I CANNOT HELP THINKING of two orations that occured this month.
THE FIRST ORATION was by Aamir Khan donning the role of an alien from a gola* and called oddly as “PK”# by almost everyone he encounters in Mother Earth, to the self-styled guru Tapasvi Maharaj (played to perfection by Saurabh Shukla) in a televised debate aired nation wide.
“PK”, THE FILM, WHICH WAS RELEASED on December 19th is actually a cute, clever device poking fun at religious hypocrisy in our midst with a plea for tolerance and understanding notwithstanding our diversities. The audience surrounding Tapasvi Maharaj in the film could well have been the people watching the film itself and Tapasvi Maharaj could have been one of the several hundred Godmen (or Godwomen for that matter) irrespective of their religious calling who rule over millions of gullible devotees in India. Raju Hirani, director of “PK” has demonstrated beyond doubt, the power of his communication skills, and how one can place one’s finger on the pulse of an issue when one looks at it with childlike innocence, pretty much like the child who exclaims in Hans Christian Anderson’s famous fairy tale that “The Emperor has no clothes on !!” How right Leo Rosten was – “Humor is the affectionate communication of insight !”
CUT TO DECEMBER 22ND. The venue is the Clementine Hall at the Vatican. The audience is the Roman Curia – the group of clerics that govern the Catholic church. The speaker is the 78-year old Argentine Pope Francis (fresh and energetic as ever after having defused tensions between Cuba and the U.S. after more than five decades of cold war) looking straight in the eye of his audience, delivering his pre-Christmas message listing 15 ills that ail the Church. The said ills could actually fully apply to most religious institutions in the world to which millions gravitate to for solace and succor. The Pope did not mince words. His message was powerful because he spoke from his heart. He was worried about “Spiritual Alzheimer’s” that had afflicted religious leaders who had “lost the memory of meeting the Lord” and who “depend entirely on the present, on their passions, their whims and manias, become slaves of idols they built with their own hands.” He spoke of their “narcissism that views one’s own image passionately and not that of God impressed on others, especially the weak and the needy.” He lamented on the “existential schizophrenia” of clerics, who were “leading double lives, abandoning pastoral duties to focus only on bureaucratic tasks that made them lose touch with reality, with concrete people” and agonized about the malady of “chatter, murmur, and gossip” that prevailed all over. He urged the clergy to “abandon their theatrical severity” and get real. James Politi of The Financial Times to whom I am indebted for the above reportage quotes the Associated Press saying that the Pope’s address was met only with “tepid applause” and that “few were smiling.”
SO WE HAVE TWO HOMILIES delivered to us this Christmas – a sort of reminder of universal truths which we already know but keep forgetting. We should consider ourselves fortunate that we have great communicators like Raju Hirani and Pope Francis in our midst who are helping us to look at our own foibles – be it through the cinematic device of an alien in our midst looking at Mother Earth and its inhabitants, or saying plain truths like the child in the famous fairy tale alluded to above.
* an extraterrestrial sphere from where he hailed
# transliterated in Hindi meaning one who is inebriated