For a 55-second introduction to this piece, see here:
Now, let’s begin.
In one of my all-time favourite Bengali comedies, a couple of bumbling Yamadootas — agents of Yama, the god of death — abduct a man while he is still alive. In Yamaloka, he meets his aunt who’s about to be sent to hell for the sin of thinking about eating a cookie while keeping a religious fast.
“I’d like to donate some of my good karma to my aunt so that she can go to heaven,” the man says.
Yama asks his staff to check how much good karma the man has accrued.
“Lord, he doesn’t have any,” they report back after auditing his activities on Earth.
“Wait a second,” the man protests. “What about all those thoughts I had when you were bringing me in? I thought to myself I will build hospitals and orphanages if I can escape here. Surely that counts for something?”
“What? You want to earn good karma merely by thinking good thoughts?” Yama mocks him.
“Why not?” the man demands. “If my aunt is a sinner because she had one errant thought, why shouldn’t I get some good karma for thinking so many good thoughts?”
Jamalaye Jibanta Manush released in 1958. It was a time in world history when the tensions between — and within — capitalism and socialism were tantalisingly poised. At the heart of it were the intertwined ideas of ‘productivity’, ‘progress’, and ‘virtuous living’.