Anjali Kumar, the author of Stalking God — My Unorthodox Search For Something To Believe In, talks to Karthik Shankar about faith, the importance of keeping an open mind and the commonality of our humanity.
In 2010, Anjali Kumar, a New York-based lawyer at Google, had a spiritual crisis spurred by the birth of her daughter. She decided that she needed to set out to find god. However, Kumar didn’t settle for the familiarity of organised religion. Her multi-year search began with John of God, a medium based in Brazil who claims to channel kings, saints and doctors to heal people. This was followed by an eclectic spiritual sampling that tested her resolve. It required her to drink nausea-inducing volcanic water in Machu Picchu, have a Santa Claus-lookalike who is a tantric sound healer lie on top of her, attend pot luck on Thanksgiving with Wiccans and spend hours in a sweltering sweat lodge. All these spiritual episodes are wittily detailed in her eminently readable memoir Stalking God and referred to in her TED Talk which has been viewed over a million times.
As a self-avowed atheist, it was easy for me to dismiss Kumar’s insistence that “there has to be something out there.” Yet I was drawn to her winning candour and empathy which she uses to great effect in the book. Stalking God is more than a bible for believers; it’s a funny, illuminating and poignant look at our search for meaning and spiritual fulfilment in the modern world. An excerpt from a Skype conversation with Kumar....
WAS IT EASY FOR YOU TO JUMP INTO THESE STRANGE SPIRITUAL RITUALS?
When Zia was born I remember having a conversation with my father about taking her to a temple. That kick-started it for me. “Oh my god, I don’t know what I believe in!” I thought. I had never really wondered about what religion meant. The beautiful thing about Eastern religions is that they are woven into the fabric of our everyday and so there’s an ease with which we deal with them. As for jumping into different things, that is a part of my personality. I like to dabble in things.
WHY HAVE YOU GRAVITATED TOWARDS ALL THESE NONTRADITIONAL BELIEF SYSTEMS?
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