"Where are you going? School's this way."
Akshay turned around. His friend, Imran, was staring at him with a quizzical look.
"I have to go to the temple. There's something I have to do."
"Are you mad ? The exam's in 30 minutes. If you don't enter the hall on time, you won't be allowed to write."
"Don't worry. I'll make it. Bye bye bye." Akshay called out as he continued walking.

"Are you mad?" Imran had asked him. Fair enough question, he presumed. Imran wouldn't get it anyway. He didn't believe. After all he wasn't one of them now, was he ? He remembered the conversation his mom had with the temple pujari the previous afternoon. He had taken the trouble to come home with the packet that now formed a good 40% of the weight in Akshay's bag.

"Thank you, Swami" his mother had said. "He's been really tense this last week. Not able to concentrate at all on his studies. And it's the board exams also. He needs to get first class to get a good college."
"I understand, child. You don't have to worry. This coconut has been sitting in the temple during the entire puja, right at the feet of the Devi. What more do I have to say ?"
"I don't know, Swami. He gets very scared whenever exams come. During class tests, he writes well but always in the final exam, the tension gets to him."
"Tell him to break the coconut tomorrow morning before going for the exams. All your child's worries and sorrows will disappear with that. He'll write excellently and get distinction. You don't worry."

As Akshay cut through the park, the fastest way to the temple, he recalled another conversation later that night. He'd heard loud voices speaking animatedly downstairs as he tried to make sense of these pages he'd read a dozen times before. Shortly after that, his mom entered his room.
"Was Dad angry again ?"
"Ya. Never mind him. You sit and study. Concentrate on the exams. the papers will be easy.You'll see."
"I hope so."
"And don't forget to visit the temple tomorrow,ok ?"
"I'm guessing Dad isn't a big fan of that idea ?"
"Yeah. Your father doesn't understand. He's not as religious a  person as we are. That's why he doesn't understand the power of the Devi. Just you have to pray to her and she will listen. How many people have gone and prayed at that temple and got their wishes fulfilled. The Raveendrans... they couldn't have a child for so many years. After going to the temple, they were blessed with a child within a year. Now the first thing they do when they land in India is visit the Devi. They've even named the child after her. "
"Really ?"
"This is all the Devi's power. Your father won't understand. That's why his business is doing so badly. After your exams, I'll make sure he comes with us this time to the temple. Right now, the family is running all because of my prayers only. Anyway, you don't worry. The Pujari has said that with the breaking of the coconut, your worries will end. After that, all the answers will come to you and you can write properly."
"Thanks, Mom."

The visit by his dad had been more shorter. He'd just stuck his head through the door last night.
"All the best, champ. You can do it. Just relax and write. I have faith in you."
"Thanks, Dad. Umm, Dad ?"
"Yeah, son ?"
"Is it okay if I go to the temple tomorrow before going for the exams ?"
He watched his dad's face for signs of anger, but there were none. He couldn't quite read it though. A resigned smile ? Exasperation ?
"It's okay. Just don't put all your eggs... or in you and your mom's case, coconuts in one basket. In the end, you still have to study. Breaking a coconut won't get you top marks, just as breaking a headlamp won't increase my car sales. Remember that. God helps those who helps themselves."
"Okay dad.Thanks."

HOOOOOOONNNNNNNNK.
Akshay turned around just in time to see the car screech to a halt a few metres away from him. He'd been lost in his own thoughts and had absent mindedly started crossing the road. As the driver screamed abuses at him, he apologised and continued, thinking to himself "This is a sign. Ma always says before the bad time ends, there will be a big scare and after that, the good times begin. Now, all that's left is to get to the temple and break the .."

Akshay didn't even see the speeding Range Rover coming from the other side as it tossed him into the air like a scarf caught in a breeze. In the last few seconds before everything turned to black, Akshay's life didn't flash before his eyes as he'd read in the books.
Instead, his last vision was of a coconut landing on the road and shattering into a thousand pieces.

Author's note : There is a saying in Malayalam which literally transalates to "May your faith save you." I don't know if it's derived from any other book, but I do find it's use annoying, to say the least. There is a place for faith in all our lives, no doubt, but it is not as an antagonist for common sense and logic.    


 

19 Comments

Smitha said…
Such a sad story. And sadly quite a possible one too, where people go to all extents because of their faith. I think God helps those who help themselves, makes the most sense. Why not do your best, and then leave the rest to God?
Aathira said…
Just do not like this whole temple business .... though all of us do many things to please elders.
Dhanya said…
I fully agree to the last sentence. Yes it's true that blind faith is harmful, but many a times it's the faith in ourselves or God that helps us sail through.. May be it's a support system for our emotional needs. At least I have felt that :) Probably I'm taking faith in a different meaning not the typical - do a puja or homa and everything will be fine. That even I don't believe in..
Pythoroshan said…
Smitha, it is very much a possible scenario, I feel. Who's to stop the Pujari from saying that that was how he was meant to be freed from the tensions ?

Aathira, so true. We do a lot of things to please others that we wouldn't really subscribe to ourselves.

Dhanya, there is a place for faith. It is the strength that is needed to carry us forward, a seeking of the right path. I'm not a big fan myself of the "do this and that puja, and your problems will be solved" theory. If it were so, I really think all hospitals would have a separate section for these pujas too.
Suruchi said…
i second your opinion Roshan that pujas and pujaris take you know where except further away from god with all the nuisance they make you undergo-i lost faith in the middle paths a while back when i was so exposed to this madness that it choked me...unfortunately even the most educated sometimes are blinded or perhaps tough times bring in tough measures

however, the holy brigade lost one me, who refuses to succumb to their whims...there is god and after that-all humans!
Hi Dr,very nice post .If people live as witness(of their Religions),then there won't be any pblm.
Harman said…
Well...One has to work hard..otherwise that same coconut will be used on head :)
Belief is another thing.. it shouldn't be an obsession..looking for God to help him or her..
I have read a beautiful Story on this Belief thingy years back in my college ..I will write sometime in my blog..
Don't miss it
it will clear the fog of many people I guess....
Pythoroshan said…
Suruchi, if you and I were to swap Godman stories, you'd give me the award for "greatest dumdum"... sadly, as you said, even education does not prevent the 'blindness during tough times'. We're more alike than u think..

MyKitchen, I really wish it were that easy.. that people stuck to the actual teachings of religion rather than the remixes being created by men in the name of religion.

Harman, looking forward to it.
Renu said…
Our work and duties are our worship to God, even god never asks us to leave them.everybody needs to work in his/her sphere of job, education then only god can help.
Rohan said…
Good one! And totally agree with the point! These days there are so many people going after swami's and other blind beliefs!! Putting a lil effort on one's side makes sure Things work out. . Its upto them to cal it hard work or luck or faith!! s there are so many people going after swami's and other blind beliefs!! Putting a lil effort on one's side makes sure Things work out. . Its upto them to cal it hard work or luck or faith!!
Pythoroshan said…
thats the problem sometimes Renu... to appease God when people turn their back on the 'karma' bit...
Anonymous said…
I don't see the connection here? What are u trying to convey by killing a kid going to a temple? Faith, fate, negligence, reckless driving - What are u trying to highlight? I think between the mother's and father's attitude Akshay had a good enough balance.
P.S - I am a non temple visiting god fearing person.
Pythoroshan said…
Dear non temple visiting Godfearing person, I'm trying to convey the irony of how the breaking of the coconut did work- it did free the child of all his worries. Just not in the way he/his family would have expected.
what i think it highlights is the uselessness of belief in the absence of work.

nothing beats action, save destiny.

do i believe that a ritual, any ritual can get us success or whatever we want? no!
do i believe hardwork can? no again.
i am one of those believers in pre-destiny.... u mite call me a fool. many do.

but well...

all the same, i believe that 'action' is the masala to the 'food' that your destiny serves.
while destiny can bring you to any success... the joy that comes, had that sucess followed 'work' is unmatched.

assuming the boy had lived, his joy at excelling AFTER really studying for the exams would be wayyyyy greater than by just the coconut breaking thingie....
Pythoroshan said…
I'd like to think we make our own destiny, just as we dig our own grave at time, Jalpari. What I have seen from life is that rituals , at best, provide a mental belief, nothing more...
Chandu said…
Good one, doc. And the sentence, the coffin's nail, is from the Bible.
Pythoroshan said…
Thanks Chandu.. I kinda figured it was from there but wasn't sure...
Reflections said…
I'm not going to comment on the story...suffice to say that it sent goosebumps down my spine.

As somebody who has seen first-hand the damage 'faith' can do, I heart the reply u posted to ntvgp.
Pythoroshan said…
Reflections, I think a lot of us have memories of "faith" screwing around with us...its just that we cant voice it.