An idea buzzing in the mind, importunate, seeking expression…
In the run up to the elections several contending parties made a pitch for votes through public rallies at the Parade Grounds in the city. The place had been booked months in advance, but an exception had been made in the case of Baba Gurudev, whose number had been bumped up on popular demand.
The motley crowd of middle class families, business community, youth and religious aspirants waited under the pandals for the holy man to arrive. Satish and Gauri hustled their son and daughter to a middle ground between the business class and the working middle class. An employee of Events Unlimited, owned and operated by Satish, had reserved seats for the family and signaled to Satish to come over and occupy.
Giant fans attached to the supporting poles whirred and blew in a dash of air at the seated crowd. Fluorescent lamps lighted the aisles and flood lamps at the four corners of the ground lit up the ground beyond the pandals. Satish thanked his employee for spotting him and locating seats close to the fans.
“Did you know I was coming,” asked Satish.
“No, Sir,” answered the man, a gray haired retiree from the accounts department. “I saw you entering the grounds and decided to hold some seats for you all.” He emitted an ingratiating smile and drew himself close as though he must allow his employer more space.
“Thank you,” Gauri said to the man, leaning over Satish and switched on a charming smile. I don’t mind standing, but the children, you know, and your Sir, of course, they can’t stand these rallies.“
The man grinned to expose his betel-stained teeth. “I am glad I could be of help, ma’am.” He shrank back as Satish waved his hand as if he had had enough of it. He fidgeted and became impatient at the delay in the arrival of the baba. He looked at his daughter. She tapped her foot on the sandy ground apparently to some music from her iPod in her hand and earphones hidden behind her silky hair. The son had clamped a giant headphones and held a play station in his hands. His fingers moved so fast that Satish had difficulty following their movement. Gauri adjusted her pallu time and again and looked around immensely pleased with herself. Satish could not contain his impatience any more. He dialed a number on his mobile phone and spoke into a device attached to his left ear. He was anxious about landing a contract for which his team had prepared a proposal for submission. Feeling a tap on his lap by Gauri, Satish looked at her in irritation. His eyebrows came together and his teeth bit his lower lip. Gauri made a face and pointed at the dais. Satish concluded his phone call and sighed: “why am I even here, I don’t know!” Gauri merely smiled and watched the scene unfolding on the platform.
Baba Gurudev presented a spectacle of Churchill’s half-naked fakir as he climbed the dais surrounded by loyal acolytes. The ash-smeared forehead, the ochre robe round the loins, the sacred thread across the chest and the long flowing beard – all this evoked the image of the sanyasi. Amidst chants of sacred mantras and the noise from the surging crowds behind the barricades, Gurudev took the centre stage and raised his hand, palm outward, in a blessing, which doubled as a gesture that commanded silence. Without preliminaries, the baba launched into his speech. The crowd settled down quickly and listened to The oratorical magic from the ace of India’s timehonored lineage of holy men.
“We live today in the age of rampant commercialism and utter lack of God in our daily life.” The crowd fell silent as the words weaved a magical spell of authority and divination. “We must work together to revive the tradition of Guru-shishya, learning at the feet of the master, the way of the Upanishads.” A sense of the reverence permeated the crowd at the mention of the holy scripture, the pinnacle of India’s achievements in the knowledge of the unknown and the unknowable. The baba scanned the seated aspirants row by row until everyone sat with their back straight and their tongue tied.
“We have lost our Gurus. We have become poor. We are witness to the drain of India’s heritage from its shores, to its export to the West, leaving behind a smattering of its former glory. The Gurus have headed West, ostensibly to transport the holy message to the far corners of the globe. We have become impoverished as a result of this transportation. In the olden days of the rishis, divine messages were teleported, but today we have lost that faculty. The Gurus have chosen the physical transport instead and carried over our precious jewels and left us impoverished.” The baba paused in his address. An aid issued a clarion call. Another sounded the conch shell.
From the press gallery, cameras flashed often accompanied by a thousand clicks. TV channels streamed the event live. Giant TV monitors hung on poles conveyed the event to those standing at the very edge of the Parade Grounds.
“We need to get our Gurus back, our Kohinoor diamonds, our wealth that is being splurged on masses abroad. Let them come here, the people in the West, and take back according to their capacity, according to their karma. We go to the West for the greenbacks, don’t we? So also, let the West come here to receive the Guru’s message. The wisdom of the East shall remain in the East. The West may borrow it when it so pleases. We have a monopoly over the sacred word, the sacred rites and the sacred techniques since times as old as the hills. Let us come together to make this great nation holy once again. Make holy from the feet of the masters, from the messages of the divine, echoed from this land to the far corners of the world.” The conch shell boomed again and the sound spread to all corners of the Parade Grounds and beyond. The pandals shook in the wind that blew across the attendees and lifted their spirits.
“I have a plan to restore our faith in our scriptures, in reviving the Holy Spirit of this land, so that our Gurus may return to this abode of the God, to this place where He revealed himself through the holy word OM. It is not just for the Gurus who forsook this land for the commercial glory abroad, but also for the many seers and monks and godmen who abound in this land. They too shall find a common ground to preach and further spread their divinity among the luckless zillions of this country.” The baba paused for effect. The silence under the tents was heavy, like a pregnant woman awaiting imminent delivery. The baba looked around at the eager anticipating faces in the crowd. He folded his hands in a namashkar, closed his eyes and stood still. The crowd waited with bated breath.
“I propose the Indian Spiritual League, a forum for bringing the spiritual master and the spiritual aspirant to a common meeting point.” To the loud blaring of the conch shell, the beating of drums and the clarion calls, the baba continued: “this nation shall become the spiritual center for the world, the lighthouse to the flailing seafarers in the ocean of sorrow, the sthal of all holy sthals to initiate the novice, to elevate the apprentice, to levitate the adept and above all to fulfill the hungering soul of every Indian with easy access to the divine treasures.”
Amidst the sounds from the dais, a low clapping started from a corner in the public stands and soon spread to the entire Parade Grounds. The waving roofs and the supporting poles echoed the clapping sound as it rose in pitch and intensity. Baba Gurudev raised his folded palms above his head in reciprocation. Two people broke through the barrier, jumped on the dais and rushed towards the baba. Gurudev visibly disturbed and agitated shrank from the rushing duo and sought succor behind his aids. Even before the security could react, the two men hurled themselves on the dais and prostrated before the baba, their folded hands high in the air, in supplication, seeking blessings.
Gurudev heaved a sigh of relief, dispatched the security with haste, grabbed the mike and said, “I am overjoyed at this response to my proposal. This land shall awaken to a spiritual dawn, the likes of which the world has never seen before. May the gods shower their blessings on you all.”
A band struck up and accompanied by a chorus that sang a kirthan. The crowd began to chant in unison. Baba Gurudev retreated to the back of the stage from where he was whisked away by his aids to his ashram located outside the city.