If the gateway to Heaven was automated

Musings in everyday life


Suresh Pattali

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Published: Fri 29 Sep 2023, 12:08 AM

Pearly Gates were not automated yet. Biometric check-in seemed to be a distant dream in this part of the world — er, ether world. By instinct, I rummaged in my pocket to take out my office ID, which had been an inseparable part of me for over four decades until I was summoned here and told to join a winding queue. It was like a big flock of early birds for the first iPhone 15. Or the rowdy lines in front of the smelly fair-price shops in the India of the 80s. Or like the quintessential queues for all things free in Singapore.

"Not too bad, bro. He got a Mac on the rostrum." The guy behind me in the queue nudged my shoulder. I rubbernecked to see what was happening in the front. An ornate gate with doors shut jutted into shining cumulus clouds hanging low against an expanse of blue. A postcard-perfect scene. Behind the rostrum was a stooping old man in a flowing robe, peering over a dog-eared book while holding onto an oversized key. The saintly figure with a long beard occasionally opened the door to usher someone in, escorted by a pantheon of angels.

"Is that a valet service?" I turned to the guy behind.

"Are you kidding? You bunked Sunday classes? That's St Peter. Your future is in his hands."

"So sorry, I read different scriptures. In fact, I'm a globalist."

As the sun turned orange and rockets and satellites streaked across the sky, an angel came by and announced: "Victims of climate change, please make a separate line. You guys will be cleared as a special case before we close business for the day. The rest can wait it out until morning."

"But can't we speed up, now that you have digital help?" Some braveheart in the queue that was.

"System is down and Steve Jobs is looking into it. Moreover, we stopped work-from-home after the Covid rush," the angel chirruped.

As we rested on a bed of clouds as fluffy as Bombay cotton candy, watching fleets of killer drones buzzing far below, I poked my neighbour again.

"You know, St Peter looks like Karl Marx."

"Are you from Kerala?"

"How did you make the right guess?"

"Where else do you find Marx? You also smell of sardine."

"Sorry, the last supper. Hope St Peter understands. And where are you from?"

"From Georgia in the US. I threw myself under the bus. You know why? I hear Trump could make it again."

"Bravo, bravo, comrade."

With that, the first light cracked on the horizon. St Peter was back behind the rostrum reading out names and caressing his moustache.

"Mr Suresh Patt-Ali, right? A truly secular name, son. Jokes apart, records say you are the guy you died in a newsroom."

"Yes, father. Journos are so committed." I tried to be as polite as possible as though I was appearing for a US visa interview.

"That's not an honour, my son. There were domestic complaints you spent your lifetime in various newsrooms, giving a damn about family matters."

"I tried my level best to maintain a work-life balance."

"You sinned because you broke part of the oath to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health till death do you part. The day of judgment has come. The door to Heaven is closed for you."

"At least as a water boy?"

"I could have helped you, but for some ethical allegations."

"Ethical allegations? No way. Maybe the analytics are wrong? Is that GA1 or GA2?"

"You cashed in on tragedies. You exaggerated death tolls."

"I beg your pardon, but any scope for a wild card entry?"

"One last chance, my son. Please fill out this brief survey. Let's see how it goes." St Peter handed a set of customer satisfaction queries on the worldly life.

— Did you ever desecrate a place of worship? No.

— Were you involved in any #MeToo scandal? No.

— Were you ever accused of throwing a racial slur? No.

— Were you a happy person?

"Father, I have a problem with the fourth question. Happiness is subjective."

"Answer the question honestly, son. Were you happy? It's the key to Heaven."

"What's the benchmark?"

"Don't waste my time. Yes or no? "

"Any lifeline? Call a friend?"

"No. This is not a reality show."

"Can I ask ChatGPT?" As I waited to hear back from St Peter, I reflected upon the topic. It's a question no one will dare answer. Was I really happy? Is my wife happy? Is the billion club in the world really happy? Is the teeming hoi polloi happy? Is St Peter happy doing the same chore again and again for ages?

"Son, happiness is an emotion that transcends the human body and relationships. It's an eternal journey where you lose yourself in the wilderness of love, peace, and tranquility." St Peter finally dropped a clue with a pitiful smile.

"I'll give the question a miss, Father. I really don't know."

"Listen, son. I ain't a humanoid to answer all your queries. The queue is getting longer and noisier. Next, please." St Peter struck his key on the rostrum.


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