Thursday, January 18, 2018
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Our old reader and veteran broadcaster Raja Zutshi rang me up to say that he highly appreciated the alert call that I was giving in this column about the problems that the administration will face when crores of pilgrims reach the city. He said, ‘But there is one thing that you should also highlight’.

Raja said, ‘Along with pilgrims and genuine tourists will come thousands of cheats who will be going round the city in the garb of sadhus and  swindling the public which will hardly be suspecting them because of their saffron clothes. Raja said, ‘It is a tendency among most of us to relax all guards when we see a sadhu’. He said, ‘They could be masquerading as Sadhus’. And he recalled to me what I wrote long ago: ‘Do you remember saying once that  people were offering coins to a sadhu on the river bank who had painted himself blue and looked like Lord Shiva? Didn’t he turn out to be a clever man in disguise?’ He said, ‘Such things will happen again . So please alert the administration so that they are not found napping’.

The task of identifying such persons would undoubtedly prove to be a formidable one. But as I once wrote, what is the guarantee that the man in saffron clothes is not a terrorist who is carrying lethal weapons in the saffron jhola that he is carrying with him? Some sort of checking will have to be done through metal detectors. But for that  the routes should be drawn in such  a way as to leave good scope for such checks and balances. I remember late Rahman Ali telling me that when Hajis assemble in Saudi Arabia the checking is so thorough that no man of doubtful credentials can enter the place. Should we not plan for some such thing?

road side astrologer

And fake astrologers too!

I take you back by three Kumbs- the 1977 Kumbh. Several fortune tellers were going round the city, making wild guesses. They would apparently first gather information about Who’s Who in a particular housing colony and then plan their thuggery. One such fortune teller, who must have learnt from someone that I am a journalist, knocked by mistake at my neighbour’s door who was in the Railways. I was overhearing the conversation. He was telling him: ‘Bright forehead, bright stars..’ The gentleman was taken aback. He told him, ‘You will soon be getting an offer for a lucrative job, much better than your present one, from the Times of India. ..’ That gentleman was totally aghast. The Sadhu gave him some silvery ring and he, in turn, gave him a Rs10 note which in those days did command high value.
When that fortune teller went away, my neighbour came to me and told me all that I had already overheard. ‘What the hell have I got to do with a newspaper. But that fellow was saying all this’. I told him: ‘Sir, it was a case of mistaken identity. He presumed that you were the journalist who stays around. He had possibly come to target me’. That gentleman never received any interview call from any newspaper. That fellow had wished him a long life, but he passed away after a few years.

There was another instance. We were sitting in our verendah. My elder brother’s friend came and was also gossiping. It is then that this  fortune-teller came. He told goody, goody things to all of us. But when he looked at that gentleman, he said, ‘Congratulations, you are soon to become a father!’. This gentleman instantly took out a tenner from his pocket and gave it to him. When the fortune-teller left, he said, ‘How could he know. I have learnt of it only yesterday that my wife is to become a mother...!’ We presumed that it was a wild guess though some may say that he could read from the gentleman’s forehead what was to come. This gentleman was none else but Mr S.M.Askari, then  Chief Works Manager of M/s GEEP Flashlight. 

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