THE FAMILY MAN
Tangled in temptation,
They gave him a listen,
And did what he asked them to do.
In return for a pinni,
He asked for a tickle,
A sibling bartering a miracle or two.
Gurudev had six siblings. The eldest was Gurudev’s sister Bimla, while his brother Satish, and sisters, Sudesh, Ramesh, Premlata, and Indira were younger than him.
Satish ji, whom we fondly called Chacha (father’s younger brother), hero-worshiped his elder brother. When they were young, their mother would punish Gurudev for his mischievousness by not giving him food to eat. Chacha would save some jaggery and double-roti (bread) from his own meal so his older sibling, whom he reverentially called Pappaji (a Punjabi term for someone who is a father-figure), didn’t go hungry.
Chacha grew into a tall and handsome man with a mischievous glint in his eyes. Gurudev bestowed his spiritual powers on his younger brother. Gurudev instructed him to perform seva at Hariana, and manage the farm at Khandsa, Gurgaon.
Even though Chacha was a very powerful spiritualist, he is best described as a ‘casualist’. His casual approach to spiritualism helped and healed countless people. He was the keeper of many secret curative recipes, including one that could have put hair colour companies out of business. Fortunately for these companies, the recipe to turn grey hair to black transcended to higher realms with him.
Chacha’s spiritual nonchalance led to people underestimating his abilities. His neighbour in Hariana was a tantrik (practitioner of Tantra, an occult science) who had attained a siddhi with which he could capture spirits. Since he used these spirits to earn his livelihood, he saw Chacha who helped and healed people at no cost, as a threat. Out of spite, the tantrik deputed a few spirits to hurt Chacha and his family. However, they couldn’t create as much as a dent in Chacha’s world.
A few days later, two of the bottles that held the spirits captive, broke.
As soon as this happened, the tantrik’s young children who were playing on the roof of their house fell off and died. Certain that the escaped spirits had caused the death of his offspring as retribution, he expected to meet the same fate. So, he ran to Chacha to seek forgiveness and protection from the monsters he had created. Chacha not only forgave and protected him but also turned his life around. The tantrik stopped using his siddhi to earn money and focused on more sattvic (a guna) pursuits instead.
In fact, another tantrik mistook Chacha’s laid-back attitude as a sign of spiritual weakness, only to be taught a lesson he would never forget. This tantrik cast a spell on the water pump that irrigated the farm at Khandsa, causing it to malfunction. When he smirked and challenged Chacha to use his spiritual powers to repair the malfunctioning equipment, the latter casually sprinkled jal on it. As he did, the water-pump roared to life. The tantrik who was seated on the wall of a well watching the goings-on fell back into it. On crawling out after being spiritually decimated, he begged Chacha for mercy. The ‘casualist’ casually forgave him.
Even though Chacha was Gurudev’s brother, he never used their relationship to his advantage. His humility and nonchalance only enhanced his affability. Nothing fazed him other than his elder brother’s ire.
In his dying days, Chacha was admitted at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research (PGI), Chandigarh. Gurudev stayed at his younger brother’s side, tending to his every need. Gurudev left Chandigarh on the twelfth day as he had to be present at Gurgaon for Guru Purnima (a spiritual tradition where a disciple performs an act of symbolic surrender of his ego to the Guru). As Gurudev bid goodbye to his beloved brother, he softly said, “Do not die before Guru Puja (prayer).”
Chacha succumbed to his illness on 2nd August 1988, exactly two days after Guru Purnima, thereby ensuring his elder brother’s seva was not disrupted. He is survived by his wife, Snehlata, and their two sons, Ajay and Sanjay. Snehlata ji manages the sthan at Hariana with the help of Harish ji, an old disciple of Gurudev who also runs a sthan at Hoshiarpur.
