I’ll be honest with you.
I have always wanted to be a Baba. I have the long hair, and the ability to talk for hours. I also possess the innate ability to sound profound while discussing the difference between urad daal and masoor daal.
On a deeper level, growing up in an ashram exposed me to the works of a number of spiritual gurus such as Jiddu Krishnamurthy, Osho and UG. I have giggled at some of their teachings, read through some over and over again, and gaped in wonder at the simplicity of some of their preachings.
So the desire to be a Baba was always there.
The last few years haven’t been great for Babas. There was Nityananda, who raised a symbolic leg in a private chamber with his devotee. There was Asaram Bapu, who has been convicted of raping two teenage girls. There is of course, Sant Ram Rahim Singh Insaan who has decided to inflict cinematic torture on the world through his films. And finally, that dude in Haryana whose guards started shooting at the police when he was wanted on murder charges.
But these might seem like minor hiccups, as the Baba industry is the second oldest profession in the world. It is only a matter of time before Indians latch on to another Baba.
Sarathi Baba knew all of this.
Sarathi Baba was the first big mover in the Baba market in Odisha. The market had been fragmented by Satya Sai Baba, Asaram Bapu, the new-age secularism of Shirdi Sai Baba, and the Silent Sect of Sisters – the Brahmakumaris.
However, it was a case of local connect. These were all Babas preaching in Hindi/English. There was a need for local flavour, to activate local language settings. The suave, English speaking Babas like Sadhguru or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar do not attract too many people in Odisha.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
And that’s how Sarathi Baba shot into the limelight.
Sarathi Baba spoke in Odiya, dressed up in yellow clothes, and bellowed from the television set every morning. While Babas are supposed to stay away from worldly pleasures and generally adopt an ascetic waistline, Sarathi Baba looked like he ate four katoris of gajar halwa a day.
When people dug into his past, it was found that Sarathi Baba used to sell paan in his village and gradually transformed into a yogic guiding light of the state. This gave me a lot of hope for a number of reasons.
In a few years, his devotees began to increase. He released MP3 albums in his Phata Mangeshkar voice, his devotees wore lockets and bracelets with his pudgy face on it. Sarathi Baba opened new branches of his ashram in nearly every city in Odisha, with his main attraction being a cement cow that could give milk!
Please watch the video at your own discretion. It shows honey flowing out of Baba’s feet. Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted about its authenticity.
While most Babas like to stay away from familial bonds, Sarathi Baba proclaimed to have a son. This young man (quite literally) threw his weight around, and was partially responsible for the earth slipping from its orbital axis.
Life was sailing smoothly for Sarathi Baba, when like most Babas, he decided to take a break.
The plan was simple, he would come to Hyderabad for a few days with a lady friend, chill out in an unknown land, monetise the benefits of being a Baba with all those tax cuts, and return to his holy land. Except for one crucial point.
ALL WAITERS AND BARTENDERS IN HYDERABAD ARE ODIYA.
It happened before you could say the word ‘motey’. A curious waiter with a smartphone clicked a few pictures of a portly man who bore a striking resemblance to Odisha’s most famous Baba. In the picture, Baba was seen watching TV in the hotel lobby, ordering beer, and biting off chicken with aplomb.
It didn’t take long for the pictures to spread like wildfire. The hotel records were thrown open, and it was found that Sarathi Baba had ordered three Kingfisher Strong beers, and chilly chicken. That Baba was not only spreading his wisdom, but also his sperm. The 22 year old girl who had travelled with Baba immediately told the world (from behind a red handkerchief) that she had been harassed and forced to travel with Sarathi Baba.
When Baba travelled back to Bhubaneswar, he was arrested at the airport. It was a sad end to a
colourful yellow career that held a lot of promise. Baba’s son was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate, and as can be seen from this Pulitzer-winning news byte, often engaged in vices like eating mutton pakoda and looking like Ramesh Powar.
Sarathi Baba’s ashrams were seized. Odiya people went back to the much safer Baba Ramdev and his Anulom-Vilom. Sarathi Baba got trolled by Odiya people in strange, weird ways.
While it might seem comic, the story of Sarathi Baba taught me a few important life lessons. 1. If you become a famous Baba, always go to 5 Star hotels. Or to houses of rich devotees. Not Hotel Sunshine in Gachibowli, Hyderabad. 2. Never order three Kingfisher beers. Nothing good can come off that.
Meanwhile, the Baba market in Odisha sees a Sarathi Baba sized hole, waiting for me to fill it.
JAI SARATHI BABA!