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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Swami’s Tryst with Jesus


R K Narayan is the first serious Indian novelist that made a global impact. His book Swami and Friends reflected native Indian society in 1930s when India was under the British Rule though many areas like Mysore were ruled by native Kings. The hero of the novel is ten year old Swami. Events are described from Swami’s eyes in the town of Malgudi along Saryu river. Book takes the reader to Swami’s Albert Mission School and introduces the fanatic scripture master Mr Ebenezer, who says things like:

“Oh, wretched idiots! …why do you worship dirty, lifeless, wooden idols and stone images? Can they talk? No. Can they see? No….Can they take you to heaven? No. Why? Because they have no life. What did your gods do when Muhammad of Ghazni smashed them to pieces, trod upon them, and constructed out of them steps for his lavatory?”

The same teacher then goes on to extol the virtues of Christianity and says

“Now see our Lord Jesus. He could cure the sick, relieve the poor, and take us to the Heaven. He was a real God. Trust him and he will take you to Heaven” Tears rolled down Ebenezar’s cheems when he pictured Jesus before him. Next moment his face became purple with rage as he thought of Sri Krishna: ‘Did our Jesus go gadding about with dancing girls like your Krishna? Did our Jesus go about stealing butter like that arch-scoundrel Krishna? Did our Jesus practise dark tricks on those around him?’ He paused for breadth. The teacher was intolerable today. Swaminathan’s blood boiled. He got up and asked ‘If he did not why was he crucified?’ The teacher told him that he might come to him at the end of the period and learn it in private. Emboldened by this rather mild reply, Swami puts to him another question, ‘If he was a God, why did he eat flesh and fish and drink wine?’

As a response Ebenezer advances towards Swami and tries to wrench his left ear off. Swami’s innocuous positions were driven by the biblical myth of Jesus’s own people having him incarcerated for what they believed was rogue behavior. As per bible, Jesus was a Jew and the Jews petition against Jesus to the Romans for creating nuisance in the society resulting in jesus’s incarceration, punishment. And also it was Swami’s personal belief that God may not like wine and flesh.

The story moves further with Ebenezer denunciating ‘Bhagavad Gita’ in another scriptural class and Swami’s father writing a letter to the school principal threatening that he will have his child moved out of the school and the principal taking action and responding to Swami’s father and the novel moves on.

One can make several pertinent observations from the above sections:-

o Christian missionaries have been working for centuries to subvert native traditions and beliefs. More important observation is that even in the British times in 1930s, it was possible to publish a book that contains factual criticism of Jesus and christian methods.

o Today in 2010s, it is inconceivable if publishers like Penguin will allow publishing of content that is even mildly critical of christianity and islam. Mass media outlets, influenced and controlled by the church like CNN-IBN will cry wolf. Barkha Dutt would have chewed off R K Narayan as a Hindu fundamentalist.

o Christians in India have gone much further in their intolernace. They petitioned to the supreme court to ban the movie ’Da Vinci Code’ and some of the states refused to screen the movie. Government controlled Censor Board put an “Adult Certification” and a disclaimer in the beginning of the movie mentioning that the movie is fictional. There have been efforts by Christians preventing publishing of books that dont show christianity in positive light.

o We have a long way since 1930s. Incremental changes that can not be perceived have resulted in christian intolerance getting beneath native skin under the cover of sickularism. Congress party, which is now controlled by christians has promoted sickularism that has had a large role in institutionalizing medieval christian intolerance and industrial scale conversions for captive vote banks. Foreign governments that seek to influence India have been enabling funding of church’s nefarious conversion activities and intolerance. That coupled with church’s real estate avarice an outcome of western imperialsim, control of academia resulting in academic apartheid & health care, both paradoxically funded by native tax payer, result in a deeply subversive cocktail. Native Indians are less free today than in 1930s.

o Native Indian people have been losing the cultural war thrust on them under the cover of sickularism, a concept created in the context of church meant to be applied on it. Natives are paying the price for their apathy in letting the concept of sickularism, quixotically applied on their Dharmic tradition, where it has no utility and worse a harmful impact. Among its other banefulness, Sickularism has lowered moral standards, sustains divisiveness in the polity, there by ends up enabling humongous corruption. And Native Indians are less free today than in 1930s.

It is time to say a determined ‘No’ to church’s intolerance in India and work to ensure that the church and related institutions are thoroughly secularised.

(Post Script: To those that want to ‘act big media’, and smear – ‘Hey ZIM, this is manifesting Hindu fundamentalism; there are christian and muslim nations that are secular’, they are requested to learn the following realities. Secular Turkey disallowed Nobel Laureate, V S Naipaul entry for his plainspeaking on islam. So much for free speech. And in US, because of christian intolerance in polity, the hard choices, Sonal Shah and Nimratha Randhawa (aka Nikki Haley), had to face for keeping to their base identities, were not funny. For public office, both ended up denying their Desi links. We are not even talking about Piyush (Bobby) Jindal, that not only embraced jesus but also did not batter an eyelid abstaining from voting in the US-Congress, recognizing Diwali as a festival. And in India, Hindu Taxpayer funds Evangelizing Mother Express on a proven scoundrel; Benny Hinn announces crusade; And Catholic deceits rule)

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