Now that the Special CBI Court in Lucknow has exonerated all the accused BJP and VHP leaders of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement from any charges of ‘criminal conspiracy’ in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, We the Wee Wee and Pee Pee People of India may heave collective sighs of relief that the 28-year-old case is over and pray silently and fervently for peaceful times to come.
Alas, we may also rest assured that with this verdict, our wretched politicians and their media-marketing chelas of every hue – saffron, green, white and red – will only redouble their efforts to fatten themselves and their vote banks by fanning the fires of Hindu and Muslim religious fanaticism, so that the atmosphere remains charged with political lightning, TV anchor thunder, social media storms and affiliated atmospherics till the next Lok Sabha elections are held in 2024.
‘Tis an appropriate time to reflect on how everything seems to change but nothing really does; and conversely and perversely, how everything seems the same but nothing is unchanged.
So, my dear and long-suffering Reader, here is an article I wrote for the Indian Express back in 2005, on how the infantile religious kooks among us might yet learn a lesson or three about true faith from infants.
[Indian Express, January 13th 2005: http://archive.indianexpress.com/oldStory/62556/]
Watch a toddler at play with building blocks. She picks up a red block and places it on a yellow one. After deep thought, she selects a green block and sets it down next to the yellow one. Frowning in concentration, with an occasional gurgle of contentment, she continues to build her little edifice of blocks in this way. At length she is satisfied and leans back to admire her creation, a magnificent three-storied edifice.
And then… she brings her little clenched fist down upon it. The structure disintegrates even as she claps her hands and squeals in delight before gathering the blocks again to build another edifice.
The toddler’s just taught us a valuable lesson. That we must not get too attached to human-made things like shrines.
Sure, it’s fun to build a pretty shrine. Every stone and brick, every cut of the chisel and stroke of the paint-brush, expresses our passionate faith in a loving, all-powerful Protector of the Universe. But when we build our shrine we must remember that its truly enduring value lies only in the very act of its creation.
The blocks and rafters with which our shrine is made will not endure, nor will the sculpture and ornaments that adorn it, nor even the icons we place within it. In time, all these things will crumble even as we, the creators of the shrine, must die. After we are gone, after our shrine has crumbled to dust, the only thing that will endure is the love and inspiration that drove us to build it in the first place.
Does this mean it’s perfectly alright to start tearing down religious monuments all over the place and building others on them?
Of course not.
All it means is that we must not suffer from the delusion that a flesh-and-blood Protector dwells within our shrine, or that She/He is destroyed when our shrine is destroyed!
That One, from whom all creatures and all creation have sprung forth, surely cannot be confined by the walls of any shrine, however magnificent it might be. Or by the codes and rites of any one religion, or by human-made borders.
That One dwells within every speck of life and matter in this Universe.
It’s hard for us adults to see this. But it’s child’s play for kids!
Maybe that’s why the toddler shrieks in delight and claps her hands as she destroys her building-block shrine with a single blow.
“I am Creator, Sustainer… and Destroyer!” is what she says. “I create because it’s so much fun… and I break because only by breaking can I make again!”
Maybe all our priests and sants and mullahs should learn from the wisdom of the world’s toddlers.