Book Review: Godman to Tycoon by Priyanka Pathak Narain

Sometimes, Twitter does good. It was through Twitter that I realized that I wanted to read this book. Someone was posting passages and snippets from the book. Soon enough, I realized that the book is not easily available online (digital or print editions). Because there is an injunction to the distribution and sales of this book. More intrigue. More itch to get the book. I can be blamed for many things, but being resourceful on matters such as these wouldn’t be one of them. [Anyway, click on the book, and you will get to the Infibeam page where it’s being sold]

So, with the book in my hand, and a long weekend around the corner, I dug my heels in, and began my quest to understand this extremely enigmatic person and brand. For, Baba Ramdev, the person, is the same thing as Patanjali, the brand. At least in my humble world view.

Someone already did a brilliant TL;DR version of the book, so I would let you go read that. I would not talk about specific gossipy elements. Or maybe, I would.

The book is a pretty darn good read. The level of research, given the general air of mystery around the Baba, is good. The narrative style – fluid. The level of detail – not so much that it becomes boring. Not so little – that you say “is that it?” I was expecting far more sensationalism and far less detail from the book. Sometimes, three passages that are used for advertising are all there is to the book. Quite similar to the trailer of Dharma movies.

Well, coming back to the man – Baba Ramdev’s life can be organized in 3-4 brackets.

First, the  early life in Saidpur, Haryana. Next, from the Khanpur Gurukul to Saffronisation of Baba at Kripalu Bagh Ashram. This phase introduces two of the most important actors of the story – Acharya Balkrishna and Acharya Karamveer. The third stage is the media brand that Ramdev built. And lastly, the Patanjali phase.

While the third and fourth phases make for an engrossing read and are a lot well researched, the first two leave a lot to be desired. The third and fourth phase also have the benefit of far higher media coverage, availability of footprints online, and more people tracking who this Baba is!

When it comes to the first two phases, the book somewhat disappoints. Ramdev’s strained relationship with his father, the agonies of a poor farming family’s life in rural India, and his family relationships – leading all the way to his running away to join Khanpur Gurukul – are largely unexplored. One of the biggest mysteries has to be how the failed family relationships suddenly became an important pillar of his empire (his brother handles all the finances of Patanjali, and has a hot-n-cold relationship with Acharya Balkrishna). It is here that a reader wants to understand Balkrishna and Ramdev’s relationship. One of the unresolved conflicts of the narration is how easily Ramdev became the CEO in the trio of Ramdev-Balkrishna-Karamveer, given that Acharya Karamveer was the senior of the three and had helped them get their foothold in Haridwar.

Second, the Gurukul to Kanakhal foothold. From Karamveer’s introduction into the story, to the eventual “saffronisation” of Baba Ramdev as he spots the opportunity of taking over the Kripalu Bagh Ashram of Shankar Dev. This section builds up a reasonable amount of understanding of how Baba Ramdev started becoming a Godman. You see early signs of his visionary forward thinking, business acumen, and leadership skills. But here again, a lot of things are presented on face value – like a chain of events. The under-currents of relationships are not that well explored. What’s great to know is how the same set of opportunities led three different men to three different places. Balkrishna started his Divya Pharmacy stage at this point.

However, the book picks up heat in the last two phases. There are lot more balancing viewpoints, people speaking in favour and against Ramdev and his Patanjali empire. A reasonably wide gamut of issues are touched upon – from something as serious as the suspicious death of Swami Yogananda/ Rajeev Dixit, to the less talked about marginalization of Shankar Dev.

Scrupulous as his methods come across as, there’s a lot to admire about the Baba Ramdev, the businessman. How early he spots the religious TV opportunity and the far sighted calls taken on Patanjali products are commendable. Yet, as expected, the book leaves you with a lot of unease about a man who’s revered by a large section of people, and yet has enough skeletons in the closet that the authorities are paying lip service to.

I felt that as a journalist, Priyanka Pathak Narain has done a fabulous job of not taking an either-or stand about Ramdev.  A lot of the evidence is anecdotal and conversational. The places where there is hard-evidence (such as the litigations or product failures), she does present an unambiguous picture. But for what its worth, success has as many enemies as it has friends. While writing the book, it must have been tough to not color every passage with a bit of black against his name, yet the book seems to respect the difference between information and opinions.

 

I really enjoyed the book, and would heartily recommend it to all you Dant-Kanti lovers and haters alike! Have I used Patanjali products? Unfortunately, yes. ☹

 

p.s. One of the funniest things about the book is everyone’s failure to find Baba Ramdev’s date of birth! I mean, in the age of Aadhaar…

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Winter

Winter is like that.

Cold on the outside. So much, that it makes you feel warm inside. With the right company. Or, the right book. Or, with the right view.

It makes you look inside.

Like the way mild rain showers do. Not the torrential downpours. No, they scare you.

Mild rain showers make you wrap yourself up in an imaginary cocoon. And sing songs to yourself. As you walk back to the comfort of your home. Or, the place you can call home.

 

And as you shiver, you become one with the surroundings.

Winters can do that.

