Yesterday I received a message from my sister on Whats app. It began like this -“Sai asked me to tell you….”. For a moment, I wondered if she was passing on a message from her nephew by the same name. But after reading further, my doubts were cleared! The message was supposedly from Shirdi Sai Baba ( !!!!) who wanted me to know that all my troubles would be solved. But there was a caveat- I had to forward the message to nine others within four minutes of reading it !!! Otherwise….. well, it was quite possible that he might dump everyone else’s troubles on my plate!
Though a part of me wondered how the late Sufi saint from Maharashtra had got on to Whats app to spread his word, another part of me was uneasy about not sending it around to nine people! I think I must have spent more than four minutes debating on this. That in itself was scary.. so I decided to forward it to at least a few. I told myself it was a positive word that I was spreading. I wondered if I should alter the message and remove the part about troubles hitting people if they did not follow instructions. Another two minutes …. I prayed to the divine one to hold on for another couple of minutes while I looked up some contacts in my address book that I have little or limited dealings with- my tailor, vendors and suppliers and a few annoying “friends” !
I actually felt quite gleeful after the exercise! But the feeling was short lived because I found another message in my inbox from a former classmate! The idiot had forwarded it back to me!!! Oh holy one… what was this punishment!! I shut the phone down in exasperation!
I thought that was the end of it until this morning when I found a message from another friend in my inbox. This one was supposedly from Dr. Seuss the children’s writer. I had to forward it to thirteen persons in order to ensure the welfare of my child!! This time I had no doubts, I did what I should have done yesterday- hit the “delete” button!!
Though the incidents mentioned here relate to Whats app,let me tell you, this is not something new. It was there even thirty years ago when I was in the Xth standard.
We had received a letter supposedly from Lord Venkteshwara’s special devotee from Tirupati ! It was anonymous but it listed how he and many others had got all their special desires fulfilled after they had sent out similar letters to twenty others. And of course those who doubted had faced a reversal of their good ( or otherwise normal) fortunes!
My father was extremely annoyed when I showed it to him. He asked me to throw it out. Even my superstitious mother was with him on this. But considering my board examinations were around the corner I was in a fix. I was convinced that if I did not do as instructed I would fare very badly in them. So, I opened up my piggy bank and with the meager savings there, bought the twenty inland letters and painstakingly copied out the letters in the afternoon when my mother was sleeping. We were then faced with the issue of who we were to send it to. We did not want to send it to friends, relatives or neighbors who might identify my handwriting or talk about it to my parents or other neighbors. After some deliberations with a nine year old ( my sister) I decided to use the principle of “randomization” . We opened the telephone directory and randomly picked out one name and number from each of those columns and sent out the letters to our unsuspecting “victims”! I waited in vain to be the national topper in my Xth exams. But unfortunately all that I could manage was the result of my own efforts!
I have been thinking about why someone should start a chain of such mails. And it is not just mails or instant messengers that carry this nonsense. I have also seen status messages on Face book where people have posted the picture of some God or a saint with the message “ Share in 60 seconds to witness a miracle”!!
I think a lot of this comes out of the fact that people are “God-fearing”!! People do not believe in him but “fear” him or his wrath! And being the petty mortals that we are, we think this supreme being is like us. Taking out his anger on people who do not do his bidding!
We fail to understand that God is not there to mete out rewards or punishments. They are the result of our own efforts. If we do good to others there is no way something bad would happen to us. It is simply the law of nature. A ferocious dog that is fed daily soon starts wagging its tail at us and later becomes our loyal friend who defends us against intruders. But instead had we thrown a stone at the same dog it would have remained ferocious and attacked us one day.
And believe me there are no instant solutions to problems. They will continue to harass us through life and we have to do all we can to deal with them. Yes, our good deeds win us goodwill and supporters who might help us when we need them. But again, not everyone will. Some might “stab us on the back” but the consequence of that action is theirs.. they will carry that “karma” with them.
It is not God, but his creation – that is humans like us, who perpetuate fear and uncertainty about our future. And yes, both God and the Devil are our creation. They live within us. It is up to us to decide who will rule.