“Jo bhi mann me aayega, utna de do,” said a young lad who ran a business of safely storing people’s shoes as they went inside the Shirdi temple to offer prayers. Following his ‘mann’, my bro declined to pay him beyond his fee of Rs 2. But he kept persisting and repeating the line, forcing my brother to mildly lash out at him. There entered another smartass, a self appointed mediator, who walked up to us and said, “Sai Ram bolo aur bees rupiya (Rs20) de do.” We walked away without even touching our wallets.
This little episode was symptomatic of my recent trip to Shirdi and Trimbakeshwar, both said to be very holy places close to Mumbai. Even as I was writing this post, a friend, while chatting asked me about my trip and I told her that I was considering not going there ever again.
To start with, I have returned home from this trip, convinced that there is a God. What am confused about is why he is so selective! For those in Shirdi and Trimbakeshwar, and several such holy places across apna desh, it is simply God who can let them get away with what they do and how they do it. So scandalous is the scene that I was surprised when people didn’t ask me for money to give directions to an address!
A bottle of water is overcharged, not by one or two rupees but by a full five rupees. We were offered a ‘VIP Darshan’ at Trimbak if we were to bribe the security guard or the pundit. FYI their rates differ.
Rudeness or the outright contempt of the so-called priests at the devotees (thanks to whom the so-called priests get their ‘dakshina’) has to be seen to be believed. At Trimbak, those offering ‘VIP darshans’ will not mind lying to you to scare you about the ‘crowd and queue’ to sell their quick tour package.
And even though money is extracted out of your pocket at almost every step, the subsequent facility/infrastructure is simply missing. Like at Trimbak, I had to compulsorily pay Rs 10 as ‘parking fee’ for my car to be stationed in the parking lot. To my horror, the ‘parking lot’ did not even have a surface to speak of. It was a rocky area where they couldn’t have had anything else!!
Shirdi was no better. A road very close to the main temple had such big craters that my car almost sank in one of them.
Despite it all, number of ‘bhakts’ doesn’t rightfully plummet; people don’t object or feel repulsed (like i am feeling now). Now I’ve come to realise the concept of ‘the fist of God’.
So while upparwala is helping them out, why isn’t he looking at me and others who come to him from so far away? I don’t mind if he doesn’t want to get for me a promotion, a good life partner, guarantee good health for my family, provide me hope for a better future, the least he can do is secure my wallet from sharks lurking all around him…..