Saturday, July 25, 2009

DO WE DESERVE TO SERVE?

There is a small temple near our apartment, within the compound walls. Till a few months back, it was a non-descript semi-circular structure under the shade of a tree, which provided a convenient canopy to many parents who would sit at that spot and wait for their children’s school-buses to come.

Apart from this philanthropic subsidiary activity, the temple is frequented by many devotees (who come to pray) and by many children (who come to play) and who usually love to ring the bells and put a bit of vermilion tikka on their foreheads.

One such moneyed devotee, living in the building next to the temple, decided this year to repay God’s bounty by giving the mandir a makeover. Masons and marble came, and soon the courtyard was paved with white marble, and the semicircular structure was plated with yellow granite. The tree next to the mandir, from which the bells hung, was surrounded by a raised marble platform.

Mothers were very happy, because now they had a place to sit while waiting for the school-bus. Sometimes, the wait is rather long, and a place to rest seemed a lovely idea.

But not for long. The watchmen shooed away anybody resting under the tree, saying that “Sahib would not approve.” (“Sahib” obviously referring to the businessman who jazzed up the mandir). Soon, they put up a number of heavy potted plants on the platform around the tree trunk, making it impossible for anyone to sit there. When I asked why, they said it was to discourage dogs who apparently rested on the cool marble.

Long ago, I had been much impressed by Swami Vivekananda’s teaching that to serve man is to serve God. Our godly neighbourhood businessman has apparently decided that this is not so. By splurging on marble and granite and fancy lights, he has extended his proprietorial claim over the temple, trying to earn bonus credit points with God. But can we buy a ticket to heaven? Does piety overrule meanness? Can the divine truly be served at the cost of neglecting and inconveniencing our fellow humans and other beings?

23 comments:

Lazyani said...

This is the oldest trick in the world-- of using the name of God to create proprietary claims on real estate. This ,if successful, is then translated into a money spinner.
We see it happening on every street corner of Kolkata and any open space having an access from the main road.

Pradip Biswas said...

How a outsider may erect a Mandir without the occupants consent? Days are not far when this shall be commercially utilised and on some festivals loudspeakers shall spoil the peace? Is the gentleman owner of the residential complex?

Pinku said...

agree with Lazyani....no piety here just business sense.

why dont you guys protest against this??

If the guy was really into peity he ought to have arranged for some benches for the women.

Ugich Konitari said...

Who owns the land ? Is your housing society (or combined set of buiding societies within the fence) the owner of the land ? Did he take permission to build ? Who gave it ?

Chances are its the builder himself.

But its possible that an effort to ask these questions in a unified manner (by all the residents), while not eliciting acceptable replies, may inspire someone to install the seating arrangement back.

And whoever has done this needs to learn what Nishkaam Karma is. He is certainly not getting any bonus points anywhere, and badly needs to study the Bhagwad Gita.

Nona said...

Sorry to hear about this. Now, there is no shelter from the sun for the waiting moms! I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of your worries!

Vivek Patwardhan said...

A few days ago I noticed that a temple constructed illegally on foot path is asking devotees to donate money for renovation and expansion.

A temple's illegal construction near my house was stopped by some alert citizens. A local politiacl bigwig restarted construction, completed it by filing false affidavits and now celebrates certain hindu festivals [and probably makes money!].

It is dififcult to fight this system.

Vivek

Aparna said...

Unfortunately people do want to earn bonus points from God. They feel by donating money, building temples, they will automatically get elevated in god's eyes.
In today's world, serving mankind has taken a backseat.
I also would like to raise the issue the others have raised. Who gave him the permission to renovate the temple and what makes him think he owns it?

ZiLliOnBiG said...

I Ditto Aparma. Its really sad at what level compassion and empathy drops, and that too in the name of God, whose very purpose is to teach the same.

Sumandebray said...

You post have caught me in the middle of many questions!
Is this place a public property to begin with? Or people and (God) were simply trespassing till God received a formal acceptance?
Will you or I allow a similar tree shade to be used by general public?
To conclude I am not being able to decide which side I am with……

sujata said...

Brownie points I hope dont work with God, but am not sure about the way he plays.

manju said...

I agree with the first comment that this was probably done to create proprietary claims on real estate. Maybe concerted action by residents would be in order?

Meira said...

bonus credit points from God? I hope not!

Mina Jade said...

I must tell you it is unusual in YOUR country. In Hungary, this behaviour is the norm!

Priya said...

I HATE such people...buggers..they just look for places to flaunt their wealth.

Pesto Sauce said...

Lot many claim to serve society...few claim to serve humanity

Babli said...

People who all dirty things in the name of God which is only possible in India.Even in my place,Pondicherry,a temple was constructed in the middle of the road which was a objection for everybody but the matter is not yet solved.

lopamudra said...

Audacity of such people baffles me.Illiterate buggers!!

Swati said...

Ahh..how can he stop someone to sit in temple ..thats not his property

JD said...

what a pity. Good that the businessman tried his hand at preserving the surroundings of the temple, but it is public property and he needs to be told that he doesn't own it..

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Dear Everybody,

Thanks for your concern. That is the best part of blogging, getting in touch with a like-minded online group of persons who ask questions and give ideas that help a lot.

I think that some clarifications are needed on this issue.

• The land where the temple is constructed is common property, being on the side of the road which leads to the apartment, inside the gated complex.
• The temple was constructed by the builder with the mutual consent of all the residents, as a place of worship by the predominantly Hindu families staying in the flats.
• The ‘businessman’ in question resides in a flat in the apartment nearest to the temple. Which is why the security personnel guarding that particular apartment is also in charge of looking after that temple, for instance, lighting the evening lamp, etc.
• The said ‘businessman’ renovated the temple at his own cost and initiative, a generous and expensive action.
• I have no objection to this action, except for an aesthetic one. I preferred the old-style quaintness of the earlier version of the temple to the modern marbled garishness of the present version.
• What I do not like was the fact that while earlier people, belonging to that nearby and other apartments, were allowed to sit on the platform under the tree next to the temple, now the security personnel have put up heavy flowerpots on the platform, which makes it impossible for anybody to sit there.
• This has been done in the name of ‘beautification’ but at the cost of the rest and shelter that tree and temple used to provide earlier. This has, obviously, been done with the consent of the ‘businessman’ who renovated the temple. The security personnel, when I went and asked them why we were not being allowed to sit there any more, expressly mentioned some amorphous ‘sahib’ who had issued the orders.
• Most residents do not have the time and inclination for concerted action. As I am living in a rented flat, and that too not in the apartment where the ‘businessman’ lives (and which is next door to the temple) but in an apartment nearby (although in the same gated complex) I have no locus standi to organize a protest.

Suchismita said...

We often think our meanness in this world to it's flesh and blood occupants can be wiped out by some overt act of piety/ prayer. If only people could be sensitive to others. The same people who donate lakhs in the name of god, will shoo away a hungry child...

Lilly said...

Sorry to hear this - let us know what happens.

workhard said...

These people are doing exactly opposite..

Or just serving God.. which is just the latter half...

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