Thursday, January 13, 2011

Divine appointment @ Rs. 80 + service charges

About his pilgrimage experience to the Amarnath cave, Swami Vivekananda once said, "I thought the ice lingam was Shiva himself and there were no thievish Brahmins, no trade, nothing wrong. It was all worship. I have never seen anything so beautiful, so inspiring and enjoyed any religious place so much."

A lot of other big places of worship in India still reek of corruption at all levels, starting from special darshans to bribing officials, priests, and what not.

Recently, I'd been to the the temple of Kanya Kumari (Cape Comorin) that possibly is a few hundred meters from the rocky island on which Swami Vivekananda meditated. Vivekenanda rock, with waves of three major oceans/seas caressing its periphery, is still a charm. I first visited the rock some 20 odd years ago, and my memories from those days more or less matched my current experience. Pretty good.

The Kanya Kumari temple visit was a disaster. There was a long queue to start with. We saw that special darshan tickets were on offer at Rs. 50 or 100 per head. Though not a great fan of darshans, I thought, hmmm, let's get done with this quickly. As soon as we moved away from the main queue, a temple official approached us and told that special darshan tickets alone will take us only so far. We have to pay him 100 bucks extra, per head, so that things can move like a tsunami inside the temple. A cop was overhearing this conversation, and pretended that he was hearing nothing. (Yeah, slap me, for thinking a cop would...)

Disgusted, I told my dad, let's go with the main queue, which now looked like it was making some progress. My bad. After we got sucked into the main queue, it stopped. For half an hour. I was thinking this is impossible. But the solution soon presented itself. Agents appeared offering to rescue us from the hardship, if we paid the special fees and a discounted rate of 50 per head as dakshina ("sweat equity" for the lack of a better translation). Now this line is formed around the temple, with iron grills on one side and the wall on the other. I realized that we had become a captive audience -with no means of escape - for these fellows. We declined, as the line started moving again.

Another 50 meters of movement, and another painful halt. For 10, 20 minutes. We decided, enough was enough, and broke our chains of bondage, as soon as we saw an opening in the iron grills. Walked out like free men and women. While walking out, one of the agents we met earlier appeared again with a discounted fare of Rs. 20 dakshina per head plus special tickets. I was pissed at the whole affair, but it's a family affair, and one or two of us was against the idea of walking out of a temple totally. I went in.

Thanks to our guide, we sidestepped the 10 minute queue for special tickets, and procured those in 2 minutes. Normal - good service, I thought. Not bad for 20 bucks per head.

And then the queue for darshan remained, which may take another 15 minutes. Our guide pulled me back as I was walking towards it, and pointed in the opposite direction - toward the exit from the sanctum sanctorum or the garbhagriha.

I was like, dude we want to go in. And he was like, listen dude, I know a better way. Now the exit from the sanctum sanctorum at the Kanya Kumari temple is a small one. The door is too short. People kind of crouch to get out, and we could see a lot of them making their way out. Our guide jumps in, stops the flow, pushes us in, against the flow of temple traffic, and in 3 minutes me and my family are standing in front of the deity. I don't know what I prayed. I didn't think I did pray at all.

And in 3 or 4 minutes, we came out the same way we went in. Like food that goes in through the rectum and comes out the same way. Disgusting quick s#@$. And we purchased it for 80 bucks for the four of us adults and a kid + the special ticket fare.

Gods must have fled these places of worship a long time ago.

I think sometimes it's better to be an atheist who believes in god.

And his hands would plait the priest's entrails,
For want of a rope, to strangle kings.
-Denis Diderot

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