Sunday, June 12, 2011

Baba Ramdev wusses out

Every day the Hindustan Times lands at my doorstep. With one eye barely open, I hear the thwack and then usually go back to sleep. When I do finally wake up, I try daily to read it, but occasionally my kitten-who-is-better-than-anything-Staples-could-make-paper-shredder gets to it before I do. This is ok, because while I try to stay on top of Indian happenings, sometimes I am a little dismayed at what makes front page news.

Lately, it's this guy Baba Ramdev. The yoga guru/million was on a nine day fast until yesterday. Why was he fasting? This was his attempt to end graft and corruption in the government. What an original idea!  No, not at all, considering Anna Hazare just pulled the same stunt about two months ago.

Baba, who is anywhere between 35 and 46 years old, depending who you ask, left his schooling at a young age to study yoga and Sanskrit with a guru. Fast forward to age 17, when he began to embark on his own journey of teachings. With what sounds like a lot of luck coupled with a charismatic personality, he soon became the head of a large yoga institute. Eventually, requests for his appearance went from 50 a year to 50 a day. An expert at marketing, you can now you can see his million-dollar face on t.v. in about half a dozen countries and as many languages.

Last week when he began his fast he flew into Delhi in his private jet and demanded an end to corruption. Among his most ridiculous demands were the death penalty for any government official found guilty of corruption and an end to Rs 1000 ($22) and Rs 500 ($11) bank notes. None of these were met, and after demonstrations from his supporters and his subsequent extradition from Delhi, he dressed in woman's clothing and fled to nearby Uttarakhand. Now apparently he has given up his fast in view of "people's concern for his life." Wuss!

This whole circus show makes me wonder...what would happen if someone did the same in the U.S.?  Would he be given a meeting with some of the senior most people in the administration or would he be laughed at? I am pretty sure he wouldn't be meeting with Biden (Btw, where the heck is that guy?? I know I haven't been following US news that closely, but still, I haven't heard a peep about him for some time.) or any other close advisers. Both Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev got face time with Congress. Anna's fast ended in new legislation. Baba's ended in a glass of juice.

I think there are better ways to approach a failing government. It's true that I haven't lived in India for a very long time and I'm still struggling with the culture of protest here. So I can't say exactly what would be effective in this country. But I wholeheartedly disagree with the death penalty, so anyone who shouts for punishment by death is not worth a Rs 500 note, whether it's still in circulation or not. 

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