Recently, I have encountered a very peculiar mail from CEGians, my college yahoo group. Its a donation request for building a temple - "Sri Janardhana Perumal Koil" in Chennai suburban [Remember, CEGians yahoo group is a network of current students and alumni of College of Engineering, Guindy which always ranked as one of the top 10 technological institutes in India]. The mail chain continued with donors list, blog link with temple photos, Kumbabhishekam Invitation and so in. It seems that donation amount crossed from CEGians alone 14K. With hatred overridden by curiosity, I burst out sending a mail across the group asking "What is the need/ use of spending to a temple in a developing nation?".

My mail attracted few rib-tickling replys like "is the same as spending on a cinema mall or a pizza hut" with a precautionary preamble "Not to hurt ur feelings". But GD.Thirumalavasan, the initiator of the activity answered with a bit of professionalism in it. Here goes the the abridged but untampered version of his reply.

"Having a place of worship getting renovated and funding of the same need not be scrutinized in such a myopic view point. A country like India needs to grow on multiple fronts. We can't afford to shut certain cylinders 'off' and certain ones 'on' to grow in a slower rate. We must fire on all cylinders and take all sections of society in whatever little means one can. If you don't do that on an aggressive scale and on an economically expansionary platform, our perceived nation's development will not happen within our life time, thats another 40, 50 years time line.

Incidentally, the temple construction is an economic activity involving a substantial quantum of financials. Can you think of the spin off effects achieved by this activity ? How many masons / truck drivers / artisans would have got jobs? How many indirect economic benefits that have got yielded to that region in particular. An one acre land which was till an year ago, an eyesore (because of the inability to put that land mass to any other productive activity); is today a properly looking lively place to which many people throng to satisfy their needs.

A section of the society has got a DEMAND (to have a place of worship) and the same has been SUPPLIED (by the way of building/renovating a temple) by similar other members of the society who thought along the same view point. Fulfilling any Supply-Demand mismatch is an economic activity which has to be denominated in monetary terms. And thats exactly, we had done. Hope, this is a rational argument in the way you have raised about the need to have an activity like this in our country which is in developing mode."

I didn't succumbed to him at any instant as I am aware that there are many more other efficient methods to do the same kind of economic renovation like starting a small scale industry and so on. Hence I felt still my question remains unanswered. I understood that their ideology and mine mismatch basically.

In a world of hypermetropians, a normal person's eyesight will be termed as "myopic". So I decided to quit. I left the group by bidding an adieu "To maintain the integrity and sovereignty of the group, freedom of expression cannot be aborted. I will rather leave the group than being in the group and keeping my mouth shut."


Robin said…
As a management student, i can confirm that the argument is bull shit...

Because spending that money in some other better activity (like a small scale industry) as you mentioned is better worth.. Even donating the money for some good purpose is o.k, since you are investing in people by that..

Also Demand of people is not to have a place of worship but a place where they get some peace or a place where they can do some rituals or place where they go because they brought up so.. So a building a temple/church/mosque is a substitute which tries to satisfy the demands...
Rajan said…
Hi guys,

I guess I mostly agree with Robin. However he has not specified what that substitute is.

My personal view is that people need to some place to rejuvenate after exhausting their energy in work. Only then people will be able to focus while they are working and be efficient. And as long as there are people having beliefs, I guess building a religious place is not a bad idea at all. I would say that an atheist would love to spend their relax time in a way that might not be suitable for rest of the population. When you restrict that freedom for others by opposing building of any religious places, you are curtailing the very freedom which one should be proud of in a democratic country. I guess this is what the moderator of that group must have intended to convey.
And personally, I would like to contribute to children suffering from poverty more than other purposes, but at the same time, I will never oppose people who contribute to other purposes. This freedom is what makes us a democratic country. Please correct me if I am wrong.

-Varadharajan Ponnappan
Anonymous said…
reading this, i think if it had been me, i wouldnt have said anything in reply because i dont want to hear aym gramdt replies ... you know it is shitty and that they will give you shitty replies, then y poke your nose into that? do u really believe that a few no-nonsense words can instill some sanity in them?

anyway, since i have read the justification, i wil give my few cents ....
Religion, as Marx said, is the opium of the masses in that it preaches equality in a bourgeoise social atmosphere ... and that preaching is at the core of such established religious practices that one doesnt even realise that ... Just imagine a rich man and his car driver, in a typical Tamil temple, getting inside a temple for darshan. What hierarchial exhibition do you expect there? I am not a marxist,brought this in just because i didnt want to bring caste in ... Now, spending on such bull shit to further all those simplistic patterns of thought one has been made to grow up with is a real non sense ... This is in the context of its contribution to the equations of social capital and its disruptive influence ... And so, eating in a mall or spending on porn to satisfy one's carnal instincts is in no way comparable to spending on a temple, leave alone pitting them in relation to the levels of damage they cause to the individual/society and giving a clean chit to the latter.

Now as any lay man would say,to gauge the levels of benefit any activity confers on the society one need not always look at how better it has changed the supply - demand mismatch.Arent such mismatches or ingenuous creation of such mismatches in some cases a requirement for the sustenance of that particular economic activity? And in what sense is the creation of value by the supply of a product seen other that in its ability to replicate itself in the market or as robin would agree, in the "reapperance of value" in an other area(in some cases, this may be the supplier predominantly though not always)in the market place. Since the market is assumed to facilitate the creation of economic activities tending to be non-zero sum going by the above rationale, one would be forced to club such activities not under "labour economics". It is here social capital plays a vital part. And arguments for justifying are always different from the intent for the concerned activities. Also dispersing the supply-demand mismatch is an inherent trait and neccessity of any ecomic activity and not its functional intent in accruing benefit, so this doesnt qualify under that account too ...

I just got irritated by the response given by whoever u have mentioned. Just that such shit exists should definitely make it obvious that men like me( and i take u to be one too)havent stopped living because such shit exists.( Let libertarians gain some heart and laugh at us!)

seems i have given not a few cents but a few dirty dollars, bear with me for that!
Unknown said…
Hi ppl,
I might only agree more with what Varadharajan has said..Although I might as well think of contributing money to poor children, I would never like to oppose people who would like to contribute in other ways to the society.
And, there never needed such a big discussion on the construction of temple I feel. There are those who want to contribute to the construction of temple and the rest who either want to contribute in some other way or contribute not at all.
I can pretty confidently say that most of those who do want to contribute for temple contribution(I mean more than like 99% of ppl) would not be contributing money with the objective that it is going to provide a few days of job oppurtunity to some truck driver or masons for that matter.
Also this particular discussion only makes me feel that people are more interested in defending their ideology/principles/...(name it as u like. U got all the freedom to chose any term from lexicon ;)) by mere opposing others.
There never needed such a pathetic reply to the question on why temple construction..Well CEGians(with all due respect to CEG, my alma mater) u can start another NEEYA NAANA i suppose..
Well am open to other's opinion ppl.

POLLACHI FTP(If u may rem'er CSK ;))

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