Godmen and the devout

Khushwant SinghI don’t think there is another country in the world where so many men and women claim divine status and are accepted as such by men and women of high degree, who worship them. I go out of my way to meet them and their followers to find out why this is so. I came to the conclusion that however successful in life, most Indians suffer from a sense of insecurity and look for godmen or godwomen to give them self-assurance.

Of them the only one who spelt out his views was Osho Rajneesh, who conveyed his thoughts in a light, humorous and highly readable prose, and had a large following, consisting of Indians and foreigners. But the most successful of them is Satya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi, who was taken seriously ill earlier this month.

I was eager to meet him but went about it in the wrong way. An American disciple of his who had been in Puttaparthi some years ago and taught in one of the schools or colleges was disillusioned by what happened in the campus, and published his memoirs entitled Lord of the Air.
Sai Baba’s worshippers include several persons of high calibre
Sai Baba’s worshippers include several persons of high calibre Photo: PTI

He mentioned the prevalence of homosexuality and extreme violence. I reviewed the book in one of my columns and earned the disapproval of his followers.

One of his Sikh disciples, a retired Colonel, who lived in Puttaparthi for some years, often wrote to me to persuade me to join him in the worship of Sai Baba. In his last letter to me he told me that he had met my parents, long dead, in a jungle in Kerala. They had pleaded with him to get me to worship Sai Baba. I wondered why my parents did not come to Delhi and talk to me directly?

Sai Baba’s worshippers include several men of high calibre. One was Nani Palkhivala. He had Sai’s photograph at his working desk. My friend retired Air Chief Marshal and later Governor of two states O P Mehra is an ardent follower.

Some years ago, a sadhu who lived on a tree, not far from Delhi, was in the news. People went to be blessed by him. He would lower his right leg and touch their foreheads with his right toe. Amongst those who sought his blessings were Buta Singh, Balram Jakhar and Rajiv Gandhi. His blessings did not do anything good to any one of them.

Of cats and dogs

Some years ago, a cat got round the block of flats in which I live. I ran a Guru ka Langar for cats. Within a few months, there were almost a dozen living off me. Then they discovered that I had a solitary spot in my enclosed verandah. They decided it was good place to deliver their kittens. So for many years I had kittens playing and sleeping in my lap.

All they gave me in return was a purring sound, as if it was enough compensation for giving them a home and feeding them. Cats are matlabi (selfish) creatures. I cooled off towards them and turned to dogs. Reeta Devi Varma, who lives in the neighbouring block, has a flat full of stray dogs. She introduced me to two of them. Both belong to a good pedigree. One is meek and reserved. She calls him Sultan. At first he did not respond to me, nor at anything offered to him by me. I called him Snob.

After some time he became friendly. Now I call him Boy. He sits by my legs and enjoys being stroked. His vision is poor as he has film in his eyes. He likes being stroked, asking for nothing more. The other is a black bitch. We call her Chanchala. She has black eyes, which sparkle like stars. She runs up to me, licks my hand and says bhou, which means: “Can I have some of what you are eating?”

So she has pate cooked in French wine, canapés from Le Meridien, cashewnuts from Goa. When I tell her she has had enough and getting fat, she runs to the kitchen and says bhou, bhou to my cook Chandan and bearer Bahadur. “Your sahib wants some more to share with me.” So they bring some more till Reeta ticks her off and drags her home. They make my evenings pleasant.

Learning angrezi

Ninety years ago when I started to learn English, we had quite a lot of nonsense verses to help us in our task. One went as follows:

ABC, tu kithey gayee see;

Edward mar gaya;

Pittan gayee see

(ABC, where did you go?

Edward died. I went to beat my breast to express my sorrow).  


Why is Afghanistan so poor?

It has to be because the very name of the country’s President is Karzai, which in Urdu means “always in debt.”

To remove poverty, Pakhtoons should either change their President or at least change his name from Karzai to Amirzai.

(Contributed by Jai Dev Bajaj, Pathankot)