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September 09, 2014

Hand of God (and God-Men)

Text by Nittal Chandarana

‘I’m doing this because religion tells me to!’ Are you ready to take the less-obsession, more-internalisation challenge?

I couldn’t sleep on the night of September 4. Why, you ask? There were two huge trucks with speakers to match, blaring Lungi Dance and Pinky hai paise walon ki at their highest decibel level. Overlapping each other. ‘Twas like a mixer-grinder competing with a drill; whoever wins, you’re going down.

It’s funny how the city comes to a standstill during any religious activity. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the holiday just as much. But imagine traffic cops trying to mollify a mob of devotees inebriated with a heady mix of faith and substance alike, instead of the traffic. Where’s the logic? Even better, major visarjan days have been marked out as holidays. It’s horribly sensible, yes, but why must Maharashtra stop for yet another reason (casual bandhs included, obviously). A festival rekindled to promote feelings of togetherness and anti-British sentiment is now a trend – every other person brings home the elephant God for a day and a half. The plus side: A thriving business of sweetshops, sculptors, flower-sellers, band-wallas and caterers. Not to forget, the God-men. The amount of belief invested in them, in fact, just the amount invested is phenomenal. And then some turn out to be the Asaram bapu or Satya Saibaba kind. Misleading believers, sexually exploiting women and lapping up fortunes are just a few of their hobbies.

We see this sentiment sweeping every aspect of life. India is a country obsessed with Gods and God-men. Anything in the name of God is valid. Religion proved to be one of the primary drivers of the politics of hate between the two major political parties contesting the 2014 elections. Easiest way to sway the masses, isn’t it? It’s also the simplest way to shut someone up. ‘I’m doing this, because religion…’ is akin to ‘I will complain to the teacher’ or ‘I’m going through some stuff right now’ or ‘It’s a family thing’.  It is a sure-shot way of doing what you want or ensuring that your work is done. We proclaim ourselves a secular country but instead of no State religion, there’s so much religion. No matter what you do, you are offending a certain section of the population. Take films, for instance. A movie is considered serious and hard-hitting if it is banned in some state or the other. Gods have been influencing the Indian travel calendar too! Remember the time when there were no fancy vacation spots and a yatra was the only reason why people holidayed? Pilgrimage destinations are actually quite picturesque and located away from the city providing a much-needed break. Holiday for a noble cause? Yes, then it’s justified as opposed to ‘Las Vegas trippin’. Not that we still don’t make those trips. But earlier on, this was the only legit excuse some could give to evade the guilt trip of leaving the business unattended. Strange matter, this.

I couldn’t sleep on the night of September 8 either. Final visarjan day. Every year I happily scout from house to house to meet this revered God of new beginnings, but every year, I complain a little more about the noise and the apathy of the mob. It seems to increase. Really. Religion is the ultimate ice bucket challenge. Blindly follow what everyone does without truly understanding the crux of the matter. I nominate @religionjunkiesofindia to snap out of the obsession.

 

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