Shobhaa’s Take: Mere paas Radhe Maa hai

I don’t want to sound mean... then again, may be I do! I can’t seem to get enough of Sukhwinder Kaur, better known as Radhe Maa. I wish I had a Radhe Maa in my life. Seriously. She’s got to be doing something right. And lots wrong — but that’s for the cops and courts to decide. For years I have looked out for garish posters of this dazzling lady and wondered who she was. Now I know.

There is a section of the press (include me in this badnaam, awful lot) that has gone to town about the self-styled godwoman’s kinky dress sense.
I have described her in unflattering terms myself — from Puss in Boots to Red Riding Hood. It is a bit too tempting not to make references to the Lady in Red given the recent charges levelled against her.

Forget those for now and let’s examine the phenomenon itself. That she has magnetic appeal for her millions of followers is a given. I have been fascinated by her appearances at the police station and the extra courtesies extended to her by our rough and brusque cops. She has been questioned in an air conditioned room, offered water, an interpreter, and allowed the luxury of long silences while she gathers her thoughts, mops her over made-up brow, and whispers into the ear of the person who acts as her “voice”. All this, while hysterical, anxious followers wait patiently outside the police thana for their spiritual leader to emerge.

There are strange stories floating around about her playing “passing the pillow” with the flock — with the pillow being her! She switches from acting like a baby to transforming into a wizard during those crowded satsangs. Nobody so far has been able to crack her message to mankind — what does she offer? Salvation? Solace? Hugs? Makeup tips? Fans claim she wears those bizarre designer clothes to make followers feel better about themselves. It is they who make offerings of expensive handbags, outfits and jewellery so that she may live like a queen.

Her videos featuring dance tracks from Bollywood hits are also a part of the fantasy world she has been placed in by the adoring devotees. As for the mini trishul she carries — why not? It’s a great prop! And useful when it doubles up as a comb during a gale and hair gets in her eyes. In this multi-crore business, there are many other spiritual entrepreneurs like Ms Kaur. The business model may differ, but the objectives are the same. She has chosen a vocation she probably excels in, using her good looks and communication skills to position herself in a crowded field. Good luck to her.

There are worse crimes in this particular marketplace — child abuse, murder, large-scale thievery and political manipulation. So far, Ms Kaur’s exploits have been comparatively innocuous. Her “empire” is embarrassingly modest when compared to her rivals’. It’s fair to say Radhe Maa is still an amateur, an apprentice, learning the tricks of the trade from other heavyweight tricksters who have been at it much longer and established multi-crore ashrams across India and the world.

Her defenders in the press have said this is a class war being waged on a person who is seen as crass. There is definitely a great deal of truth in that sharp observation. Had Ms Kaur’s appearance been less over-the-top (OTT), had she cut back on the tinsel and spangles, had she toned down the blood red lipstick and conformed to society’s strait laced, predictable idea of a pious, female spiritual guru (white sari, full-sleeved blouse, low nape bun, rimless spectacles, grim expression and desexualised body lingo!), not too many would have been interested in the dowry case she is accused of having played a major role in.

Radhe Maa is a perfect example of how we typecast “religious” leaders. She has broken the mould and emerged as a soft target, only because society can’t slot her. A Radhe Paa would face no such discrimination. Take a look at some of Asaram’s more graphic videos, where he is seen energetically dancing with young devotees, wearing cool guru gear. Ms Kaur is the mother of two adult sons. I wonder what her boys think of their Maa — how different is that version from the public persona? Do they resent sharing her with thousands of strangers who get to hug her... dance with her? Are they jealous? Did they cringe when the scandal hit national headlines? Or are they content to bask in their mataji’s reflected glory, knowing their financial security rides on their flamboyant mother’s popularity?

This is as much a testing time for Radhe Maa as it is for all of us. If she is absolved of the crime, my guess is she’ll give politics a shot. If she is found guilty and goes in, her sons will have to look for day jobs like everybody else. And if Radhe Maa decides to donate her blingy wardrobe, I will be standing in line for those crazy red rexine boots.

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( Source : deccan chronicle )
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