God’s Will

7 min readFeb 18, 2024

It was easy to get things done within the confines of the village. People just had to call the local priest, who would assess the desired outcome, weigh it against possible conflict with other residents of the same village, see how far the decisions were dependent on the authorities and how much control the local ones had on them. With this calculation, the priest would arrive at a figure that also depended on the abilities of the person who sought his intervention to pay. No one wanted someone’s dreams to be quashed because of their inability to pay for it. But a certain stretching of resources was expected and it was in direct proportion to the need and speed of the desired results. The payment plan offered was also measured by the priest and spilt according to the people who needed to be paid to bring the demand to fruition. The system worked well, for the priest’s divine connection was established and strengthened each time a demand was met, the authorities who were responsible for swinging the deal behind the curtain were compensated without having to live with the taint of a bribe, or by revealing themselves to their own neighbours and at times even families and friends, and the petitioners got what they wanted. It was a simple arrangement that worked for every one.

When Bigula wanted the boula — the small irrigation canal that shot off from the main river and ran through fields offering water to the plants and a source of play and mischief to the children — to be diverted a little so that it could come closer to the new plum trees he had planted, he went over to the priest and asked him to take his request to the divine. The priest went over one afternoon to Bigula’s field and assessed the distance by which the small canal would have to be diverted and came up with a rough estimate. It included his cost, the cost of the prayer ceremony and the lunch to the temple staff and beggars, the cost of the manual work that would make the canal turn a little to the left and then back in an clockwise direction to meet with the actual path of the water, and the amount that the local authorities would take to make a case for it to the babus in higher and faraway places who themselves may need a cut, but that was included into their amount. The figure was offered to Bigula and some negotiations later as was expected and had been factored in, the price was settled and agreed to. Work could now start, all fronted by the priest who was the go-between for Bigula and the gods who were to pull off the work, but actually for Bigula and the local irrigation department people who would actually get it done.

When the priest took the plan to the irrigation department the next day and met with Halli bhai, the close door neighbour of Bigula and the department’s local hand, it became clear that the deal was not going to go as smoothly as he had imagined. Halli bhai, the priest was to learn, was working on his own plan to get the boula turned in the exact opposite direction to the one that Bigula was hoping for. For across the fields with the fresh plum trees stood the litchi trees that Halli bhai had planted. That the planter of the litchi trees had some authority to swing it in his direction without seeking the help of the divine and giving the priest his share made the matters difficult for the god’s agent. And it made it clear to him which side of the boula he stood.

That night, Bigula slept peacefully, dreaming of his plum trees blossoming into those white flowers that made them look like giant bouquets that would later sprout into deep purple fruits with the taut skins that broke open when bite, and let out their juicy and fibrous interiors that we re both a delight to look at and to savour. The same night, the priest tossed around in his bed, thinking of coming down to a single accomplice, his god, and losing the other, the authorities. And the one he was left with he had little faith in. Though this was when he started wondering if he should have paid more attention to that one so he could have with some confidence thought of the task as having a good chance of succeeding. But he knew that as a human he was more likely to influence another human, but how was Halli bhai to be swayed? Now that the task stood in direct conflict to his?

It was in his own dreams that very night between his bouts of wakefulness that he got to a possible answer. He had dreamt of him leaving the village and reaching a place far away, where his failure to make things come true through divine intervention was not yet known. This is where he found an abandoned temple and the people around it abandoned by the deity that he set up shop. He woke up, faintly remembering the abandoned temple and for some reason, a chair that stood in the place where priests are normally supposed to sit on the floor, their legs crossed. This chair was the clue, perhaps from the divine that didn’t want him let down, that made him take the journey to the irrigation department the next day. Halli bhai was seated at his , doing nothing because most of his work was done by the rains and the rivers and ponds that were generously fed by the ground water and the melting glaciers far away in the hills. The only work he had now, as both he and the priest knew, was to turn the course of the canal to his advantage, and the priest was here to see if he could make it turn the other way.

Between sips of chai and stale cookies that were served by the young boy who was paid to keep the place clean when the department’s people from the head office came visiting, but as that was a rare event, he mostly hung around to serve tea or chase away the monkeys that found the trees outside much suited to their demands of work and play, the priest casually pointed out at the empty chair that was very similar to the one he had seen in his dream and asked him if someone was expected to occupy it any time soon. Halli bhai had shrugged the shrug of a man who had long stopped looking at a threat as a threat because it had been nothing but that for a long time. It was to have been occupied by a junior engineer, who was to head this branch, but who would ever think of getting transferred to a place like this? The chair had been vacant for long, and the department head office had also realised that there was no point in filling it, because nothing as way of a complaint or request had ever been received from this part. The canals ran clear and uninterrupted, and the plants stuck to their cycle. Only now that he wanted the canal turned a little before heading back the way it was destined, there were some talks of feasibility studies and surveys, but these were just talks and Halli bhai had a full season and a half to work on it.

On his way back, the priest did not go home directly, but instead went out on a pilgrimage, to the city where the head office of the department stood. But instead of going there, for his influence was better used at places of worship and he knew how prayers from everywhere and petitioners from around the place would have reached there sooner or later. But unlike his own temple where a small population paid visits only in larger numbers around festivals and rituals, this one was crowded and he had to wait for a while before he caught the eye of the priest presiding over the rituals. The big city priest nodded at him and then finally got the time to have a conversation. Yes, he too often sought the intervention of humans to help the divine fulfil the wishes of his crowd. Yes, he understood that sometimes the prayer was in direct conflict with those who had been given the place in the world to make it possible. And yes, that is when the priests must come together, though it meant that the cost to the petitioners must increase as there were obstacles in the way that must have been places because of their own karma.

Of the many petitions that the city priest had received, there was one from the irrigation department that seemed to have all the bearing of a connection made in heaven. A young engineer, recently married and much harassed by his in-laws who were in close proximity to where he stayed with his wife, had sought him out for a solution. And yes, sending him to an obscure place that was close to nothing — leave alone his in-laws — was a good solution. Though this miracle must be balanced by a decent cost that could be lowered if he agreed to clearing somethings that god was waiting for the right person to come and do his will.

That evening, the village priest walked back home, softly humming a mantra under his breath. The wheels had been set in motion, and from his calculation, he would be left with a little more than he had hoped for. Because the part that was to go to Halli bhai would now go to the city priest who would also get something from the junior engineer who would get nothing from him as he was only doing what he was sent there to do by god. Once the dust has settled after the digging of the canal’s detour, everyone would be left with something. Bigula with water for his plum trees, the city priest with proof of his abilities and payment for that, he himself with another proof of his divine connection and a little more than expected payment. And Halli bhai with an occupied chair next to him, though only this last one was the only undesired and unwanted outcome in the list of outcomes. But the god works in mysterious ways, and who was he to question his will? He was merely his instrument.