“Are gods so cheap?” asked Kelu when the Ghar Vapsi thugs offered him Rs10,000.
“If you demand more you won’t get even this,” said one of the thugs flexing his muscles. Kelu saw another one twirling his moustache.
Kelu could not blame them. It was he who informed them about his desire to convert back into Hinduism. The only condition he posited was: “Get me and all other members of the family scheduled caste certificates.”
Kelu’s ancestors belonged to a caste of “untouchable” people. They worked for the higher caste people who possessed everything from the lands to the gods. Kelu’s people were never allowed to earn enough money to buy even the tiniest piece of land. They were not allowed to read the scriptures. If by chance they heard the scriptures being recited, molten lead would be poured into their ears. Their women had to be bare-breasted especially when the men of the higher castes passed by.
Kelu’s parents worked in the oil mills in those days of untouchability. The oil they extracted from the coconuts could not be used for any religious purposes unless touched by a Christian. The touch of a Christian purified the oil produced by the low caste people. Strange rules. But such is religion: a bundle of absurd rules. In those days of absurd rules, Kelu’s people would be punished brutally if they tried to learn Sanskrit, the language of the gods. Now Sanskrit was being forced on Kelu’s children in the school though they didn’t want to study what they thought was a dead language. Such is religion. It drives you out of Edens or pushes you into ghar vapsi according to its whims and fancies.
When Kelu’s parents converted into Christianity, the oil produced by them ceased to be impure. But they stopped producing oil and went to the city where they got peons’ jobs in some Christian school. Kelu’s uncles and aunts had not converted and so turned out to be lucky because they got better jobs in the name of reservations for scheduled castes.
“Ghar vapsi is an easy way to improve our lot,” Kelu said to his wife. “What does it matter any way? One god is as good as another.”
“O, we’ll have not just one but thousands of gods now,” said Neeli, Kelu’s wife, jubilantly.
“And we’ll get some money too.”
“Thank the gods, they have finally become useful really.”
“A bit cheap, though,” realised Kelu when he saw the amount being offered for selling his god.