15/02/2015 8:22 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST

A Question of Donation... Er, Sorry, Devotion!

From Shirdi to Tirumala, money buys you time with the gods. Money gets you to seek favours from them through special aartis that come in a menu like at a restaurant.


I am a Hindu. I was born to Hindu parents and became one by default. Is my religion a part of my identity? Perhaps. Do I care much about it? Perhaps not. Do I believe in god? Certainly. Human life is too much of a miracle to not believe in god. For all the scientific progress man has made over the years, I don't think we have been able to create anything remotely close to the human body in terms of complexity, intelligence and longevity.

Ironically then, the problem with religion is us humans. We are the ones who have made professions out of religion. We are the pundits who hold on to temple trusts and mint money in the name of god. We are the ones who give god a bad name by fighting holy wars or trying to 'spread' our religion's name and fame.

We once went to a prominent shrine in the Himalayas to celebrate my first salary and donated it to the shrine. In lieu, we got to be part of a special aarti sitting right in front of the main shrine where ordinary mortals get to spend a few seconds after a wait of many hours, that too amidst so much jostling that novices would exit and say 'yaar kuch samajh hi nahi aaya. Where was the idol?' Yes we were sitting there for whatever time it was, maybe 15-20 minutes. How is it that some ten-thousand odd rupees gave us the opportunity to get closer to god and increase our probability of getting whatever favour we need from her? Why should the VVIPs who visit in helicopters and get whisked for even more exclusive 'darshans' get to wash off their sins in more convenient fashion than ordinary people from Rajouri Garden or, may the lord have mercy, East Delhi?

This is just one example but this is the story everywhere. From Shirdi to Tirumala, money buys you time with the gods. Money gets you to seek favours from them through special aartis that come in a menu like at a restaurant.

You request a priest to conduct a religious ceremony at your home and these days the instructions get very specific. 'Place a flower on this idol with hundred and one rupees.' 'Place a piece of mithai with five hundred and one rupees.' It must count as a miracle that our religious scriptures came with specific instructions regarding monetary amounts, that too inflation-adjusted to keep increasing with time.

Looking at temples, sometimes I wonder just where is the devotion? In the ordinary people getting hassled in long, undisciplined queues to get to the lord for a few seconds glance? Or in the disinterested priests who are generally bothered only at the sight of 'dakshina'? Does god really want us to drop a few crisp notes in the donation box to ensure that we spend our lives being healthy, wealthy and wise?

Who are the people clamoring to convert or re-convert others back to whatever religion? Why is it that important when millions upon millions in our country are malnourished or dying for lack of proper healthcare? Why don't we spend more time and energy in providing basic necessities to our brethren before trying to ensure that nobody 'steals' them away into another fold, like cattle.

If this is religion, then I am happy not being religious. I'd like my god to be in my mind, in my conscience. I'd like to be ethical and moral in my dealings. I'd like to be true to myself, my family and my society. I'd like to think that god is out there, somewhere, smiling at the people who just don't get it, the ones who think that a dip in the polluted Ganga will make them purer, even if in their hearts the only thing that will give them happiness is for their neighbor to get run over by a train because he parked his car in front of their house. I'd like to think that even god sees the priests running the businesses that they are, and doesn't give VIP pass holders a shortcut to heaven, or whatever he calls it.

Give the idols a break. Be pure within. If god is omnipresent, surely he will notice and credit some points to your account.

That's my Hinduism.