Indian gods are, in matters of cookery, simply insufferable. Not only do they have a cow fetish, but they rather impolitely insist upon being offered the first serving of every meal, food which, moreover, they never actually eat. Furthermore, they will take mighty offense at you distractedly leaving evidence of your own gastronomic activities (a humble clay plate, empty but for the crumbs of a recent breakfast) upon the little coffee-table-turned-altar they occupy, a fact to which my colleague, who adamantly claims to be most liberal in his religion, dutifully brought my attention the other morning, to the unconcealed glee of the short and stubby Ganesh who, perpetually adorned with a silly garland of wilted yellow daisies or some such ugly flower, has been squatting my apartment ever since i moved in.
UPDATE: i’ve gotten some heat (see comments) for this rather irreverent post. i’m sorry if i’ve offended any sensibilities; i should be clear that i am not complaining about India (western gods have their own weird food habits) but only about religious rituals in general and how they are foisted upon us poor unbelievers (note: it was not clear, but the above statue was placed in my own apartment w/o consultation).
As a westerner, i cannot but instinctively take it as an invasion of my privacy for people to tell me that i can’t put my plate on a table in my own room for which i am paying rent and in which i suffer other people to store their gods. Of course, this is a matter where the tolerance the religious are supposed to show the godless meets the tolerance the latter owe to the former. My compromise was to not make an offline fuss about the god (it’s a cute statue and a nice addition to my bare walls), but to vent online in a flourish of affected verbiage.
Tolerance, being a matter of compromise, is rather delicate (i would have gotten just as much heat, albeit a of a different nature, from the atheist readers of this blog had i gone any easier on the elephant-headed deity) all the more when it must go in two directions at the same time. As with the infamous mohammed caricatures, it is not clear when the godless’ mockery of religion infringes upon the god-fearing’s respect for it and when the latter’s demand for respect infringes upon the former’s ability to say what they think.
The problem seems to be that the godless assume that gods and rituals are things that one can verbally dispose of at will; the god-loving stand closely enough them that they take the insults personally. I guess its only polite to try and avoid offending people.
On another note, it is interesting how a comment from a stranger on one’s blog can work one up – as if a good friend of yours had just questioned your character. Not only is the world shrinking, but we’re rubbing shoulders with more and more people. I guess that’s to be expected.