I did not know that I would be called upon to pray.

Before this time I said the Lord’s prayer, Holy Mary, Glory Be God and went on in my meditation to pray for the family that has shown me great love and which was leading us in prayer.

I prayed for my own family and for Nigeria. I prayed that God grants our leaders the wisdom to lead well and our people the principle to follow only those who can deliver social justice and good governance.

I then went on to pray for the Super Eagles to qualify for Brazil 2014 World Cup and for our sports to grow to such an enviable height that the industry will be huge, providing business and entertainment that will reduce our stress and make us live long.

NDIA, Amritsar : Indian Sikh devotees lights candles at the illuminated Sikhism’s holiest shrine Golden Temple in Amritsar on November 3, 2013, on the ocassion of Bandi Chhor Divas or Diwali. Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas or Diwali to mark the return of the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji, who was freed from imprisonment and also managed to release 52 political prisoners at the same time from Gwalior fort by Mughal Emperor Jahangir in 1619. AFP PHOTO

I said these prayers silently while others sang melodious songs in prayer to God. I did not sing along with them for I did not know the lyrics but I knew that they were singing to God.

I prayed as a Christian, thanking God for His mercies and further asking for more favours.

After the singing, prayers commenced. Mrs Asha Arya led the prayers. Then the son Yogender Arya followed with his wife supporting. Sandeep prayed too. Shrishti meditated and made sure Yogender’s daughter, Gushi did not distract us. I was asked to pray too.

I thanked God again for His mercies and thanked Him for the special day. It was a day of festival, a special day for Indians. It was their Christmas if you would permit such literary bias.

India is a country with over 40 festivals, among them Makar Sankrati, Lohri, Maha Shivrati, Vasant Panchami, Ram Navami, Holika Dahan, Holi and one special festival that I find funny but wished we had something like that in Nigeria. It is Karvachaut, a day set aside for women to offer special prayers to God for the success and general well being of their husbands.

Their biggest is Diwali. 20 days before Diwali is Dusshera when effigies are destroyed to symbolize the destruction of evil people. Just two days before Diwalli is Bhai Duj when people celebrate their brothers. Last Sunday was Diwali, a vibrant Hindu festival that celebrates the return of lord Rama after 14 years in exile during which he fought and defeated three demons including king demon, Ravana. There was wild celebration at his home when he returned.

They decorated and illuminated everywhere with all sorts of lights to symbolize the victory of light over dark, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.

Diwali is also celebrated in Napal, Singapore, Malaysia, Burma, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago and some other countries.

Activities that precede Diwali are tremendous. Shopping, visits, exchange of gifts, prayers, shows etc. High rising and low buildings and structures are decorated with different designs of illumination. It is such that even the skies are illuminated because the reflections cast a floral beauty in them. At homes, new paintings are made, families prepare delicacies.

They make cakes and sweets for the sweet and exciting moments that Diwali offers. Visitors come with gifts and go with gifts. It is a day to show love to all. There are those who visit the temples but many stay with their families at home on the day and after family prayers, the merrymaking begins.

Companies that produce crackers and fireworks must have Diwali in mind. I cannot possibly imagine any show or festival in any other part of the world where fireworks and crackers are fired like Indians do at Diwali. Just imagine residents of every compound blowing fireworks and crackers for a whole day almost non stop.

They compete to outdo each other and what is at show is such an incredible shootings that produce hostilities in the skies of a country with over 1.5 billion people. It is stupendous. It’s always a spectacle of unimaginable proportion. They continue the following day but the intensity is not anything near what happens on the day of Diwali which I have now experienced two times, the first being in 2010.

Nobody sleeps on Diwali day until the early hours of the following day. The crackers, some of them louder than bomb explosions (they must be produced specially for Diwali) keep you awake, the fireworks and the illumination make the night bright and the fumes from the crackers and seeming explosives affect the eyes, choke and interestingly smoke mosquitoes out of homes on the night.

I have never seen a country so infested by mosquitoes as in India. But on Diwali nights the smokes from crackers and fireworks are so thick that the mosquitoes disappear, at least temporarily.

Back to the prayers. The Hindus believe in many gods. There’s virtually god of everything. God of the sea, god of agriculture, god of the sky, god of love, god of colours, god of trees etc. All these gods are linked to god of destruction, god of preservation and most importantly god of creation. But they pray to god of destruction not to destroy them.

They dread him and revere god of preservation and creation. They believe lord Rama for whom they celebrate Diwali is a descendant of god of preservation, the god that preserves good things and what has been created by god of creation.

I’m here in India and spending Diwali with the Arya family who invited me to join them in prayers after a six course lunch. I have met wonderful people since my first trip here. Dr. Dussyant Nadar and Dr. Sapna Nangia and her secretary Jetinder Kaur. May God continue to bless them all.

I started by thanking God for the day. Before us was a well decorated table that could pass for an altar. The room is largely for prayers and different from the others. There were items on the table representing prayer points or symbols. I prayed in that light.

There was a live plant representing the ecosystem and I prayed God to preserve the ecosystem and make the world a better place for us us. I remembered Lagos where somebody cuts down trees at the National Stadium, exposing the ugly nakedness of that once beautiful edifice and the authorities allow such destruction in this modern day that tree planting is encouraged globally.

There were notes of money on the table and I prayed God to make our purses healthier.

There were fruits and I prayed God for us not to lack food, for Him to provide for the Arya family and for us all.

There were flowers and I prayed God to grant us peace, love and most importantly the grace to love Him daily more and more for we know that when we find Him every other thing shall follow. I concluded by saying “God, we have prayed in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ your son, who lives and reigns with you and Holy Spirit, ONE GOD forever and ever. Thank you, thank you and thank you Father”.

I heard my friends say Amen. Many Indians are like that. Sandeed once took me to the Cathedral here and on sighting the statue of Jesus Christ and our blessed mother, ever Virgin Mary, he prostrated, placing his hand on the chest in reverence. I have seen other Hindus do same.

The prayer ended but something of interest happened. Mrs Arya who led the prayers took the notes of money which we prayed upon and shared to us all. I got equivalent of about N1000. I was told to keep it for God would multiply it many folds. I said Amen.

They did not ask us to sow seeds. Rather, they gave us seeds from God for us to part with, do good to fellow men and see the seed grow to make our purses healthy as I prayed. In my perspective they gave us fruits from God and we will never lack in the mighty name of God. I BELIEVE.

We parted and I felt good. I believed that God heard our prayers. I recalled my prayers for Eagles and wondered the spirit that touched me to do so. In sports, I have always believed that God is neutral. You pray to win a match and your opponents pray to God too.

They don’t worship devil, anyway. I have always believed in hard work as a form of prayer in sports, knowing that God loves all and helps those who help themselves. But on Diwali day here in India I prayed for the Eagles to qualify for Brazil 2014 World Cup and go on to do well there.

May God hear my prayer in Jesus name as November 16 approaches. I have not still forgotten the nightmare that was the first half in Ethiopia when the home team made us look ordinary but our experience prevailed and we smiled at last. Eagles will be at home in Calabar and should muscle the visitors with power game in the early minutes of the game.

An early goal will knock Ethiopia out of their stride and kill the passion with which they play their passing game. That is one way to overwhelm them early and avoid anything that could cause us heart problem should they settle and begin to enjoy the game. Let’s not Ethiopia settle in the game early in Calabar.

Early goal will lighten up the stadium in Calabar like a Diwali day in Delhi. And we shall celebrate with fireworks even if we can’t match the fever, frenzy and excitement that mark Diwali.  That will mean well for our World Cup bound Eagles.


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