It was a cold winter Beijing night. Joseph Xi and Mary Li were expecting their first baby. The ultrasound test showed that it was to be a boy, a wonder boy. So they had decided to call him Ren-Zi (pronounced Zuh), Mandarin for “Son of Man”, a title that another “wonder boy” had used 82 times to describe himself 2000 years ago. Ren-Zi was special. He had not been conceived naturally through sexual intercourse, but in a petra dish under the careful eye of Dr Jill Liu.
She was not only an expert at in vitro fertilization, but also in genetic engineering. So she had created an immaculate being, one that could not be infected by AIDS, or any ailment. This wonder child would never fall sick, or age, and live forever.
The Chairman of the ruling Communist Party was not amused. The Party and its dialectic Marxism/ Maoism or any other Ism would be threatened by an ageless invincible eternal being. One of the members of the Party was Jack Ma, the owner of Alibaba, and the richest man in China. How could a Capitalist like Ma be a Communist? A little mouse under the Chairman’s chair whispered, “In the same way that Catholic priests, bishops and popes take a vow of poverty, while living in huge palaces and driving around in luxury cars!”
The Chairman asked his Red Army (they were not very well read) to get the foetus aborted in a Peoples’ Clinic. He had heard of something called Incarnation – God becoming man. It seemed so stupid, because with modern Artificial Intelligence man was becoming God; if at all there was a God.
Yusuf Kumar and Mariam Rani were then in Bharat, also known as Hindustan. They too were expecting a special child. They went to seek divine blessings in the temple town of Ayodhya. They met several Brahmin priests, each showing them a different site that was purported to be the Janmabhoomi (place of divine birth) and the special Rasoi (the reigning queen’s kitchen). Some Brahmins also pointed to a star shape carved in the ground. They said that this was the garb grah (sanctum sanctorum, or Holy of Holies) where Purushottam (the perfect Man) was born.
The priests asked the couple their gotra and caste. If Yusuf was a carpenter by profession then he belonged to the Other Backward Classes, so how could he claim to be of the kingly Dawood gharana? The kings were all kshatriyas. The Brahmins also found the couple’s names foreign to them, and were horrified when they discovered that they were meat eaters. They warned them that in order to obtain moksha they would have to turn vegetarian. After shuddhikaran and ghar vapsi they were re-named as Yogendra Sharma and Meena Kumari.
Just then a horde of rampaging horsemen in green turbans and wielding curved swords swooped down on the town, razed the temples and scattered the inhabitants into the nearby forests as vanvasis.
In central Africa the tall Masai warriors wielded huge spears. They were the lion hunters. Diminutive, but equally good hunters were the pygmies, with their poison arrows. In the course of history some pale faces appeared in their midst. They did not fight with spears or arrows, but with pipes that spewed fire and thunder. The tribesmen, as in Ayodhya, retreated into the jungles.
The pale faces had their own witch doctors called padres, who wore solar topees, khaki shorts and carried a box that spoke as though from the heavens. They convinced the Masais that they had the Messiah. In due course the tribesman got the good book and the pale faces got their good land.
In recent times a paleface John Allen Chau tried the same thing on the North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal. He was not as lucky. The only land that he got on the island was the 6-foot plot where he was buried by the natives.
This narrative now moves from central Africa to central America. Jose (pronounced Hozey in Spanish) and Maria Lopez wanted to migrate from their impoverished country to the land of peanut butter and soybean oil, across the border from Mexico. They too were expecting their first child. They were told that if the child was born in the land of peanut butter and soybean oil then it would automatically become a naturalized citizen of that land of plenty. Alas, at the border they bumped into the Trump Wall. They turned back dejected, because they were also told that the rules had changed. Migrants’ children could not become citizens any more.
Some thousand miles north of the Mexican border was the Big Apple, New York, that housed the headquarters of the United Nations (UN). The General Assembly was deliberating on world peace. Ambassador after ambassador waxed eloquent. The world needed powerful leaders with 56 inch chests (women’s size was discreetly not mentioned), strong armies and nuclear deterrents to maintain peace. The world needed an all-wonder combination of Superman, Batman and Spiderman to overcome insurmountable odds and destroy evil. Unfortunately, the only place that they could find such a person was in Hollywood, reeled into a can.
In exasperation the Secretary General left the podium and resumed his seat at the high table. Despite the harsh Atlantic winter he was wiping the sweat of his brow. Just then a lanky Mid-Easterner in long flowing robes, and equally flowing hair and beard, strode confidently up to the podium. From his cloth shoulder bag he took out a well thumbed book, placed it on the lectern and began to read:
“The Spirit of the lord is on me,
For he has anointed me
To bring the good news to the afflicted.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,
Sight to the blind,
To let the oppressed go free,
To proclaim a year of favour from the Lord”.
The Secretary General banged his gavel furiously on the table. Who was this dishevelled intruder posing as some kind of divine interventor, and disturbing the tranquillity of the assembly? The marshals were summoned. The intruder was unceremoniously bundled out onto the cold slippery streets of the Big Apple. The General Assembly resumed its inconclusive debate on peace that had begun after World War II in 1945!
The little mouse under the chair of the Secretary General sighed and said to him, “Sir, you have got it all wrong. The man you ejected/ rejected is the only one who can bring peace to the world, the peace that the world can’t give. He is known as the Prince of Peace. Of him it was prophesised that he would convert swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks.
When he came along the people were looking for a strong man, a king with an army, a saviour, a miracle worker and a bread winner. He was all that and more, but his ways were not of this world. He did not call himself the Son of God. Instead he chose the mundane turn of phrase “Son of Man”, “Bar-e-Nasa” in his native Aramaic dialect.
He asked people to forgive their enemies, to love one another, to care and share, to walk the narrow path and not accumulate wealth. He advocated empathy and compassion for the despised of society. Yes, he did heal people, not as a norm, but out of compassion, and forbade proclamation of his miracles.
He was not offering a “ready made, instant coffee” type of nirvana. He was born amid the cattle class, though the high class now worship him in gilded cathedrals. He himself learnt things the hard way, to “increase in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with people” when he first visited the Temple in Jerusalem at the age of twelve. Like good rum, he was aged in wood, not in an oak barrel, but by working on the wood as a skilled carpenter till the age of 30.
When he got the green signal from above while being immersed in the Jordan River, he began his three year public ministry. The religious and political establishment hated his forthrightness and uprightness; so they made him carry his own wood and nailed him to it. To justify their actions they staged a mock election that the carpenter lost to a nationalist zealot called Barabbas.
The Secretary General, a retired army General, was still wearing his hobnailed boots, with which he squished the mouse into the ground; as he rushed off to attend a Christmas Party of roast turkey and plum pudding. In the corridor he bumped in to the ambassador from Bharat.
The Ambassador gave the Secretary General a huge hug. His premier back home was known as the Great Hugger. In his flamboyant north Indian style he said “Marry Xmas Jarnail Sahab, and Happi Bappi New Yaar”. Just then he spotted the American Ambassador and was about to repeat the hugging. He stopped in the nick of time because it was a woman, the Indian origin Nick Haley. That could have been an embarrassing Me Too moment.
As the Ambassador stepped out of the building he met another Nick – Jonas, who had just married that Desi Girl. He hugged this Nick, and longed to do it to the Girl, but better sense prevailed.
The little mouse inside the building breathed its last. Its dying declaration was “Father forgive them all, they not what they do; nor did they recognize the Wonder Boy of the world”. The stone which the builders rejected has become the corner stone.
* The writer is the former National President of the All India Catholic Union.