It is said that there is a pattern to the way one behaves in an unfamiliar environment. The most evident is the way people use the mini-bar and packaged snacks while staying in a hotel room — which is exactly why they are grossly overpriced.
I too fall prey to a perfectly predictable yet irrational behaviour during my short stays — the urge to watch television news non-stop, whenever I am in the room. And that is how I got involved in this rather curious turn of events, from a hotel room in Lucknow.
In flipping through the channels, my eyes and mind caught attention of a loud, free-for-all discussion on Star News where a group of saffron clad “gurus” were trying to scream over an equally loud bunch of grey and light-blue clad gentlemen. Hooked in with such a mesmerising scene, I settled down to watch the proceedings.
It soon emerged that the motley group consisted of a bunch of spiritual babas and some rationalists pitted on a timeless argument of miracles, superstition, science, and atheism. Just when I was missing some finger food to go with the experience, I realised this was a one-off, never-before discussion!
Everybody on the panel, be it a yogi, godman, baba, acharya, scientist, rationalist, journalist, know-all, psychologist, and I-don’t-know-what — were all in perfect agreement on the topic at hand: “Nirmal Baba is a fraud and fake” and that he ought to be taken to task “for fooling and looting his innocent followers”.
Yet, with that basic agreement in place, the debate continued — and I kid you not — for over an hour. The issue seemed to stem from the non-Babas refusing to stick within the purview of the script and insisting on calling all spades as spade.
To say that the proceedings was hilarious would be a major understatement. The Babas were very clear to the agenda at hand — they were there to shout at the top of their voices and make it very clear that Nirmal Baba was a “dhongi” and a cheat. While leaving no stone unturned to state that obvious fact, they wished to also use the viewership to make a point of how the rest of them — more importantly on an individual basis — were the real deal.
Much to the chagrin of the saffron-clad (and some in white too) the scientist, psychiatrist, journalist, and more so the rationalist seemed to mix issues. They just wouldn’t stick to the script and began making sweeping all-encompassing allegations that all the Babas were fake and looting the gullible.
When polite pleas of “aaj hum sab Nirmal Baba ko dhongi karaarne yahaan aaye hain, aap doosron ke baraime na bole” fell on deaf ears, the babas resorted to sharing knowledge the way they knew best: “Vigyan jhoot hain, aap jhoot hain“.
And when even after that the opposition did not simmer down, one of the Babas shouted, “aap bewakoof hain“. And when that too did not have the desired effect, the Brahmasthra of admonitions “aap bewakoof gadhe hain” was let loose.
This continued right through the hour, where each baba took the opportunity to clearly support the movement of calling Nirmal Baba a fake and a fraud — even presenting fresh evidence to that effect, while vehemently opposing any move to include any other Baba/Guru in that radar.
Just when all hell was breaking loose, the newscaster (I can’t get myself to call her a moderator) announced that the time was up and that the topic would remain inconclusive. Of course, in comparison Arnab Goswami’s Indo-Pak debate panels looked amateurish.
Not to be outdone, India Tv jumped into the fray the next day with “the largest ever panel on tv” — again a hue of saffron, white, and nondescript colours filled the screen. Different and a larger panel, to the same effect — all the god-men insisting that Nirmal baba was a cheat while they individually (and at few occasions, collectively) were God’s gift to mankind.
One of the rationalists lost the plot yet again, when he called ALL babas, gurus, and godmen fake. For good measure and to ensure people got his message, he threw in Ramdev and Ravishankar’s name too. It had more than the desired effect.
Even the host quickly backed away from this controversy that was pulling in some of the biggest brands of neo spiritualism in India into the discussion. Every baba too opposed this inclusion of the two Meta Gurus, while reiterating that they personally were the real thing, and were there to share their views on the one fake guy.
One more panelist asked Yogi Ashwini to perform a miracle right then and there – to the millions of “janatha janardhan” watching the “national television”. Yogi Ashwini instead chose to brandish some “certificates” stating he had powers, saying he had no need to demonstrate it now.
Post some further provocation — one of the other panelists showed an additional set of papers alleging that the Yogi’s certificates were fake — the Yogi announced, “main moorkhonke saamne chamatkar nahin dikhata“. On being asked “aap janatha janardhan ko moorkh keh rahe hain,” he had a final clarification for the rationalist — “main aap ko moorkh keh rahaa hoon“.
What summed up this discussion and this issue for me is the reality one of the Babas stated on the show. Loosely translated, he said, “no matter what each of us have said, and we have repeatedly proven that Nirmal Baba is a fraud, this is going to have zero impact on his followers. The followers believe him because they want to believe in him, and nothing that any of us says is going to make any impact”.
Sadly, I agree totally with this “godman”.
For most of us, it may be evident that Nirmal Baba is a fraud, a parody of a psychic even. One look at some of his interactions with his followers makes it clear who the joke is on. People are asked if they ate a dhokla, or wear a triangular bathroom chappal, or asked to eat a gol gappa as a remedy for some of their most serious issues.
If this is proof for genuine sixth sense, I clearly am in the wrong profession. The joke is clearly one-sided though, as the Baba who mandates a minimum of 10% commission on his followers’ earnings is laughing all the way to his bank.
As the anonymous quote (attributed to Joseph Dunninger in the magic circles) goes, “for the believers no explanation is necessary, and for the non-believers no explanation is enough”.
The only way to explain this phenomena of people insisting on falling prey and giving away their life’s earnings to these fraud godmen is to think that we humans have an innate need to be gullible. If that is indeed true, we can’t really blame the fake Babas anymore — for they are only serving the people’s need, the need to be fooled.