Monday, March 29, 2010
When it Comes to Economics, Gods too Relent
When it comes to Indian economics and social dynamics, God plays a great role. Most of the Indian business people are god fearing. This category of business people includes artists and gallerists too. I don’t call the former ‘business people’, but I say that they too understand business well these days.
We, a senior artist friend and I, were talking about God and economics. He said, God need not necessarily be helping all the people all the time. I said, it was quite true. But when God becomes a threat to the person and property of people, they don’t mind doing away with such gods, he said. Quite true, I agreed.
The conversation should have ended there. But my friend wanted to tell me a story; a story about how some person in a village in Kerala had done away with a God when He was about to take away his land through his mediums (read other people who found that God out).
My friend was a school boy when the incident happened. A laborer was digging earth as his landlord had asked him to do so. While digging his shovel hit something and got stuck. With great effort he pulled the shovel out and found that its edge had bent considerably. Curiosity made him to explore the earth more and he found an idol embedded in the soil.
As usual, the laborers always come from lower castes and the psychological make up of a society is such that lower caste people feel themselves threatened and frightened by the presence of gods. They believe that their touch would pollute an idol.
Hence, without fail he fainted. The landlord (obviously from a higher caste) came to the scene, sprinkled some water on the man, brought him back to consciousness and enquired what had gone wrong with him. With beads of sweat embroidering his skinny contours and the shiver in his body twinkling them beyond control, he pointed at the pit where the idol was buried.
Anything that evokes fear naturally attracts people’s attention in no time. It is true as we know that the most bizarre narratives and pictures have the greatest number of audience. So, people from the neighborhood left their work behind and thronged around the idol. They consulted a priest who said that it was the deity of that village and he needed to be consecrated at the earliest.
Now it was the time to take the God out of the pit. But the priest said only a person from the topmost caste (that is Brahmin) can touch the idol and pull it out. Everyone in the village went into a virtual blood test and came out with such a dismal result that none was from that ‘blue blood’ caste. Further enquiries led the crowd to the doorsteps of my artist friend because his father was a Brahmin.
Hence as a semi-Brahmin boy (for his father married his mother, who was from the warrior caste), the task of lifting the idol fell on my friend’s weak shoulders. He could not have done it alone. But priests have got solutions for anything. A rope was arranged and a noose was made out of it and thrown around the idol. My friend was asked to touch the stone and the rest of the people pulled the idol out. It was dragged along the earth while my friend remained firmly at the stone with his hands touching it. Once they reached under the shade of a huge jack fruit tree, the priest ordered the people to stop and he declared that it was the place for building a temple.
The village went into a celebratory mode as they got their own God back from the earth. A make-shift hut was built around it. Posters were pasted all over the village coaxing people to contribute towards the construction of a permanent temple. Cultural programs were arranged to raise funds.
Slowly the construction started. But one person in the village was not happy about it. You can imagine who this person was. He was the owner of that considerably big piece of land where they decided to have the temple, without consulting him even once.
But it is all about God. Had he shown any grudge, he would have been ostracized. Hence he kept quite, ate bitterness and shed silent tears. The land was so dear to him and now the God was snatching it away from him. The village revelers never gave any damn to this man’s unsaid woes.
The temple was in its finishing stage. The village was ecstatic. In a few days’ time the folks were going to get a temple for themselves. Now they could settle scores with the neighboring villages. Now they could collect money in the name of cultural programs. Now they could invent their own rituals. Now they could spend their idle times around the temple. Now they had some God in the vicinity to alleviate them from their sins.
My friend was playing with other kids in a field. Someone came running and screamed, ‘the God has disappeared.’
Kids are like grown up people, when it is about attending things which they are not expected to. So they ran along the field and reached the spot where the temple was coming up.
My friend made his way through the frightened and sweating people and reached before the Sanctum Sanctorum. The God had gone. He was gone, tying people into a web of rumor, speculation and fear.
People sent glances of doubt at the owner of the land where the temple was built. He stood unchallenged. It became a scandal for sometime. Then people forgot about it. They went back to their daily routines.
Some youngsters, who were always skeptical about things (like the youngsters of any time and any place) went around looking for the lost God. They thought that it was impossible to take away a granite piece just like that as it had been proven so heavy while hauling it to the site of temple. They dived into a near pond, searched in the bushes and applied their intelligence completely to unravel the mystery, but in vain.
So what happened to the idol, finally? I asked my friend. He shrugged his shoulders and said, it is all about God and economics. Everyone knew who did it. They did not know how he did it. But they knew why he did it. His land was going to Gods. His line of sustenance was getting severed. What could have one done at that time? Simply take out the God and hide it forever.
We sat in silence for sometime. We sipped our Corona together. I lit a cigarette. Didn’t God punish him? Was there any poetic justice done to the whole story? I asked.
When it comes to economics, I believe everyone understands what to do. I believe God also understands that. Is there any explanation for his disappearance and His no-reprisal? I believe God is the supreme force that understands the economics of human life, my friend smiled.
I couldn’t have thought differently.