Moving back to Gurudev’s story–his younger sisters recalled that as a young boy, Gurudev had a particularly strange relationship with a Ganpati idol in their home. At times, he would politely ask for the idol’s help, and at other times threaten it with annihilation if his work was not done. Initially, his family dismissed Gurudev’s words as the ramblings of an over-imaginative mind, but over time it became clear to them that there was more to the relationship than met the eye.
After what may have been a sibling spat, Gurudev asked the Ganpati idol to ensure his elder sister, Bimla, failed an upcoming exam. He also declared that he would distribute sweets if his wish found fruition. Bimla ji who had burnt the midnight oil in preparation complained to their father who reprimanded Gurudev for his unkind words. However, when the result was declared, Bimla ji had failed the test. She sobbed and blamed Gurudev for her failure. Their father, of course, put wood to skin!
Ganpati came to Gurudev’s rescue in another matter, a few years later.
Fed up with their son’s disinterested attitude towards his studies, Gurudev’s parents requested the husband of a cousin to help steer their son in a more academic direction. The man was known to be a hard taskmaster who wasn’t averse to cracking the whip. He took on the task of straightening Gurudev out in earnest. But he soon found that his new student was unwilling to change his ways.
Angry at Gurudev for his stubbornness, and upset with his own failure, the cousin’s husband raged that Gurudev tasting success in the upcoming exam was an impossibility. So certain was he of this outcome that he went on to add that if Gurudev did pass, the Punjab University would shut down forever. Hearing these words, Gurudev rushed to the Ganpati idol and threatened to smash it to smithereens if he failed the exam. The threat worked. Gurudev passed the exam with average marks and a matriculate was born.
Gurudev’s younger sisters remembered him as an indulgent elder brother who treated them with a mix of affection and amusement. His powers, which were still to find a mature spiritual expression, didn’t impress them at all. As far as they were concerned, his bewildering antics were a means to a ‘sweet’ end.
Pinni, a popular north Indian sweet, adds an inch to your waist sure as it subtracts a year from your life. Like most Punjabis, Gurudev’s little sisters loved to binge on these sweetmeats. Gurudev used their sensory weakness as leverage to get them to do his bidding. He would promise them some pinnis in return for them scratching his back. And the sisters would oblige.
Aware of her brood’s unhealthy appetite for all things saccharine, Gurudev’s mother would lock the home-made pinnis in a cupboard and never let the key out of her sight. Strangely though, Gurudev would materialize these pinnis without putting key to lock! When the cupboard would be unlocked by their mother, Gurudev’s sisters would find the same number of pinnis they had consumed, missing from the batch which was stored there. Yet, Gurudev’s eye-popping method of pulling pinnis out from locked cupboards was dismissed by his little sisters as another item on a long list of things their elder brother was capable of.
As a young boy, Gurudev was still to recognize the divinity in his being, but there were flashes of some of the abilities that would one day be used, not to satiate his sisters’ appetite, but to lead countless people on the road to spiritual evolution.
Years later, Gurudev’s sisters were oblivious of the fact that their brother had become a Guru, discovering it quite by accident. As Gurudev’s job involved official tours that lasted months, he would write his sisters a letter informing them of his whereabouts. In the summer of 1976, they received a letter from their brother telling them that he was stationed at Kathog in Himachal Pradesh.
As Gurudev’s sister had never heard of Kathog, she asked a classmate named Dilbag, who hailed from Jwalaji, for some information about the place. Dilbag informed her that Kathog has gained recent fame because of someone called ‘Om wale Baba’ (the saint with the Om on his palm) who was performing unbelievable miracles of healing there.
When Gurudev made a short stop at Hariana en route to Gurgaon, his sister asked him if he had met ‘Om wale Baba’. It was only then that Gurudev revealed that he was the man in question.
Gurudev was the pivot in his siblings’ lives. He was someone who nurtured, indulged, and protected them. His brother and sisters were witnesses to the incredible journey that saw the little ‘magician’ from Hariana become a Guru with unimaginable powers.