Tag Archives: religion

A Bangalore story…

All right, if one more Bangalorean (or should that have been Benguluru-ian?) tells me that traffic is the city’s worst problem, I’m going to cause a traffic jam myself… Don’t worry about how I’m going to manage that, there are enough examples around me to learn really quickly from, I guess the bigger problem is going to be finding an unclogged street to clog!

If you’re wondering why I’m bringing this up at 12:23 in the night, this is why…
Some time ago, this evening, I was in a taxi (no names, I’m afraid of lawsuits, but they’re the one’s with the bluish Logans in Bangalore and bluish Esteems in Bombay, now you guess…) trying to get from a remote-ish part of town to a slightly less remote part of town and we’d just started… when something really weird (but common in Bangalore, I was told) happened. Our chauffeur was guiding the taxi out of a mud road into an intersection where in front of us, there was a truck approaching and from the distant right, a bike with three people on it… Neither the truck driver nor our chauffeur expected the biker to try to squeeze in between us, two larger vehicles almost nose to nose on a narrow road, but believe it or not, he did… and ended up crashing into the taxi’s driver side door at decent speed causing a sizeable dent, and almost inserting his pillion riders under the truck’s wheels. The truck driver, obviously worldly-wise about bike-etiquette in this part of town, braked long enough for the two passengers to pick themselves up and run like their bums were on fire, and then drove casually along to wherever he was headed…

The rider of the ill-fated motorcycle, a scared, weepy schoolkid without (obviously!) a drivers license, or any money, was quickly rounded up by the locals, one of whom(I’ll call him the idea-man) decided to educate our chauffeur on the best strategy to adopt to settle this issue, while some drunks from a local “country” joint decided to entertain themselves by trying to slap some good driving habits into this kid.

Now, since the kid did not have any money, the crowd decided that they would keep the bike hostage while the kid arranged for the funds to repair the taxi. At this point, I was very curious to know what they’d planned for me to do in the meanwhile. The chauffeur said after consultations with idea-man, that he’d leave the bike there but keep the key, drop me to my destination, then come back and sort this out. I went back and sat in the car, which was parked(?) brilliantly in the middle of the road, and waited…

Looking impatiently out of the window, I suddenly saw Mr. idea-man hurriedly taking Mr. chauffeur aside, while the crowd decided to disperse rather quickly, leaving only the three of them there. Considering the commotion just a moment ago, you’d find it difficult to believe how scores of people can disappear that quickly. But they did, and so did Mr. idea man, probably after running out of ideas. Mr. Chauffeur had a quick chat with Mr. Biker and I saw Mr. Biker hand his mobile phone over to Mr. Chauffeur, and take his key back… Now I was puzzled, big time!

When Mr. Chauffeur returned and finally drove us away, I asked him what made the crowd disappear like that, and he said, “Sir, that boy… that boy, Muslim boy, people don’t want trouble…”. The statement floored me, it was almost as if he’d said that kid was from Mars and had a plasma-gun in his pants. I asked him why he took his mobile phone, and he said “I ask him to give call on his own phone, that way he won’t know my number… no trouble for me… then when he calls, I ask him come to workshop and settle repair money, I not come here again…”  …end of story!

I know this sounds preachy, but for a country that’s upto it’s own neck in all we keep saying and saying about protecting ourselves from hostile outsiders, we have a long way to go in facing our own prejudices.

I remember someone asking me recently, how I feel when I go into a Muslim-dominated area… all right, let’s give this some thought… how am I supposed to feel? Hang on a minute, am I even supposed to feel something? If I wanted to go to some place where I wanted to feel something, I’d go to Venice, or Everest, or the North Pole for God’s sake (now don’t ask me which one… God that is…)

What I feel when I go to a Muslim-dominated area is nothing… I don’t feel like patronizing anybody by saying I feel more love for humanity when I go there, I also don’t feel alienated like a lot of people would admit to feeling.

I am a Hindu, but I’m not proud of it… it’s not the religion I have a problem with, it’s being slotted. The day I was born, I was the same ugly, pink, wailing, slimy little creature with a pipeline hanging out of my belly like everybody else…  I didn’t ask to be categorized on the basis of my birthday, my colour, my religion, my nationality, my education, my IQ, my political views, my sexuality…  it’s something that happened after that, and its something I have to live with. Hopefully, by the time my child grows up, we’d have done something about this human fascination with categorization… hopefully!

One image comes to mind, and floods me with hope… an image of a policeman shot in the chest outside CST Station in Mumbai, being carried like a child by a huge bearded man, his religious preference being made obvious by his missing moustache, on a bike to hospital in an obvious disregard to religious prejudices, probably ending up saving his life. I guess it takes an attack to our very core, to bring out the humans in us… but I wish there was an easier way, a way that wouldn’t have to take close to 200 lives…

This post ended up a little profound, and it wasn’t intended… but what the hell, it’s my blog!

See you on the other side of some more Bengaluru-traffic-and-its-strange-stories.

