Saturday, July 01, 2006

On televised gods

My restless fingers flipped channels as I spent the time between the two World Cup quarters, willing myself awake for the post midnight match. Luckily, there's tennis and cricket, I said to myself - words spoken too soon, as I realised. The cricket was excruciatingly slow, so slow that I thought it had rained in Sabina Park when I saw the score at lunch. And watching Tanasugarn play an unknown 17 year old wasn't good enough reason to watch Wimbledon. So I surfed - eyes vacant, jaw dropped, finger remote-controlling.

And I hit paydirt when I came across one of the Christian channels. A pastor was doing the usual from-the-pulpit stuff, encouraging reluctant man to follow benevolent god. Which was A-ok, till the ad break, where above pastor did a neat ad routine. He quoted the Bible as saying that oil will help man get salvation or some such guff. This was followed by his offer for special vials of oil (that had been anointed at some camp, no less) that could be got by paying anywhere from $10-100! He called it "sowing the seed of faith" - it seemed a pretty rich way of sowing seed. Not as rich, though, as the special seed of faith that 70 select people could sow for $1000 each! Very interesting ways of making money, me thought... and given the competition between 3-4 channels who're doing the same stuff, wow, paydirt, folks!

And this is not exclusive to Christian channels alone. The same channel surfing routine last week led me to the famous "evil-eye amulet". As the host, all wide-eyed and sincere, tells you, this amulet is designed to ward off the evil eye. The ad demonstrates this well through a short clip with animations from Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan - arrows emanating from another person's evil eye diverted by the invisible shield of the amulet-wearer! This is followed up with the usual testimonials - one was particularly hilarious: a scrawny young man with a goatee (an artist, of course) tells us about how he wore the amulet and immediately after, got a private art show - if the paintings behind him were an indication, the amulet must have really worked some magic! All this power is at a price, and usually with a freebie thrown in (some lucky stone, maybe?).

Inspired by this sudden religiousness, I have an offer for all you religious folk out there. I offer you the "PayforPrayer" fund - I will stand on one leg for 3 years (live video feed available for $29.99 per day) and pray that my donors (you religious folk) will get the benefits of god's blessings. Do remember that the prayer length will be dependent on how much you pay, and I've already received nearly $1 million from some donors, so don't be shy, pay for your prayer!

P.S.: Don't get me wrong, this is not a "let's bash the religious" post. I was quite religious during my schooldays, first at a Christian missionary school, and later at an Arya Samaj school. While my early religious spirit has since been tempered by skepticism, I still have respect for true faith. And this is definitely not what faith is about... this is just a religious version of the sauna belts and other exotic products that are on tele-marketing tv... and a televised version of the fakirs and babas roaming our country peddling fake solutions. And it's clearly working, given the number of ads out there. This is the golden age of knowledge, did someone say?


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