Much before the rooster crowed at the crack of daylight and sometimes even before the sun peeped from the horizon to say good morning, three very distinctive loudspeakers blared to wake up the sleepy resident of the green and pristine village of Dhormosthol in the southern fringes of India’s most cosmopolitan and diverse Kolkata city.
Dhormosthol was not that different from any other Indian village in this part of the country. Large agricultural tracts dotted with mud or unplastered bare brick houses of thatched or corrugated sheet roofs, along with little groves and glimmering water bodies scattered here and there, crisscrossed with mostly dirt trails, redbrick paths, and some asphalt roads painted this topography.
The village was, however, unique in one very special way. Its three hundred families were equally divided in numbers as Christians, Hindus, and Muslims. For many years, this was however never a point of conflict till the arrival of certain three individuals in the village.
In the past, the residents of Dhormosthol lived happily celebrating each other’s cultural festivals and religious diversities, however, in recent years things were not so cordial between the three communities.
The three megaphones were mounted on top of the three most structurally sound stone and concrete buildings in the vicinity, the ‘Church of Joseph Jesus and Mary’, the nameless Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, and the mosque – ‘Umar Al Saifuddin.’ The three adobes of God were right in the centre of the village at the highest point on top of a little hill. They faced each other forming a small triangular patch of green in between.
Though the three houses of worships were always there in the village, the loudspeakers had been installed a year back by the respective priest, the pundit, and the moulvi.
Now, these bullhorns blared mercilessly at the crack of dawn every morning. A mixture of pre-recorded Christian hymns sung by the priest in his most horrible and melodramatic voice, a tape of superfast Hindu mantras recited by the frenzied pundit in an incomprehensible Sanskrit, and a gruff and live Muslim Azan chanted by the husky moulvi, simultaneously filled the morning air of this once peaceful and tranquil village far away from the hustle-bustle of the metropolitan city.
Historically Dhormosthol never had any religious leader or men of God to man its places of worship. The church was without a priest, there was no pundit for the Temple, and the mosque was without an imam or a moulvi. The people of the village took turns managing these holy adobes and conducting sacred ceremonies. They lived happily in perfect religious harmony.
Until a few years back, a wandering evangelist, Father Jude, drove into the hamlet in his tinted glass all-black travelling caravan bus and over time gained much reverence among the Christians in the village. Parking his bus permanently behind the church, saying goodbye to his travelling days started running the house of God as its full-time priest.
His presence was welcomed by the followers of Christ, who for generations had never had a priest and were relieved for a man of the cloth to have finally taken over the eucharistic duties. Father Jude used the caravan as his residence and whenever he stepped out of the bus, he would securely lock it with a set of multiple locks and keys.
A few months after this a Hindu Pundit, Ojha’ji came to the village and started meditating under the sacred banyan tree. Gradually the Hindus of the village came to rely on him for spiritual guidance and in time gave him complete charge of the temple of Lord Shiv’ji. Like the Christians, the Hindus too were happy to finally have a priest.
Following this, a Moulvi by the name of Majid Pir happen to pass by the village and stopped for a few days to rest his travelling legs. During his stay, the Muslims in the village came to meet him and found much inspiration in his religious teachings.
They now saw that the Christians had their priest and the Hindus their Pundit and thought that why should they remain without an imam and a dedicated muezzin. They begged Majid Pir and he agreed to let go of his travels and serve his Muslim brothers and sisters in Dhormosthol as the village moulvi.
Initially, the three religious leaders seemed to be like a blessing to the village as they shared their words of wisdom and divine knowledge. Slowly over time things however started to change. The priest, the pundit, and the moulvi started becoming intolerant of each other. Each of them proclaimed their religion as superior and this gave birth to much religious tension in a society that had always lived in perfect harmony.
With time, cracks started to appear in the peaceful relationships between the members of the three communities. Father Jude’s Sunday sermons gradually escalated towards blind bigotry. Ojha’jis pravachans or religious teachings became more and more fanatic and Majid Pir’s Khutbah’s or public preachings started sounding very agitative.
The wider grew the bridge between the communities, somehow the people became more religious than they were previously. Suddenly every little thing in their religion became very important, above and beyond the call of humanity. They would perform more ceremonies, be extra cautious of what they ate, got everything blessed, and consulted the religious leaders in every little thing that happened.
