The Date – 4/2/2012
Time – 8:30 AM
Venue – Front yard (My grandparents’ home in Guntur)
Scene – The space usually occupied by a white Skoda was now home to a white cow & a calf.
What were they doing here? They were being given away (donated) by my grandmother. What their feelings were on such a momentous decision I do not know. Why was my grandmother doing this? She just bought a place in heaven for the next 7 generations of this family! (promised by the Brahmin).
Don’t follow? Neither can I. The little I know of Hindu philosophy tells me this is not possible for the simple reason that every person’s sins is his/her own little burden (as evidenced by Valmiki himself). It’s also highly improbable given that we don’t even have a concept of heaven/hell in the first place. Glossing over all that, it got me wondering what gave birth to such a concept.
Note - The following is purely fictional but something similar probably happened in history
Think back to the time when all religious activities & the livelihood of their practitioners depended solely on charitable donations from individuals. Temples were built by kings & maintained by contributions from ordinary individuals and noblemen alike. Imagine a hapless priest looking to ‘touch’ a wealthy man for a head of cattle or two. How do you persuade a person to give away a cow when a man’s worth was measured by the number of cattle he had? Promise him heaven, of course. Not only him but also his entire family unto the 7th generation!
What an idea Sirji! And it probably worked. Unlike most other ancient civilizations whose kings/pharaohs/noblemen claimed to be God/descendants, Indian kings had to work to get into heaven. But how to donate a cow in an age where we don’t own any? This was solved rather neatly if you ask me. You see, this particular priest was actually rearing some cows for his temple. So my grandmother forked over 10k to buy the cow & donated it to the temple again! In other words paying for the maintenance of one cow earned my grandmother a passport upstairs. Talk about return on investment. Of course given the rate at which Indians are being produced and killed off, it might not be a bad idea to book your seat in advance.
Now comes the best part. The whole seven generations shebang does not apply to me. The beneficiaries would be my two uncles and their sons (thanks to the whole male chauvinistic rules of Manu), all of whom weren't even present at the ceremony. I don't care about that, what with being an atheist and all but I do object to being forced out of bed at an ungodly hour on what was supposed to be my vacation just to capture the whole thing on camera for my grandmother!
People tell me the reason they don’t donate blood or their organs is their religion. Funny that donating a cow or doing a pooja can get you so much goodwill but you’re barred from giving away what’s probably the only thing you truly own – your body. And that after you’re dead and won’t feel a thing!
Without religion you’d have good people doing good things and bad people doing bad things. But for good people to do bad things, that takes religion.
I also found out that you’re supposed to give away a cow along with her calf (don’t ask me why, haven’t been able to find out) but during the ceremony we found out from the cowherd that these two aren't even related! Now what that does to the probability of the whole brood going to heaven, would some expert let me know?