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Baba, The Black Sheep (standard:other, 5389 words)
Author: JuggernautAdded: Nov 04 2010Views/Reads: 2485/1745Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A story on people that potray themselves as mystics.
 



Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story

man in public for miles, and also he had so many questions in my mind, 
he was not sure with which one to begin with. Juggernaut once mentioned 
about Dhigamram Baba to his father. He said the Baba was just a beggar 
playing silent games with people to get free food. 

In the early seventies, a Baba from North India came to the town on an
invitation from a local wealthy businessman. The Baba set up his office 
in a small upstairs office in the downtown area. Rich people consulted 
the Baba before venturing into any new business or investments. This 
Baba, a kind of present-day financial advisor or analyst, but used 
stars in the sky or read the palm of the investor, and then expressed 
his opinion. Juggernaut's father once sent him along with his rich 
cousin to Analyst Baba since his cousin's investment in tractor 
business was sinking. The Baba took a hard look at his cousin's blank 
face and rubbed his both palms together to signal that his cousin's 
business would end up in ashes and warned him to never venture into any 
new business. Since then, the cousin failed in every business venture 
and ended up as a full-time drunk. Now, this is the kind of inexpensive 
Analyst Baba we need on Wall Street in place of high-priced financial 
planners. 

The words Yogi and Baba are interchangeable, except Baba is generally an
older person whereas Yogi can be of any age. If the person were a 
woman, the term would be Yogini. An older Yogini could be referred to 
as Amma (Mother). A Bala Yogi (a kind of spiritual protégé) was well 
known for living in self-imposed confinement without any food for 
several years in a concrete bunker- like structure on the banks of 
sacred River Godavari in the town of Rajamundry in South India. . Once 
every year, on an auspicious day according to Hindu calendar, Bala Yogi 
came out of his confinement to give a rare appearance to hundreds of 
thousands of his devotees. People who saw him from a distance described 
him as a small delicate man (he was not a child anymore) with long 
flowing gray hair almost touching his buttocks, he struggled and threw 
fits as men carried him from the confinement. His rare annual 
appearance was a big event in the region and nobody ever tried to 
rationalize how anybody could live without food. His devotees carried 
Prasad (gifts of food) to him on the day of public appearance for 
inexplicable reasons since the Bala Yogi don't care for food. When 
Juggernaut was a kid, his grandmother visited one or two of the annual 
events of Bala Yogi's public appearances. On her return, when 
Juggernaut made some childish remarks of disbelief in him, she touched 
her cheeks with both hands crossed, a sign language for forgiveness 
from god. 

One of Juggernaut's cousins never passed in his first attempt any of the
tests from high school to law school. He repeated every final 
examination sometimes three or four times to pass. He was good with his 
hands though, always fixing his motor cycle, a British make. Once he 
shifted the entire steering wheel of his father's car (a Ford 
‘Prefect') from right to left-hand side (as in the United States). When 
the police demanded that he should display boldly “Left Hand Driven 
Vehicle” on the back of the car, he stenciled the words in metallic 
paint neatly. 

Once, a Baba stopped by Juggernaut's cousin house. He was wearing
traditional orange-color loose Baba garb; he made a conical shaped knot 
with the tip dangling from his long flowing hair at the top of his 
head, and his long beard was well groomed. His orange colored 
loincloth, wooden sandals, and large bead necklace dangling around his 
neck gave him dignified appearance. Vibudhi (finely ground limestone 
powder) was applied amply on his forehead and shoulders, a sign of 
disregard to worldly things. He seemed well fed. He spoke in Hindi; a 
Northern Indian language indicating that he was visiting South India. 
After some chat about his powers as a Baba, he predicted that the 
cousin would pass the test he took at Law School recently. The cousin, 
notorious for failing each subject several times, took Baba's words 
lightly. This infuriated the Baba so much so, he started chanting few 
verses in ‘Sanskrit' (an ancient Indian language) while dancing in a 
circular motion. He claimed that he took a life-long celibacy to 
concentrate his thoughts (which otherwise could be distracted easily) 
to obtain the powers in predicting future events. Then, to our total 
bewilderment, he pushed his hand into his under clothing and pulled out 
a four inch diameter copper ring that was pierced through the foreskin 
of his penis, a kind of self-castration to make his penis unusable. He 
said he was not an ordinary Baba but a true lifelong Brahmachari (a 
person who commits lifelong-true celibacy in pursuit of spirituality). 

