What’s on Indian TV tonight? Veging out to Cory Feldman killing vampires, I flick the channel to find lots of ads for Fair & Lovely face-bleaching creams, news of the death of an Australian cricketer in Adelaide at 94, the Bollywood hunk Salman Khan shooting people in his new movie and advertising washing powder, and I meet the (quite possibly self-proclaimed) Father of Indian Healing, an obese man with a fondness of red caftans and lots of beads.
His Holiness Avdhoot Baba Shivanand Ji, the Father of Indian Healing, has a body of an enormous balloon and his face bobs as he plays videos of happy converts telling of their life’s successes to enormous halls of listeners. Preaching Shiv Yoga, he chats with pictures of divinities superimpose above his head and phone number and website, (oh, ok, it’s www.shivyog.com if you’re really interested, and I don’t take commission), flashing in between.
It answers an interesting question I’ve been asking to whoever’ll listen (and hey, guides and hotel staff are paid to listen, the poor buggers). The question is: do Indians do yoga and meditation? Sunny-tempered Ajitabh said he was taught a few moves once, and really should get back to it. But resentful Anob says Indians have no time for such luxuries as meditation retreats: “we are all too busy working”. Join the western world, my friend. But a fellow train passenger today, who hails from the western meditation epicentre of Pune, says yes they do.
While such places as Dharamsala and Rishikesh (where the Beatles famously discovered pot, sitars and their own mantras) cater almost exclusively for westerners, the Father of Indian Healing shows Indians are not immune to the lure of evangelism.
In what has to be the world’s longest TV advertorial, the super-sized Pratiprasav Sadhna is advertising a powerful method to heal fears and phobias, to release unresolved issues of life and receive the grace of Great Lord Shiv-Shiva, himself (ie the Father of Spiritual Healing) and his sidekick, a handsome young Spiritual Master. The all-Indian crowd in front of him appears to be rapt as he promises to release past life karmas, to make your life healthier and happier. Interested?