Ramdev impresses me too, but our leaders should not fall for everything he says

Prachanda looking elated to have Ramdev in his apartment and PM Sher Bahadur Deuba excitingly offering every support including land to the yoga guru did not make for a good spectacle.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba (L), Baba Ramdev (C) and CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ in Kathmandu. (Photo: RSS)

Anjali Subedi

  • Read Time 4 min.

I love this man! His eyes are ‘sexy’. Actually, he keeps winking one eye at you (by default), can perform incredible posture and carries on with his jolly speeches all at once. 

Once an ‘anti-Ramdev person’ said: “if he’s so good at yoga why’s he not able to fix his own eyes?” “They’re unique, why should he even bother?” I shut the fellow up. 

Baba Ramdev needs no introduction. Last month he was in Nepal and showed us more clearly who he really is. Leading political figures, including the Prime Minister himself, surrounded him so affectionately that they almost looked like obedient pets wagging their tails to their benevolent masters. They were all praises for him. It was as if anything big or small he wanted from them would be at his service. The very next morning the man in orange robe was seen in Kathmandu’s glamorous pinnacle Chandragiri. He did some jogging exercises and a few yoga hacks in his typical style with his closest buddy Acharya Balkrishna by his side. 

Personally, I’ve always admired the works and influence of Baba Ramdev. Armed with profound knowledge of the ancient Patanjali yogic science of the East, he spelled evil against the unchecked cultural hegemony (hatched by the West). ‘Pranayam’ ceased to be a mystical term and millions of families in India and outside replaced coca-colas with ‘sarbats’ as a regular drink. The massive food and lifestyle awareness that took place over a decade ago does owe it to Ramdev. I definitely love this man for that reason.

But.

But is a phenomenal word in BR Chopra’s Mahabharata which was by far an unparalleled mythological series in the television world in the 90s. A pillar character Bhismapitamaha would speak a chapter to mean one thing but then spoil it the next moment by his ‘parantu’. Baba Ramdev should indeed be regarded as a blessing to humanity. But perhaps he ceased to be just a blessing in the long run. Controversy followed. Basically after he started fiercely commercializing different products manufactured by his Patanjali Aushadhalaya based in Haridwar (and soon had its branches in many other cities) his credibility began to go downhill. 

Alleged tax evasion by his companies and Ramdev’s causal sarcasm against allopathic drugs and technology earned him critics. Seemingly a very free spirited person and a blunt speaker, Ramdev once claimed that yoga can cure homosexuality—leaving many shocked and agitated. Once he offered a ‘cure for HIV AIDS’. He has had a number of controversies to his credit, the latest one being related to Covid-19. His controversial corona-tablet ‘coronil’ drew headlines for all wrong reasons.

But Ramdev shies away from admitting his wrongs. He looks okay with whatever he says or does. A strong backing by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government must be the reason behind his apparent ease and (over)confidence.  Congress had harassed him a lot in 2011 over some issues.

Personally, again I’m for Ramdev’s comfort and prosperity and never for his troubles. However, no matter how much I’m fascinated by his styles and aura, I’m aware of his limits unlike our leaders seem to be. On a personal level they could bow down, keel down, touch his feet or do whatever they liked to do with Ramdev or the likes. This would not be Nepalis’ matter of concern. But the access and importance our leaders and prime minister gave to Ramdev speak volumes on the nation’s position and condition. 

Baba Ramdev performs yoga in Chandragiri, Kathmandu. (Photo: RSS)

On the one hand, I’m disappointed that our leaders keep no track of things that they are supposed to be alert of. On the other hand, their super-easy availability embarrasses me. If I was in the position of the prime minister or a heavyweight leader and was meeting a foreign spiritual guru who’s also a business tycoon with herbal industry in my country, I would be better prepared to handle him and his interests. 

Nepal is rich in herbs. Ramdev’s industry here has to do ‘everything’ with herbs. Are we aware of the cycle of herb collection, revenue, supply, returns of this giant business? Are we assured that the license has not been misused by him or his subordinates? Do we have a reliable monitoring mechanism to get facts? The medicines and edibles sold by his company have long drawn concerns for not giving expected results. Patanjali aata, biscuits, honey have been struggling to impress consumers. Cosmetic products are equally in question. Just like it happens with products with other companies, Ramdev’s goods have also made many feel cheated. 

Nepal is rich in herbs. Ramdev’s industry here has to do ‘everything’ with herbs. Are we aware of the cycle of herb collection, revenue, supply, returns of this giant business? 

Ramdev is an ordinary human with special knowledge of yogic science and so is the caretaker of the company Acharya Balkrishna. Let’s see them as they are and not overrate or underrate their human temptations and weaknesses. Prachanda looking elated to have Ramdev in his apartment and PM Sher Bahadur Deuba excitingly offering every support including land to the yoga guru did not make for a good spectacle. 

Dignified acts and gestures from our leaders while dealing with outsiders often look like too much to ask for. Inferior complex exhibited during such occasions shall be attributed to a myriad of reasons quite known to all Nepalis. The more you keep your home in a mess, the more you feel intimidated by outsiders. Lack of integrity and competency shows up when we face somebody more ‘powerful’. Yet, perhaps we should do a little less of this pleasing job, a little less eager to wag the tails before guests and a little more preparation if businesses are allowed.

Our leaders’ lack of swag and confidence is quite a frustrating thing that stands out. However, I still love Ramdev, especially for his ‘smiling’ eyes. 

Anjali Subedi is a journalist based in Kathmandu. She writes on social and human rights issues.

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