Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves.
The above lines are from T S Eliot’s poem, ‘The Hollow Men’. If Eliot were to write today, would his hollow men be wearing branded clothes, branded sunglasses and other paraphernalia, and riding BMWs, instead of standing in a field like a scarecrow?
The hollowness that Eliot identified in his contemporaries was an inner aridity arising out of a refusal to assert one’s freedom in any moral sense, in any spiritual sense. There are too many such scarecrows in today’s world too. As already implied, they wear quite different costumes.
The contemporary scarecrows have everything they want: wealth, luxury, entertainment, and a lot of gadgets.
A couple of days back I was caught up in the usual traffic snarl on the BRT corridor between Sheikh Sarai and Chirag Delhi. An Innova stood beside me. The driver, the head of the family, was busy with the internet on his Blackberry. His wife, who sat beside him, was hurriedly typing out a message on her mobile phone. Their daughter sat in the back and was talking with someone on her phone. They were all trying to connect with somebody, while persons who should have mattered the most to each of them, sat just by the side!
The contemporary Eliotean scarecrows have too much of everything. Too much luxury, too many gadgets, too many possessions…
Yet they are not happy. They seem to think that more of those will bring them happiness. So they get busy with acquiring more property, more houses, more bank accounts, more vehicles, more and better gadgets… Happiness always lies somewhere out there, somebody out there…
It’s an endless hunger, this hunger of the scarecrows.
The hollowness never gets filled. It’s an abysmal pit of desires.
The Christians all over the world are observing this week as the Holy Week. They sang hosanna to Jesus on the Palm Sunday (yesterday). They will kill that god on Good Friday, before resurrecting him on Easter Sunday (next Sunday). A lot of rituals will be performed. The Christian priests will even wash the feet of 12 people recalling a similar incident that Jesus performed with his disciples in order to teach them the lesson of humility and attitude of service.
Nothing in the world will actually change.
The rituals will continue as they have always done. With greater pomp, perhaps.
God will continue to remain nailed to a cross or locked up in the tabernacle.
Poverty, starvation, malnutrition, crimes of all hues… will go on increasing in spite of all the rituals which will also go on increasing.
Gods will continue to get palatial dwelling houses, erected on the bones of hungry masses.
“Scratch a rock, and a god will spring,” to paraphrase Arun Kolatkar, an Indian poet.
So many gods, so many religions, so many rituals.
And yet so much misery!
That’s the mystery I’m trying to understand.
May the Holy Week bless us all with some holiness!