Like mild rains.

Not summers though.

 

The winter haze hides all noise. Sometimes, you rub your ears just to hear something. The sound of silence, maybe.

You only see what you need to see.

Or, what you expect to see.

When you stand by the windows in winter, you see beauty. Nature’s silence.

winter

Everything is an illusion. Or not. Like the heightened taste of pakodas. Or, the warm glow of companionship.

In winters, two often become one. As they seek each other.

And as two become one, the world seems like a less crowded place. Not divided by the difference between tea and coffee, white and black, paratha and dosa, capitalists and socialists. Like a nice coffee shop with a community table, which has space for just one more person. And another.

Like that community fire that makes you sit around and share stories. With space for just one more person. One more story.

 

Aren’t wintery places more sought after holiday destinations? Like Switzerland? Kashmir? As compared to the desert of Thar? Or Chennai?

 

Winters bring out the best in everything. Except, the colours of nature. Nature becomes silent. And broody. But broody is beautiful, no? Don’t you see a lot more of model photoshoot pictures where the subject is intense and broody. Not cheerful. Isn’t that the appeal of Ajay Devgan? Apparently?

 

 

I wonder why he wrote it that way. The Winter Is Coming. Ominous. Winter is nice. Winter is togetherness. Winter is the countless night spend together huddled in the same rajai. Winter is multiple rounds of chai-coffee together. Winter is those lazy five minutes of sleep. Winter is the new year picnic with family and friends. Winter is the steam coming off a hot roti. Winter is us.

 

 

 

 

hum jaane kya kya kar aaye

Another one from the offline archives that never made to the blog this year.

 

Hum jaane kya kya kar aaye
Ye muththi khaali kar aaye
Jor laga ke bheenchi par
Hun ret na kaabu kar paaye

Paani ki tarah sab pighal gaya
In aankhon se aansoo ban kar
Kuch sapne humne tod liye
Do aankhein khaali kar aaye

Ab haath khule par dua nahi
Ab zakhm khule hain, dawaa nahi
Apni zebein khali kar ke
Allah ka daaman bhar aaye

Kaatenge kaise baaki umar
Is baat pe charcha kya karna
Tasveer bitha ke is ghar mein
Hum tumko rukhsat kar aaye

Tum baith wahan khush khush hoge
Hum roz yahan kuch rote hain
Har roz koi kissa keh kar
Hum dil pe marham kar aaye

Moving on… From 2016

It’s been an year. More than that. I’ve not written anything here. This blogging part of my life has stayed dormant. I was busy. Not writing. I ended 2015 with this, and I had to eat my own words in 2016.

2016 was not good. In totality. The year you lose your father cannot give you a victory big enough to compensate for your loss.

I was busy with that phase of taking care of him. Trying to take care of him. Compromising on almost everything else. Even when I was doing other things.

Later, I was busy grieving. The grief still sneaks in from here and there. More so, on the days I sit down to write something. It’s almost like I need to apologize before the conversation can move forward. For everything I did not do enough of.

I haven’t written much about him. I don’t know what to write about him.

The middle class guy that I am, I spent a lifetime living his dreams. All except one. I don’t regret that.

I do regret not talking enough. I regret not doing enough. I regret not being there as often. I regret a lot of those things. Comes with the territory, I guess.

I would like to believe that I made him proud. I am certain some of my actions or decisions did not agree with him. He tried not to make me feel bad about them.

Everyone believes that I was his favorite. I hope I did enough to be his favorite. I hope it wasn’t just because I was the youngest. And the cutest. 🙂

I hope he knew that I loved him as much as he loved me. It’s difficult though.

I am grateful that his pain and suffering did not prolong. I am grateful that while his sickness lasted long, he did not have a difficult departure. I am grateful that I was there. I always feel that I would have not been able to come back to my life if I was not there. If I hadn’t seen him leave.

 

So, here’s to an attempt to fall forward in 2017. I hope that when this year is over, I am done with getting my life and living in order again, you can still proudly say –“my son!”.  To quote from what I wrote for Aaroh

मेरे लड़खड़ाते कदमो को थाम ले
वो ऊँगली हो तुम

तुम मेरा कल हो
तुम्हारा आज हूँ मैं
तुम्हारी अनकही कहानी का
अंदाज़ हूँ मैं

And in case you have internet where you are – here’s a pic for you.

dsc_0021

 

***

This is what I wrote on the night of May 6th. The night before he left.