This spectacle shocked everybody. The Baba collected a handsome
‘dakshen' (monetary gift) and walked away in dignity, chanting some 
more verses in Sanskrit. The test results came after few days and the 
cousin failed as usual in all the subjects including criminal 
psychology. What made Juggernaut sad was the unnecessary hope the Baba 
created in cousin's mind. The whole episode was a hoax. Perhaps the 
Baba repeated his trick again and again for his livelihood and created 
false hope in the minds of vulnerable people. 

Subramanian never attended school on a regular basis. He earned money
scalping tickets at movies for money. His accountant brother financed 
his education to some extent and then eventually let his brother choose 
his way of living. Though Subramanyam did not like school, he knew he 
needed some skills to make living. So, he learned how to fix sewing 
machines and things of that nature. Eventually, he landed a good job in 
the sewing-machine manufacturing company. He married a girl who sang 
Bajans (Hindu religious songs) like nobody else could. People praised 
her voice and compared it to ‘Kokila' a bird known for its 
extraordinary singing voice. Subramanyam was always learning new 
skills. This time, he learned how to play pillumgori or Indian flute 
made from local hollow bamboo. He played flute while his wife sang 
Bhajans at Puja (Hindu prayer) and other religious gatherings. 
Subramanyam could not hold a job for any length of time. His 
absenteeism from work due to drinking caused him to lose his job 
several times. He drank Kallu, a local cheap alcoholic drink brewed 
from Toddy Palm tree sap and got addicted to it. Eventually, 
Subramanyam became permanently unemployed. From singing Bhajans full 
time, his wife earned money to support her family. 

People paid very little for listening to Bhajans. So Subramanyam came
out with the idea of a total makeover for his wife to change her to 
yogini or spiritual woman. She wore the Indian garb ‘Sari', in shades 
of color yellow, orange, or red. She applied turmeric paste (made from 
yellow-colored ground turmeric plant-roots) to her face and feet to 
look yellow- a color of holiness for Hindus. A large round red colored 
dot or tiluk, she placed at dead center of her forehead enhanced her 
spiritual looks. She decorated her neck with a few wooden bead 
necklaces and rubbed ashes abundantly on her arms. This entire makeover 
gave Subramanyam's wife a true look of yogini. She called herself 
yogini and so did her husband. The entire community called her yogini 
from there onwards. 

Subramanayam made up the gigs and his yogini wife performed them
wonderfully. For example, at their home, they placed a brass container 
called Hundi to collect money at the end of the puja , and encouraged 
visitors to drop money in it with a promise that it would be carried 
personally to a large temple a few hundred miles away to give to god as 
dakshen. Since many people could not afford to travel that far away, 
they chose to drop money in the Hundi at yogini's house. When the 
collections in the Houndi at their home started running dry, they 
started a town-wide collection campaign, street by street. Yogini while 
walking sang the Bhajans with the brass container in her hand. 
Subramanyam held an umbrella over her head to protect her from the sun 
or rain. They picked auspicious days and an appropriate tiny-sized 
Hindu deity (made from clay, copper, or brass) to carry with them on 
their road march. He promised that money dropped in the brass container 
would go to the intended deity. 

Jatharas or religious annual processions carrying an idol of a village
goddess were common in many villages in South India. In the procession, 
a few women, invariably threw fits as if possessed and danced in frenzy 
from drinking local brew and to music of heavy drumbeats. People 
interpreted this as not a regular fit (medical seizure) but a kind of 
religious fit or Punakam and the goddess was trying to convey a message 
through the woman. While going through fits or Punakam, the person 
spoke out loud of what would happen if her demands such as a bag of 
rice, new clothes, or other goods were not met. People splash cold 
water on the women in fits to calm her down and then presented her with 
whatever they had. 

