He had called out to numerous girls walking down the street, cheated slyly during exams, ‘borrowed’ money from friends and never bothered to return, paid government employees heavily under the table to pass his exams smoothly, but all of this never made him feel bad. These were guilt free actions according to him. However, his guilt panged the hell out of him the day he woke up, only to come to the realization that he had consumed pork the previous evening while he was drunk celebrating his new contract. He circumambulated his family temple 108 times, recited the ‘mantra’ of initiation 1008 times, and gargled with the holy water of Ganga.
Yet, the torturous blows of his ‘conscience’ did not cease to call off on him, and no expiation he could think of was equal to the ‘sin’ he had committed.
Prakhar Mukherjee, my friend, an ardent Brahmin, is still suffering the taunts of his morals, which otherwise never forbade him in dissipated indulgence, but couldn’t condone his ‘pork’ eating. It had been over 6 months and he still repented that one night. This led to the termination of the three decade old friendship he shared with his Anglo-Indian buddy, Andrew for ordering the plate of pork on that eventful evening.
I belong to a Hindu Brahmin family too, follow a myriad rules that my religion and caste cast upon me, and conveniently ignore a good number of instructions laid forward by the creators of the caste system, some centuries ago, when none of the factors guiding our present lives had seen the daylight. I certainly do not die under the shadow of remorse for not abiding by my religion.
The Hindu community was segmented into several castes centuries ago, and countless regulations were foisted on each one of them. The caste system which was originally based on the occupation of the male members of the families should have been dissolved with time as people have walked past their surnames and embraced the profession that matched their merits. Quite contrarily, till this day, eating habits, matrimonial trends, and other important aspects of life continue to be guided by the norms created ages ago, when I-Phones, Internet and airplanes were even beyond human fantasies.
It falls dubious to a rational mind how practicing certain man-laid rules grew so important to the society that one would consider going to the extent of killing each other to amend the ‘sin’. Because the trend I see in today’s I-phone using generation, displays committing heinous sins to remorse some shallow mistakes.
When Prakhar’s thread wearing priest father learnt of his ‘act of debauchery’ he organized a ceremony to cleanse him of his turpitude. A part of this ceremony involved keeping a piece of burning coal on Prakhar’s tongue for a fraction of a second.
The all-devouring fire was expected to eat the sin out of Prakhar’s tongue that touched the pork.
“So uncle, you freed him from the sin of eating pork by this ceremony, what all ceremonies are you going to perform to mitigate his other evil acts?” I asked his father after the ceremony, of course in an ironic tone.
“What are the other sins my son is getting involved with?” he questioned, surprised.
“He whistled and called dirty-names to Bose’s daughter yesterday while on her way to college.”
“That is Bose’s daughter’s fault. If she chooses to wear a Kameez that tight, and do not cover her body properly with the dupatta, boys will whistle. It’s not my son’s fault.”
“Okay, and how about paying the engineer 50 thousand for getting the contract?”
“He was helpless, he would have had to wait for 2 months leading to huge losses. He had to expedite the process by paying some money under the table. What is my son’s fault here? It is the way the world works these day.”
“Fine! But you consider the river Ganga to be so revered. Do you know Prakhar urinates in the Ganga water every time he bathes in the Ashi Ghat?”
“Boys will urinate while bathing. What is so outrageous about that? MaaGanga is ever pious, she doesn’t get sullied by this. Besides, none of the actions that you are pointing out were listed as sins by the Brahmins of ancient times. Now enjoy another Puri-Halwa.”
So all I collected from this enlightening conversation with priest Mukherjee was that the ancient social reformers had engaged all their focus on the Diet charts of the various castes they created out of thin air. And after admitting to my newly attained insight, I went to the Pooja Ghar to mount my plate with another half a dozen Puris.