तुम्हें लौट कर आज आन पड़ेगा।
अभी बात मेरी पूरी नहीं है।
अभी मैंने काफी कहा ही नहीं है।
अभी तुमने काफी सुना ही नहीं है।

अभी मेरे सपने अधूरे अधूरे।
अभी मेरी हर दास्तां है अधूरी।
अभी मैंने कितने फ़साने हैं लिखने।
अभी लफ्ज़ मैंने बुना ही नहीं है।

बस इक बार हंस के मुझे देख लो तुम
बस इक बार और सीना चौड़ा तो हो ले
बस इक बार और उस बिस्तर पे सो लूँ
बस इक बार तुमको पकड़ के मैं रो लूँ

फिर इक बार तुम मेरी बातें समझ लो
फिर इक बार फिर मुझपे गुस्सा तो कर लो
फिर इक बार एक चुटकुला तो सुना दो
अभी मैंने कुछ भी सुना ही नहीं है

अभी मैंने कुछ भी सुना ही नहीं है
अभी मैंने कुछ भी सुना ही नहीं है

Nazm- हम में भी बड़ा दम है

कहते हैं बड़ा ग़म है
हम में भी बड़ा दम है

था खौफ कहानी में
पर रूबरू बेदम है

हाथों में सुलेमानी
और रूह में ज़म ज़म  है

हम दीखते हैं तनहा
ये इश्क़ तो  पाहम है

हर ज़ख्म हरा हो ले
हर अश्क़ में मरहम है

गर छत नहीं तो क्या है
सर साया-इ-मरियम है

निकले हैं बाँध सर पे कफ़न
अब कई दीवाने
होना है जो हो जाए
ये जूनून फ़राहम है
हम में भी बड़ा दम है

Movie Review: Prem Ratan Dhan Payo

Yesterday, I subjected myself to this movie. To survive, I tweeted throughout the movie. Rather than write a review and, in that process, hate myself again, I present to you – the storified tweets.

 

prdp

Book Reviews

A bunch of book reviews I had done for thetalespensieve are out.

 

Zen Garden by Subroto Bagchi – Collection of Bagchi’s interactions with some of the finest business and social leaders, entrepreneurs and pathmakers, invited to the Zen garden, where they share their life stories, inflexion and tipping points, principles, driving forces, passion, and success mantras.

“Comes in easy language and short chapters, well catalogued without being prescriptive, and is a great bed-time read.” (4/5)

Dream With Your Eyes Open by Ronnie Screwvala – Ronnie Screwvala traverses his entrepreneurial journey of over two decades in his debut book. More popularly known for having created UTV from scratch, many people may not know about his several other stints across toothbrushes, games, and many other categories (not all of them successful).

Great lessons, extremely conversational, slightly preachy, but a wide view of what entrepreneurship can be!

 

Letters From An Indian Summer by Siddharth Dasgupta – less a novel, more an elegy. It’s a celebration of Arjun Bedi and Genevieve Casta’s love story, through letters and meetings, destiny and serendipity spread over 5 years and many countries.

Reminded me of the first time I had sizzlers. Someone else had ordered in on some other table in the restaurant. It promised a lot of sizzle and excitement. And it delivered on that very well! But once the show was over, the taste was passable. (2 on 5)

The Death And Afterlife of Mahatma Gandhi by Makarand Paranjape – ““He felt that non-violence during the struggle for independence was an expedient, i.e., resistance to the white man was undertaken in a non-violent manner simply because we had no military strength with which to offer battle.” – Kingslay Martin – Jan 27, 1948

Where the book succeeds in a big way is by asking us – Is Mahatma Gandhi relevant anymore? Or, was Gandhi ever relevant in a post-independence India? Paranajape believes, and so do I, that he was, is and will continue to be. (Rating: 3/5)

Seven Uncommoners by Ridhima Verma – collection of biographical sketches of seven entrepreneurs from across a variety of industries in India.The choice of entrepreneurs is interesting – across gaming and technology (Vishal Gondal of Indiagames and Goqii), hospitality (Patu Keswani of Lemon Tree Hotels), logistics and supply chain (Pawan Jain of Safexpress), construction & infrastructure development (Jagdish Gupta of J Kumar Infraprojects), financial advisory (Mahesh Singhi of Singhi Advisors), facilities management (Prasad Lad of Krystal Group) and legal services (Nishith Desai of NDA).

The feeling that there has to be more, and that something has been left out, is the pervasive sentiment at the end of the read. Nevertheless, the book is a good celebration of home grown successes in a world which is excessively enamored by the Steve Jobs brand of arrogant leadership and perfect solutions.(Rating: 3.25/5)

A Hundred Lives For You by Abhisar Sharma – takes montages from three decades of Abhimanyu’s life. A media man with a penchant for reporting, Abhisar seems to have gotten down to writing a deeply personal book, or so it seems

Simple story, great emotions, good use of the country’s timeline, weak first half, good narrative, few editorial misses, and a very strong father-daughter relationship in the second half of the book. (Rating: 3.5/5)

 

Ladies Please! by Jose Covaco – A no-holds barred take on dating in India from a man’s perspective. Jose, through his series of spectacularly failed (I am not sure if they are real or imaginary, but at the very least they are relatable and everyday sightings) and moderately failed and occasionally successful relationships (because in India, there is no dating; there is only a relationship), bares it all and leaves you with (especially women) tips and tricks for dealing with the other sex better.

I strongly urge all ladies to read the book. Especially, if you want to really train your man. And of course when we talk about training or changing the man, all you are trying to do really is make us better. Right? The book is hilarious in pint size measures, but slow otherwise.(Rating 3:25/5)

 

%d bloggers like this: