I was smoking outside the office building, my before-starting-work smoke, when he approached me. Dressed in saffron, full of rudraksh necklaces and a snake wrapped around his arm.
He muttered something about the Mother goddess and asked for some money. I usually do not entertain such beggars who roam around trying to raise money in the name of religion. But I wasn’t thinking, rather, I was in a hurry to get back to work. So I gave him a 2 rupee coin, hoping to get rid of him.
He did not go. While I was taking out the coin, he saw the money in my wallet.
" Take out your largest note and touch the snake with it. Your wishes will be fulfilled."
Again, I wanted to get rid of him fast, and I made a big mistake. (Why was I not thinking ?)
I took out a 1000 rupee note and as I was about to touch the snake with it, he stopped me. He took the note from my hand, touched the snake with it, crumpled it up in his palms and muttered some words under his breath over the closed fist.
Then he fetched out a rudraksh from his pocket and gave it to me !
"Here, your wishes will be fulfilled. Devi ma has heard you and accepted your gift to her."
I was stumped. Suddenly (and thankfully), my thinking faculties returned to me.
"Give me back my money" I demanded sternly.
He looked at me with a look of disbelief, " The snake has eaten it, it is with the goddess, your wishes will be fulfilled"
" WHAT ?!?"
"You saw me, I fed it to the snake. It will reach Devi ma, go home and rejoice. Your wishes will be granted in 3 days”
" Do you want me to call the guards?", I threw the rudraksh to the ground.
"Call anyone, call the cops, slit my throat, but the money is with Devi ma - "
"I’ll take the snake then", I grabbed the snake and started to pull it free from his arms.
He tried to hold it back, and in doing so, opened his fist by a little.
“There, the note is in your hands, give it back to me, NOW ! ”
Caught in his amateur sleight of hand act, he returned the money back to me – a highly crumpled 1000 rupee note. He was silent. All his Devi ma crap was now missing.
But I was not done. In all this commotion, the guard had come.
“Take this man to the police, bloody cheat”
The guard heard what happened but did nothing. He let the man go free.
I got a call and had to rush inside. But somewhere I feel dissatisfied. Yes, I got my money back, but I wanted to hand this guy to the police.
I was lucky. I am not afraid of snakes, in fact I love them. Unburdened by fear, I could do what I did.
What about the common man on the street? Will he be able to get over his fear of the snake to catch such conmen?
More importantly, will he be able to get over his fear of religion to engage such “religious men” in an altercation?
Would the police stand by him if he did? They are also god-fearing humans after all.
How long will religion and its spokesmen use fear to con people?
How long will we obey the dictats of god men who tell us how to breathe?
How long will we delay buying a car/house by looking at auspicious days?
How long will you friggin' stop because the cat crossed the road ?