Relative Truth

Last updated on May 2, 2008

Posted on May 2, 2008

I have read a lot of stories, but this one by Suresh Naig who wrote this for Desicritics was extremely haunting and profound.  It is very simple yet powerful.  Suresh very generously agreed to share this with Drishtikone.  I want to personally thank him for this privilege to me.  Please enjoy and also share your thoughts with Suresh here.

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It was a pleasant Wednesday morning. Yet another day commenced as usual for the city college, amidst the rich greenery combined with the salubrious climate of Bangalore. But no one expected it to be unusual; so unusual that it turned out to be a blot on the glorious past of the institution.

It was the month of October, frenzied celebrations of Ganesha festival had culminated and the city was preparing for Dussera celebrations. The expectation was palpable everywhere, including the campus.

All the students studying in IInd year BBM, were engaged in hushed conversation about the new lecturer, who joined the college recently. He was a mystery to everyone right from his name – Yudhayas. No one could come to a definite conclusion about his religion. Rumours were thick and fast that his original name was different and he had changed his name by a sworn affidavit. All these things were unverifiable and irrelevant, but what is relevant was his appearance, which was unconventional for a lecturer. He sported long hair, which he would tie tidily resembling a ponytail, or allow the mane to flow occasionally and rarely he would knot the strands in a bunch. He was clean-shaven without a moustache, looked very intelligent with piercing eyes. No one had ever seen him smoking or indulging in unnecessary gossip. He never sported any religious insignia on his person, and avoided all questions in that direction skillfully. He had carved a name for himself among students, by his flowery and fluent language, unmistakable philosophy and a deep knowledge in his subject.

In a short span, he became the favourite among the students. He never used to deliver monotonous lectures. Instead, he encouraged active participation. He used to say, that is what management is about. He would inform all his students in advance about the chapter he was going to take up next, and suggest books for reference for the relevant subject, so that every student did their neat homework before the chapter was taken up for discussion. This was something new and novel for the students, who were always accustomed to do the homework after any chapter was taught. He kept saying ‘my job is not to teach, but to make you learn’.

All the students were waiting with expectation for that day’s class, which was about ‘CONCEPT SELLING’. Though every one felt that they knew what concept selling was, in marketing parlance, yet they waited for the learned person’s wisdom on that subject. Yudhayas entered the classroom exactly at 11 AM and as usual removed his wristwatch and kept it on the table. He was not only time conscious but also time perfect. He would initiate discussions; the discussion would continue for 40 minutes, he would sum it up in the following 20 minutes and wind up the class exactly in the 60th minute, unfailingly class after class. He had no inkling that this class would spill beyond the time and classroom.

Yudhayas initiated the discussion; listing the parameters. The discussion was lively with one student starting the discussion from a phrase culled out from an age-old marketing book. “Sell a sizzler, not a steak”. Selling a concept is like selling a sizzler, but selling a product is akin to selling a steak. Selling a sizzler attracts wider attention in a restaurant than selling a steak, which may go unnoticed. Another student butted in, selling insurance is an example of concept selling, because there is no tangible product in the immediate vicinity. One more said, at times neither there is a concept nor a product, yet we are forced to pay for it. Before he could substantiate, the classroom was engulfed partially in darkness due to a power failure. He said the energy charges we pay to the electricity board are what I meant. The whole classroom roared into laughter. After active participation from all the students, it was time for Yudhayas to sum it up.

Yudhayas told his pupils, in marketing, what is sold are benefits of the product and one is made to buy the product for its benefits. Conveying benefits in the form of an idea is concept selling. Concepts have a greater reach for products. An ‘Exhaust fan’, conveys the work done, whereas a ‘Fresh air fan’, conveys the benefit. As a matter of fact, he said, ‘Taste ware’ would convey benefits better than ‘Thermo ware’. Today, marketing Gurus have employed concepts powerfully in selling various products. Take for instance the concept of the Valentine. St. Valentine’s Day generates huge sales for different products from greeting cards to automobiles. The most recent trend is Akshaya Trithiya, which witnesses a huge turnout in all jewelers’ outlets and even banks started cashing upon this concept in selling gold coins.

After a brief pause, he asked his students, can anyone name a powerful concept, perpetuated over generations all over the world, which had become a money-spinner, branching out into different products & institutions and yet seldom trampled?

Yudhayas was taking a path many have avoided in the past for fear of controversy. He had no fear, for his conscience was pure.

When there was pindrop silence, he said, the most powerful concept of human creation is the concept of God. There was an eerie silence. Every concept has a specific life span and undergoes change. But the concept of God has not undergone any major change and that is why I say it is the most powerful concept; invented, perpetuated and perfected by human beings.

It took some time for the students to respond, as the full essence of his statement slowly percolated and sank into their mind. Unlike the usual practice, one student started vehemently, at a high pitch. “You are right and wrong Sir. Since we have a clear understanding of the concept, there is no physical form for God and we believe in one God, unlike others who have different Gods. You are wrong as to your statement of money-spinner, which might be relevant with others. With us, there is no compulsory collection by any institution.”

