Old article which appeared in Times of India on 7th September 2016 being posted here and also the link is below-
“You better go to a temple and offer ten rupees on my behalf to Ganesha on the occasion of Ganesha Chaturthi”, my wife ordered on a phone from thousands of miles away.
“No”, I firmly replied, “You know clearly that in twenty-three years of our marriage, going to a temple was never an activity that I accepted as my part of the deal.”
“Please”, she continued. I knew that this was not exactly a please but an order. Yet, I was prepared to take my chances. After all, I was miles away and differing with my wife, even though a dangerous sport was less risky to play from a distance.
“Are you kidding me? Me, going to a temple! Even your God will get psyched out as to why on his happy day, his critic has come to spoil the party. He may send one of his Bhakts to put me to my place. No way,” I continued my protest.
“It’s an order. Do you want to have your Tawa vegetable and Spinach rice when you come back to Canada or not? Can’t you even do this small thing for your wife?” She thundered with a rising voice.
“But what can Ganesh get in ten rupees. You don’t know India now. Forget about a Laddoo or Modak, your Ganesh would not be able to fetch even a banana in ten rupees. It’s a waste of time. I will not go to the temple”, I continued meekly knowing fully well that I was now fighting a lost battle.
“Then give ten dollars but make sure that you go today and send me photographs on WhatsApp when you are there. And I want to see my Jaanu’ selfie there.”
Ten dollars! Selfie! WhatsApp! I knew I had lost and any further arguments could only drill the hole deeper into my pocket. And technology! I cursed it again as I knew sitting in Canada she knew exactly how to keep track of her meandering animal. Even though he was pretty much useless for the damsels of the world now! And surely for her God who must have given up on me ages back!
“Ok”, I surrendered.
Off I started my walk to Ulsoor Lake Bangalore to see how people celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi in this part of the world and to keep my date with the Elephant God.
I am not anti-religious but have enjoyed a love-hate relationship with religion for many years. Especially in the last few years when I have seen religion being used as a tool to settle personal and political scores by one and all, world over. I have also realized that being stuck with a boundary of one religion meant clearly that you are forced to develop a kind of apathy, if not hate, towards another and hence have set myself free from all boundaries what so ever.
I cannot call myself an atheist as I still believe in a God particle present in all living matter which adds soul to the elements of nature that we are made of. And I am at peace with myself and with the God within and outside in its omnipresent form.
Yet I have wondered how religion can affect people so much and how religion can blind them to the wrongs carried out in its name. Young and old, illiterate and educated, rich and poor, priest and criminal, all seem to surrender completely to their chosen God and are even ready to kill in its name.
How could religion make a suicide bomber out of a child or make an educated parliamentarian gun for a fellow human in the name of protecting an animal?
Why does reason leave when religion start and where does all the education and scientific knowledge go while following religious superstitions?
How come in this century, millions of people are eager to call Mother Teresa a saint just because she supposedly healed two or three people miraculously who worshipped her name? Her greatness in serving the humanity and the downtrodden was not enough for the church to call her a saint but the proof existed in the ridiculously laughable mirages created to call her divine!
Walking through the streets of Bangalore, as I reached the Ulsoor lake and saw hundreds of people, bring their little Ganeshas for “visarjan” or drowning in the small pond, I found my answer.
Religion or faith gives us power. It gives us strength. It gives us hope when all seems lost. It is our light at the end of the tunnel.
This faith in the supernatural who will take care of us at all costs, who will protect us from all evil, who will stand by us in thick and thin, makes us believe in God blindly. Or his created form. And object to anyone who does not believe in our belief!
Like a small child who adores his father, his superhero who can never go wrong.
God is our Papa. Our father whose shadow we never grow out off nor perhaps want to. He is our comfort zone. Our shade under which we rest our soul!
Looking at the raw energy, gaiety, happiness and joy in the eyes of the worshippers who believed in their Ganpati Bappa, I realized that there was no way, I or anyone in this world could make them alter their love towards their cute Elephant God. And there was no need to do that. This is what gives them strength and is their lifeline. Their road to happiness and salvation! Wow! It was beautiful! In every smiling face, I could see the image of a happy Ganesha. Whom they were immersing and leaving behind was minuscule as compared to what they were carrying back.
If Ganesha or Ram or Krishna gives courage to my wife and to many like her to fight the battles of life, so be it!
A converter was converted today. But not completely! I was happy to see people happy with their God while I was happy with mine inside!
Slowly I took out a ten dollar bill from my left pocket, showed it to the closest Ganpati Bappa and put it back in my right pocket. After all, I was offering it to the Bappa himself!
And yes, I took a selfie while holding the bill out and flashed it to my eagerly awaiting wife.
Ganesha looked back at me with amused eyes. We both, creators ourselves of each other, happily laughed and continued with our respective journeys!