The other day, my sister and I were lounging about at home in the afternoon, lazily chatting.The spell of languor was rudely interrupted by the shrill sound of the telephone ringing.My sister picked up the receiver with a bored hello.
The latter narration is based on hearsay-from what she told me.
A guttural voice in a high crescendo-a great combination! "Ma'am, I got your number from a well wisher of yours.I wish to inform you that we are a group of priests who can come to your home to perfrom pooja. All of us have some problems in life-we work to alleviate them by chanting 21 incantations of 'Ganpati Atharvasheersha'. If you consent, we will come to your place and perform the same for 30 days."
Before my sister had time to collect her thoughts and reply, he continued, " If you tell us to come at 6, we will surely reach at least 5 minutes before 6. No train delays, hell or high weather will stop us. You will see Madam, how the atmosphere in the house gets charged by the chants.We only charge a nominal fee os Rs 11,500 for this.Please think about this and get back to me on this number."
My sister, laughingly flabbergasted, told me about this huge joke.After all, though we as a family are fairly religious, we had not taken leave of our senses to succumb to such a thing!
I suggested that we reply in any of the following ways should he call again:-
1.This is a house that is completely atheist and hates the words 'God' and 'Godmen' with equal fervour.
2.We'll make a wish and pay you the Rs 11,500 only when the wish comes true.
3.Whether you have a 'sample pooja' as a curtain raiser.
The guy called again in an hour, but this time it was my sedate brother in law who attended the call.Told the whole story by my sis, he patiently listened to the caller, who was citing precedents of the effectiveness of the ritual. He started a series of name dropping- a few names of famous people, particularly politicians, who had apparently profited by it. My bro-in-law very deliberately, in a baritone, said that our family thinking was a mixture of Shankaracharya's Advaitvad and Charvaka's hedonism. Till date, nobody among us was a devotee of Kumarila Bhatta or a Mimansaka.
The caller was kind of flummoxed and hung up.Humorous as the incident was, it led me to the disconcerting thought of how such brahmins gave the entire group a bad name. Of course, such tricksters exist in any community, but it is particularly galling to find them in a community renowned sometime only for learning and austerity!