Graveyard-shift soaps do have an audience it appears. If the findings of the HT-CNN IBN State of the Nation Survey are any indication, a sizeable number of Indians believe in ghosts, re-birth and the concept of heaven and hell.
As many as 57 per cent of those surveyed say they believe in heaven and hell and 46 per cent believe in ghosts. Sociologist Dipankar Gupta is not surprised. "Life throws up certain questions that nobody can answer — only religion tries to answer them. Science can’t answer questions like what is the beginning of the beginning. Modernity and religion need not be contradictory. Isaac Newton was a firm believer in alchemy and Galileo was a devout Catholic all his life," Gupta points out.
Tarot card reader Ma Prem Usha agrees. "We are limited in our thinking and perceptions. What you do not know is always more fascinating. There are some things that come easily to people, without any prior experience. It has something to do with another life for sure."
For the record, half the people polled follow sun signs and 44 per cent believe in reincarnation. Diana Taylor, 48, a high-flying American executive, left a career in food retail in California to head for India after she read Autobiography of a Yogi.
Today, in her new avatar as Daya, she propagates the message of Paramhansa Yogananda at the Ananda Sangha ashram in Gurgaon. "There is so much that science has not yet discovered. And reincarnation could be one of those things," she says.
Indian Rationalist Association president Sanal Edamaruku, 51, says heaven and hell have become mainstream popular myths. "What has astonished me is that despite all the ghosts on television and the irrational occult programming, more than 56 per cent still don’t believe in it. That is reason for hope."