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God is a necessary evil
Role of God an luck in our daily lives
“I do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, that I will faithfully and conscientiously discharge my duties.”
Every Prime Minister of India's oath when they assume office includes the phrase "in the name of God." This has led some to wonder why a leader who leads a billion people needs to take an oath in the name of a higher power. I grew up in a religious household and saw firsthand how belief in God can shape people's lives. For my family, God was an invisible member of the household. Thinking back to my school days - as I was gearing up for the day ahead, my dad would be glued to the TV while my mom prepared breakfast. But the moment the clock struck 7 a.m., the TV channel would switch to the daily horoscope prediction. As the astrologer on TV began speaking about my mom's star sign, everyone in the house went silent. It felt like the course of her day depended on what the astrologer had to say. My parents didn't stop there. They also watched a similar show on a different channel at 7:30 AM to double-check.
In my childhood, I was taught to believe in God. In my teens, I started questioning this belief. But in the last decade, as I travelled and interacted with people across the country, I began to understand the importance of God in an everyday person's life. This piece is an attempt to unravel my observations about why religious beliefs still hold a strong place in our lives and the positive impacts they can have. Just remember, these are personal observations and should be taken as such - a personal viewpoint, not a universal truth."
The story of a credit card
In my early days as a user researcher, I shared an evening with an administrative professional in a high-tech office building. Our conversation led to him narrating his life story and left a deep imprint on me. This man, earning around Rs.18K, lived with his wife and two kids. Until recently, he'd been self-employed, juggling various small jobs until he secured his current position just two years ago. The story took a turn when he mentioned that his former employer had opened a bank account for him. With that came the offer of a credit card, boasting a limit of 25K, an offer he gladly accepted. However, no one bothered to explain the intricacies of credit card usage to him. As he began using the card for various expenses, he soon found himself drowning in nearly a lakh in debt, interest included.
Debt collection agents began to frequent his home, and after long negotiations, the owed sum was brought down to Rs. 44K. However, this came with a catch – he would no longer be eligible for any future loans from the bank. It's easy to blame the bank's irresponsibility or the man's naivety, but I was curious about the nature of his expenses. His answer was both simple and heartbreaking. He had used the credit card to buy school bags for his kids, treat them to a local fair, dine at a decent restaurant, and repair his TV, allowing his family to watch shows together. His 'debts' were merely his efforts to provide basic amenities and simple joys for his family, and it left him drowning in financial strain.
It was a jolting reminder of the privilege I took for granted and the real-world struggles of those not as fortunate.
What may be a necessity to one might seem like a luxury to another, and what one considers luxury could be someone else's lifelong aspiration. Imagine finding yourself in debt simply trying to put smiles on your children's faces. How would then larger goals, like owning a home or a car, ever seem achievable?
While money can't necessarily bring happiness to the wealthy, its absence can make life harder for those lacking it. When resources are scarce, even the mundane tasks of everyday living can feel like an uphill battle. In such scenarios, many aspects of life demand immediate attention, and more often than not, the root of these issues is a lack of money.
Therefore, a generation that recognizes the limitations of physical labour in increasing their income often places a high emphasis on education - even at times to the point of familial sacrifice. But for everything beyond their control, they rely on the whims of fortune. This dependence on luck, however, often isn't enough, leading to a deep-seated longing for some semblance of control. This longing, over time, manifests itself into faith and devotion towards a higher power, a divine intervention, and a belief in God.
Three kinds of households
In my experiences, I've noticed people generally fall into one of three categories when it comes to financial stability and faith. The first group comprises of those who constantly live in debt, struggling to make ends meet each month. For them, faith in God provides a ray of hope, a beacon to guide them out of the relentless cycle of borrowing and repaying.
The second category belongs to those who live paycheck to paycheck. They manage their lives by adhering to strict spending rules and curbing their desires. God, to them, acts as a protector, a force to help them maintain their status quo and shield them from slipping back into the abyss of debt. In their lives, a single financial misstep could send them spiralling back into the first group.
Finally, there are those who live comfortably with a surplus of resources. In their lives, faith in God can manifest in various ways - it could stem from fear of losing their wealth, gratitude for their abundance, or even greed for more. For them, God becomes a necessary entity to safeguard their existing wealth or fulfill their ever-expanding desires.
In my role as a behavioural researcher, I've had the opportunity to interview numerous individuals from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to understand their financial journeys. Often, I've found a glaring mismatch between their income, expenses, and lofty ambitions. Consider a man, essentially income-less but owning a piece of real estate, dreaming of a lavish wedding for his daughter. When asked about his plans, he lifts his hands skywards, uttering, 'Sab upar wala dekh lega' - a common phrase implying 'God will take care of it all.'
This makes me question - have we, as digital product creators, ever considered incorporating this aspect of human existence into our product design and user experience? After all, digital products and services aren't just tools; they're extensions of our shared experiences. Their success hinges on their relevance to, and resonance with people. As builders in the technological realm, I believe it's essential to acknowledge the reality that many people's lives hinge on luck. For these individuals, God represents a beacon of hope, and rather than resisting this notion, we should strive to embrace and understand it.
When someone nowadays inquires whether I believe in God, I find myself replying, "I believe in those who have faith in God." Being a researcher, privileged to hear diverse tales from all walks of life, is a humbling experience that continually shapes my perspectives.
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