Shernaz tells us about her visit to a faith healer, few decades back. Her mother had been bed-ridden with chronic and severe rheumatoid arthritis. Medication fortified by strong will power saw her pull through each agonising day. Two caring friends had cajoled this scribe. “Come with us just this once. Tell him about your mother’s condition and at least see what he has to offer.” She consulted her mother, who just smiled and said, “Go for your friends’ sake.” Find out what happened? Did the faith healer’s magic work, exclusively in Different Truths.
This happened some decades ago. We got out of the car and walked towards the gate of the small house. I was apprehensive about what I would find there. A smaller gate led up to a side entrance of the house. Around ten devotees perspired patiently in a queue. We were led to the cool comfort of the living room. The place belonged to a gentleman known as Hanuman Baba, because of the astounding resemblance. It was unnerving! The likeness couldn’t be missed or ignored. A huge brown frame with the overwhelming face hung opposite the entrance to a small sitting room. Though not instantly converted, I was dauntingly zapped out of my cynicism when I saw the face smiling at me from the picture.
My mother had been bed-ridden with chronic and severe rheumatoid arthritis. Medication fortified by strong will power saw her pull through each agonising day.
Two caring friends cajoled me. “Come with us just this once. Tell him about your mother’s condition and at least see what he has to offer.” I consulted my mother. She just smiled and said, “Go for your friends’ sake”. That translated into, “I don’t expect this to work, but I will not be rude to anyone who sincerely cares.”
So willy-nilly I accompanied them. A packet of incense sticks, some flowers, and a coconut tucked under my arm as offerings. After about fifteen awestruck minutes, most of which I spent gaping at the photograph, we were ushered into an inner room.
Through the assailing fragrance and haze of glowing incense sticks, a metal idol of Hanumanji burnished to a beaming gold, stared imposingly down at us from its six-foot height. Flickering oil lamps genuflected around his feet and garlands of variously hued flowers adorned his neck. I bowed my head before it and then in namaskar to the spitting live image, minus the tail, seated cross-legged at its feet. The baba was clad in a white kurta-lungi, ash smeared forehead and a peacock feather broom by his side. He beamed his welcome. We sat down on the mats provided.
I felt awkward. He turned his gaze on each of us and cleansed our auras with the peacock feather broom.
“Baba, this is our friend. We had spoken to you about her mother.”
He nodded knowingly at me, while I silently sent up an earnest plea: “Please, please, let me believe for my mother’s benefit.” Faith works miracles and I genuinely needed both, faith and miracle.
He regaled us with his life history, stressing he was a celibate like his deity and how people flocked to him because ‘they’ believed him to be an avatar etc… He also narrated an incident or two of his emergence as ‘Baba’. I have forgotten it all. A few questions about my mom followed.
Throughout, his hands were busy laying offerings on our behalf before the idol. Another cluster of incense sticks was lit, flowers arrayed after being touched to the feet of Hanumanji, new oil lamps readied…but his eyes kept darting to our faces; plumbing the depth of my trust I felt, so I bolstered my plea for faith with greater urgency.
Either from tension or from being unaccustomed to sitting cross-legged on the floor, my left leg was going dead under me. As I changed position he shut his eyes in contemplation. Waiting for guidance?
Sparrows twittered outside, lifting his cerebrations heavenward and my petition too, I hoped fervently, closing my eyes as he had done. A little later muttering some prayer, he flicked the broom on my head and swept it downwards. My hands flew up from my lap at the suddenness of his actions. He did this about three or four times. That was apparently to cleanse my mother’s diseased aura. He then put a single white flower and a small packet of ash in my hand.
“Put these under her pillow and tomorrow morning let her drink this ash in a little water.”
“This will cure her?”
“Yeh toh inke haath mein hai” (that is in his hands) he said pointing to the idol. “I am only his servant.”
I stood up, with the ‘prasad’ in my hands and some hope in my heart. The living likeness of a widely worshiped deity had its effect on me too.
As we readied to leave, he said, “This evening send me those pills for headaches. Pehlewala stock khatam ho gaya (the earlier stock is exhausted).”
My eyes grew wide. My lips parted as the little hope I cherished flitted out the window to confab with the sparrows. And my head stuck a mile out on my neck as I exclaimed, “Kya?! Everyone else comes to you for cure and you rely on medicines to cure your headaches?”
He smiled sheepishly. “It is not I. He cures everyone, I am just his humble bhakt,” he reiterated pointing once more to the statue.
“Then won’t he cure you too? Don’t you believe that?”
“It is probably his wish that I should suffer even as he heals others through me.”
I almost blurted out that if he believed it is He who wants him to suffer these migraines, he shouldn’t take any medicines. Just bear them resignedly. I bit my tongue. It wasn’t my place to advise him or embarrass them any further. My friends, by the way, were wholesale distributors of drugs.
“Dekho, aap.” He continued pointing to his ‘medicines’, “If these work even ten percent on her, you can come back to me next week.”
So he too had doubts! Did I pass them on to him or did he snuff out my trust pulsing as faint as a firefly’s light?
And I was expected to have blind faith in him?
Photo from the internet.
#Medication #Faith #Hanumanji #FaithHealing #BlindFaith #DifferentTruths
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