Of Kumbhs and Popes

Feb 16, 2013, 07:47 IST | Rohan Joshi

Big week for the religious. (And Manchester United fans)

Rohan JoshiGiven that it’s Valentine’s week, everyone is talking about just one thing: Afzal Guru. And teddy-bears holding hearts, because nothing says I love you like a freshly-severed vital organ in the hands of a mammal that can swat your head off. But given that everyone’s being all mushy, I’ve decided to go the other way and adopt a strategy that Hollywood calls counter-programming.

In fact I’m also certain everyone else calls it counter-programming, but everything is cooler when you connect it to Hollywood (except Mallika Sherawat). Counter-programming is simple; everyone expects theatres to be full of romantic films in a week like this, so I release a horror movie to capture the audience that’s sick of romance. In summer, everyone expects action films, so I release a rom-com to change things up. And in 2014, everyone expects Rahul Gandhi or Narendra Modi to be PM, so I move to a place with brighter prospects, like Sudan.

A devotee takes a dip in the Ganges on the occasion of Maha Kumbh mela, which attracts a multitude of people. Pic/AFP

And so, in this season of nauseating love, I’d like to counter-program this column with the exact opposite: religion. This is an exciting time in the world of religion. For starters, the Maha Kumbh is on. For the ignorant, the Kumbh mela is a Hindu pilgrimage, made once every three years at one of four sacred spots. It is the largest gathering of Hindus from all over the world.

And the Maha kumbh is like the Kumbh, but with extra cheese. Over three crore people were present on just one day last week. I’m told it was the most auspicious day for a dip in the Ganga. Or Swedish House Mafia were playing. The Maha Kumbh is a confluence that attracts a multitude of people. Some have strong, unshakeable theological beliefs; most have DSLRs and no work.

The Maha Kumbh brings us a variety of colourful images, like the one of the semi-naked, stoned sadhu, or the other one of the semi-naked, stoned sadhu, or that other one of twelve semi-naked, stoned sadhus. And these paragons of Hinduism all gather in a dust bowl on the banks of the Ganga for a holy dip. I haven’t seen that many semi-nude unwashed-looking people in the same place at the same time since I stopped watching Splitsvilla. But people also come to the Maha Kumbh for important spiritual rituals like cleansing, purification, and dying in pointless stampedes.

In other religious news, the world was stunned this week when Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would be stepping down from the papacy to spend the rest of his days being the subject of the next Dan Brown book. While news of the Pope’s resignation is no doubt sad, we must be grateful for his stewardship, and glittering career.

And he ends it on a high, having scored over a hundred 100’s in test cricket and having passed 25,000 first-class runs. And while he has cited health concerns as reason for his sudden retirement, there is speculation that he will be present at the launch of the next iPad before handing the reins over to Tim Cook XVII.

Seriously though, what happens next? It’s simple. 118 Cardinals of the church will gather in a conclave to vote on who should be the new Pope (rumours suggest he will have HD graphics and a better camera). What is important is that five of these cardinals are Indian, according to my sources at the Department for Finding Indian Connections To All Major News Stories.

The cardinals must agree on a candidate by two-third majority vote. At this point, it is unclear who the next real candidate is. Some people say Narendra Modi, but other factions insist Nitish Kumar has a chance. In my last piece of news in this week’s religious round-up, I’d like to talk about the holiest event in centuries: Manchester United drew 1-1 against the mighty Real Madrid, taking an away goal with them as they go into the next leg at Old Trafford. And so, in the end, all I want to say is, David De Gea, will you be my Valentine?

Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on www.facebook.com/therohanjoshi

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