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The Babas of India Are Here to stay

Frequently, at the beginning of women’s periods, a situation arises in which bleeding starts when they are in their house’s must pure and sacred location . Generally those areas which are forbidden—like the kitchen while cooking, or the puja room while cleaning it ,or some other similar pure place where women are not meant to be at that time of the month .In the first days of the bleeding one doesn’t lay a hand on anything in the kitchen at all but this is a cycle which happens every month, and it isn’t in your hand at all. So if any such incident has happened to you during the entire year, there is one day to deliver you from your ‘paapbodh’, your sense of sin, the day of the Rishi Panchami…   

The video in which i heard this statement begin made by a baba was featured on one of the top three hindi news channels on television . I watched the video and others featuring the baba on YouTube . The name of the channel isn’t important here because all news channel on television and websites in all languages ,with the exception of NDTV India, feature programmes like these—form horoscopes to ‘instructional’ video like the one I watched . My intention is to examine what is said on these programs, what has changed in them over time, and the vexations of our age which they reflect . I am trying to understand the scriptural knowledge quoted and recommended ba Baba—the sage in the You Tube video —through the eyes of those women who are trying to break the many pre-conceived nation about periods and menstruation . 

       On the surface , it is easy to see how the colorful babas who feature on these news channel are digging out old superstitions and re-establishing them in modern contexts . Yet they are shrewd and intelligent too . They aren’t among us to foment revolution, to go back into the past and reclaim the ‘golden age of yoga or Ayurveda’. rather, these babas are master salesmen who are padding a single cure for the one hundred and eight ills which afflict human beings—and, in the process, building their personal financial empires . Thus, single-minded devotion to tradition will not serve their purpose, and so these babas give as generous a space to modernity as they do to those nonsensical ideas within modernity which masquerade as tradition . More on this later . 

       The critics of television have focused all their energies on the ills which affect prime-time news programs that are broadcast in the evening .  A major strand in these programs is the question of women’s security and what can be done to ‘liberate’ women within our city-spaces. What has escaped most of these critics is the crowd of these influential astrologer-anchors who populate the morning prime-time segments, in there clothes and demeanor that are customized for society, especially women .        

       The question of whether astrology is itself valid or invalid is now past debate . Barring one or two people,I don’t know anyone who doesn’t consult an astrologer as routinely as they would a doctor . It clearly has an iron grip .

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In comparison to babas who boardcast in Hindi, those who do so in English are a class apart . In place of daily horoscopes, they peddle life management pills to harried costumers . Interviews with English-speaking babas look upon Hindi-speaking ones with contempt . When a poor person takes refuge with a baba for the sake of spiritualism, it becomes superstition; when the rich take refuge with their babas for the sake of spiritualism, it becomes a stress-management course. 

After Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan, the head of the Dera Sacha Sauda of Sirsa, Haryana, was sent to jail after being convicted on two counts of rape, written in many places that it is only poor people who come under the influence of babas. That’s nonsense. Rich people and the middle class have thrown up babas like Gurmeet too. The only difference is that they speak in English and peddle aloe Vera juice. 

In contemporary India, political leaders and ministers conduct secret pujas which cost lakhs of rupees. No one talks about this expenditure which remains unrecorded either by PAN cards or Aadhaar numbers. Our political class is the biggest guardian of superstition. From cricketers to distinguished members of society, everyone is a guardian of blind belief. So no one should call the supporters of Ram Rahim’s Dera in Sirsa an army of ignorants. It is nonsense, too, to say that news channels are responsible for the birth and proliferation of babas. It would be more correct to say that babas have their own channels via which they communicate with the public. There are many other information channels too on which newer varieties of babas keep rising. Babas have their own websites and social media teams. And all babas are astrologers , and vice versa, which gives them many other platforms. There is fierce competition among the programme astrology programmes on Hindi channels. Each is a brand in its own right. But to come back to the YouTube video and Baba who dispensed advice to menstruating women. Many of the episodes of that particular programme which Baba hosts carry the tagline: ‘Find out how to get money that will last seven lifetimes. ‘Crores of Indians live their entire lives below the poverty line. Those above the line too struggle as hard. To tell them that they will receive money that will last seven lifetimes is not rocket science—who will not be tempted to watch? On his show, Baba claimed that if one keeps a regular fast of sixteen days over sixteen years for the goddess Mahalakshmi, one will gain an uninterrupted supply of wealth. This was a fast he too kept during his hard times, he said. What I couldn’t understand was whether uninterrupted wealth came into his life after the coming of television or because he kept the fast. He described rich people, saying that they behave in this way, or that way, and still they are prosperous. Then, deftly avoiding calling rich people corrupt, he said that they must have kept the fast for Mahalakshmi in one of their births because of which they had become prosperous in their present life. It was obvious that Baba knew how most of the rich and the prosperous become so in this country and, after all, everyone has an eye on the benefits which  can seerue from such people .