Subramanyam certainly might have gotten some cue from village jatharas
and trained his wife how to start throwing fits or punakam in more a 
mild and respectable manner. For example, at the end of puja, his wife 
yogini threw fits as if she were in communication with God. While 
singing and dancing, she made demands for groceries or clothes for her 
family, but nothing fancy. She claimed that until her demands were met, 
the Puja they had performed was unworthy. People calmed her down by 
sprinkling water on her and gave some gifts. Some people stopped 
inviting them to puja from fear of yogini throwing fits and demanding 
gifts. 

Somehow, Subramanyam and his yogini wife managed their lives with two
kids performing these gigs. In each town, they lived not more than one 
or two years until they ran out of believers. Only the relatives knew 
how the Subramanyams made their living. Many relatives warned yogini 
about their way of living, but yogini had no choice; she had to support 
her two children and an unemployed husband addicted to toddy liquor. 

After several years, yogini along with her children left her husband to
live with her parents, at least temporarily. During that time, 
Subramanayam died silently in his sleep with his flute resting on his 
chest. It was sad to hear of his death. He was always remembered for 
his flashing smile after playing a few Indian tunes on his flute for 
the devotees of his wife. 

Unlike poor relatives of Juggernaut, Mr. Ragahavan was a highly paid
certified accountant for an American fertilizer company. He had no need 
to earn extra cash by playing Baba. He did performed weekly puja at his 
home and invited friends and acquaintances. What was unusual with Mr. 
Raghavan was that while performing puja, he sometimes got stiff and 
motionless; not even his eyes blink for several minutes as if he was 
possessed, then he became suddenly normal with a broad smile as if he 
just returned from an unknown trip, spiritual in nature. Some of his 
invitees carried pumpkins to his house as gifts on puja day, since he 
used pumpkin as a means through which he received messages from god. 
Though he didn't want to be called Baba, people called him Pumpkin 
Baba. At the end of puja, some attendees would ask questions about 
their future and Pumpkin Baba, using a sword, would try to touch the 
pumpkin but for some mysterious reasons, the pumpkin wouldn't stay put 
and slowly moved away from the sword. This he interpreted as difficult 
times ahead for the person in distress who asked the question. After a 
few years, Mr. Raghavan left town overnight. Apparently, the Fertilizer 
Company dismissed Mr. Raghavan for fraudulent accounting practices. 
Just like his accounting trickery that took years for the company to 
catch up, someone may come up with explanation for Mr. Raghavan's 
pumpkin trick. 

Mr. Pandey lost his father and moved into his parents' large house with
spacious airy bedrooms. After a few months, the troubles started. His 
children got seriously sick and he was overwhelmed with financial 
problems. Everything was dandy for so long while his father was alive 
and suddenly things went downhill for him. He called a Baba to find out 
the reasons for their misfortune. The Baba, after thorough inspection 
of the house just like a building inspector, made calculations of his 
own according to vaastu (ancient Hindu science based on orientation of 
rooms, location of doors and windows, and other fixtures in relation to 
the sun, the moon, and other celestial bodies), and then declared that 
the house was not built according vaastu. He advised Mr. Pandey to 
immediately vacate the section of the house he was occupying and move 
to the other section (used as storage rooms). The Baba cautioned 
Pandeys never to live in that first section since it brought all the 
misfortunes to them. 

The section of the house Mr. Pandey moved into, a storage area did not
get natural breezes at all. Since the house was not air-conditioned, 
like the houses in most towns, it was hot like hell, particularly in 
summer at temperatures well above 115˚F. And during the rainy 
season the humidity was well over 110 percent. It was a disaster for 
Pandey's family. In addition to financial and health problems, now they 
were living in a hellhole. What was worse, the large bed rooms with 
natural breezes his parents occupied in the past were now used as 
storage rooms collecting dust. During a visit to Pandey's home, sitting 
in a room like an oven, Juggernaut asked him for more details for 
moving in to the stuffy storage rooms. He said that vaastu was bad on 
the other side according to the Baba, so they moved out. “How about 
your parents who lived in that section of the house for almost forty 
years without any problems?” asked Juggernaut. 

