Greed, fear, superstition: Why Radhe became our Maa and Asaram our Bapu

Sandipan Sharma August 11, 2015 09:04:02 IST
Greed, fear, superstition: Why Radhe became our Maa and Asaram our Bapu

Somebody offered this wicked gem on twitter: Put Radhe Maa and Asaram Bapu in the same cell. Both parties would be happy.

They belong in the same league, if not the cell. Apart from the roles they have appropriated for themselves--beatific maai-baap to us Indians--both Asumal Sirumalani and Sukhvinder Kaur have a lot in common. They are symbols of a mindset that breeds and feeds fake godmen. Both are beneficiaries of a culture that makes it easy for any Sukhvinder to turn into a merciful Maa of Mumbai and Asumal into Bapu of Bhavnagar.

Why do Indians go to Babas and Maas? Most of the bhakts want something in life, preferably without too much effort or pain: money, fame, job, security, health, marriage, sex, babies et al. These self-anointed messengers of god promise short-cuts and thus attract covetous devotees.

A majority of these Babas/Maas are either service-providers, brokers, networkers or heads of crony clubs that serve each other's interests. Some are more subtle; instead of material desires, they sell yogic postures, natural remedies for ailments ranging from homosexuality to cancer, or peace of mind through lifestyle-mantras masquerading as spiritual wisdom. A rare few, like Rajneesh, offer everything under the sun--from sambhog (sex) to samadhi (enlightenment/nirvana/peace).

Greed fear superstition Why Radhe became our Maa and Asaram our Bapu

Radhe Maa. Agencies

To understand their modus operandi, next time you think of a godman/woman, imagine Don Vito Corleone, or a Bhai, sitting in his chamber, sorting out problems, offering everyone a deal they can't resist. Just replace the clean-cut suit with a saffron langot (loincloth) and tilak, or garish bridal attire with lots of sindoor.

Our sanskars make it easier for these godmen to thrive. The Babas/Maas know that from early on in life, we are taught to bribe god. We have a culture of making offerings in temples, and promising something in return for a divine favour (aashirwaad). They know we Indians believe there is a nostrum for every paap (crime)--take a dip in the holy Ganges; donate 100 cows, 100 gm gold, perform a yajna and divine maafi is guaranteed.

We are suckers for products endorsed by celebrities. If a politician, film star, businessman or sportsman patronises a Baba, success in the market place of bhakti is guaranteed. A Chandraswami goes international when Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao becomes his bhakt and Mahesh Yogi becomes a superstar when the Beatles sing his paeans (and later, on discovering that he made advances to Mia Farrow, deride him as 'Sexy Sadie'). Don't forget, of all the products Sachin Tendulkar sold to us, a godman ranks high up there with soft drinks and energy secrets.

Sukhvinder Kaur doesn't speak, her intellect is suspect, she has no record of slaying a Mahishasur or even a B-grade demon. But the fact that C-grade celebrities like Gajendra Chauhan and Dolly Bindra sit cross-legged in her Mumbai darbar convinces us that the grandmother is Durga Maa.

India is made for Babas and Maas. So, these money-grubbing, sex-obsessed, networkers mushroom in every corner. Taking advantage of our mindset, they run a make-a-wish-and-pay-for-it enterprise. They turn religion into an industry where devotion becomes an euphemism for greed, backroom wheeling and dealing among bhakts a pretext for satsang, and offering to the deity a subterfuge for bribe. Little wonder, all the Maas and Babas start near-broke but end up super rich, owning acres of real estate and retail chains with turnovers into thousands of crores.

Considering that greed begets greed, favour guarantees favour is the defining principle of Indian Babadom and Mataland, it is a little rich of us when we criticise somebody like Radhe Maa for her indulgences--a mini skirt, a jiggy on the floor, a peck on a youngsters cheek.

In all likelihood, from her cave in Mumbai, before she fled from cops, Radhey Maa was running a cosy club where people came to her with their wishlist. "Maa, I am done with character roles in C-grade films, could you please swing that FTII job for me? Maa, all my recent films have bombed. Could you ask one of your bhakts to produce my next film? Ma, I need some money; could you please force our bahu's father to cough up a few more crores?" Is it then so shocking to hear that after satiating the desires of her bhakts, the Maa decides to indulge some of her own?

We expect our Babas and Maas to fulfil our wishes, mostly illegitimate, rinse our sins, help us earn more, cut deals, access free sex in the safety of ashrams and caves and then expect them to remain paragons of virtue, ascetics and celibates. When they are caught chasing some of our desires and dreams, we are outraged enough to denounce them. When we hear that the woman who helped us swing a deal with a bribe paid a fortune to become a Mahamandelashwar of a Juni Akhara, we demonise her as corrupt and vile. When a Ganga of greed is flowing all around, how can Radha be expected to not become maili?

Let us face this. Our godmen and godwomen are one of us, not avatars of Durga or Kabir, they are products of the Indian values and sanskars that shape all of us. We are children of legitimate fear, greed and superstition, the Indian traits that help Asaram and Radhe to become our illegitimate Bapu and Maa.

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