When I was young, I would go for Hindi movies, and stare entranced at the beautiful people, scenic locales and improbable situations that ensued. Often, there would be an old mother who would suffer in silence, and invariably sob, "He upar wala, meri raksha kijiye!" "Upar wala, please protect me!" I was at that age when I didn't understand who this 'upar wala' was, and my eyes would go up to the roof of the house where she stood, trying to locate a superhero, probably crouching on the roof, ready to spring down and come to her aid.
This 'upar wala' could help and hinder, bless and curse, work miracles and make people's dreams come true, according to all the good people in the movies - old mothers and fathers, idealistic young people and the superstitious, all of whom longed for a piece of the 'upar wala's' mercy.
As I grew older, I began to suspect that the 'upar wala' actually referred to God in His heaven - a God who saw the truth but waited, allowing the wicked to flourish for a good part of the movie, before He brought them down with one clean swipe. Much akin to the Bard's quote - "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,/They kill us for their sport." In this case, the killing was for our sport as well, as we waited with bated breath for something really bad to happen to these reel life villains.
Then came the dialogue that became very popular - "Upar wala jab bhi deta hai chappar phad kar deta hai!" When God gives something, He does so open heartedly. I pondered over the word 'chappar', substituting it for 'chappal', wondering why on earth God needed to tear His footwear, and whether He actually wore any. None of the pictures of Hindu deities I had seen ever saw God wearing anything on His feet.
It was when I watched the poignant movie 'Anand' where Rajesh Khanna, the then heart throb, made the most beautiful dialogues come alive, including the one which made his death in the movie such a tear jerker, that my grey cells began to work, along with my over active tear ducts.
"Zindagi aur maut upar wale ke haath hain jahapanah, use naa aap badal sakte hain na main,
Hum sab toh rang-manch kee katputliya hain, jinki dor uparwale ki ungliyon mein bandhi hain
Kab kaun kaise uthega, koi nahi bata sakta."
These lines compared the 'upar wala' to a puppeteer, and even as I wept buckets of tears in that last scene, force of habit made me look around for that elusive person crouching on the rafters, this time much akin to Spiderman, I guess.
Much later in life, I read Shakespeare's 'As You Like It', and was made to memorize 'The Seven Ages of Man',
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages."
By now I knew for a certainty that the 'upar wala' was no fiddler on the roof, but the Almighty Himself who sat in His lofty heaven and made sure that all the men and women were merely players who had their exits and their entrances.
I had also understood that 'upar wala' does not merely remain on top, but is found everywhere - in every pillar and every place, and that He is omnipresent.
And that He had the perfect plan for each one of us, even though He sometimes took us the long way around, and confused us a trifle before we reached our destination!