“It was the accumulated bad luck of forty years, I am paying for it
now,” said Pandey, clearing his eyebrows from pouring sweat. Juggernaut 
was dumbfounded and left Pandey to sweat it out. 

The real problems they faced were the sudden loss of income from death
of Pandey's father and nothing to do with vaastu or anything to do with 
celestial influence on the inhabitants of the house as reasoned by the 
vaastu Baba. The younger Pandey, throughout his entire adult life, had 
no job and lived off his parents' wealth. When the income dried up 
after his father's death, the realities kicked in and the Vaastu became 
a scapegoat for his own shortcomings. 

Implementing vaastu became a cottage industry in India since scores of
houses were built every year. A Baba that advises people based on 
vaastu was then in great demand. Baba made calculations and worked with 
the contractor or the architect to design the house according to vaastu 
before the house was built, like a City or County Zoning Regulations 
except vaastu code cannot be challenged in court. People were willing 
to pay a hefty fee for Baba rather than suffer later the unforeseen 
happenings. A slogan on a Vastu Baba storefront read: “Consult Vaastu 
Now and Save Money Later.” And another read: “Build your home according 
to Vaastu to avoid expensive remodeling costs later.” When Juggernaut 
saw sign boards like that during his recent visit to our town, it 
reminded him of the Global Positioning System using Satellites (GPS) 
that scientists back in the United States use in locating objects on 
earth. The vaastu Baba in India used a kind of GPS without the aid of 
satellites to design homes for the safety of its inhabitants - safety 
from bad luck with no consequence to physical comfort or safety. 

The resale value of existing homes depended upon if the homes were built
according to vaastu. A prospective home buyer would hire a vaastu Baba 
prior to building inspector to walk through the house to make sure 
whether the house was built according to the vaastu or not. Compliance 
to vaastu rules was more important than the quality and safety of the 
house construction. If the house failed to meet vaastu, a Baba 
recommends cosmetic changes such as installing a window or door with no 
practical use or real purpose but just to comply with vaastu, to give 
peace of mind to the occupants, and keep up the resale value of 
existing-homes. 

Years ago, while working as an instructor in chemistry in a small town
in Southern India, Juggernaut lived in what was originally a single 
house but converted to a duplex by a thin brick wall built right 
through the center of the house. The house, on the outskirts of the 
town, was surrounded by tall palm trees, scores of them, and the under 
brush served as a public latrine for the people in the surrounding area 
who did not have in-house plumbing, a luxury in those days. The house 
in which Juggernaut lived did not have in-house plumbing either, but an 
outhouse served the tenants. Juggernaut enjoyed living in one of the 
duplexes until a retired District Superintendent of Police (DSP) moved 
with his family into the vacant duplex. 

After several days the DSP moved in, during the middle of the night, a
sudden shriek like laughter of a girl woke Juggernaut up. It was a 
frightening long drawn-out laugh, he felt like sitting in a horror 
movie with his eyes closed. She could be the new neighbor's daughter 
laughing, perhaps she was mentally ill. Juggernaut heard voices to calm 
her down. 

To use the outdoor latrine, Juggernaut had to walk past the deep- water
well that supplied water to the tenants. The water well was not a 
bore-well, but a typical circular (at least six feet diameter) well 
with a concrete or brick wall rising above ground (four-feet) for 
safety. This kind of well was very common in South India, used for 
centuries for water supply to individual homes or communities. Using a 
small steel bucket attached to a rope, water is drawn from the well 
since the water table is shallow (around ten feet) in the area. 