What I liked was that while announcing the daily forecast, Baba mentioned, first of all, a suitable time for lovemate. What he did issue instructions on was when lovemates should visit temples, when they should feed Brahmins and priests, and when they should serve the The Babas of India Are Here to stay can accrue from such people. men and women to ‘propose’ to the opposite sex. He understood that given the traditions and culture in which people of this country have been kept entangled, they should be given allowances to love, and so he used those same traditions to declare the best time to ‘propose’. In many of the videos, the suitable time was 5 a.m. So if anyone wanted to make a declaration of their love, they had better set an alarm before going off to sleep. Baba had also coined a new word: ‘lovemate’. This word different and modern from ancient-sounding words like ‘Romeo’ and ‘love jihad’. Baba frequently used the word in the singular. From the word lovemate it would seem that he was talking about two people, but it turned out that Baba was talking about just one lovemate per sun sign. Baba never recommended that a Leo should go here or there for an assignation with his Sagittarian is; permute . what he did issues instructions on ws when lovemates should visit tempales, when they should feed Barhmins and priests, and when they should serve the

elderly. In our society, lovers who choose each other on their won are looked upon as being arainst prevalent  culture, as a pair who do not heed their parents’ wishes. their own are looked upon as being against prevalent Baba rechristened these pairs lovemates and not only recommended them auspicious times for love but also instructed them to serve their parents, neatly pairing modernity with tradition. I liked this word lovemate. Now, at the very least, what canoodling pairs can do when seized by the anti-Romeo squads out to stop men and women from coming together in public, is to tell them, ‘We are lovemates. Baba on TV instructed us, and so we’re here to serve the elderly. your batons, take this prasad and get lost. But if the lovemates are only to serve the elderly, only god knows when they would find time to ‘love’ or to ‘mate ! On one show Baba told Piscean lovemates that they should tour places of religious significance that day. How wished I could watch other shows hosted by Baba, to find out if he recommended that lovemates visit the cinema, or restaurants, or the Nehru, Lohia or Deendayal Parks. In one show he told Sagittarian lovemates that on that day they should take a bath and afterwards offer Datura to Lord Shiva. By doing so, their relationship would become even tenderer. I am convinced that Baba even tells lovemates when and how to shampoo their .hair. In one episode, he told leso that they could go out with their partners for a romantic dinner. I jumped with joy. See, I told myself, these babas on television cannot will indeed go out on romantic dinners—even though romantic dinners are not part of the common cultural Aquarian doctors to treat patients for free that day; doing The Babas of India Are Here to Stay episode, he told Leos that they could go out be against modernity. They know that their consumers imagination in India. It was all one more excellent of bringing modernity and tradition together, I thought, and an effective way to keep a toe in all waters. Baba also recommended that Leos should eat vitamins to improve immunity. By Bajrang Bali, I swear that I heard this statement with my own ears and typed it with my own fingers. I didn’t know that our great scriptures of astrology scriptures actually recommended antibiotics, and vitamins! Shut down our medical colleges! At the beginning of each show, he also gives out the most auspicious time to conduct a Caesarean Section-perhaps there’s a huge market for auspicious times for Caesarean Sections. After all, each one wants a child in his or her own household who will go on to become famous so that every time they want a selfie, a ready celebrity can be found at home who wants to rush off to an airport or a hotel each time? And on one episode, Baba advised So would give them professional success.

