Sunday, January 15, 2017

Gurus: Stories of India's Leading Babas (Book Review)


Gurus: Stories of India's Leading Babas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Find the review here too : http://www.freepressjournal.in/book-r...
Name of the book: Gurus – Stories of India’s Leading Babas
Name of the author: Bhavdeep Kang
Publisher: Westland Limited
Genre: Non-Fiction
Price: Rs. 295
Number of pages: 240

Also available as an ebook

In the author’s own words: “This book is not a piece of investigative journalism; definitely not an exercise in PR. This book neither debunks nor celebrates the subjects. Also, it isn’t a collection of thumbnail biographies. Nor is it a work of scholarship. It is not, even remotely, a philosophical study, a sociological commentary or a psychological analysis. It is a peek at the men (and woman) behind the guru personas.” She has based their profiles on subjective impressions, interviews and research (a lot of it), viewing them from as many angles as possible. However, her reporter’s instincts couldn’t be sublimated at all times and she has analysed and even criticised the gurus’ statements or actions. In the entire process of scurrying in and out of ashrams and meeting devotees to cover varied angles, she found herself grouping them into three categories: the revelationists, the quondam skeptics and the seekers.

India is a land of diversity with almost equal weightage given to doctors, teachers, babas and yogis. While skeptics would question the importance given to certain babas who according to them are fooling around and minting money with their convoluted tips and advises to the needy, there’s no doubting the fact that they have an important place in our society. If it wasn’t so, these yogis wouldn’t have made a mark and considered worthy enough to write a book on – in all their established eccentricities.

A journalist with over 30 years of experience, it is no surprise that Bhavdeep managed to pull off a book on some of the gurus who have grabbed international headlines and who surprise people and make them wonder about their journeys from obscurity to fame, the clout they carry and the enigma surrounding them.

Her witty writing style made sure that this book remained a page-turner until the very end. If it weren’t for her writing, this could have been a very dry read.

Coming to the subjects, she has peeked into the lives of nine gurus (The reason for number nine has also been described in the Introduction). They are: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (The Pop Guru), Dhirendra Brahmachari (Indira Gandhi’s Guru), Chandraswami (The Shaman-Shyster), Mata Amritanandamayi (The Divine Hug), Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (The Art of Selling Love), Morari Bapu (The Chronicler of Lord Rama), Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (The Metaphysical Mystic), Baba Ramdev (The Virtual Guru), Bhaiyyuji Maharaj (The Metrosexual Seer).

India’s godmen are among its most colourful, cultural products and the cover page does justice to that fact. Attractive in red and yellow, with ‘Gurus’ emblazoned on an image of the sun, it sets the tone for the read. However, do not be mistaken by the spiritual, mystic appearance of the cover. It, in no way, professes a particular religion. So atheists and agnostics need not panic! In fact, it is a worthwhile read for all, irrespective of the religion they follow or the lack of it.

Also, there are certain habits that can amuse the reader and some values that can be imbibed from the lives of these godmen – some do not mind marketing themselves and their teachings (How else will people know where to find help?); some give lessons of following a simple lifestyle (no matter what their own realities are); some emphasise on love, brotherhood, charity and the need for empathy and compassion (heavy words for sure, but not without roots); one of them consumes food prepared with the water from the Ganges and drinks water too from there (even though I do not know how safe that is considering today’s scenario where pollution in the Ganges is topic for heated debates and discussion).

There are amazing tidbits too – of how a Godman loves science-fiction, how the Beatles inspired another – that let the reader know that even though some of them claim to have certain powers and moments of enlightenment, they are essentially human beings with considerably normal lives and interests.

There were dull moments at times when I thought why I was even reading about one of the godmen, and considering the time of reading (noon), I did skip his story, only to return and complete reading it again! I couldn’t miss out on that piece of information, after all. That’s the writer’s charm I guess.

Gurus remains an essential read for those who would not mind delving into the lives of those godmen who are sometimes simply considered to be maniacs. It covers their immense public lives and mysterious inner lives. A well-researched piece of non-fiction, it seeks to answer who these godmen are in real lives.

-Divya Nambiar

No comments:

Post a Comment