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A Religious Man

September 15, 2013

After a hectic day at work, he walked feeling a little exhausted, slightly proud of doing the job efficiently and mostly happy to be returning home. Suddenly with an a silent groan, he remembered he cannot take a bus or a cab home. It’s Ganesh Chaturthi..!! . There will be a traffic jam. But he was ecstatic about the festival He was a religious man. He felt proud he had spent a fortune last year in purchasing the Ganesh idol in his house, caring for the Lord, feeding the Lord and then inviting his close friends and relatives to share his joy in serving the Lord for some days. He felt the familiar pride at being the man who spent more that he could afford for his cherished Lord – he felt content, a feeling only true followers of religion and God could truly feel. The faint sound of the drums could be heard from a distance, the celebration of letting the Lord meet his mother in the mighty ocean. He was debating whether to take a train or get in a cab, take a detour and face the mighty Mumbai traffic strengthened by the festival. Cold, chilly wind was blowing, unusual for this time of the year, but again it was the Lord’s week, so anything could happened. He regretted that he couldn’t bring the idol to his humble abode this time because his mother-in-law was ill and his wife was not home. His desire to pamper the Lord was crushed.He felt a little agitated at his wife for not agreeing to stay but he let the thought pass. At some distance he saw a very small idol of Lord Ganesha being taken for Visarjan in a car. The sophisticated version of idol immersion, he thought. He hated the hypocrisy, that they did it for showing off their wealth rather than for the devotion itself. The idol was so small that it did not even require the car, The people was least interested about the idol. Suddenly a little girl with chubby rosy cheeks walking with her family, grabbed the idol . He was about to shout out to the family. His frustration, he was sure was visible on his face. How can a family be so irresponsible ? It is the idol of The Lord ! They should teach the child a lesson for handling it so carelessly. It was no surprise that today’s generation was going from bad to worse, with live-ins, girls forgetting their dignity with skimpy clothes. He started walking a little faster along the road, so that he could save the idol from accidentally falling. The girl picked the idol up, with some difficulty and a little loss of balance in the middle, she walked with the small idol in her even smaller hands. She walked towards a pole. At this point he was too agitated and was about to shout as he was within hearing distance. The girl handed over the idol to a nearly beggar and said “What will Ganesha do in the water?. You keep him. If you have him people will bring Lord food and you can eat it. Bappa won’t mind.” And with a very serene and sincere smile, she also handed him a box of sweets and cash kept therein. He stopped dead in his tracks. By that time, the family had finally noticed the missing idol and the girl. The mother came running down and smacked the girl. She started crying and was snatched away in the car. The father looked at the beggar with anger and hatred and snatched the idol away from his hand. The old fellow just kept staring and did not say a word. The family placed the idol at it’s usual respectable place and urged the driver to move the vehicle a little faster to get away from the dingy beggar. But he was still standing at his place. Somewhere from the depths of his subconscious memory, he recollected that the beggar with his torn clothes, and starved face sat there everyday and his conscious mind never noticed. He gave the beggar some money and started walking, still in a daze. And he thought and mused. “Was he really a religious man ? Then how come he never had the thought little girl had ? He was ashamed to analyse and think further, but he did anyway. What if he had given the money spent last year on the idol to a charity, or helped his neighborhood kid with his education. He remembered, now with first colors of shame, how he had refused saying he had no money. That was in fact true, that he indeed did not have money to spare, but that was because he had brought the Ganesha idol and the expenses had burned a hole in his pocket. He looked back at the sitting figure of the beggar, his eyes hidden behind thick dirty eyebrows and an overdrawn piece of rag. He turned his gaze away and kept walking. And he was filled with shame. He felt ashamed that he was proud that he refused the money to that kid for his education. He felt ashamed that he had spent it in the name of God but not for the purpose of God. If only he could have thought like the little girl and handed over the money which he spent for Lord Ganesha to that kid, or even the beggar. And from that line of thought, he was further ashamed of himself. He remembered how he had subtly hinted to his wife that he thought she was committing blasphemy by refusing to serve the Lord and go to her mother’s place. He deeply regretted it. He realized that in the wake of the society’s customs, fame and pride of serving the Lord and earning societal approval, he had forgotten the purpose of the Lord. So lost was he in proving that he believed in God, that he had forgotten what God believed in. In fact he had stopped caring about what God believed. He had stopped working towards the Lords object but had started working towards the object of serving the Lord. Suddenly, a wave of realization hit him and he stopped dead in his tracks and his heart was aching from the joy of realization, shame of being ignorant and sorrow of misguidance. He fished out his cell phone from his pocket, dialed his wife’s number and spoke “I am on my way to Mummyji. Hope she is okay. Let me know if you need anything” He could here the surprised silence on the other end and then she said “Yeah. Everything is fine here. Listen, next year we will surely get the idol home.” He smiled at the words and then said “No. next year, we will do something better with that money. For now you take care.” And now he truly felt content. He felt the weight of pretended content lift from his heart and being replaced by a weightless and satisfying content. He smiled to himself and started walking..

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