Monday, January 23, 2006

The Celestial Trip

I arrive at the bus stop and wait. The sweeper sweeps the road with random and ferocious strokes of the broom and lets off a cloud of dust so high into the air, there's no hope of their settling down for the next hour or so. Indeed, he works like a mini storm in action.

Our bus arrives and gobbles us. I sometimes lose my window seat nowadays to the fledgling headcount. Today is one of those unlucky days. I take the last seat. Notorious for being bumpy, it's the next best thing after the window seat. A tall fellow with oversized legs has unofficially captured that part of the seat that lies just behind the aisle citing legroom as his excuse for the exclusive privilege. I've seen him cry foul whenever a person unwittingly 'took' his seat. The nagging would continue until our tall fellow was granted his place. The bus vrooms its way thru the labyrinth.

Bangalorean roads are dotted with temples with alarming regularity. Gods, like cats and street dwellers, are fiercely territorial. The gods in the East are very different from the ones in the West, the gods in the South are very different from the ones in the North. Each time our bus crosses a dingy but prominent temple, my fellow travelers join in unison to gesticulate a pranam. Not surprising, given the lengths people go to appease their favorite deities. Lighting incense stick or diya, wearing holy threads around the wrist or waist, blowing the conch shell, wearing finger rings to pluck celestial connections, ringing the bell, reciting sacred hymns, distributing prashad, offering sacrifices, organizing pujas…well, they've done it all. Each locality has its favorite deity with its own fan following. Quiz the devotees and they'll cull substantial evidence from mythological scriptures to prove why their god is better than others. Each god has a celestial history to tout, valour to exhibit, earthly visits to celebrate, wrath to be wary of and divinity to be revered.

The devotee has his preferred god. Ask him and he'll immediately ferret out a personal experience from his past to prove how his god had helped him during distress. There's a special chemistry and understanding between him and his god, he'll say; something that is not visible to others. Since the world is too corrupt, he lives a double life: one as a commoner in real life, the other as a heavenly zealot in constant pursuit of his lord. The two are mutually exclusive. The two are strangers. The two can hardly be reconciled. The god will understand that the earthly manifestation of his devotee has to make do with a macabre world, and consequently forgive his many sins. He must, for doesn't the fanatic devotee worship him with unfailing zeal? Surely a little clemency can be expected in return.

And so the myriad gods, held captive in their dingy temples under the watchful eye of the pujari, remain frozen in mud or stone, perpetually showering blessings on the devotees. The devotee, so blessed, moves on to fulfilling earthly obligations. Our bus, oblivious of the divine nexus between its occupants and the roadside gods, is duty bound to serpentine through the roads in pursuit of our office. My co-passengers continue with their pranams at each sighting of a stray god. The ephemeral darshan is so fulfilling. Our vehicle cruelly severs all the sacred ties and deposits us at our workplace.


Zoya said...

This is so absolutely true! It's boggled my mind how absolutely spiritual Indians are as a society. So who's your preferred God?

deepanjan said...

My preferred God is nonexistent. I'm happy with my atheism & don't need an emotional buttress to see me thru life.

Spirituality is the refuge of the fool.

Sameer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
deepanjan said...

Sam, things turned a bit putrid on account of the comments. So had to remove the entire post. Your own comment in this post was moving along similar lines. So I had to censor it. I hope the issue is put to rest once and for all.
I hope you understand my plight. Though I'm an ardent supporter of free speech, the private lives of others should be off limits.
I hope this won't dissuade you from making comments in the future. I always look forward to reading them.
About posts pertaining to the office...that's a strict no-no. I was in serious trouble in the not-too-distant past on account of my ultra-liberal views!
I'm turning conservative. Sigh!

Sameer said...

No probs, Deep!!! I guess I also crossed my limits yesterday with those comments.

Bads said...

Well since the day I know him - Deepz always loved one god for sure - The one and the only KaamDev. Although immensely popular - this celestial god has hardly any presence when it comes to Temples built to worship him. However his work is displayed very passionately on the carvings of the Temple - Konark dedicated to the Sun god and Khajurao.
Incidently Khajurao temple was one of the most talked about temple back in our school days. No comments on how Mrs. Meera Paul used to explain them to catch the imagination of Deepz.

deepanjan said...

KaamDev? That bugger does a shoddy job.
Cupid's shooting skills are equally horrendous.

And Bads, I remember how you would use your gift of the gab to be the perfect decoy in Mrs.Meera Paul's supremely dreadful classes. I was indebted to you each time you used the trick!

Zoya said...

Damn, looks like I missed some juicy comments yesterday. Now I'm curious as hell as to what was said.

deepanjan said...

Not all that juicy, Zoya!