not had the problem, perhaps the love of food would not have germinated within him.
Another beautiful way grace manifests is by cradling us in supportive circumstances when pummelled by karma. In 2009, my 90-year-old mother had a stroke and subsequent paralysis which condemned her to spend the next two-and-a-half years in bed, unable to move the right side of her body, eat or speak. She was living with me so I became the principal caregiver. It was a tough challenge but looking back, grace had prepared me for the eventuality. Only a few months before this happened my office had moved from South Bombay, to Goregaon, just a 15 minute ride by auto rickshaw from my house in Malad. This enabled me to spend much more time at home than I would otherwise have been able to do. Plus, editing a magazine, can, for the most part, be done from home as well, and I took full advantage of the flexible nature of my job for the next couple of years as I attended to my mother. Thirdly, it takes money to take care of an invalid, and my salary was inadequate for the purpose, but without asking, my larger family pumped money into my account until my publisher increased my salary substantially. These are just a few instances of what actually was an intricate network of grace.
But some of us drown in the storm. Or we emerge from it diminished, embittered and unsure. That too is permitted. Even though we may be equipped to defeat the karma, many of us may not be able to access the strength. We may be unwilling to learn. No matter, countless opportunities are afforded to us to overcome our karmic issues.
Karma is not punishment. When adverse situations visit us, their purpose is to help us figure what we have done wrong and to correct ourselves. God always wants us to triumph over our karmic hurdles because only then will we fulfill the purpose of life, which is to grow into better human beings. Therefore you can count on the higher power to bat for you and help you as much as possible to overcome your karma. When karma visits us, so does grace.