The Adventures of Darth Vaadhiar, episode 1 – A New Hopelessness

Darkness descends.

The Imperial March plays. With a slight twist. And 2 extra sangathis to boot.



Junior Jigubugu Vaadhiar: What an unexpected pleasure, mama. What brings you here unannounced?

Darth Vaadhiar: Spare me the pleasantries. I am here to get this homam back on schedule. I was doing my extended morning Sandhi, that makes me strong in the force

Junior Jigubugu Vaadhiar : You and your extended Sandhi. We have to keep with the times and these practices of yours are archaic. For one, I would never do an extended Sandhi because my mobile phone will ring, and hey check out my new ringtone –  “Iyer Ground” by UB40 (Unemployed Brahmins of 40 South Mada St), the seminal street band from Mylapore.

The lyrics go

Every hour and every day, I am drinking more,
without which in this Chennai sun, I’ll burn to the core.

Unless I know the vedas, I’m not going around
digging deeper into some Iyer ground

Darth Vaadhiar : (using the force to cause Jigubugu vaadhiar’s poonal (sacred thread) to coil around his neck and elevate him from his seat, asphyxiating him like a hangman’s victim) I find your lack of faith…..disturbing.

JJV : That’s your problem Vaadhiar. Times are changing and you still think you can throttle people with their sacred threads and force them to observe rituals for which we don’t even seem to have convincing sounding reasons any more. If we are to survive in this century, we have to reinvent ourselves. Look at what we have become. Impoverished, low end contract workers who never moved up the value chain or from the 200 sq ft cubby hole we call home in North Mada street.

Realize it Darth. We have a fundamentally flawed business model in a target market that’s increasingly changing its attitude towards religion. We need to move away from peddling low end homam, marriage, tarpanam services and sri-sri-ize our core philosophy.

Darth Vaadhiar : And what (Sounds of heavy breathing) is that?

JJV: We need to go New Age. We are still Old Skool.

Darth Vaadhiar: Are you telling me that we need to freestyle rap our mantras? Wear Rudraksha Bling? I will not cheapen myself. (Sounds of heavy breathing).

JJV: No No. Thats not what I meant. I don’t think you understand the sri-sri-fication of religion thats going on. Let me explain. Religion has always been the toll free helpline that gives answers to life’s difficult questions, such as “Why is this happening to me?“, or “Will Arasi die in the next 3 episodes?” etc. And our past tactic of diverting people’s minds by the constant enforcement of mind numbing ritual has worked well, but is way past its time now. People don’t blindly accept ritual without a rational explanation, and hey, rationalism was never our strength eh? Look at all the New Age gurus. They make billions by providing what seems to me to be common sense answers cloaked in a thin veil of ancient wisdom to the current crop of urban problems – stress, information overload and soap serials.

That’s where we need to be Darth.

Our metaphorical business tyre is being punctured while you are bicycling to your next Ganapathi Homam. In the words of Friedman, today’s world is flat, but our tyres shouldn’t be. Some of our brethren seem to have understood this and have diversified into organizing Veda chanting classes and Horoscope exchange meets, but that’s not enough. Our job is outsourceable. In a very cynical sense, our skills are nothing more than memorization followed by obfuscatory diction. I’m afraid T-Series could release mantras, DRM free, on iTunes and we are done. And when one web-savvy vaadhiar uploads DIY videos of all rituals to Youtube, we might as well join a computer course and get into the Indian IT industry. Like every one else.

And why do I say Srisrification is the way to go? If there is one skill that has never ever been outsourced in our planet’s history, it is the application of common sense to tell people what they should already be knowing. It’s called consulting. And the billing rates have never fallen.

Darth Vaadhiar: (Sounds of heavy breathing) (More sounds of heavy breathing). I will think about this.

To be continued…..

Episode Glossary

Update: Corrections pointed out by the Rt Hon VS Srinivasa Sastry

Jigubugu – An adjective I heard from my maternal grandfather to describe tag along priests who would start strongly with Shuklaambara-dharam…, become generally hazy in the more complex mantras, and chime in strongly during the Namahas and Nivedayaamis.

Imperial March – The original Vader theme. Listen to it here. The Vaadhiar theme here features me on the violin and bass recorded on Garageband. Listen with headphones preferably and keep the volume low. I was too lazy to mix it properly.

UB40 and Higher ground – Here