Readers Write In #72: Between a god and a hard place: Being Raju in Kancharapalem

Posted on March 27, 2019

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“The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent” – Stanley Kubrick

 A young boy falls in love with a girl, prays to his god to help him woo her. The god seemingly blesses him only later to burn his hopes. The boy questions his god, demands explanation for his suffering. When he does not get it, his unwitting actions destroy his family. Later, as a young man, now believing in a different god, he falls for a young woman. This time he prays but does not leave his fate to the mercy of the god. He does what he can while praying for god to help him in his quest. This time too, god does not bless him. He does not understand why god punishes him. But he does not feel betrayed now, he is an arrogant young man. If god does not make himself clear, he will not ask. He relinquishes this religion, this god too. A few years pass, he falls in love with another woman. He does not seek any god’s blessings this time, preferring the advice of friends and the courage gained from alcohol, but when the woman bows down infront of her god, he acquiesces. Again, the gods ignore him; Or deliberately torture him. This time, he does not bother to question or beg for mercy. He is used to it now. He grows old. One day, he accompanies a friend to a temple and when asked why he doesn’t pray, replies that he doesn’t need a god because his society takes care of him. Finally, it seems, he has made peace with the silence of god.

 On one side, god does not console Raju. On the other side, as much as he professes his gratitude for his friends and social circle, he suffers because of the action of his society. God is only the silent spectator, it is the other humans who are the cause of his agony. As a child, it was the girl’s father, his patriarchy, that separated him from the girl he loved. As a young man, it was another father’s obsession with caste and fear of society’s jibes, that pushed the girl he loved, who loved him in return, to marry a stranger. As an adult, it was a group of self-proclaimed protectors of religion who drove his lover to death. Ironically, again it is the same society, with its homophobia and mockery of his bachelorhood, that coerces him into marriage. Individuals maybe honourable and generous but when they coalesce into a tribe, they crackdown ruthlessly on any member that threatens status quo.

 That is the tragedy of Raju and most individuals like him. Those who choose, or are condemned, to be different have to make peace with being inferior citizens or be ostracised. Then they seek a higher power, questioning god to understand why they are cursed and beseeching for solace. They are met with silence of the almighty. Some, filled with resentment, make life as hard as possible for others. Some, though, swallow the bitterness and alchemize it into radiant goodness. Raju, for all his exasperation, is a true-blue existentialist.

(by Sirish Aditya)