I am not an atheist. Quite the contrary, actually. I have always believed in Him, reposed my faith in His power and compassion, and turned to Him for help and guidance, be it for the smallest of issues (passing exams I had no hope of clearing) or serious crises.
In my opinion, any connection or conversation with God is intensely personal. That’s when it is the purest and most powerful. Of course, said conversation could be in the confines of one’s home or in a temple/mosque/church/other place of worship with thousands of others – as long as it comes from the heart and the sanctity of this communion is respected.
Which is why I just don’t get this trend of bringing religion onto the roads. When I was growing up, the only time this would happen was during Ganesh Chaturthi, and that too for only three days, of which only one day really affected the lives of anyone who preferred to celebrate and pray quietly at home. And the reason why Ganpati celebrations became a public affair also has its roots in history and is intrinsically connected with our freedom struggle. Lokmanya Tilak brought Ganpati idols out of domestic confines and into Sarvjanik Mandals so as to bring people together, bridge the divides of caste etc., and unite the populace against the British rulers.
All of which makes perfect sense. But what’s the rationale for continuing these practices now? That we’ve done it for so many years and therefore we must continue? Going by that logic, slavery, racial discrimination and Lord only knows what other barbaric practices would have the license to be followed in perpetuity simply by virtue of the fact that they had once existed.
And the fact is, we’re no longer talking about three days of Ganpati. It’s closer to 11 days now, and every single day is a nightmare for anyone stupid enough to nurture notions of going to work or coming home instead of just getting sozzled and dancing on the streets.
And then of course there’s Janmashtami. Where earlier, each gang of “Govindas” contented itself with phodoing the matkis only in their area or thereabouts, now it is a must for them to traverse the length and breadth of the city in trucks, molesting, eve-teasing and in general making themselves a colossal nuisance for all normal people idiot enough to attempt to go about everyday activities on a “festive” day. Not to mention processions for Id, Muharram, Durga Puja and what have you, including a South Indian festival I have never heard even my fairly devout parents mention in my years of growing up. This year, I fully expect to see Santa and his reindeer leading a procession of drunken, disorderly men prancing, dancing and blitzing around the city.
The sad thing is that while one great leader used this device to try and bring Indians across castes and creeds together, today’s politicos are exploiting it to create divisions and racially, religiously polarised vote banks. If you Hindus can go tromping down the streets, so can we Muslims, is the logic. If Ganpati can cause traffic jams, so can Durga. So it’s all about power, showing off one’s muscles, and allowing each party’s goonda cadres to run amok and indulge in ‘activities’ that would otherwise have them behind bars in moments (I mean seriously, let’s you and me try getting drunk and pawing women on the street under the guise of our respective birthdays and see how long it takes to get publicly dhulaoed and arrested). After all, if they don’t keep their thugs happy, how can they ensure vandalising of hospitals/schools/clubs/movie theatres, etc.? After all isn’t that the most legitimatised and popular form of political canvassing today?
Truth be told, there’s only goondaism and shameless politicking in these so called ‘religious festivals’. Religion, my foot! Where’s the devotion in blasting Bollywood hits and supremely shattering the peace? Was God so deafened by last year’s celebrations that he can no longer hear paeans to his praise like Chikni Chameli and Lungi Dance unless blasted at decibel levels that can shatter glass? And, seriously, if God is so bored that he wants to hear these musical masterpieces, can’t he just cosmically tune into some radio station? Or conjure up a CD/DVD? He’s omnipotent right?
And this rampant rowdyism in the name of religious fervour? Really? God wants you to throw colour at and grope women who were just trying to get home? And make sure that some poor schmuck who’s just had a heart attack doesn’t get to the ICU in time? Well I suppose he should be happy because his end came in the midst of passionate devotees reaching out to their God – read, 1000 odd goons having alcohol-induced epileptic fits in the centre of the road.
Does any think this is going to win them Karma points from God?
Tell you what, since none of this is going to stop (I’m telling you – I’m taking reindeer riding lessons from this weekend), why don’t we at least drop the hypocrisy? Be a creep, disturb the peace, make the lives of the majority of citizens miserable, booze, brawl, molest – DO ALL OF IT.
Just don’t do it in the name of God! You can be sure He won’t like it...
Anand Sivakumaran is a storyteller residing in Mumbai. He writes movies, TV, books and short stories, teaches, travels and very often makes faces at other people's children. His first film as a director, Money Devo Bhava, is awaiting release, as are his two novels, The Woman on the Cliff and The C Word. He tweets at @anandloki.