Monday, July 28, 2008

Wanted: male/handsome/Dead for not less than 250 years

A few months ago, I came upon an interesting business model. In many ways, this was making money out of nothing. Yes, it is related to faith.

I have this fascination for spirituality and religion, and during one of my explorations, I chanced upon a Buddhist monastery within the central business district of Singapore. For fear of inviting the wrath of certain people with vested interests, I will not reveal any further details about the whereabouts of this place.

Now here is the interesting business model. The monastery makes money out of match-making and wedding ceremonies. What is so unique about that, you may ask. Well, it is unique since the match-making and wedding services are offered, not to young men and women, but to spirits of dead ancestors!

According to ancient Chinese/ Buddhist beliefs, there is a clear hierarchy in the spirit world, and one of the key determinants of where a particular ancestor lies in the hierarchy is his or her marital status. It is believed that, in the spirit world, only the married spirits are allowed to sit at the dinner table, while the unmarried ones have to wait for leftovers. As such, it is not spiritually fulfilling if you are an unmarried ghost!

And so our friends at the monastery offered this unique service of helping such under-privileged spirits move up the hierarchy, and take their rightful place at the dinner table. They contact families of people who died single, and convince them that their dead ancestor needs their help. And thus the database is built. Subsequently, they scan their database of dead people, to find ideal spiritual partners based on the exact specification of the family of a dead ancestor. Once the match is found, and both families have mutually consented to the wedding, the monastery then arranges for the holy matrimony. Soon after, the spirits, as the monastery will tell you, are happily married and enjoying a feast.

Some key benefits of this model:

  • The sample set to choose your partners from is much wider than in the real world due to the fact that spirits don’t have to be of the same generation. So essentially, your great-great-grand uncle might marry my great-great-great-great-great-not-so-great-grand aunt, and yet not complain that he married an old hag.
  • If you do not have royal ancestry, it is not too late. Just find an unmarried ancestor’s spirit and get him/her married to a dead royal. And you have blue-blood flowing in your veins. Just like that!
  • With the number of married spirits increasing, there will be fewer and fewer spirits that have to survive on leftovers from the dinner table. As a direct consequence, there will be fewer hungry spirits that will transcend the spiritual world into the real world in search of food.

While I cannot confirm on the fees that the monastery levies for such unique services, I am guessing that it must be rather handsome considering that the monastery has been flourishing for a little over a hundred years now.

On a lighter note, any guesses what the menu at the heavenly feast could comprise of?
Ghosht and Spirits

Lost in Translation

This past weekend I happened to log on to my Gtalk from my personal laptop at home. Mind you this is a rare privilege granted to me by my wife, who seems to think that marriage gives her complete ownership of my assets and vice versa. That explains why she is always seen with the laptop, while I toy around with the dishes.

Coming back to the original context, as soon as I logged on to Gtalk, my sister-in-law (co-sister, if you are in India, and subscribe to immaculate Indian English) pinged me and quickly typed in a few standard pleasantries. Knowing how challenged she is when it comes to typing at high speeds, I am sure she must have a ready list of pleasantries that she copies and pastes when she wants to make polite conversation with people who don’t really matter. And despite having married her sister, I still qualify for the “people who don’t really matter”.

So after a couple of standard exchanges for the sake of formality, she ordered me to pass a message to my wife to come online. I promptly did so, and while the lady was taking her time to put on a few layers of make-up due to the impending Webcam session, I stayed on just in case the SIL needed company. And here is how the conversation went:

SIL:” So when are you planning to come to India?”
Me: “Soon. Hopefully, we can move back to India for good”
SIL: “Why? Don’t you like Singapore?”
Me: “I am not particularly fond of the place, though there is nothing to hate about it. But with the baby around, I’d prefer to have an extended family for support”
SIL: “Ok, bye”
Me: ”Bye”

Moments later, my wife logs in, and here is the chat trail:

Wife: “Hi”
SIL: ”Are you going through financial crisis?”
Wife: “No. Why?”
SIL: “Your husband wants to move to India because he wants financial support from his in-laws”
Wife: “Damn. Why did I let him out of the kitchen? @#$@@”
SIL: “Tell him we can find him a good job, but not to ask money from in-laws”
Wife: “Sure. Thanks. Bye”

Since then, I have had to sign a restraining order, that I will stay at least 50 feet away from the laptop, and that I will never respond to any messages from any of my wife’s relatives.