On a cold winter morning, just as we came out of the church, Ian popped a weird question “Dadem, if we go to church, will we go to heaven?”
It took us by surprise!
I have been bad at answering such questions from him. I would reply with anything that came onto my mind, however now that Ian is 6 years old, I was not at liberty to blabber.
I decided to ponder along with him.
“Do you want to go to heaven?” I asked.
He was quiet for a while, “What is heaven?” he asked.
I wanted to know the perception of heaven in that little curious mind of his. “What do you think is heaven?”
He remained quiet again. The picture of Dante’s circles of hell flashed across my mind instilling fear within me, whereas my mind did not come up with any great visuals of heaven, except the blue sky dotted with clouds and angels, which by the way seemed liked things of renaissance. Someone should visualize the modern heaven and it better be with mobile chargers!
Anyway, I wanted to know Ian’s version of heaven.
“I think heaven is a happy place” he replied.
“Like?” I asked
“Home” he replied continuing “or like the school or playground or the old library”
Verina looked at me and smiled. The thought that heaven was on earth made me happy and I am sure it was the same thought in her head too.
“Why do you think people want to go to heaven, Ian” Verina asked.
“Hey, Ian and heaven rhymes” he was excited.
“Oh yes” one of the brilliant ways to increase ones vocabulary, which I got to know from his school.
“Because it is a happy place?” he replied continuing our conversation.
Without skipping a beat, he asked me the next question “Is it true that we have to die to go to heaven?”
“Well, I don’t know” I was candid.
“You go to church every Sunday. That means you will go to heaven , right?” he asked again.
“If I am a good , kind, helpful, respectful boy, I will go to heaven. Am I a good boy?” I said, completely dodging from the sticky topic of religion.
He scratched his head and replied “sometimes you are, sometimes you are not”
“When?” I was curious now.
“When you yell at me, you are bad, else you are good” his reply came quickly.
I agreed to his point and said “ Basically, if you are good and kind, you will go to heaven and if you are bad and evil and still go to church, you will not go to heaven” I was anticipating a barrage of questions about how Saurabh maamu and Ulfi aunty would go to heaven. I had my answer of “through a different gate” ready but fortunately he just moved on.
“Dadem, where is heaven?”
“As you said, it is a happy place. When you are kind and good, you create a heaven. When you are sad and evil, you create a hell” I replied.
I don’t know what he understood. Even I didn’t comprehend much of what I said. But it felt right.
“Dadem” he said.
“I don’t think one needs to die to go to heaven. You can be in heaven while you are still alive”
“Then after we go to heaven, could we please go back home” he asked.
Verina and I could not contain our laughter. Basavanna’s vachana came to my mind
ದೇವಲೋಕ ಮರ್ತ್ಯಲೋಕವೆಂಬುದು ಬೇರಿಲ್ಲಾ ಕಾಣಿರೋ !
ಸತ್ಯವ ನುಡಿವಿದೇ ದೇವಲೋಕ, ಮಿಥ್ಯವ ನುಡಿವುದೇ ಮರ್ತ್ಯಲೋಕ.
ಆಚಾರವೇ ಸ್ವರ್ಗ, ಅನಾಚಾರವೇ ನರಕ.
ಕೂಡಲಸಂಗಮದೇವಾ, ನೀವೆ ಪ್ರಮಾಣ