Spirituality isn’t about one man’s conversation with god anymore. It now comes with a business plan, marketing, syndication and publishing rights.
It helps to begin such ventures with a cliché. The time is ripe, for instance. The masses lie constantly in wait for those who promise salvation, so I intend to nominate myself for the post.
I owe it to myself to take this, the easy way out. I have lost years staring at computer screens, correcting bad copy, conducting interviews with the vaguely articulate and hopelessly inarticulate. I have struggled with public transport and worked at all hours in the desperate hope of being able to save enough for a decent music system.
That stops now. There’s a godman in me struggling to get out.
I have a hundred models to choose from. Men and women who have crawled out of obscurity to now hold forth for hours on the Aastha channel. I have seen the rise and rise of men and women in saffron and white, their lives turned around. Starting out on foot, they now hotfoot it from country to country by business class on 747s.
I have seen relatively rational folk budget spiritual needs into their monthly pay packets, allocating fixed sums for breathing exercises so a few schools can carry the name of their godman of choice. I have seen politicians and film stars – two groups that stoop for no man or law – grovel at the feet of these messengers of god.
So, yes, my time has come.
Playing the cards right
It’s all a question of how I play my cards. I could start by picking a religious treatise to revive. Pick a vague scholarly text or practice, then tweak it a little before reintroducing it to a fawning public. A new breathing exercise, perhaps, to help you deal with arthritis. I could modulate my voice to coerce millions into stretching their bodies while changing the shape of my bank balance.
I could consult ancient texts, turn to Kautilya’s Arthasastra and come up with new arguments for a benign dictatorship. Or the Manusmriti, for new insights into the caste system. Better still, combine the two and add a stretching exercise to come up with a complete weekend package.
I intend to charge Rs 1,000 for a beginner’s course. Rs 2,000 for an intermediary. Rs 5,000 for a masters. And then, it’s all a question of sitting back and letting those who have paid spread the message of peace and love and all the stuff we’ve been discussing since time began. It’s all about packaging.
The next thing to do is rope in a couple of celebrities. One of the few always hanging around in the hope of getting a little spirituality into their systems. Hooking a celebrity columnist or two would make my life even simpler. Add a few business barons and I would be ready for take-off.
Behold: Handshaking Godman
There are other gimmicks. A good, solid handshake? I could be the Handshaking Godman, the spiritual leader who takes away your heartache with a well-meaning hairline fracture of the wrist. I could have foreign tourists speak about how that handshake changed their lives; how they felt something pure and simple course through their palms and stir their souls.
I understand the title is terribly important too. What I choose to call myself will, after all, be the name adorning stickers that eventually deface trains and public property. ‘Lindsay Bapu’ won’t swing it. They simply won’t buy it in rural areas, or in Delhi, where people simply aren’t taught to pronounce anything correctly. I may try combinations like “Maha Yogi Lin Baba” or “Baba Lin Jogi Yogi”. It’s a work in progress.
The thing is, spirituality isn’t about one man’s conversation with god anymore. It now comes with a business plan, marketing, syndication and publishing rights. Do it well, and for long enough, and you could have 100 centres of learning in 25 countries named after you. Do it better, and you could win a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.
I expect you to soon put out your hands and touch the screen. Let my magic flow through you and let my inane words of wisdom heal. Let me take your simple lives and make them simpler with the wisdom of the ages now conveniently available on an Android device. I am blessed to have been born in a country where fine, silken lines have always divided myth and religion. Let me exploit that blessing for my benefit.
Men and women of India, your next godman is on his way. Get out your purses and start praying.