You cannot see yourself. Of course, you can see your beautiful face on a mirror. But what you see is not you, only an illusion.
What am I telling? The truth is your face is not you; your eyes are not you. Your beautiful face that you see on the mirror is not really you. They are just a part of you. It is more to this than meets the eye. The truth is you cannot see yourself. The real you resides someplace inside.
I am a liar. I am filthy in thoughts and wicked in heart. I am egotistical, foolish, and arrogant. How do I know this? Look inside of you in all honesty, and you will see your self clearly.
Beginnings of My Journey Called Life
I was born and brought up in a poor Hindu-animistic family. My father is a mason and my mother is a weaver. Right from my childhood, fear of God was instilled in me, somehow. But my concept of God was very different. We used to worship the creation, not the Creator Himself. We used to worship sun every morning, tulsi plant in the courtyard every evening.
There is a tradition in every Meitei family in Manipur called Lai-thaomei Thaanba, which is basically performing a daily worship ritual offered to God in the twilight hour (evening). Normally girls or women of the house perform this worship ritual.
In our family, instead of my sister or my mother, I used to perform this evening worship ritual. In this daily ritual, there are certain places in the house and courtyard where you just set apart the certain places as holy. And you wipe the floor with your hands using ‘holy’ water in small circular round shape, where you kneel down and offer your prayers. There are no idols or images involved in this ritual. In those designated places, you light a candle. As a child, I used to do this ritual daily without fail except on the days I fell sick.
And in doing this, I used to pray like this: “Lainingthou, make me good in studies.” (‘Lainingthou’ in Manipuri means ‘Almight God’, or ‘King of gods’) People from my neighborhood used to make fun of me saying, “Sanjit, what do you say in your long prayers?” I would return a smile at them without saying a word.
My Alma Mater 1: National Children’s School (1985-1991)
For schooling, I started in a nearby local government primary school named National Children’s School. In the beginning, I was not good in studies. My roll number was at the end of the numbers in the class. Often I would quarrel with fellow students in school and return home black and blue, some other days with torn clothes. In exams, I would pass with a ‘simple pass’.
Teachers would rebuke me, and fellow students would ridicule me. And as a child, I was frustrated, and I didn’t know where to turn, what to do, whom to trust. Wherever I turned to, I was the object of scorn.
In Meitei culture, there is a tradition called Lai-thaomei Thaanba, which is a daily worship ritual performed by a woman or a girl of the house at the sunset or evening. In some cases, boys also can perform this daily ritual. In those days, my elder sister used to perform the evening worship.
And one day somebody said to me, “Sanjit, if you want to be a good student, do this evening worship.”
I asked her, “What should I say to God?”
She said to me, “Tell God whatever you want or wish.”
It’s unbelievable what a simple belief of a child can do.
The next day, I approached my elder sister and said, “Sister, can I perform the evening worship.” Fortunately she consented. And immediately I started performing the evening worship. From that day onwards, I started my daily duty: performing evening worship.
At first, my sister didn’t believe that I would do so faithfully. Even if I went out for playing in the nearby fields, before the sun set, I would leave the playing field and run home just so I could perform the daily ritual in time. It’s unbelievable what a simple belief of a child can do!
Everyday in performing this worship ritual, I would kneel down and offer my long prayers to God, at the end saying, “Make me a good student.” Because I was tired of ridiculing me by my fellow students and I was tired of the rebukes of my teachers in school as I was poor in studies.
I would continue doing this evening ritual until I was in sixth grade.
As a child, my concept of God was: There is one big and powerful God. Below Him, are many gods. I didn’t know His name. I just addressed Him as ‘Lai-ningthou’ which in Manipuri means ‘King of gods’ or ‘Almighty God’.
Since I started doing the evening worship, surprisingly I started to see some change in me. I was quarrelling less in school. I would return home with torn clothes less. And slowly I started climbing in ranks in my class.
In those days, in government schools, there was Class A, Class B, and then there were Class 1, Class 2, Class 3 and so on. By the time I reached Class 1, I was ranked 30 out of 50-60 students in the class. At least, I was happy that I was climbing up in ranks in the class. I had less days standing up on the bench. I had less rebukes from the teachers. Still, I was the object of scorn for many.
By nature, I am quiet and introvert, but I was determined. And I continued the same prayer in my evening worship ritual.
By the time I reached Class III, I became the topper in the class. In the first term examination in that year, I stood first in the class. And soon all the bad things about me seemed to turn into good. All the teachers started to say only the good things about me: “Sanjit, you are brilliant.”
Once you are ranked 1st in the class, you are a good boy or good girl. It doesn’t matter what’s really inside of you. It doesn’t matter whether you are deceitful or not, it doesn’t matter whether you are a liar, or filthy in thoughts or wicked in heart. The world doesn’t really care about what’s inside of you. The world only cares about how many marks you secured.
When people say only the good things about you, or sing praises to your name, you get puffed up. Most people in my locality knew me, because the word was spread that I was the topper in the class. In all this, pride entered me, unknowingly.
Pride goes before the fall. I learned it by heart in school but I never understood it.
Every time people talked good things about me, the pride in me continued to soar. At that time, National Children’s School had classes up to Class V (Grade 5). Topping the class, I finished my primary schooling in that school in 1991.
I had to change school for further studies. In those days, sending children to private schools was only possible for rich parents. And poor parents could not send their children to private schools because of the high fees.
My parents were poor, but heeding to the voice of people, my parents sent me to St. George High School located at Wangkhei, Imphal East for my Class VI studies. But in the meantime I appeared for the JNV (Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya) Entrance Exam.
St. George High School (January – July 1992)
The year was 1992. I got admitted in St. George High School, an English medium school. Beginning of the academic year which usually falls in the month of February, I entered the portal of St. George High School with childhood curiosity. I was in Class VI section B.
This time I would peddle on my bicycle to school because the school was far from my house.
If I go down my memory lane, the first thing I saw in St. George High School was the picture of Jesus Christ. A picture of Jesus Christ was placed in every classroom. And there was an icon of crucified Christ at the entrance of the school building. No eyes could escape a stare at that crucified Christ icon.