Immediately one more student joined the fray to defend his side. “Yes, we do contribute our mite on every occasion, but that money is used only for social upliftment. We have to our credit so many educational institutions, medical facilities in remote areas, and we do yeoman service in places where less fortunate people dwell, by providing them with basic education and medical facilities.”

Now the discussion turned out to be a full-blown inter-disciplinary conflict among the students, emotions matching decibels; feeble voice of Yudhayas was lost in the din. One more student chipped in. “When you people have nothing worthwhile to argue, you talk about too many Gods with us. We believe in only one God, but people for their advantage, propagate and misinterpret our theology. We are the only people who have recognised the multi-tasking abilities of God for long.”

“My father has different roles to play. He is the husband to my mother, son to my grand parents, uncle to my cousins, brother to my aunt and Manager in his company, yet he is a single individual. We have recognized this aspect of God for long, and if you don’t understand it, the mistake is not ours.”

The person who justified the contribution said. “That is the problem with you people. You have equalised God with human beings and that is why your Gods commit mistakes like human beings.”

Yudhayas trod a hostile path, only after weighing the risks involved, confident of diffusing the explosive by inactivating the detonators. Later he realized, that new age explosives like RDX only need detonators, but emotions and sentiments are like TNT, slight disturbance or shake would do to make them explode.

And it exploded. Another student after a guarded silence, entered the arena. “The concept of God is only to hoodwink common people, so that the priestly class can enjoy the fruits of labour, without labour.”

Now the entire ire of the class turned against the new entrant into the debate. No longer could people decipher what was being said, because emotions replaced logic, utter confusion prevailed. Confusion transformed to chaos and chaos to anarchy. Footwear morphed into improvised missiles, and were flying across the classroom. Within no time the entire classroom was strewn with shoes, having accomplished their task of hitting their targets, now lying on the floor as spent force.

Before the authorities of the institution could recover and react, rumours spread like wild fire inside the college, and the whole college was painted red, as blood oozed from monotheists, polytheists and atheists which was monochromatic.

The institution was forced to close down and the hostel vacated immediately until further notice. The Vice Chancellor of the university ordered an inquiry. The inquiry started after a week, was chaired by a member of Syndicate, co-chaired by the Dean of the institution, helped by a board member of the managing committee and prominent teaching staff. Few notorious students involved in the riot were asked to depose before the inquiry committee. Yudhayas was prominent in deposing before the inquiry committee as the untoward incident started from his class.

From the students’ account, it was clear to the members that Yudhayas was accountable for the entire sequence of events, as it originated from his summation. After disposing of the students, with a stern warning and individual apology letters obtained from them, the inquest continued to arrive at the bottom of the truth. In reality, more than fact-finding, the managing board of the college, run by a religious institution was more interested in extricating itself from the sticky situation. All they wanted was a ‘Sacrificial goat’. In the name of inquiry, Yudhayas was subjected to tirade from the committee. His silence infuriated the learned members and they started castigating him, starting form his physical appearance, especially his long hair. Still he was not provoked.

One member from the religious wing of the institution, holding a string of degrees from different universities of the globe, admonished Yudhayas.

“By your zeal to impose your dogma, you have put the institution’s reputation at stake. This institution can tolerate anything, but indiscipline.”

As an after thought, he asked Yudhayas, “To which discipline do you belong?”

His reply startled the assemblage of learned people.

“I am disciplined, but I don’t belong to any discipline. I am irreligious.”

His reply prompted the next obvious question. “Are you an atheist?”

Yudhayas replied in the negative, once again.

“Then how do you say you are irreligious?”

Yudhayas said “I believe in God, but not in religions.”

The whole committee was aghast. No one knew how to respond.

One member recovering from dismay, started slowly. “From Boy Scouts, when I moved into Rovers movement, we were taught about five impediments, analogised as rocks in a stream where one is rowing a boat. Starting from Horses, which stands for gambling, wine and women are listed in that order. The fourth major impediment is irreligion, which I am convinced is one of the evils and when you say you are irreligious you don’t have a place in our college.”

Yudhayas retorted. “You have conveniently concealed the fifth impediment, Lord Baden Powell has elucidated in his book. To refresh your memory let me tell you that ‘CUCKOOS & HUMBUGS’ is the fifth impediment an adolescent faces, when stepping into adulthood. To avoid the fifth impediment I have embraced the fourth – IRRELIGION. I believe in the concept of God, but not in the product – religion, and hence I have turned irreligious. You may not accept my concept – ‘Truth is God’, which is absolute, but religion is relative. There can’t be a relative truth.”

Yudhayas walked out from the chamber and eventually from the campus, without remorse, appearing taller than his stature. The imposing gates of the institution was shut behind him, little realizing, that the gates were shut on truth.

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