Stones and Stars and Man.

“Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try, No hell below us, above us only sky, imagine all the people Living for today. . .”: from the song “Imagine” by John Lennon It was one of those lazy afternoons when I was listlessly changing the TV channels, in search of something good to watch; of course I did not exactly have anything in mind. An endless number of reality shows, news channels reporting the latest sensex plunge etc., and then that mind boggling series of local channels where these people (“people” because I don’t know how to define an actor , astrologer and performer in one word) offering solutions to almost every problem that the viewers have. Personally, I never judge people by their beliefs, in fact I myself have, at times, read Linda Goodman’s books with avid interest or watched Sunita Menon’s show just because I liked her style; but that is illogical. What I was seeing now was a high level comic drama.

These people all dressed up like deities or pseudo tantriks offering their “totkas” and solutions. One person was dressed as Shri Ramakrishna, may be with the hope of inspiring people with his extraordinary make-up. It appears to be nothing short of a farce. The debate may endlessly go on between “faith” and superstitions but some times people just choose to be blind. A man named Sanjay Kapoor is a frequent on the local channels of Kolkata, offering tips to people following every discipline, be it feng shui or vaastu etc. He has claimed that all his goods are imported from China, but a surprising revelation from a news program showed that he was buying his materials from good old kumartuli, the biggest idol market in Kolkata. When confronted, he turned hostile. Still calls keep flooding in during his shows which are nothing more than a farce again. There is surely nothing wrong with “faith” or “beliefs”, it is just when people are needlessly exploited, then the problem begins.

If today, one purchases a gem stone or keeps a fast due to some belief ,well that is one’s personal choice, but strangely it has become more of a fashion today, than faith. Film stars changing their names, adding an extra “e” here, an extra “a” there, are all of them successful? Are we not seeing the “k” serials losing their viewers each day? The root of the problem lies in the fact that we are searching high and low for that mystic solace, that vision into the future without seeing the present, without placing adequate importance on individual effort. Faith, in its most sublime form, can aid us to a great extent, but can never substitute effort. Even as a child, I was amused by those people in school who brought a picture of a deity along with them during exams and rubbed it on each side of their answer scripts , as though that would change the answers written. Finding solace in prayer, meditation is different, spirituality is different. “Different from what? “, one may ask. Well, different from the self imposed blindness. It is not that I am denying the play of fate or destiny; in fact I don’t want to go into that age old debate between “character is destiny” and “destiny” itself as an all consuming entity. But I do want to raise my voice against passivity and blindness. I believe a person can be spiritual without standing in line for hours to get into a filthy place of worship where every one is out to exploit, right from the priests to the beggars. This year during Durga Puja ,as usual the roads of Kolkata were choc-a-bloc with the pandal hoppers and one thing I noticed was that at every pandal, which are masterpieces in the field of art, people were busy clicking pictures from the cameras of their mobiles. In fact, only a few actually soaked in the atmosphere. There is nothing wrong with that, clicking pictures I mean, but that should not be the only objective. They clicked more than they looked and felt.That’s where the problem lies. Of course again, it is a conjecture so many may not agree on.

Some may point out that the problem lies in commercialization of religion, but then that is an effect. It is we all, with our gullible nature, that provide the market, a huge one indeed, for this trade, if I may say so. The complete absence of logic, absence of belief in oneself leads to this amount of dependence on other external factors. Belief like beauty comes from within. We cannot do justice to a faith or a system of belief if we subordinate our self to it. Once we stop thinking, once we deny the existence of our reasoning faculty and take comfort in the cushion of endless things displayed to bring fortune and endless things worn to achieve success, that will be the end of us. Of course, people have failed despite putting in their best efforts in life, but to lose faith in action and to blame every thing on luck is not the solution. “It’s easier said than done”, one may say, well I completely agree, but I am still trying, and I urge you to do so. Keep trying, and keep living! Good “luck”!

Shiny Das

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