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Gods and geeks

Meet Swamy Veeraraghavan, priest by day and computer geek by night

Photo : K. Ramesh Babu

EVERYONE NEEDS a good night's sleep. God is no exception and pujaris are mere mortals. After god is induced to sleep, and all has been said, sung and done and temple doors closed - there isn't much else left for most pujaris but to call it a day. Few, like Swamy Veeraraghavan are however game for a little fun before they go to bed.

The twenty-something priest of Srirangam Srimad Anandavan Ashram (popularly known as Lakshmi temple) in West Marredpally believes in staying connected. No wonder Raghavan is a familiar face in an Internet café, beside the temple - often seen chatting, catching up on emails and playing computer games with explicit amusement.

With a braid that connects effortlessly to his beard only to knot the two together, pale white lungi and a generous daub of chandan on his forehead, one can tell him from a distance. Why, even set the clock as per his arrival to the Internet café, for he is as religious with this nocturnal deviation as his daytime devotion towards the almighty.

Says Praveen, who manages the Sify I-way café, "He (the Swamy) is a regular customer." Raghavan's regularity earns him discounts quite often, including `happy hours' at the browsing centre.

One met up with the geek when he was at it - immersed, as usual, in his quest for the demon in Diablo-II. Raghavan, in the splendid isolation of his cabin, is motionless, paying fanatical attention to his computer screen, only his fingers moving now and then, to strike the mouse. "These are the baddies I have to shoot," the Swamy explains, unable to contain his excitement.

Shoot `em dead

These computer games are an addiction, we say! Narasimha just beams as if in agreement even as he furiously strikes the mouse to destroy another baddie, who makes the mistake of appearing on the screen. The only `real' casualty in the whole exercise is the `poor' mouse that has to endure Raghavan's zeal; the baddies being simply `virtual'.

After concluding his religious hour-long after-work drill, he settles down for a chat. Visibly enthused after winning the elusive `pot of gold' and destroying the demon, he says, "Why I come here? Well, to play if it isn't wrong."

The priest-by-day and geek-by-night has been freaking out on his favourite pastime since the last five years. Raghavan states matter-of-factly, "It may be unusual but I love playing computer games."

"I learnt playing these games when I was 18 years of age, and have been hooked to them ever since," says he, the high priest of IT. "My favourite is Diablo-II, I also love a few strategy games as they help improve my concentration levels."

Raghavan has been a priest in the temple for the last six years. A club-level cricket player - who dropped out of studies while in the fifth-standard, he knows the Vedas by heart. And although he does not have formal literacy in computers, he simply loves sitting in front of one.

"Only if I knew more English, I would have been able to use it to more benefit. Perhaps, get connected to other religious leaders across the world," the 25-year old Swamy wishes. The tech-savvy priest, who was once, offered a post in a certain Lakshmi-temple in the U.S, refused it saying, "God wants me to serve him here." About his definition of god, Raghavan is nonchalant. "If I were to define him, I would have been somewhere else. All I can say is we dance to his tunes."

Pink's God is a DJ, and life - a dance floor came to mind naturally as one took leave of the Swamy, amused yet in profound admiration of one out of the ordinary.

SOUVIK CHOWDHURY

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