The revered Kaurava fighter, Karna, gesturing to his bitter adversary, the great Pandava, Arjun, to give him a hand with his mired chariot wheel.


The Hindu epic, Mahabharata, is held in such awe among Hindus that for two years, beginning in 1988, the roads in India were deserted and shops shuttered for an hour starting 9am every Sunday, when a serialized version of the epic ran on the only channel available – Indian state TV, Doordarshan. Domestic servants would sit with their masters gathered around the TV set, class differences forgotten. You could rob a bank and nobody would be the wiser. Interestingly that was the hour when Indian cities would be absolutely crime-free.

Let me draw your attention to an excerpt from the epic, an incident that is believed to have transpired during the Hindu period – “Dvapara Yuga” (~c.3100BC).

When the Kaurava hero, Karna’s chariot got mired in mud it couldn’t have come at a worse time. He was in the thick of the great battle of Kurukshetra and he needed mobility badly. Now, with his crippled chariot, he was a virtual sitting duck for his adversary, the Pandava hero Arjun, who was gaining on him fast, his mighty bow at ready.

Its time I introduced you to a third protagonist – Arjun’s charioteer, Krishna. (Karna’s contract didn’t have a charioteer in it, so he didn’t have one. He drove a single seat budget chariot you might have found in a 3000BC Walmart).

Krishna is no ordinary grunt from rural India. Notice that I switched to the present tense and that’s because he happens to be a God and Gods are eternal, they say. And Krishna is not any ordinary run of the mill Hindu God, of whom there are plenty. Krishna is the very reincarnation of Vishnu, the Hindu version of Zeus, the all powerful.

Such reincarnations were common in those times, when Gods came down from the heavens as flesh and blood mortals, to, you know, fix things, settle scores with other Gods and such like. I am not sure what Krishna had come down to fix or settle. As a kid, he had been a delinquent who liked to steal butter at home and a voyeur who watched naked cowgirls bathe in the neighbourhood stream. Not the prefect choice for a God, frankly. But dear reader, I don’t care.

The colour of Krishna’s skin is very distinctive. It is a weird Avatar blue. But what makes him really annoying to guys like me is the fact that he always has this annoyingly beatific benevolent all-understanding smile that makes you want to scream, “what the fuck is he grinning at?”

Anyways, like I said, Karna had his chariot in a ditch and Arjun was gaining on him. It is at this point that a strange dynamic came into play – battlefield etiquette, an ethos that prevailed in most civilized parts of the ancient world, when chivalry was valued highly.

I’ll draw you a parallel. Battlefield etiquette is something like when boxing rules mandate that if one of the boxers falls, he is given a specific amount of time, a chance to gather himself and get on his feet, while the other boxer has got to wait. In Karna’s time, while there was no such rule, giving your enemy a chance to recover from an unfortunate situation was what separated a true hero from a Trumpian lowlife.

Karna raised his hand for Arjun to help him extricate his mired chariot wheel and level the playing field before they fought. A true hero, Arjun moved to get off his chariot to help.

Here’s where the next intriguing dynamic came into play. Normally the warrior is the boss and the charioteer is his servant. But Arjun’s Avatar- blue charioteer was a God and therefore Arjun’s servant and his boss at the same time. On seeing Arjun try to step off the chariot to give Karna a hand, Krishna – servant, charioteer, boss, God – insisted that Karna was on the side of evil and therefore does not deserve fairness and should be annihilated instead.

As ordered, Arjun shot one of his magic arrows and killed Karna instantly. What happened to the concept of a loving, all-forgiving, impartial God? How can this act of Krishna’s inspire devotion?


Let’s take a peek at the weirdest incident in the Bible’s ‘Book of Genesis’. When God ordered his most devout follower, Abraham to slaughter his innocent son, Isaac, Abraham was devastated. Isaac was his favorite son. What Abraham didn’t know was that God was just kidding, apparently. He had taken a wager… yes, he had made a bet, with the Satan, that his followers were incorruptible and would do exactly as he, God, directed.

When the Satan saw Abraham raise his sword over the hogtied Isaac, he conceded and at the very last minute, with the sword inches from Isaac’s neck, God told Abraham to stop.

God treated Abraham as a showpiece, a pawn. I am sure that even in those ancient times, humans felt traumatized the way we would today if we were told to behead our child, any child. But God had no consideration for the mental trauma that he had put Abraham through. Though he lived to be 500, I bet good old Abe had lifelong PTSD after that experience.

What if the Satan hadn’t conceded? We all believe him to be a no-good prick, don’t we? What if Abraham hadn’t been able to stop the swing of the blade and he actually sliced Isaac’s head off before he realized God was kidding? Hey, swords in those days weighed 35-40lbs, man. Try stopping a swing of one of those.

I don’t know about you but I would look at anyone who wagered my son’s life, with anything but devotion.

Such are the deities that we pray to even today, even after so much learning and enlightenment – flawed , attention seeking autocrats.

Isn’t it therefore pointless wondering whether God exists or not, a surmise that cannot be tested and proven either way? Why do we spend so much time agonizing over it then? Why, especially when major religious texts show their Gods up to be so glaringly flawed? Through the ages Gods keep sending down their messiahs to liberate and emancipate. Look where that has got us all. `


The God I believe in is simple, helpful, considerate and kind. He admits he is not all powerful. He knows that there is another honcho. Iblis, devil, Satan – call him what you will. The God I believe in admits that the Satan is equally powerful and that he, God, has no sway over the guy.

The God I believe in frowns in irritation when all the religions of the world try to pump him up to make him look like an all powerful superstar. He looks at religions with disgust. He scorns religious texts, hymns, psalms, suras, slokas and other scriptures that are written in languages like Latin, Arameic and Sanskrit that have long since disappeared and hold no relevance today, written in alphabets that most of us do not even understand.

My God cringes with embarrassment every time there are unintelligible hymns recited at a Hindu Durga Puja. Or when folks mumble chants as they stumble along endlessly in the punishing heat, round and round a piece of stone in the middle of a desert in Saudi Arabia, after having spent their lives’ savings getting there. Or when thousands gather on Easter outside the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican to listen to the man whose religious juggernaut has been repeatedly proved to launder billions for organized crime, whose reps have repeatedly sodomized little boys for decades.

My God is the conscience within each of us. He is universal. Even animals are known to have him. Even psychopaths have him. No matter where in the world we live, no matter what we have been taught to believe, this God exhorts each of us to do the best we can. When we do follow his voice, it fills us with an unimaginable warmth of satisfaction. We do not need to know Latin or Sanskrit to understand his words. We do not even have to be literate. My God may not have the power to make me rich but he sure can make me happy.

Yes, I do certify the surmise as tested positive – my God exists.