I don’t understand this public anger and lampooning of a new baba on the scene these days:

Nirmal Baba!! As if he is the first of its kind!!

I am remained of the ‘मछली Baba’ in ‘Joy Baba Felunath’ from my childhood days!! He of course didn’t recommend mouth-watering yummy samosas or gulabjamuns… only uneatable ‘মন্ত্র-পুত-শর্ক’ i.e মাছের আঁশ (fish scales)!! Maybe the uproar is caused because of his faith in samosa/ rasugollla’s curative and remedial values and not in ‘चरनाम्रिता’* or in tying black thread or relying on a red handkerchief. Now everyone in India has joined in to jeer poor Nirmal Baba!! And all are busy putting one-another down with scientific-rational-clear-headedness!! It is of course a stance taken to cover ‘their shame and self consciousness’ about their faith. Most Indians want to pretend that they are not what the West think they are… a country full of superstitions, beliefs and a billion gods etc. We are very defensive about this and thus are busy condemning our own faiths and beliefs and our Gurus and Babas. They don’t realise they maybe condemning one Baba… but there are a million Babas and a billion habits and beliefs we follow, every day of our lives in India for a long-long time now!! And there is nothing wrong with that… if we are not preaching hate and are not a closed society. During the long Imperialism, the West constantly derided us about our faith and beliefs, thus inculcated a shame in us about our faith and beliefs. We hide our sacred thread with shame or our amulets around our arms or our red threads on the wrist… or a mala/talismans around our necks.. But you travel around the world and you will see people wear a cross around their neck (or any symbol of faith) with pride!! They are not apologetic. The entire world civilization is based on this… I don’t think if one has a few superstitions.. it doesn’t hurt anyone and in fact it gives us power and a positive frame of mind which no logical, rational ideas can give. All around the world superstitions and blind faiths etc. is practised and will continue to. No one is a fraud and nothing is superstitious or wrong or criminal etc… all is a matter of Faith!! All organised religions of the world are a set of faiths… There is also a notion our faiths like these, will keep us backward etc. But see the Japanese, the Jews in Israel or the West… they too have faiths, superstitions and rituals without logic and doing very well. Faith never hurts anyone… nor does it stops us from progressing. There is another logic very prevalent in India that superstitions and blind faith makes us weak and cowards!! They don’t.. on the contrary, it gives courage to face any adversity.. There is the example of Mohinder Amarnath, one of most gutsy cricket players the Cricket playing nations have ever seen. In the 70s and 80s non could face the fast bowling of the legendary West Indian pace bowlers… Amarnath was one of the few who could take it like a man… He used a red handkerchief to peek out of his pocket!!

Rituals, small gestures are part of human nature. I remember during the ‘IFA Shield’ football matches in Calcutta in the 70s. The Bengali/Indian footballers who would smartly lineup before entering the football field and then each of them would bend and touch the ground with their hand and back to their forehead or heart…my father, an atheist would deride form of rituals etc. He was very proud of the visiting Soviet players (those days most clubs came from the Eastern Bloc) who would just haphazardly enter the arena!!!

I just witnessed the Euro Cup 2012 in Poland… all European footballers reverently did this ritual of pranaam!!

A sadhu I met who recounted his journeys across India. Bare feet, chimta and a kamandal. Nabadwip, Krishnagar, India Jan 2011.

For some they (Gurus, Baba, Temple etc.) are like their Saviour (god-like) and for a non-believer a charlatan… at the end of the day all that matters is who and what gives your mind some peace, some consolation… it can be a golgappa/ rasugollla* recommended by Nirmal baba or tying a red thread around your wrist or in Darga.. (the Sarkozyes were in India and they did the same… now they have a child!! I wonder how many will find that funny and deride that!!) any form of ritual one believes in… if these give your mind some peace and brings back your confidence and you are able to get-up from your broken-down mental/physical state of being… why not? So I feel one must not make fun of any gurus… for some they are of great importance and help…Exactly like Allopathic doctors (psychiatrist) of modern age… they listen to your problem..and give you verbal consolation.. maybe some tablets.. if you have faith it may work… many a times it does not…as we can see from the result of so many in the West.. rich and successful yet not happy.. unable to even get a good night sleep.. or are unable to get rid off their many problems (psychological etc.) though they have the best of the medical science behind them!! We in India have long, strong tradition of following our gurus.. in all our past we had many Gurus… and after centuries these Gurus turn into Gods for us… and many in their own time were crucified and killed or humiliated….

Most Gurus direct their followers to be free from sinful activities and encourage them to engage in devotional services. I have no problems with any such gurus, babas and sadhus… unless they are teaching hate… which they don’t. I heard/viewed (as I was curios about Niraml Baba, a few episodes..) in all he was seen giving away very simple solutions and some were very nice suggestions like distribute samosa/ rasugollla to the poor etc!! There was no hate or preaching of discrimination etc. His followers are convinced his advice works.. so why are others so eager to prove it doesn’t work? At least he is not asking his ardent followers to slaughter/sacrifice/क़ुरबानी (kurbani) of large animals like cows or camels!!!

Science is yet to comprehend our hearts and minds… till that time humans will continue to have this form of faith.. condemning or ridiculing is a foolish approach as all of us have such faiths.. it is only a matter of degree…If one is expected to become very rational and scientific about every little beliefs, faiths, superstitions etc. it will not happen..it as old as human civilisation…

“A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it. “— Rabindranath Tagore


*The Christians every Sunday would go and line up in church and take communion or ‘eat bread’ (the belief is it’s not bread and wine, it’s Christ’s flesh and blood) and we go to temples and drink “चरनामित्र”… if we sit down and analyse this: one is just bread..made from wheat/आटा..one is H2O with some sugar etc. but faith make us believe it will do us good.. why not make fun of that?!!