August and the monsoons brings out the Kanwariyas on the roads of northern India. These are Shiva devotees who bathe in the Ganges and take holy water from this life sustaining river and carry the water barefoot to their hometowns in special pots and pot holders made of bamboo. Throughout their journey they cannot place the pots on the ground. They hang the potholders on trees and anything available to help them carry this water without grounding it.
In the last decades the Kanwariyas have gathered a big following all over the country and they are treated like holy people and offered food and water at well equipped stalls and tents by religious groups.
This halt near the Mansa Devi Temple refreshes the tired travelers; some have bandages on their feet for they walk barefoot. Songs singing the praises of Lord Shiva are blasted on loudspeakers at these pit stops. You cannot complain about noise in India. Religious effusions have to be taken with equanimity. I saw the owners of close by houses watching the proceedings with resignation. It certainly is religion with a lot of sound. Certainly no one complains.
A rest of perhaps twelve hours and these Kanwariyas are soon homeward bound singing the praise of Lord Shiva.
I used to be an obedient stand –behind- my -wife kind of sender of prayers to our Hindu pantheon of Gods. I admit in the beginning it was my entire fault. Everything that went wrong with my life was my fault. Still my Gods did fail me. They made other people millionaires and not me, why? They say Mongol genes are running rampant in ninety percent of Asia’s population. So maybe Ganesha does not approve of my Genghis Khan chromosomes. Anyway things are not working.
I came to this northern city chasing an IT dream. I must admit I have a good job and a good wife. Things froze at that. I am caught in a strange vortex of infrastructure failure. It’s my fault. Why did I live in cities where things worked? Getting bad habits is so easy.
Now people hate me for complaining about the lack of electricity in Gurgaon. “Grow up man, this is part of life.” My work is all deadline based. My life depends on the internet. Some senior manager got netted in by the beautiful legs and smile of a senior executive of a new Internet provider company. I have to work now at a snail’s pace as a consequence because the net (pun intended) result has been bad. My lap top gets all heated up because of the hot cabin I sit in. It just shuts up.
I decided to change my Gods. The old ones were not working.
“What are these things in the prayer tray?” asked my wife. Let me explain the prayer system. Incense is burnt in the tray and an oil lamp is lit. Then the tray is swung in a circular motion in front of the pantheon of Gods and Goddesses. There is a deity for each of our demands in life. These deities are as human as real people to Hindus having heard very interesting stories about Krishna, Ganesha, Shiva, Parvati, Rama, Sita, Laxman and Hanuman. The mythology exists in two books read by every devout Hindu-The Ramayana and The Mahabaratha. Today there are numerous television plays enlightening viewers about stories of these great Gods.
My wife’s question reverberated in the prayer room. ‘What are these things in the prayer tray?’
“The God of Electricity represented by my old voltmeter and the Internet God represented by photographs of Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf, the Fathers of the Internet.”
Immediately there was a Schism in our home. She immediately pulled out her Gods from the tray. Now I understood how religions split into rival factions.
“At least give me that one tiny Ganesha’ I begged her
‘You are a heretic. I will make a report to our Punditjee (priest)’ my wife said.
I put my Gods on a separate tray and burned some incense. That day the internet ran with the speed of lightning and there was no electricity failure.
This is it. I am forming a new religion. People will flock to me. I surveyed other pitfalls in my life. My bank account! Lakshmi was unhappy with me. I clipped out an old photograph of Warren Buffet and put it in a tiny frame. This I placed on my tray of new gods. As an after thought I added Mukesh Ambani and Azim Premji. Next day I got bonus shares from all the companies I had invested in. This was working.
I was the new Messiah. I had seen the light.
I could fix any thing with my prayers. The population! I should fix the population. I stuck a family planning red triangle on a cardboard and placed that too on the tray. My wife looked at me. She thought I was going mad. I remembered Joan of Arc. She too was scoffed at but made a saint after her death. I went to sleep happy. I liked the idea of my beatification.
Alas my world came crashing down next morning. ‘I’m pregnant’ said my wife. I looked at the red triangle in disappointment. The Sensex lost a thousand points the same morning. The color red flowed entirely through my holdings. The office generator packed up just after the net stopped working. I took out my old booklet of Hanuman Chaleesa and my string of 108 beads.
“Jai Hanuman Gyan Goon Sagar—-.” Just then my boss walked in. He admired my stoic nature in the office. I was praying in the disastrous situation while others were wailing and crying at the lack of electricity and the internet.
I got that long pending promotion. I threw away the volt meter and respectfully stowed away the photographs and the red triangle. My place has been restored behind my wife in the prayer room and the infidel tray thrown on to the scrap heap.