Late at night, Juggernaut avoided the use of the latrine, particularly
during rain. Darkness, shadows and the sounds from the movement of the 
palm trees scared him easily. If he couldn't hold it until the morning, 
he did go to the latrine late at nights. One night, Juggernaut opened 
the back door and walked toward the latrine with flashlight in hand. A 
girl was trying a balancing act of walking on six-inch thick wall of 
the water well. Juggernaut heart stopped ticking and froze. The 
inclination to relieve himself stopped abruptly from the sudden fear 
factor. He ran to the front of the house and knocked on the DSP's door 
and told him that his daughter was in danger of falling into the well 
in the backyard. The next day, the DSP did not say anything, not a 
word, about the incident. It was like a secret they want to kept to 
themselves about their daughter's mental illness, if that were the 
reason for her behavior. 

A few months passed and Juggernaut got used to the occasional
shriek-like laughs. One day while sitting on his verandah correcting 
some of his students' papers, a constable visiting his old boss (DSP) 
came by, asking for a cigarette. And while smoking in a matter-of- fact 
way, he said that DSP's eldest daughter suffered from schizophrenia and 
her doctor husband lived in Ireland. It was sad to hear the retired 
DSP's family story from his loyal constable. 

One night, Juggernaut heard a commotion in DSP's house at almost mid
night. The DSP knocked at Juggernaut's front door and asked if he could 
visit his duplex to participate in a Puja (Hindu religious prayer). In 
a sleepy mood, Juggernaut swaggered into his house and in total 
surprise recognized (from pictures) Amma, or spiritual woman, in person 
sitting on a chair surrounded by few devotees. Amma was famous in that 
region for her spiritual healing of people with all kinds of aliments. 
She has thousands of devotees; her place of living and prayer (Asram) 
was a few hundred miles from the town. What was astonishing was for her 
to visit her devotee in the middle of the night, unannounced. The DSP 
and his family were flabbergasted by her visit and were topsy- turvy to 
serve her and her entourage that came in several cars. That was the 
first time, Juggernaut was invited into DSP's house. The girl who stood 
on the deep water well some days ago looked pale, very thin, and almost 
expressionless. The DSP's family conducted prayers along with Amma's 
entourage. At the end of puja every devotee prostrated in front of 
Amma's feet in humility as a symbol of respect to her. Juggernaut was 
little bit hesitant at the beginning. Realizing this, Amma in a 
motherly tone made him do it anyway. The DSP was a dedicated devotee of 
Amma and the reason he came to this town after his retirement was to 
live in this area close by Amma's ashram for blessings and more 
importantly for spiritual treatment for his schizophrenic daughter. 
During the midnight hours, in a glittering pure silk sari, and pure 
gold, diamond, ruby, and emerald jewelry, Amma really looked like a 
million-dollar woman. Her entourage was more like her security detail 
than her devotees. As quickly as she appeared, she left after the Puja, 
like the visit of a high-ranking politician to her home constituency. 

After six or eight months, the DSP and family packed up and left. The
constable, who helped them pack, told me that they decided to go to 
their native town hundreds of miles away. Apparently, the DSP was 
disappointed with Amma's spiritual treatment of his daughter, or lack 
of it. 

After several years, Juggernaut came to know that Amma suffered a heart
attack and later died. In fact one of Juggernaut's uncles, a 
cardiologist, had treated her. Amma, while providing spiritual healing 
to her believers received handsome dakhen (money rewards) and used it 
in part to pay for her own high-tech heart treatment. It is a kind of 
spiritual recycling of money and services that benefited nobody in the 
end, neither the provider nor the receiver. Her ashram was in deep 
debts even before she died, since she spent a lot of money on expensive 
jewelry and pure silk saris. The ashram was shut down after her death 
and the debtors confiscated the ashram and all her belongings, 
including a fleet of her cars. 

Juggernaut's father-in-law, a retired Chief Engineer a high-ranking
civil servant was a fine gentleman and highly hospitable. One day while 
Juggernaut visiting his father-in-law, a Baba with five of his 
disciples passing in front of the house, stopped, and entered 
hesitantly the front yard. The father-in-law got up from his chair and 
walked into the yard and respectably made a namaskar or salutation to 
the Baba. Baba in return raised his right hand up, palm stretching out 
towards the sky, and then lowered it slowly and let it stay in a 
horizontal position for a few seconds. The father-in-law with his two 
sons invited the Baba and his five disciples into the home with great 
humility. Juggernaut being the only non-believer kept his feelings to 
himself. 

