Listen even to idiots..!

Most newspapers and magazines where this column appears send me copies which delight me as I keep in touch with news from various corners of the world, I do also spend curious moments reading letters written to different editors: A religious magazine in Mumbai carried one such letter from an indignant parishioner who was furious at the length of sermons preached in churches in the city.
“In a church in Bandra, the sermon lasted 23 minutes!” shouted this very angry gentleman. A fleeing Taliban, desperate for water was plodding through the Afghanistan desert when he saw something far off in the distance. Hoping to find water, he hurried toward the object, only to find a little old Jewish man at a small stand selling ties.
The Taliban asked, “Do you have water?” The Jewish man replied, “I have no water. Would you like to buy a tie? They are only $5.” The Taliban shouted, “Idiot! I do not need an overpriced tie. I need water! I should kill you, but I must find water first.”
“Okay’, said the old Jewish man, “It does not matter that you do not want to buy a tie and that you hate me. I will show you that I am bigger than that. If you continue over that hill to the east for about two miles, you will find a lovely restaurant. It has all the ice- cold water you need. Shalom”.
Muttering, the Taliban staggered away over the hill. Several hours later he staggered back. “I wish I’d listened to you,” he whispered, “those fellows won’t let me in without a tie..!” Truth can be spoken through an idiot; you may hear golden words from the mouth of a child, from a drunkard, from an enemy as he yells at you.
You hear if you listen. A staunch RSS leader, who happens to be a friend of mine, once told me the story of a temple where the priest ran into a problem. Every time he went to offer pooja a rat ran in front of the altar and so he had to clean and purify the area all over again. One day he hit upon a solution, “Get a cat,” he told the people, “and tie it near the altar just before I start the pooja, it will keep the mice away!”
And for many years they followed this practice. The priest died and a new priest came to take his place, he was about to start the ceremony when the people shouted, “You can’t start without tying a cat, this is part of our worship ritual!”
The ritual had taken over the meaning behind it! So it is with religious places we visit; we forget that the idea behind going to mosque, temple or church is to listen to the one above and not for anything else. When you don’t go to listen and attend because it’s a ritual or for the sake of obligation, fear or superstition, then you’re going to start counting the minutes..! Are we lost in being happy with the tied up cat or do we listen to the man selling ties?
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