Cocktail of piety and politics : The Tribune India

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Cocktail of piety and politics

Cocktail of piety and politics

Photo for representational purpose only. - iStock file photo



RK Prashar

ONE afternoon in April, I was having a cup of tea on the verandah when the gate of my house clanged open. A woman with a big smile on her face handed me a flyer which carried details of a religious congregation to be graced by a guru in a sports hall. She repeatedly asked me to attend the gathering.

The guru’s name, which was printed on the handbill, rang a bell. A few years ago, I had spotted one of his books that lay on the desk of my colleague, who was his devout follower. As I had quickly browsed it in the colleague’s absence, I perceived that the guru’s writings bore an uncanny similarity to those of Osho Rajneesh.

The venue for the congregation had a festive look. Keen followers from remote hill districts and neighbouring states had already swarmed into the hall. A few stalls busily sold devotional merchandise to avid followers. The organisers, with an air of humility, hustled around discharging their duties.

As I weaved my way into the hall, a chirpy girl helped me to a corner, where I sat reservedly, intently watching the gathering build up. Before the guru had arrived, a saffron-clad, bearded baba, holding a trishul upright with a damru strung around, came out of nowhere. With saintly quietude, he occupied a seat in the front row. A hush fell over the audience when a clutch of local politicians, including a candidate of a major political party in the upcoming elections, arrived a few minutes before the guru’s entry.

The crowd was joyously yammering for the guru’s darshan. Anticipating his arrival, the followers broke into high-pitched singing of bhajans. Lo and behold! The sprightly guru entered the hall amid a deafening applause. Attired in an off-white wrap-around dress, he waved to the adoring crowd and reached the dais.

He had not yet settled down on the couch when the politicians came up the stage and bowed to touch his feet. They huddled together and whispered something to him. They resumed their seats, visibly happy with the guru’s tacit electoral blessings.

The goings-on did not strike a chord with me, nor was there any palpable mystical aura about the guru. An exchange of pious platitudes between him and a posse of followers was followed by a Q&A session, during which he gave hopelessly unimpressive answers to mundane questions.

By then, I had concluded that the congregation was a heady mix of piety and politics. Before it became too horrible to bear, I walked out in a huff, pitying the people who fell prey to such humbug.


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