Thursday, October 09, 2008

How a superstition is born

Well, I tried to look this up on google, but did not find this. This whole story was told by a teacher who taught me history long time back in school. Shubha teacher, I hope you would be reading this :) Of course, I have added some American spice to it, but the main theme of the story is what I find most fascinating.

In a remote village somewhere in India, there lived a priest. He was very learned, and people respected him a lot. One day, he found a cat stray into his yard. He decides to pet it, and keeps it in his house.

Every morning, the priest performs a Pooja,lights a small diya, and chants his mantras with utmost concentration. The cat, unknowingly moves around in his setting, thus disturbing the priest. The priest tries to pacify the cat and move it away, but this thing keeps happening again and again, and the priest gets annoyed.

The priest decides that while doing the Pooja, he should tie the cat to a pole nearby, so that the cat does not interfere. It works, and the priest is happy. This thing goes on for years. The priest's son, who has seen this happening everyday, now grows up and becomes a priest himself.

One day, the priest dies, and his son takes over all his duties and responsibilities. Now, he too performs the Pooja, and exactly as his father did, he ties the cat to the pole while performing the Pooja. His son, now small, sees this and wonders why, but does not ask. He grows up too and becomes a priest, and takes over from his father after he dies.

What's interesting, is that the first priest's grandson, has really no idea why the cat needs to be tied, and the cat, now old, is still tied during the Pooja. One day, the cat dies.

Guess what?

The priest's grandson, now brings home another cat,and ties it to the same pole, and performs the Pooja. After all, you can't perform the Pooja without tying the cat, can you ?

Centuries later, at an Indian center somewhere in the United States, 2 students in their twenties discuss

"Man, everything done for the Pooja ? "

"Yeah, got everything, but couldn't manage the cat"

"Oh No! This is the tradition, man, this Pooja has never been performed without tying a cat to the pole.That's how it has been done ever since the beginning of time. We'll be committing a big sin if we don't follow this tradition, and of course, the community will not like it too. We absolutely have to get a cat from somewhere. The Pooja will not be complete without it. And I don't want someone to say, that just because we are in the US, we have forgotten our Indian traditions"

Indeed. Amen.