Fasting is a challenge. When we were in Zimbabwe recently for an international gathering organised by the Berkana Institute, there was a call for observing a fast in support of the struggle by many communities to make this world a better place for living. It was a voluntary option and I was sceptical about it lasting the full day. But I took the challenge and fasted for the entire day. In between we held a few discussions amongst each other about our experiences of fasting. In the afternoon I felt a desperate urge to eat something or at least drink a cup of Chai, but I resisted and soon the urge disappeared and I felt fine. In the evening I found myself with lot of energy and by night I was feeling completely satiated. It was amazing and powerful, and to see other friends linked to my state of being was emotionally fulfilling. The next morning we had a small communion to break our fast. It was great to be part of such an experience. I remembered the way the Jain community observes a ‘Day of Forgiveness’ each year. The Jain community fasts the whole day and reflects on its past deeds and particularly if its people have hurt any being. If they have then they ask for forgiveness. It is like you attempt to free yourself from your past deeds. More importantly, it makes you humble and submits you before those whom you have harmed in some way. It is a powerful means to lower the superficial power of the ego. When you fast for the whole day you also try to resist the temptations and cravings of your body and mind, and make you one with the sufferings of countless others who go without food.
In the first week of December, as the birthday of a friend approached I was thinking about an apt gift. I reflected on my nascent relationship and realised that unwittingly and in my exuberance I might have crossed the line by my writing. The other person was young and might have been astonished even ‘hurt’, so I decided to wrap my gift as an apology. And I decided to fast the whole day. On the day of the birthday I wrote an email and asked for forgiveness and also fasted the entire day. It was another compelling experience like the one I had in Zimbabwe. I also remembered Medha Patkar and Silvy and other activists who go on hunger strike in support of the cause they are championing, and my admiration for them grew many folds. On quite a few occasions I felt tempted. At least, I could sip my favourite Chai, I thought. And when my family members invited me to have dinner I almost gave up, as I was feeling quite hungry. But the resolve was strong and as it was for a cause I believed in and since it was my decision I endured and controlled the longing for food. I kept reminding myself that it was the right way to make up for my over-enthusiasm in putting my friend in an awkward position. I know the other person didn’t agree and said so in the answer to my email. But I know how much my action meant to me as it showed my determination and strength. And, most importantly, I felt even closer to that person than before.
A spiritual bond had got tightened.