Saturday, April 28, 2012
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
I came to hear of Nirmal Baba through my domestic help Baby who complained that her 65 year old mother woke the entire family up by switching on the TV and listening to Nirmal Baba’s discourses telecast at 5:00AM in the morning. She woke up at 4:00 in the morning, had a bath in cold water lit a lamp in front of the TV set and sat down to listen to him. She would have tea and a biscuit only after the discourse was over.
I was not impressed and advised my servant to stay away from god men and spiritual gurus. I felt that one ought to face challenges and find solutions instead of wasting time and money as suggested by these men who take advantage of the psychological pressure faced by those in distress. I never heard of Nirmal Baba again till news channels and local newspapers began to report that he had earned more than 109 crores in just 3 months. The money poured in from different sources. Devotees were charged Rs. 2000/- per person for being granted audience and he also asked them to deposit 10% of their salary as a solution to their problems. He maintained two accounts for this purpose. He claims to be paying tax for the amount thus received. Interviews with his one time devotees who now claim for action against him reveal that his solutions make no real sense. He just said whatever came out of his mouth. Like a woman was asked to keep her purse open at dusk while lighting a lamp at the altar in her house as a solution to her financial worries. When she came back to say that her problem persisted he asked her to put money into a costlier purse for better results. He asked some to distribute pencils to poor school going children for success in his examination. A person was asked consume and to distribute ‘kheer’ (Payasam) as a solution to persistent pain in his legs. He actually had blood sugar and his condition worsened. There seems to be no end to these stories. My husband loves watching the same news over and over again. I find it silly.
I now feel like defending these god men. Man claims to be capable of rational thinking. How then can a person lose all discretion and trust these swindlers? If changing one’s purse or distributing pencils was a solution wouldn’t we be a land of multi millionaires? The man was elevated to a divine level by the very same people who are hounding him and asking him to account for the money he collected. He has purchased a five star hotel and has planned to convert it to a chain of hotels, and why not? Money and power are intoxicating tools for corruption. Rare is the person who can resist temptation. For all the social service done by Satya Sai Baba with due respect to him one must say that he too had allowed people with vested interest to handle his money and upon his death people who tried to transport cash from his ashram were detained and questioned. I do not know if arrests were made. I have always respected Satya Sai Baba for his contribution to society. But beyond a point he too lost control or so it seems to me.
Stay away from such fake ‘babas’ is my advice. Life is full of unpredictable turns of fortune and one has to face them as best as one can. Superstitions have never benefitted anyone nor is there an easy way out from life’s woes. In my last post I forgot to wish you all a happy Tamil New Year. A very Happy Nandana year to all of you!
Friday, April 13, 2012
My husband recalls the incident of a child Chinna who lost his mother when the family fled from Burma during World War II and was brought up by his maternal uncle and aunt in Jamshedpur for a while till his father found a job. In fact his older brother and sister also stayed at the uncle’s place but they were aware of a life they had spent in Burma while the youngest was a mere baby. When the children’s father found a job and was in a position to support his family he came to Jamshedpur and took them to Bombay where he worked. The older children had no problem but the youngest fell sick and had to be brought back. The aunt for her part would not touch food after he left and pleaded with her husband that the boy be brought back. Chinna loved his aunt dearly and would call her ‘amma’. She was an aunt by marriage but the bond was such that outsiders believed that he was her own child. He lived with them till their death loved and accepted by his cousins. Chinna was okay with his father too but could never consider moving in with him permanently. Chinna was in his twenties when I got married and I remember him bringing home Tamil magazines that I looked forward to. The family moved out of our township within a year of my marriage and we heard no more of them.
There is another case of a seven year old girl Ammu who came to work as a domestic help for a family known to me. A few years later she lost her eyesight partially following small pox. By then Ammu had become an indispensable member of the family and managed the running of the household and extraction of work from the servants. With her around one could stop worrying about routine matters. The children of the household loved her dearly and the master and mistress almost forgot that she was just a domestic help. Her own brother and sister in law found the arrangement suitable and led their own life peacefully. She would visit them occasionally but would return with a whole lot of complaints about them. She found her sister in law unrefined and her niece and nephew ill mannered.
It was then that differences cropped up. Ammu once took the liberty of approaching the master for spending money that the mistress normally gave her. This was unaccounted petty cash that was given to her to run the household. With this money she would buy vegetables and fruits from roadside vendors, pay for the gas cylinder and buy trinkets for herself and the master’s 11 year old daughter. It was her spending money and she used it prudently. She found nothing wrong in asking the master for money when she ran out of cash. She had lived with them for more than 20 years and had never felt that her role would ever be questioned. The mistress thought otherwise. She felt that Ammu ought to have approached her instead of the master.
“Even the children do not ask their father for money directly” she said. “How could you even think of doing so?”
Initially Ammu did not read much into her words but there was a subtle change in her attitude. She found fault with everything Ammu did and stopped talking unless absolutely necessary. Finally she packed Ammu off to her brother’s place saying that since two of her three children were married and a daughter in law had arrived on the scene, they could manage without her.
As expected Ammu did not get on well with her brother’s family and came back after a month. Things were never the same but considering her selfless service to the family they found her accommodation in a home for destitute women and I hear that she is happy over there.
This brings me back to the question I asked earlier. Chinna and Ammu were able to gel with their adopted families. May be not exactly adopted but both were treated well by the family they lived with. Chinna was loved by his foster family and so was Ammu. In Ammu’s case the difference could have been sorted out but it appeared that there was no real intention of resolving the issue. It was not as if her mistress felt threatened or insecure by her presence. The only reason I can think of is the class difference that marks out a servant from the master. Had she been a relative like Chinna her lapse may have been overlooked. I feel that treating a servant like a family member is not the same as accepting her as one.
I may be generalizing the issue and each case of adoption may be different. Like in a TV program where the real mother and adopted mother were fighting a custody battle, it was the adopted mother who said that it was well past the child’s ‘milk’ time and even if she did not get the child back she would request the real mother not to let the child go hungry.
“He cannot wait till I mix the milk powder in hot water, cool it and pour it into the bottle and give him. We can sort out our differences later. Please give him his milk first” she said.
And I was left wondering if it was fair to give the child for adoption and place a claim for the same child without a thought for the woman who brought him up like her own. Who was the real mother, I wondered? Was it the one who worried about the child’s hunger pangs or the one who was reclaiming the child after initially abandoning him?
I guess there is more than one correct response to this question.
Sunday, April 01, 2012