Godmen and religion

The motivation for this post comes from this news item I read in today’s paper about Pramod Muthalik’s meeting with Paramahamsa Nithyananda. The item claimed that Muthalik told Nithyananda that the sex-video scam was driven by “a Christian lobby” and assured Nithyananda of the Sri Ram Sene’s full support.

I read something similar in this excellent article in the Caravan about the Sai Baba of Puttaparthi. Somewhere in the article it is mentioned that someone from the Sai Baba camp mentioned to another person from the camp that there were “red flags” about Vishal Arora (author of this wonderful article) because he is Christian.

What irritates me the most about these self-professed Godmen is that they try to portray themselves as representatives of the Sanatana Dharma, and what is worse, you have Hindu organizations supporting and rallying behind them (I remember some BJP ministers also mention that the Nithyananda sting organization was an “attack on Hinduism”). I think the acceptance and active backing for such loonies will ultimately hurt the credibility of the Hindutva movement

I fail to understand why the BJP and other Hindu Conservative organizations had to come out in support of godmen such as Nithyananda, and attach disgrace to their own names. I think it would be so much better for these mainstream conservative voices to denounce these loonies as destroying the fair name of Hindutva, and to condemn their activities.

Apart from further alienating the centrist liberals, this support of loony controversial godmen costs the Hindutva brigade the support of another important constituency – the followers of other (equally, or more, loony) godmen who don’t get along with the controversial godman who is in trouble (usually followers of different godmen are mutually exclusive, and followers of a particular godmen tend to hate followers of other competing godmen – it’s something like football club loyalties).

Or could it be that by “bailing out” the godman who is in trouble, the mainstream right-wing organizations are sending out a message to other godmen and their followers that they will stand by them in case of any trouble? I don’t really know, but the BJP and other right-wing organizations have lost some of my respect because of their support for loony controversial godmen.

If you have any ideas as to why these organizations are behaving this way, let me know.

Rajkumar Hirani Copycat

Ok this post has nothing to do wtih Five Point Someone or its related controversies. Yeah, the story is inspired by 5PS more than the claimed 3% but I’ll let Chetan Bhagat and his army of followers fight out that battle. Copying from others is honourable, at least you are taking inspiration from someone. What is just not done is copying from oneself. It simply shows lack of creativity and laziness to come up with new ideas.

Maybe when Rajkumar Hirani made 3 Idiots, he assumed that the public would have forgotten Munnabhai MBBS. He assumed that Munnabhai MBBS would be so out of circulation that it would have gone out of people’s minds, eclipsed by the more successful sequel Lage Raho. What he didn’t bargain for was that Munnabhai MBBS was on the menu on the New York JFK  to Dubai Emirates Airlines flight, and that people like me would watch it within 3 weeks of watching 3 idiots.

The similarities are uncanny. Both colleges are “Imperial”, have Boman Irani playing the “big prof” (diro here, dean there), and acting similarly in both. Both have a nerdy Tam who comes 2nd in class, 2nd to the hero. Yeah, Chatur is caricatured in 3I while Swami is given a more positive role in Munnabhai. Both are about the system, about how the larger-than-life hero fights the system and makes the big prof realize that the way he has been running the institution is wrong. The hero’s love interest is the big prof’s daughter. And so on..  Just that Munnabhai and Rancho use different methods to achieve their goals, that’s all.

I suppose most of you would have watched 3Idiots recently. I urge you to pick up a DVD or a torrent of Munnabhai MBBS and watch it, again. And keep an eye out for the similarities. You will be convinced that Rajkumar Hirani is guilty of copying, from his own stuff. It is indeed sad to see a good director such has him stooping to Anu Malik* depths.

While on the topic of 3Idiots, my esteemed colleague Baada wanted me to do a stud-fighter post on the movie. I suppose all of you who have seen the movie will easily figure out why the framework fits. I don’t think it needs any more explanation from the resident stud-fighter expert, that is me. Also, if you recall, I had taken a vow that I won’t do any more stud-fighter blogging. Though I must mention that my book on the topic is going nowhere.

* Listen to the prelude music of Ae Mere Humsafar from Baazigar, and then to the title song of Ishq. Next, listen to the interlude music of Kitaben Bahut Si, again from Baazigar, and then to the title song from Fiza. The self-copy is obvious. And I must mention that I had used this concept in a quiz question, twice. Yeah, I’ve also been guilty of “petering” my own questions.

Arranged Scissors 12 – Rejection Sharing Agreements

This is similar to the Klose-Podolski corollary to the Goalkeeper Theory. To refresh your memory, or to fresh it in case I haven’t mentioned this earlier, the Klose-Podolski corollary refers to a case of two close friends who decide to hit on the same person. The implicit understanding is that they don’t regard each other as rivals but blade together, and first get rid of all the other suitors before they engage in one last showdown so that the bladee picks one of them.

