Journey to Heaven

A true incident, it reminded me of the need to practice the religion that we are so eager to preach.

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Last year I paid a visit to Tirupati. The peacefulness and tranquility found in the sacred peaks is to be experienced to be truly understood. And moreover the concerned authorities have blended the culture with modernity with wonderful success. Without disturbing the sanctity of the place they have added all the modern amenities to it. The cottages are convenient for all to use. But this wonderful sojourn in search of spiritual satisfaction was marred by an unpleasant episode.

We boarded a bus from Chennai and reached Tirupati town. It is located at the base of the mountains and to reach Tirumala one needs to journey up the mountains. The state-run buses ply between the two locations. Given the large number of devotees who throng the holy hills for a glimpse of Lord Venkateswara, and the limited number of buses available, it is no wonder that the buses are ever jam-packed.

We were all patiently waiting for the next bus in an orderly manner but the moment the bus arrived, a commotion started. Even before the bus had properly stopped, some youth were onto it in a flash. A struggle ensued, they pushed and pulled with no consideration for women folk and the small children. Even while travelling they showed no respect for the elderly who commuted standing while they remained seated. They teased the girls, some smoked and there was a lot of ugly banter.They didn’t even show any concern for the small children who were jostled around. It seemed to me as if I was witnessing the ‘law of the jungle’ and ‘survival of the fittest’.

It is often said that adversity brings our the best and worst in man. The day I was sure, I saw the man as a beast. But a man is wiser than the beast and also civilized, and so is expected to exercise some restraint.The exemplary behavior of the people on board the ill-fated Titanic is worth a mention here. It is said that there was a person called Major Butt who, as he helped women to safety was seen to raise his hat, even when the water was lapping around his ankles. Talk about showing etiquette even in a grim crisis.

Well a pilgrimage is not an adverse situation, but the context of it is important as we seek spiritual solace.So when we are going to pay obeisance to the Almighty and seek His blessings, the least we should do is to behave ourselves and follow His lessons of love and care for humanity. The emphasis is on respecting our elders and taking care of the young ones. If we don’t, then I think that all our reverence and devotion is of no use. Let us all first learn His true teachings and that in itself would be, I suppose, the real way of revering Him and undertaking a pilgrimage.

The article appeared on June 24 1995 in the column, ‘I Object’, in the youth supplement of The Indian Express in Pune, India.



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