Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Religion at Office

I have now spent 7 days at office and today I saw something very interesting. But let me go in order.

I wore a new shirt to office on the first day - 16th, June (I bought 2 nice shirts from Fab India last sunday [15th, June]). Though the shirt felt really good, that day was buried in orientation programmes and hence was long and boring. Right from the second day, I had nothing more than training (Java, Unix and Perl). We have our training in a new building, in which, presently, only a handful of seats are occupied. Today was the last day of my Perl session and the instructor kept a small test at the end of the day. I was in no mood for a test. So I wrote something, gave the answer-sheet back and came out.

Then, I was literally taken aback, when I saw a religious (Hindu religion) ceremony ("Pooja"), for the inauguration of office at this building, in progress. For a company like mine to indulge in a proper religious ceremony, with a priest, a Lord Ganesha's idol (in silver), flowers, "prasadam", "Kuthu Vilakku" and mantras enchanted by the priest with the bell, is unacceptable to me.

Though it was shocking in the beginning, it started to become funny soon. The majority of the people who were invited for the ceremony were foreigners. Looking at their faces and thinking about what all this could mean to them, made me burst with laughter. I also got reminded of a story, my dad used to tell me when I was small. The story goes like this.

In a big kingdom, there lived a foolish and unhealthy king, who had no children. One day when the king died, the ministers decided to use the traditional method to decide who would inherit the throne, as there was no prince. So they got the temple's elephant, gave it a garland and took it on the streets of the kingdom. The method deems the guy, who is garlanded, the king of the kingdom. The elephant walked all day, but din't even stop anywhere. It finally made up its mind and garlanded a beggar, at the corner of a street. Though the ministers were disappointed that the elephant din't choose them, they were at least relieved as the ceremony got over. They quickly made the beggar the king. The beggar was very happy with all this but he din't eat anything in the dinner party that night and answered that he was not hungry, when anyone asked. The king was actually hungry. The next morning at the grand feast, he sent everyone out of the dining hall and shut the doors from inside. After sometime, the ministers got curious and peeked in. Inside, the king was holding a plate and was moving around the dining table. Near each dish, he stops and says, "Please give me some food. I'm hungry from morning." Then, he serves himself a small portion of the dish and eats it there. Though this new king proved to be very efficient and grew as a mighty king, he could never change this eating habit of his.

Coming back to our picture, this story relates to today's function only on the surface level; beneath the surface, today's ceremony proves, once again, that people hold on to sentiments more than logic, morals (secularism) or wisdom. But then again there were a few things that made me unhappy (really?) and laugh at the same time :
  1. Today is tuesday, which is considered inauspicious for events such as this.
  2. The foreigners were wearing their shoes, even when they went to get blessed (by the priest) and the priest din't object to it.

  3. Whenever the priest finishes a mantra or gives "prasadam" to someone, everyone starts clapping.

Ultimately, the boat was neither here nor there.

1 comment:

astute columnist said...

The best part must have been the one when everyone clapped after each mantra! Its damn funny to imagine! I am sure you had great time laughing at the whole thing! :)