We came up with this corollary to the Goalkeeper Theory shortly after the 2006 Football World Cup, during which Klose and Podolki formed a cracking strike partnership for Germany. Later on, they were to play together for Bayerrn Munchen, but like most Klose-Podolski arrangements, they too ended up in bitterness with Poodolski (who scored the lesser number of goals among the two) publicly voicing his bitterness and finally transferring to his “native” Koln.

Now that the crazy digression is out of the way, let me get to the point. Today is the first day of Navaratri, and with the inauspicious “Mahalaya Paksha” having gotten out of the way, arranged scissors is back in full earnest. This also means that I re-enter the market, though I’m still yet to list myself (don’t plan to for a while at least. OTC is said to give superior valuations). And some casual conversation and some not-so-casual phone calls this morning, I have been thinking of the arranged marriage equivalent of the Klose-Podolski arrangement.

So basically, as part of this arrangements, two parties who are looking to hit the same side of the deal strike a deal to share “rejection information” with each other. “Rejection information” can be of the following two types:

  • Today I found out about this girl. She seems to be really good in most respects – good looking, rich, good family background, virgin and all that. But for some (usually random) reason, my son doesn’t want to marry her. Why don’t you try her for your son?
  • Today I found out about this girl. Talked to her, her parents, etc. Doesn’t seem like a good prospect at all. She is either ugly or too “forward” or her family background is bad. I think the chances of her getting along with your son is quite low. Don’t waste your time with her.

Note that both of this is extremely useful information, especially in an illiquid market. What is important here is the nature of people with whom you strike such agreements. The basic thing is that your correlation with them should neither be too low nor too high. Ideally, they should belong to the same/similar caste, should have a fairly similar family background, etc. but the boys shouldn’t be too similar. Yeah, I think that is a fair criterion – they should be as similar as possible in terms of “arranged criteria” but as different as possible in terms of “louvvu criteria”.

Basically if the correlation is too low, then you can’t really trust their judgment on counterparties. On the other hand, if the correlation is too high, then it is extremely likely that they turn out to be “rivals” and that if one party rejects a girl, it’s unlikely that the other party will like the girl. I supppose you get what I’m talking about.

One downside to such agreements that I can think of – it might cause bitterness later on in life, long after the goal has been scored. The feeling that “this guy married a girl that I rejected” or the other way round might come back to haunt you later on in life.

Cults and organized religion

On the way back from Mysore last week, my mom asked to go to an orphanage in Srirangapatnam which is run by one Mr Halagappa, a follower of the Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi (ok I must mention that followers of the Sai Baba get pissed off if you call them followers – they claim to be “devotees”. In other words, they consider the Baba to be God. I had a long argument with my aunt once about this). It’s a nice place, located on north bank of the south stream of the Cauvery river.

We were led to the prayer hall where a little girl from the orphanage gave us prasad – something that seemed like sweetened honey and vibhuti. The atmosphere in the hall reminded me of the meditation hall in my school (Sri Aurobindo Memorial, Bangalore). There was an “om” record playing perennially. At one end, there were several photos of the Baba. The interesting thing was that surrounding the “altar”, there were symbols of various religions – om, crescent and star, fire, the cross, the star of david, etc. Maybe it indicated that the Sai Baba was all those gods combined in one.

Now, the thing with people belonging to the Sai Baba cult believe that he is God. They believe that he is God and his previous incarnation was the Sai Baba of Shirdi. Interestingly, most of his followers are also deeply religious with respect to another organized religion. For example, my mother is an extremely devout Hindu – to the extent that she believes that miracles can be caused by doing certain rituals, etc. And she is also completely into the Sai Baba cult.

Then, no organized religion has room for godmen. They do have room for religious leaders – who are supposed to interpret the teachings of the religion and explain them to the mango person, but they certainly don’t approve of religious leaders who claim to be God themselves. In fact, when a religious/spiritual leader proclaims himself to be God, he is implicitly stating that he is alone the true God and all other religions need to be rejected. Yet, he seems to get zillions of followers who are more often than not major followers of some other organized religion. Isn’t there a contradiction?

Spiritual leaders come in two forms – godmen and gurus. The former make their followers believe that they are God. The latter don’t make any such claims – they just claim to be carrying the word of some god of one or more organized religions and passing them on to the mango person. I wonder what it is that makes deeply religous people (wrt organized religion) go after godmen and become “devotees”. Don’t they see it as being contradictory to their belief in their own organized religion? Again – some of them might just be accepting these godmen as gurus and not as godmen, and that makes some sense. But what about the rest?

I know I can confront my mother directly about this, but I also know that she won’t like the idea that I’m asking her uncomfortable questions and she’ll just end up getting angry with me.