Asia In News

The Rise of 'Babas': Hathras and the Making of Superheroes@

Published On Tue, 09 Jul 2024
Saira Krishnan
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The day my grandfather passed away, my childhood also came to an end. I was in Benares, filming a documentary, when a message from my mother shattered my sense of invulnerability. My grandfather was a superhero who taught me, and many others, that our identities weren't defined by our jobs or social status. We, a long line of kids vying for his attention, often joked about how our bosses and spouses marveled at our strong sense of righteousness—a trait instilled by him, allowing us to live fearlessly and authentically.
He addressed the local tea vendor by his full name and referred to strangers asking for directions as "Sir," making everyone feel valued. My grandfather, or Baba, was that essential figure everyone needs in their life—a beacon of justice and understanding in a chaotic world. This profound need, I believe, is what figures like Baba Narayan Hari, known as Saakar Vishwa Hari 'Bhole Baba', exploit. Sharing this personal memory now helps me make sense of the Hathras tragedy—an incident at a religious gathering that claimed many lives, possibly touching my own community.
Ironically, my grandfather knew many such 'babas', including one who was once a caregiver but later transformed into a 'mahatma' after a murder investigation. Another memory surfaces: a dance competition where I won second prize performing to "Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai" from the film Guide, which parallels the journey of a charlatan-turned-godman. Unlike the poetic justice of fiction, real-life believers often suffer the consequences of blind faith.
Claims of divine connection, seen throughout history, shield individuals from scrutiny and accountability. In India, where gods are seen as just and benevolent, their representatives often evade questioning despite their actions. These godmen, akin to demigods in mythology, offer hope and solace to the marginalized and mainstream alike, but they also exploit this trust for personal gain.
Reflecting on these 'Supes'—self-proclaimed superheroes akin to those depicted in The Boys—raises questions about their influence and integrity. They wield power over masses, manipulating beliefs for their own benefit. As we navigate this complex landscape, the allure and danger of such figures remain ever-present, reminding us of the fine line between hope and exploitation in our spiritual traditions.
Disclaimer: This image is taken from The Economic Times.
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