My young friend, Dr. Shankar, wrote to me:
“I want you to join a WhatsApp group called Young Thinkers. They are very interesting. You’d like their short but brainy blogs on the WhatsApp.”
” Beautiful, and why not,” I wrote back, “I could even hone my own blogging techniques by reading their WhatsApp posts.” .
Almost immediately, came a long passage of work titled, if I recall, “Murugan, the greatest God of them all.”
The blog, or article, whatever you might call it, was long. It began with the need for “us all Hindus to realize the importance of our spiritual background. We should shun the greed we inherited from the materialistic West during the past 300 years. India was the richest nation in the world before the British came. We were even richer before the Mughals came to loot our country. We were rich but simple and spiritual. Men and women wore simple veshtis and angavasthrams. A few ornaments were reserved for important occasions like weddings. Women wore flower garlands in their hair and round their neck. We Hindus were the most spiritual people in the world. We still are, which is why the western people, tired of their materialistic lives, flock to India yearning for a spiritual upliftment.”
Coming from a young man (remember, the group was called Young Thinkers), this part of the writing was inspiring. Not that I have seen a fraction of long queues of Indians standing outside western consulates in Delhi, Bombay or Madras among foreigners in Indian consulates supposed to be flocking to seek spiritualism in India. Many of those who came here were mostly seeking meditational satisfaction and spiritual upliftment in hashish and Bhang juice (probably the Soma extolled in the Vedas), cheap substitutes for the expensive chemicals they got in the West. Even Sam Harris, the well-known ‘author, philosopher, neuroscientist, and podcast host’, has admitted that’s what he used to come to India for. Some others came looking for material to write about the ‘cultural shock’ they were supposed to experience when looking out a window of the Taj Mahal Palace in Bombay. The third kind were those who came equipped with wide-angled cameras to photograph poverty and stunted humans living in slums. They made good materials for print and visual media. I remembered the cringing and unreserved humiliation (a child sinking in a pool of shit to find passage to meet Amitabh Bachchan?) meted out to the poor of India and the gross and mean picturization of India’s noble and generous men who anchored India’s many adaptations of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire) in the movie, Slumdog Millionaire. After the movie was released in the US and the UK, to the satisfaction of many of its citizens, upward-moving Indians came to be branded as ‘Slumdog millionaires.’ Yet Many among us bared our chests with pride because the movie won a couple of Oscar and Academy awards in return for the humiliation.
Yet that was a minor point; the rest of the content of the WhatsApp post was a description, in poetry sans metre, about the God who was the General of the army of gods, fond of hunting and blood, the one who had a peacock for his armoured chariot. The God wore a gold croned studded with a large jewel round his scalp, a number of gold necklaces, gold bracelets on his upper arm and gold disks on both his wrists, a Spear made of pure gold. Thus attired, the god shone like a thousand suns in the beholder’s eyes
I wrote back: “Your poem has considerable literary merit. I am surprised that this young and handsome General of the gods and killer of demons has a deadly spear made of pure gold. Wanting scientific training, this god did not know that Pure gold is highly ductile, malleable and soft; it is perhaps the least suitable metal for a weapon of any kind – even a kitchen knife. Also, tell me, how does it gel with the idea that we lived praising and practising a simple life though rich in spirituality but our gods live an ostentatious and grossly material life with gold all over them?
One of those in the group shot back : “I shall not stand any insults to our gods.”
Before I could ask who insulted whose gods, the group leader chucked me out of the group.
Oh, how I miss such groups.