Baba also laid a great deal of stress on office politics, promotions and the like in his prognostications. From this, one can understand the limited and worthless context in which a common Indian views his office and workplace. Promotions, personal pride and ego seem to be the only acceptable categories. Then, on one episode, ‘change in shift’ was a new category that was added. He told Librans that their shift timings might change, and inconvenience them. But honestly, shifts change for employees in lakhs of offices throughout India. People have brought astrology even into this. He might say on one particular day that Geminis should keep their business plans secret. On the same day he might recommend to Sagittarians that a partnership in business might be beneficial to them. What I didn’t understand was if, on that particular day, a Gemini could enter into a partnership with the Sagittarian for, after all, Baba had tipped the Gemini to keep his plans secret. One day, Baba confused me. He declared that no auspicious task should be performed 12 minutes before and 12 minutes after 2.18 a.m. on 27 August. This is an inauspicious time, he warned. For a long time I kept thinking about who would be performing an auspicious task at this hour. Was Baba hinting at sex? No no, that couldn’t be. And if something hasn’t been clearly spelt.

out, why think along those lines at all? But who could be performing an auspicious task in the dead of the night, that too at 2.18 a.m.; what could that task be—I was thinking about all of this when Baba said that today, you should face in the southeasterly direction and take a pledge to free yourself from doubt and suspicion. Decide that you should not doubt, or suspect, at all. As soon as I took the pledge I was freed of the question of what that auspicious task might be which could not be performed 12 minutes before and 12 minutes after 2.18 a.m. on 27 August. The category I found most important in his daily forecast was the ‘Yayi Zayad Yog’. We all know that legal cases in India drag on for a long time. Not everyone has luck like Gurmeet Singh’s, for whom a verdict arrived after fifteen long years. There are many who don’t see verdicts arrive within their lifetimes and fall prey to injustice in the very exercise of seeking justice. There is no injustice in India greater than the process of filing and fighting legal cases. But Baba, under the aegis of the ‘Yayi Zayad Yog’, instructs when an application ought to be filed, when one should meet with a lawyer and when arguments should be put forward in court. Hardly any person making the rounds of the courts will not pause to listen to Baba recommending suitable times to visit the.

courts. If one can wait for hours at a bus stop to find transport to the courts, how hard is it to pause briefly in front of a television set? This is India, after alla chief justice breaks down on camera and cries while asking for the number of judges in the judiciary to be increased. If judges themselves are weeping, how can litigants not? Baba saw an opportunity and expanded his market. On one episode, Baba instructed that the ‘Yayi Zayad Yog’ would fall that night between 8.10 p.m. and 12.37 a.m. I fell into a tizzy; the courts would be closed at that time! But Baba cleared my suspicion in the very next line when he said, ‘I know courts remain closed at this time but you can go meet your lawyers. You can discuss your case with them? Imagine: If the Yayi Zayad Yog was to fall between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m., lawyers would sleepwalk through their cases the following day. Every day, astrology is expanding its sphere of influence to encompass all the myriad problems of Indian society. There is something special about India’s Problems—what must have happened is that in some bygone age, these Problems must have drunk the special elixir of immortality and become eternal. They will never be solved, whether Manmohan Singh comes to power or Narendra Modi. Obviously, astrology is the only way to distract people from the Problems.

I am taken aback by the proliferation of these astrology programmes on television. Just as weather bulletins dominated by women anchors tell us the state of the weather in different cities across India, so do these programmes report the time when the evil influence of the planet Saturn will affect cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bhopal, Lucknow, Kolkata, Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. Why leave out Patna and Jaipur, I wonder. There are different fixed categories of what astrology will dictate how one’s day will turn out-a grand day; a fantastic day; a good beginning is indicated; a normal day; a favourable day; a day that will bring golden moments; a day that will bring new gifts; a special day. India is a country where people depend predominantly on astrology-just at the economy depends predominantly on agriculture. That is our reality. There are those who don’t believe in astrology, sure, but they are so few in number that they probably know each other personally. Study those babas on television. A Gurmeet Singh does not become a Baba Ram Rahim only in Sirsa, he can become one anywhere in India. At any time. All that is needed is for someone to innovate a Kaalchakra show, for someone to manufacture an oil that promotes hair growth, for someone to write a book on success, promote it and make it a hit. In our times, various kinds of Gurmeet Ram Rahims are available in different kinds of packages. Don’t take it to heart. This is India. These babas are us—the same as you and I.

(Source : The free voice p. 152-166,  2019)

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