By Stephan C. Hmar
Last year during December, under the foggy morning of Agartala, I went to my regular paan dukan for my daily dose of paan. I ordered for the paan. I need not detail what ingredients I needed, the dukanwalla knew them all too well. But, unlike other days, he did not give me prompt service. He was indulging, with enormous participation, in his own spiritual business.
I, then observed keenly, trying to register all his acts. He was holding two fuming agarbatis and waved the smokes about his items for sale---box of babul gums, assortments of sweets, candies, etc. He then took his debit and credit registers, hummed a few mantras, waved the smoke over and below them. He depicted all these acts with seamless, routine act. Only after the completion of this routine spiritual business, he took up the task of preparing my paan.
I asked him, “Which of the gods, you give devotion to?”
He said, “ Lakshmi, the god of wealth, prosperity, fortune and the embodiment of beauty.”
I said, “You are a selfish lot, asking that god only for your prosperities.”
He said, “We need to pray…no? for our own prosperities. In this life what is the most important? Chawal aur sabzi…he nah?”
I said, “For us, we don’t do like that. We are not selfish like you,” fully knowing that I lied.
He smiled and said, “Beta (for I still look like a handsome 18, Buongi mita chuh!), tum samasta nai he! Lakshmi is also protecting us from all kinds of misery and money related sorrows. She blessed us with prosperities, but she also teaches us not to be selfish, dishonest or annoyingly greedy.”
On my way back home, the conversation we had lingered in my head. I felt, I found the “Lakshmi thing” philosophy quite true. Asking god for money and wealth and also asking to help, refrain ourselves from misery and money related sorrows!
I opened the Bible: 1 Timothy 6:10: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Countless advice by my father during my childhood re-surfaced back in my head. Every time he would say, “Don’t love money. It is sin. It will lead you astray.” And then, countless sermons I had heard, I had been made to grow-up with, showers like thick rain drops. “We should not try to be rich, it is sin.” “We should be satisfied with what we have, it’s God’s way.” Then countless songs that pop-up here and there amongst us due to poverty, rung like a continuous bell in my head.
Is the love of money evil? How are we to survive if we don’t love and search for money? Are we just contradicting our real needs with our sermons, songs, etc.?
Is it not because of the need for this money that we send our sons and daughters to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, where-where and where not? Is it not for the love of money that some of us even reached Dubai, America, England, Brazil and more? And here, for me, I reached Tripura. Although my father used to give me that advice, what he did at the top of his capabilities was to educate me by expending his money, so that I can earn money in future, after he is gone. Whatever we do, we seemed to be just about this MONEY, MONEY. Is it not for the importance of money in our life that we could have fellowship even on the western flank of India, in Mumbai?
Even today, the main topic of the discussion with friends is 7th Pay Commission, merging of Basic with DA, Tax deductions, etc. When I meet older people, their first question used to be “What is your job? How much do you earn?” If the love of money is evil, then we---right from the layman to the most spiritual---are doomed. Each one of our congregations is crazy about money, although none will like to accept this openly. But the underlying truth is this: Mission worker who can collect more tithe received more adoration from his boss. And we are, every now and then, pampered to cast our fishing net in deeper waters, to contribute more money. “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch. Luke 5:1-22,” is the hottest Bible verse for every fund raising speech. Member who can contribute more for church’s contingent expenditures received more applause and praise.
It is a really confusing ideology!
Longer thought on this topic draws me closer to the conversions I had with that paanwallah. He needed money, and thus he prayed for it openly. For us, we need the money, we look for it in any available ways---fair or unfair. Yet we cover ourselves with semi-transparent veils that say, “Money is evil.”
Why are we ashamed to admit ourselves that we are crazy after money? Let us look back at the above Bible verse. The love of money might be the root of all evils for some people who wandered away from faith, who are burdened up by money-related sorrows. Not for all. Have we wandered away from the faith because of money? Have we used money for separating people? Have we used churches for personal gains? Have we created chaos because of money? Have we used fellowships just to cover up the selfish whims?
If not, then why not pray like the paanwallah directly for prosperity, for wealth. If we have the faith, loving and working for any fair money is Godly enough not to make any ridiculous move.
Then we will be trustworthy even in our own eyes.