A ‘Radhe-Maa’ Sized Storm in a Teacup

(Published in The Huffington Post India :  http://www.huffingtonpost.in/shaira-mohan/ )

I am not religious. Neither 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. Maybe because we see enough in the world that needs to change and humans haven’t had much success with most of it as yet. So, I may not pray a lot or make promises in the name of a God, I don’t believe in idol worship. Instead, I try to make positivity and faith my idols and yes, occasionally I too hope and silently summon the ‘powers-that-be’ for a miracle or two.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condemn or criticize the religious or believers. The way I see it is, 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 who paint their faces with layers of horrifying makeup, don a wig and ordain themselves as a ‘God-woman’ all set to mercilessly dupe those many thousands of people – most of whom are poor, helpless and in dire need of a miracle. Sukhwinder Kaur – a 50 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 crass, vociferous, one-woman theatrical show – make up, trident and all.

And the social media gave the performance the metaphorical standing ovation by cooking up yet another storm that is so very synonymous with Twitter today, 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 con you. The protagonist of our story – Madame Radhe Ma has already been the cause of seven suicides and is now also facing charges for allegedly being the reason behind dowry harassment and torture by a Mumbai –based man and his family towards his wife. That a large percentage of her followers come from the less fortunate, poorer sects of society and made easy and submissive targets I can understand but what is wrong with the remaining educated lot? From Bollywood to the cricket fraternity, the Radhe Ma bandwagon boasts some surprisingly large numbers.

Let’s not be naïve though and say that there’s nothing in it but a sudden divine epiphany of giving up a normal life to become a sage. In a world riddled with corruption and greed to the extent of even causing harm to your own family nowadays, I think it’s safe to say that ‘Radhe Ma ji’ is getting her pockets full 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.

And then pictures emerged of our God-woman – the Pied Piper of human deceit- splashed all over the social media in a mini-skirt and dancing on Bollywood numbers at weddings that also had the Hindus jump with indignation towards this vulgar mini-skirt wearing imitation of their Goddess Durga. I am waiting for her to be featured in the next Item song in the next B grade masala movie. (Which is probably in the pipeline already).

The only ones who are suffering from this mindless charade are the followers and blind believers of such cartoon cults. From Asaram Bapu to Radhe Ma to so many others who in spite of the many crimes on their head are still blindly followed in large numbers, the true meaning of religion, God and faith is also now tainted with false pretenses and deceit. 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 incredulously are ready to deceive and even kill each other for is money. The likes of Sukhwinder Kaur aka Radhe Ma may perhaps be beyond repair but if, for the shenanigans of a Radhe Ma, one can stab their own family in the back or dupe the needy innocent by making a target of the most vulnerable and sacred aspects of their lives, then we as people and in this case as Indians are slated for a rather shameful doom. The pots of money earned in the name of religious deceit may provide some short term financial gains but the loss of integrity and honor will be irreparable.

And we will have no one to blame for it but our own blind selves.

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