As a rule, I don’t eavesdrop.
As a rule, I am not judgmental.
But this morning, I broke my rules!
The First Round
I was in the park, walking the well-trodden track around it, cogitating over the age-old question – why mothers smother their children, when I turned the corner and came upon four middle-aged ladies singing a hymn – they sat upon the benches with their feet tucked neatly under them, singing and swaying – praying to Lord Shiva and his consort, the Goddess Parvati (Some of our gods and goddesses are happily married couples – such as Shiva and Parvati, Laxmi and Vishnu, and a few others, whose names wifey would be able to recall quite swiftly, if asked. But I am not going to ask.)
Anyway, so that was my first round around the park.
The Second Round
Then I passed them again, and it became clear to me that one of the ladies, the one equipped with the shrillest voice, was the leader of the group. She was preaching to the other ladies, her wide-eyed and innocent followers, and they were listening intently.
“so you see, it’s all moh-maya, ji (material things). If you go to a saint who lives in a hut and ask him about his wellbeing, he would say, mauj hai! (Life is fun!) but if you ask a rich man, he’ll bore you with the stories of his trials and tribulations. So you see, it’s all in your heart. If your heart is pure, nothing will bother you – neither your neighbor’s new car nor his wife’s new jewelry.”
The Third Round
The third round brought me to them again. The preacher had now finished preaching and there had been a significant drop in her decibel levels. She was now almost whispering, and the other ladies were leaning towards her, trying to catch every pearl that dropped from their leader’s lips.
“If I hadn’t wheedled it out of their maid, nobody would have learned about it, ji. Their son has landed a very high paying job in a multinational company, and he is an engineer from some faltu-sa (useless) college – so they might be lying about it for all we know, but that woman didn’t even have the courtesy to tell us. Perhaps she thought we would ask her to distribute sweets. What a cheapskate, hain ji? (Isn’t she?)”
The Fourth Round
On my fourth round, I came upon them again. Once again, the four of them had pulled their feet up and tucked them neatly under their bottoms. Sitting there thus, with their eyes closed, their heads oscillating sideways, they were chanting once again, praying to Lord Ram, counting the number of times they took his name.
Thirty-one Ram Ram, Thirty-two Ram Ram, Thirty-three…