Last week, in the Tripura Vasini hall in the Palace Grounds, pastors of a section of the Church were in a three-day conference. The Tripura Vasini is a huge affair, possibly the largest hall in that vast place, so I checked on the Internet regarding the conference, curious to know how many pastors had arrived there. Six thousand, the Internet sites that promoted the conference claimed, along with a matching number of wives who took the numbers to 12,000. The key speakers were holy aliens—to borrow a word from US Immigration—and the banner on the façade proclaimed their theme: Pray for Peace.
12,000 men and women of God praying for peace are sure to gain the ear of God for the entire duration of the invocation—so peace, by now, is surely headed our way. But doubt rises. Pastors and priests in small and large numbers have been praying for centuries for peace, and yet we've always lacked it, everywhere where prayers are held. Ah, but the answer is simple, and it is to be found in Bangalore, on the hoarding on the corner where Kamaraj Road meets Mahatma Gandhi Road. On that hoarding is a startling revelation posted by the Indian Army: "The Purpose of all War is Peace."
So, if the prayer of the pastors should meet with an amen, then war will come hanging on its heels, and, when war ends, peace will come for which war was waged.
I spent the weekend in Malnad, so as to have some peace there, in the manner of him who ached for the Lake Isle of Innisfree. It had rained, even if a little late, and in the plantation, trees were trimmed for shade control, and the leaves of the coffee twinkled when the sun came out upon them and they went back to brooding when the clouds took him back. As for me, I stayed indoors and looked out to the trees, and to the hills beyond the trees, sitting now on a lower deck and then on an upper deck. Often, I closed my eyes for inner peace, but only to hear the opera of the jeerundes.
The jeerundes were in spirited performance, being quite tickled by the rain and the wet and the green trees and all. There was a pattern to their performance. A lead jeerunde took up a tremulous but rising tune with wholehearted accompaniment from a thousand co-stars, and, reaching crescendo, the singers fell to a pause with their vocal chords trembling for a time, after which they commenced a reprise, all together sans the lead, in waves that began in a central null and radiated and rose tight and steep to another climax and fell again, to another null, and now the lead came back and took everyone to a fresh, new cycle. So it went. Round and round. Again and again.
Who wrote the piece? What is its grammar? What is its purpose? Entertainment? Instruction? Rain song? Or a brazen communal cry for sex? Does anybody know? I don't know. What was evident was that the song was so blue as a bolero, and it went on all day and all night, and unless the jeerundes were taking turns to perform, they had no time at all for the briefest lovemaking. Why, they hadn't any time to eat.
And they hadn't time for war. Or for peace, of which they gave none to me. Now I'm back in Bangalore, today on Monday, and, of course, the pastors have departed from the Palace Grounds. The mood of aashaada hangs over the place, and in this gray-colored season I'm looking to see where to find some spirit for the week.