A tale of two temples: Part II

It was a cool morning at a quaint little temple in an obscure but ravishingly beautiful village in the Konkan region. I was there accompanying a person I respect enormously, somebody who had encouraged me to visit the local deity. In places like these, the village temple is a shared resource. In other words, it literally belongs to the villagers who would prefer to go hungry for a day even if it meant that they could use the money to offer a few flowers to the Gods… the beauty of their unconditional and obviously overwhelming belief in the powers of the heavens inspired me tremendously and I was more than interested in experiencing a few moments of communion, despite whatever counter-religious
emotions I would normally have been feeling. This kind of atmosphere, I thought, was probably the reason that made believers out of atheists.

The temple itself was relatively well maintained, every part of it, and I couldn’t help but notice the cleanliness around. One more thing that I happened to notice was the conspicuous absence of the priest, which is pretty unusual because in places like these, the temple is about the only thing that could keep a priest occupied, unlike some other temples where you would get to see part-time priests. Anyway, the person I was with kept saying that since he was visiting the place after years, he would have wanted to perform a Pooja there before we left. He was well versed with the rituals and decided that in the absence of the priest; we had little choice but to make the offerings ourselves. He entered the Pooja chamber as he had done innumerable times in the past; after all he had grown up here, and was one of the most respected denizens of the village. I had seen ample proof of that during my stay there, with people showering him with hospitality and praise. Just as he was about to garland the deity, a harsh voice sounded from behind us, “Get out of there…”

We looked behind us and saw a unkempt man, in his forties, with a three-day stubble and a million dollar frown, charge towards us asking, “With whose permission did you step in here?”. I took offense immediately; it doesn’t take much for me to do that… I didn’t mind him questioning us, but I definitely objected to the rudeness that he seemed to be showering on us, making a spectacle out of our group and attracting the attention of the other people around, all of who were very familiar with the person I was accompanying and knew how respected he was here. My host kept his cool and requested our angry protester first to lower the intensity of his voice and then to explain why he had a problem with our worship. The guardian of the temple, as he very loudly introduced himself, said to us, no less rudely than before, that the upkeep of the temple had recently been “taken over” by one of the richer villagers, a man famous for making his riches through nefarious means, who had made a generous “contribution” towards improvement of the temple premises and its surroundings. Also, he explained (if explained is the right word to use; barked would have been more apt) that outsiders were not allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum. Outsiders who, you ask? Me, of course, dear reader… didn’t you guess?

Despite the embarrassment he was feeling, and the anger at being subjected to such humiliation, my host proceeded to let Mr. Unkempt (who appeared unbathed as well, and who also claimed that he was some kind of stand–in Pandit), conduct the Pooja for us, in his own style, riding more on the authority that he so enjoyed than any kind of experience in rituals or worship.

At the end of the mind-numbing mumbo-jumbo, we left, quietly, emotionless, at least with no display of emotions at all. We did not speak of this experience after that, even in the several months that have passed since, but I cannot deny the bitterness that followed that spiritual visit.

How spiritual do you think we felt during, or at the end of this episode… any of us: me, my host or the designated guardian of the Gods?

I would never have brought this up, if it weren’t for my recent experience with another abode of the Gods thousands of miles away, in another corner of this country. An experience that opened some wounds in a microscopic part of my soul that still believes that the powers that control the universe are stronger than the humans that occupy it.

Today, talking about religion and which among them is better and which is worse, happens to have become the favored pastime, or should we say, the occupation of millions of religious organizations in the world today, a few of who also happen to occasionally find the time to stake claims to the reins of power in our motherland.

I have some questions to ask of these so-called beacons of faith and spirituality. Though the questions are rhetorical, and I find it unlikely to find a convincing answer, I invite any of them to answer them.

You think it is right for a human being to feel committed to a religion or faith he is born to, or converted to…

You think it is your duty to advocate the word of God to those, who you feel, don’t listen or take it seriously enough…

You think it is your right to decipher and interpret the word of God in your own terms and enforce the same interpretations, however demeaning, condescending, discriminating, or downright ridiculous they may be…

With due respect to your pious intentions and your commitment to your religious beliefs, how do you plan to bring people to God’s doorstep, when there are other people standing in their way, people of the same faith, people with the authority and power to stand above the rest, people to whom you have granted the right to call themselves guardians of your faith, people willing to rob, lie, deceive, suppress, oppress, kill, rape those who willingly and unconditionally come to them, people who seem to create more of their kind every moment… all in the name of the very Gods that they and, you advocate? Who the hell do you think you are?

God ?

We live in times when the demons disguised as guardians of faith seem to outnumber those who unconditionally believe, fear and depend on
their faith…

Why should I use the services of brokers like you, who are as farcical as the values you represent, to communicate with my spiritual self?

Why do I need to see God through the glasses you force upon my eyes?

Why should I not interpret God’s word the way I think it applies to my life, at the risk of interpreting it wrongly?

After all, God will correct me if I’m wrong…

And for those who feel you are witnessing the birth of an Atheist, my sincere apologies, I will keep believing… albeit in my own God… with my own rituals and my own values…

Values that will remain only mine… that I will never impose on anybody else, that I will never justify or advocate, that will remain with me till the day I die and will cease to exist after that…

Values that only two people will know and understand…

Me and…  God !

[Disclaimer: This is one of the posts from my first ever blog, that is now defunct. Though amateur, and in some cases silly, I did want to retain an archive of everything I have ever written in the blogosphere. Thank you for your patience]