Thursday, March 11, 2010


I’ve known Patricia Ganguly since ninth grade - an attractive young girl with dancing eyes and a wild mop of hair. Now in her 30s, she’s a fierce career woman and still single. She’s been in relationships but consistently picked the wrong guy… Just too involved with her job to not take the guy on face value. If he looks right and talks right, maybe he is right, had been her dominant logic. But after each of these abusive relationships, it was a disturbing sight when this headstrong I-know-what-I-want-and-how to- get-it sort a woman would slump into a crumpled, battered and sobbing heap.

After her last, Patricia stayed away for a while. She missed some reunion dinners too, until one evening when she showed up looking decidedly radiant. She had a calmness about her that had replaced the whirlwind of hyper energy that used to surround her. All through the evening, Patricia, who in the past, couldn’t stop raving about her job and the tectonic shift s she was effecting at the workplace, was now quietly listening to the rest of us talk. There was something very wrong, or very right about her. We teased and pulled and coaxed but she just smiled and shook her head… We tried the guessing game… New guy? New boss? The new neighbour? New job? A raise? A pet? … She didn’t budge… But eventually, Patricia surrendered.

“I have found my guru”, she said. This was rather anti-climactic… No new guy? Just a guru… So who’s this guru, we asked… How do you know he isn’t a fraudster? “It’s not a ‘he’ but a ‘she’ and I know because she doesn’t claim to be a guru… She’s a Hindu and we’re Christians and yet she speaks of God and my faith as if she were Christian herself… She’s more than 50 years old but doesn’t look a day older than 35. Both she and her husband have been on the path of spirituality and healing for decades. And they never take money from people whose lives they’ve transformed. And when I say transformed, I mean it because people with debilitating diseases have been rescued from the pits of hell that their lives had become, through sheer faith… Look at me. I used to be an emotional wreck and yet today, I’m untouched by turmoil… I’m not needy anymore.”

She had a point. She did look and sound better and more balanced than she ever had. Over the weeks, she narrated amazing accounts of miracles that this husband- wife duo had selflessly performed for those who were in need. Eventually many of our friends started visiting this couple, seeking salvation, and solutions. The respect my friends had for the Vamans (that was the name the couple went by) was obvious. The Vamans never asked for anything and yet my friends were queuing up, volunteering service and funds for their charitable projects; some had removed Victoria Beckham or the Ferrari they had driven during their trip to Nice from their desktop and installed the Vamans there instead. Our reunions became a celebration of the wonderful world of the Vamans. Patricia and the others deified the Vamans and spoke of them with missionary zeal. Intrigued, I gave in… I would go too…

A week later, Patricia called. She whispered “maybe my phone’s being tapped… there’s trouble. The Vamans are weird folk… Tantriks! They’ve been using us…Can’t talk over the phone. Let’s talk over lunch tomorrow.”

Next day at the cafe, other friends had also arrived, and with some people I hadn’t met earlier – fellow disciples of the Vamans. They all had a story to tell. It wouldn’t be fair for me to reveal too much because all I heard was one side of the story, and since these are real people, it’d only be fair to both the Vamans and my friends, and you too dear reader, that I spare you the details… In brief, the Vamans apparently tried to seduce Patricia, who had by now become a part of the inner circle of devotees, into joining them in their ‘sexual experiments’. The other disciples in the inner circle were apparently already “in league with the Vamans”. Patricia was seething. Others had stories of minor financial irregularities; one had even been involved in intimidating a land grabber on behalf of the Vamans. When they all started talking about their experiences, gradually the oath of secrecy and their allegiance to the Vamans crumbled as they discovered that the Vamans had told each of them something unpleasant about the other… These ‘observations’ weren’t necessarily lies but might’ve been exaggerated and were a violation of the faith with which they had confided in the Vamans.

That strange evening, a god became the devil, on that table, and in our heads, within a matter of minutes… and we didn’t know what to think of them and of each other… What would you do when faith, borrowed faith, crumbles against insight, borrowed insight? If you have a suggestion, don’t hold back. Meanwhile, I’ll let you know what I make of the situation in a week’s time.


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