I am not religious. Nor am I a complete atheist. I belong to the category of people who believe or perhaps want to believe in some sort of power out there, maybe because we want to believe that "divine intervention" is a real thing, but are on the fence about the meaning and existence of it all. So, I may not worship idols or make promises in the name of a God, but I do occasionally summon the powers-that-be for a miracle or two.
Don't get me wrong, I don't condemn or criticise the religious or believers. The think that at the end of the day everyone needs something or someone to believe in, to find comfort in the knowledge that there is something out there that is bigger and more powerful than them that can change the course of life and who they can turn to in times of need.
My problem is with those like Sukhwinder Kaur (better known as Radhe Maa) who paint their faces with layers of horrifying makeup, don a wig and ordain themselves as "saints" all set to mercilessly dupe thousands of people, most of whom are poor, helpless and in dire need of a miracle. Sukhwinder Kaur, a 46-year-old woman from Gurdaspur, Punjab and a mother of two children was previously a seamstress trying to support her husband's earnings. When her husband left the country, seemingly in pursuit of better prospects, it was as if the quintessential, dutiful Indian woman jumped up from her mundane chores and transformed into a vociferous one-woman theatrical show - make-up, trident and all.
"[T]he quintessential, dutiful Indian woman jumped up from her mundane chores and transformed into a vociferous one-woman theatrical show - make-up, trident and all. "
And social media gave the performance plenty of attention by cooking up yet another storm over her red mini skirt and pictures of her dancing (I am waiting for her to be featured in the next B-grade item song), swooping up in its midst the likes of the emphatic Rishi Kapoor.
What has happened to us? Faith and god aside, this is taking blindness to another level and imprudently allowing a con artist to take you for a ride. The protagonist of our story -- Madame Radhe Maa -- has already been accused of abetting several suicides and is also facing charges for her role in the dowry harassment and torture of a woman by a Mumbai-based family. That a large percentage of her followers come from the less fortunate, poorer sections of society and made for easy and submissive targets I can understand, but what is wrong with the remaining educated lot? From Bollywood to the cricket fraternity, the Radhe Maa fan club has a surprising variety of members.
Let's not be naïve though and say that there's nothing to her story but a divine epiphany of giving up a normal life to become a sage. In a world riddled with corruption and greed, I think it's safe to say that Radhe Maa ji is getting her pockets filled on the side too. Not just from the thousands of followers but presumably from many (like Guptaji from Mumbai?) who have figured out how to milk the Radhe Ma cow for their own personal gains too.
" The pots of money earned in the name of religious deceit may provide some short-term financial gains but the loss of integrity and honour will be irreparable."
The only ones who are suffering from this mindless charade are the followers and blind believers of such cartoon cults. Because of the likes of Asaram Bapu and Radhe Maa and other self-styled godmen and women like them, the true meaning of religion, god and faith now tainted with false pretences and deceit. Many of these so-called religious leaders lure followers with the promise of money, and as in the case of Radhe Maa with the odd gift of jewellery. These instances of largesse are then bandied about as evidence of great selflessness when in all probability it is just a ruse for other potential followers to let down their guard. Why believe in anything at all if one can be bought in and out of it with the lure of money, wealth or any other form of compensation?
Since morals and family values seem to already be out of the window, the one constant religion that we seem to be blindly following and are ready to deceive and even kill each other for is money. The likes of Sukhwinder Kaur aka Radhe Maa may perhaps be beyond redemption, but what of those people who allegedly took her "guidance" to extort their own family members? The pots of money earned in the name of religious deceit may provide some short-term financial gains but the loss of integrity and honour will be irreparable.
And we will have no one to blame for it but our own blind selves.