After a brief chat, Baba and his gang sang few Hindu prayer songs to the
delight of all the family members. Juggernaut's brother-in-law rushed 
to a nearby market to fetch banana leaves and fruits, betel leaves and 
nuts, and other knick-knacks as a donation to Baba. The mother-in-law, 
a gracious woman, quickly prepared steamed rice, dahl (mashed-up boiled 
peas), and vegetable curry. On large banana leaves placed on the tiled 
floor in the family room, food was served to Baba and his disciples, 
who all squatted on the floor. Using steamed rice, like civil engineers 
they built small dikes around each dish to prevent food from running of 
the Banana leaf. Using their fingers, they mixed the steamed rice with 
dahl, curry, and yogurt, in that proper order to make slurry and pushed 
it into their mouths with suckling noises. They ate as if they were all 
in some kind of eating competition, under the graceful and watchful 
eyes of the father-in-law. After completing the meal, they made a 
little silent ritual, perhaps praying for a re-visit. They had a tough 
time getting up from their squatting position on the floor, so each 
person had to help each other get on their feet. 

On the front verandah, all the family members received some kind of
blessings from every disciple of Baba. In return, the graceful 
father-in-law gave them traditional dakhen, consisting of a few coins, 
fruits, and betel leaves and nuts. The Baba appeared disappointed, 
perhaps expected brand new pure silk clothes as dakhen as well, but 
that was not in the mind of the father-in-law. For the most part, 
Juggernaut was a silent observer during that event. He saw the 
satisfaction in the eyes of his in-laws as they considered it noble 
cause by feeding six people and perhaps in return obtained some moksha 
or salvation. For Juggernaut, who tries to rationalize every event, it 
was hard to see his mother-in-law feverishly at work making a meal for 
these people, whose background was unknown except for their Baba 
outfits and talent in chanting a few religious prayers. Living away 
from India for so long may be one of the reasons; Juggernaut may look 
at events of this kind from a totally different angle. 

Juggernaut's younger brother-in-law, an engineer by profession, gave him
a ride on his motorbike the next day to a nearby shopping mall. There 
he saw the gang of six walking briskly in their orange-colored garb, 
perhaps searching for the next sumptuous free meal. Where had they 
slept last night? Perhaps in some temple yard or even at a private home 
where some kind people were gracious enough to provide sleeping 
facilities. Juggernaut brought the attention of his brother-in-law 
riding the bike to the gang of six as they passed them. He smiled at 
Juggernaut, knowing his mind and what he was going to say. 

Corporate Baba of the United States was equivalent to Indian Baba in
many ways, except he wears a jacket and tie instead of orange-colored 
Baba garb. According to Hindu mythology, Hindu gods reincarnate once 
every 1000 years. In contrast, to attain corporate Babaship in the 
United States, one had to implement the sixty/forty and six-year 
reincarnation strategy. The sixty/forty rule means, sixty percent of 
time on the job was spent on company projects and forty percent on 
networking to broaden future contacts and job opportunities. A six-year 
cycle of reincarnation meant jumping from one employer to another at 
least once every six years. The first three years on the new job was to 
find faults with the predecessors's work and the remaining three years 
to spend lot of company money on outside consultant buddies. At the end 
of six years, a new cycle of reincarnation began at a new place of 
employment. A total of four to five reincarnations would complete 
anybody's corporate career with fat 401-K and other retirement 
benefits, and with lucrative stock options. Unless an employee 
rigorously implemented the corporate Babaship, the title of corporate 
V.P would not be bestowed. 

The title Baba is comparable to Vice President, President, or any other
titles at a corporation. There is no legitimacy to these titles such as 
doctor, professor, or judge. The corporate Baba in a jacket and tie, 
and the traditional Baba in the typical garb are spin-doctors. They 
twist and turn the information constantly to make it appealing. 


   


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