Bothered by the Baba

Baba Ramdev and the sants: Click through to the Outlook article

He has been a bother for me, and he bothered me last week. My wife has been trying for months to get me to do his pranayama, and thus be cured of diabetes. I have burnt many calories fending off her entreaties. I have seen Ramdev only on television, seconds at a time, sometimes in admiration, but more often I've been suffocated by his garrulity‚ and his hyperactivity. In sum, I've tried to keep him out of my mind but these last two weeks I've joined everybody else, and tossed my opinions to twitter when union ministers went to the airport to dissuade him from fasting, and retweeted outrage when the police cleared him out.

They could have let him be, allowed his tamasha to unravel him. He and the sants on stage don't appear credible one bit. Their grins betray a rajas that has surfaced in all of them, and they are as competitive as any corporate character. None seem to be an exception though in one picture the Pejawar-Shree is frail and lost and wistful for something. He still seems venerable, but he has arrived on the wrong altar. I am cynical of the crowds at the feet of these hirsute men. Have all of them paid the taxes they owe? Are they sure they aren't hiding their own tiny bundle of black money? Have they tempted anyone with bakshish when they needed to bend a rule? And, if they should come into riches, will they pay our state its due, to our state beneath which well-mapped channels have grown robust, through the dark of which you can shuttle cash, and in many ways?

I am comfortable with Anna Hazare, though. I am especially warmed by the enthusiasm he has caused among the youth to clean up our state. Here in Bangalore, the limbs that Hazare set in motion are mostly of the young. The organizations in Bangalore that are providing muscle to Hazare's movement are of students, and of professionals who have just begun their careers. In the hands of these youth the movement appears to be what they claim it to be, and worthy of support.

Today on the weekend I am again bothered by Ramdev. The man has been fasting eight days, and has been carried away to the ICU, with his health faltering sooner than expected, reflecting the erratic character that he has surprised everyone with. Amid suspicions regarding his wealth and his political intentions, his fast is genuine. What should I make of that? And of my own disgust with our collective impotence which helps dark men like the mining barons to rob us daily, and allows them to not merely keep their black wealth but also hands them all the power of the state? Am I grateful enough, now that talk of black money and corruption has gone from the coffee table to the streets, and further on to Jantar Mantar and Ram Lila, and to prime time and all time on television?

I have a question to answer: Is it enough if I try merely to be the change I seek? Should I step out a bit?