The priest, pundit, and the moulvi were always happy to provide a solution to every problem as long as the devotee made a handsome offering. Money started flowing into the religious houses like never previously and soon the three outsiders became the wealthiest people in the vicinity. Though at loggerheads with each other the priest, pundit, and moulvi would meet at times in Father Jude’s caravan, only to always leave much agitated after the meetings.
Within no time there was total religious chaos in Dhormosthol. The Christians started calling the others heathens, while the Hindus began referring to their Christian and Muslim neighbours as Mlecchas or the untouchables and the Muslims were calling everyone else Kaafirs or infidels. Nothing the priest, pundit, or maulvi did, could bring any calmness to the unrest but only further agitated the tensions between the communities.
Then on one summer day in the month of May at about noon, the weather suddenly changed and soon within no time a severe tropical cyclone lashed upon the village. The villagers ran up the hill to take shelter in the church, temple, and mosque, whichever was closest to them. They did not care about their religion and dashed into any of the three holy houses.
Hindus, Muslims, and Christians huddled up against each other inside the three worship places awaiting the passing of the devastating tempest. Ironically though they were fighting to nearly kill each other a day back, it only took a larger calamity to reunite them.
For the first time in many years, the villagers had once again come together, they seemed to have forgotten their recent fits of religious intolerance. For the first time in many years, they prayed together holding hands in each other’s places of worship, while the raging typhoon blew over their head.
The storm lasted through the night till it subsided at the break of dawn the next day and the three buildings had ensured the survival of the people.
At that time, the villagers realised that there were no valuables left in the church, mosque, or temple. The golden cross, costly chalices and other invaluable paraphernalia from the Church, priceless jewels from the temple and mosque along with loads of cash from the three safes in the respective houses were all gone. Father Jude’s all-black tinted glass travelling caravan bus was also missing along with the priest, pundit Ojha’ji, and moulvi Majid Pir.
As the villagers further inspected, they saw that the entire hamlet was completely devastated, the cyclone had levelled every home in the place. It was as if the Gods had punished the villagers for letting themselves be misled by the false religious teachings of devious men.
Far at the end of the hamlet in a ditch, they found Father Jude’s all-black tinted glass travelling caravan crashed and crumpled with the three lifeless bodies of the priest, pundit, and the moulvi lying in and around it.
Many windows of the bus had shattered and from it had fallen out heaps of riches in cash, coins, gold, silver, jewellery, and gems. Not only from their religious houses, but it seemed like from many other places accumulated over many years of well planned and executed scamming rackets.
It was obvious that the priest, pundit, and moulvi knew each other, they were of course partners-in-scam maybe brothers or blood relatives even. It was now clear that the three visited different places and incited religious unrest to gain wealth and finally leave after a few months or years when they felt satisfied with what they had accumulated.
Unfortunately, on the day on which they had planned to escape Dhormosthol, the village was struck by the unforgiving tempest. At the very moment of their escape, their bus was crashed by the tornado, like through some supreme interference. It seemed that the Gods had finally lost their tolerance against the injustice done in their holy name and unleashed their divine vengeance on the three who claimed to be their spokesperson.
The villagers gave respectable last rights to the three and used the wealth from the bus to rebuild their village in the most beautiful way. From that day the people of Dhormosthol would always remain suspicious of religious men and never again allowed any priest, pundit, or moulvi to mislead them.
If you happen to visit Dhormosthol today you would still hear the loudspeakers atop the church, temple, and mosque play. Only all of the three do not play simultaneously to prove supremacy over the other. They play on separate dedicated timeslots for all to enjoy and appreciate.
The Muslim Azan is heard earliest at the break of dawn and then four times a day. In turns, it is recited by the villagers themselves. A new version of the Sanskrit mantras along with its Bengali translation is played twice a day after the morning and evening prayers. Melodious Christian hymns sung by the village choir is heard during the morning mass once every day.
Today once again Dhormosthol has become a beautiful place of religious brotherhood and peace. Do visit if you ever get a chance and witness how people of different religions co-exist in perfect harmony without the presence of so-called ‘God Men.’
Though do not be discourages with religious leaders and holy men, as there are many who have genuinely devoted their lives to serving the houses of God honestly answering to their religious convictions. A handful of profiteers, scammers, and dishonest men is not the yardstick for all of them.
Copyright © 2021 TRISHIKH DASGUPTA
This work of fiction, written by Trishikh Dasgupta is the author’s sole intellectual property. All rights are reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including printing, photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, send an email to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch with Trishikh on the CONTACT page of this website.
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