Why Religious Gurus are essentially Marketing Geniuses? My Encounters with one of a kind…

So as I write this on a shaky keypad of my cute Dell mini-laptop, I am returning back to my beloved village from a short journey to another village in our rickety and ‘only four wheeler’ which could be considered as a car. I love to write while travelling. Besides I am eager to share and write down whatever stuff happened with me this fine morning.

Just an example what I mean by Indian Saints
So as I was counting my final days in my beloved country while penning down my expectations for the new land that I am going to see, my parents, my mother essentially, began all this new drama of seeing all my relatives for the last time (I am not even sure if I remember the names of all those people I meet which are somehow related to me by blood) and seeing and worshipping all our ancestral religious gurus or babas or monks or saints or whatever you call them man. They are all same to me.

So it all began yesterday morning when my dear mommy was all,

Hey, you have only few days left here, and-
Yeah, I know. Tell me something new ;p,” I cut her in hoping she would forget to complete her sentence.
Shut up, you’re being too rude these days. And I was saying, that in the last few days, you should go and meet all our Guru’s and saints which our ancestors have been worshipping since decades or something and bla bla bla (This is where I lost track of what she was saying as I dug deeper into my favorite comic strip, Garfield, in the newspaper – I read newspaper only for those comic strips, y’all) and bla bla, so tomorrow morning at 6 A.M. we are leaving for this this village where this big big saint has come and we must pay a visit and seek blessing for your safe life ahead in US and so that you also don’t get spoiled by their modern culture etc and you should be thankful that you got VISA so easily by their grace…
Huh? At 6? What? Why? But? So early? Saint? How? I don’t wanna go. Please keep me out this stuff,” I tried to make a sad face but failed.

Then we kinda argued for a minute or two cuz that’s the max you can argue with mothers after which they use their ace cards and you are just left with no option but to agree. So she threw down the following two cards on the table and I was as usual “Ah-k-lets-go-whatever-wherever-mom

Card #1: She won’t pack my travel bags (OmG!)
Card #2: She will brand me as an unfaithful daughter who has left her home and family values etc etc permanently. (Duh)

I really didn’t care about Card #2 but man, Card #1 was sortof killer and I had to agree. I don’t know shit about packing or shopping or cooking so I always leave it to the elder ladies. Elder Ladies are good at these things. And that could be a weakness. Or a strength. Depends on how you look at it.

So anyway, next day early morning I am forced out of bed quite early while my mom is all ready and neat and eager to go. Then I am forced to bath too. And all other daily chores, like combing my hair and breakfast n stuff. Somehow, I am ready to leave on time. Even though our driver was a tad late but mom had made sure that we were on time. When we sat in the car and began the eventful journey, a wave of sour saliva swept across my tongue.

I swallowed. I smiled.
Forgot to brush. Nice.

Then, nothing much happened on the 2 hour journey by road to another village where the saints were supposed to be having a stay at their own imba fortress kinda thing. Except the fact that the entire journey I spent sleeping and my pious and anxious mother spent the two hours making sure that the roads were all right, other vehicles on the road were all right and that our car was all right, and everything in general around her was all righty-right. I often tell her on such occasions,

Dear mommy, leave this job to the driver. You should just relax at the back seat with your eyes closed.”
But she’s all, “No! Drivers etc know nothing! We ourselves have to take care of everything and all.”
But only THE driver can access the accelerator or break, mom
But uhm? Still! Duh, shut up,” as she raises her hand and kinda scares me by her false slap action.

So we reach this place, (I will try not to go into facts and names, after all I don’t want an entire community, a rather big one, on my ass for this post) and it looks serene and quite cool but heavily guarded with men. Just like a fortress. Only difference that soldiers’ weapons here were smiles and bows and greetings which they showered upon any stranger who might dare enter their fortress. And so they fired on us all those sweet weapons they had, especially after they came to know that we had come from a big village which is kinda quite famous in my state. You feel like a celebrity when you come from the biggest village of your state. You can spam everywhere you go and say, “I come from THERE” And they are like “woaah…”

Sorry for all you people who were born in towns and cities and metros, maybe better luck next life.

Example of Namaste. Also, your weekly dose of hot chix-pix.
We move upstairs to find the holy saint missing from his humble throne and a lot of other devotees like us gathered and bent down around his throne. We sit there for a while, (my mom with hands clapped together to form a Namaste – a gesture of prayer, I holding the book I am reading these days – ‘Every Second Counts’ by Lance Armstrong) but when my mom snatches away my reading book and asks me to imitate her worshiping position, I kinda get pissed and eventually restless. So after a minute or more of the waiting for the Saint who hasn’t yet appeared, I escape the hall by giving an excuse that I urgently need to pee and I actually go downstairs to explore out the fortress.

As I was happily skipping down the narrow stairs, I saw a large man all dressed in white with a long, long beard wearing maalas around his neck coming up. He was coming up in my going down lane/direction of the stairs and I was half way down the stairs while he had just landed the first starting step and considering my double speed, technically, technically, he should have shifted to the side to save the collision from occurring. But he didn’t as if he was like the king of this fortress and so we stood face to face with he staring right into my eyes as he said in a tone more cold than curious,

Where are you from?” he asked, recognizing that I was new here.
Um? Bhathinda,” I blurted out my village’s name but not with the kind of pride I usually do.
What’s your name?
Tanya Singhal,” I answered after a few seconds of pause as a crooked smile spread upon my face.
huh? Uh-oh, huh?” he grumbled and felt confused and shifted away from the stairs to make way for me and left for the hall upstairs.

Sample pic of bread pakoras.
I explored out the fortress a bit and found it kinda cool and calm place to hang out. And then finally found the open kitchen where they actually gave FREE FOOD to all those who came there and so I joined the queue with an empty plate in my hand. There weren’t plenty of options to choose from but there were some. So considering the fact that my mom would be waiting for me upstairs with perhaps a false cane in her hand, I quickly placed some Bread Pakoras with a nice Chutney(Sauce) in my plate and began to munch and gobble it down. I sipped down a hot tea before I left for the hall upstairs.

C’mon, don’t you look at me like that, I was hungry. Besides, it was free.

But as I was just putting down my plate before exiting the kitchen, my mother had come all looking for me and she was all like, “Stupid, you are sitting here eating and up there Mr. Saint has come and he’s looking for you and all how careless you are and all and bla bla” So before I could crack up some excuse she takes me up by hand and donates a hundred rupee note ($2 essentially) to the donation box at the exit of the kitchen. Perhaps this was her gratitude towards the nice kitchen people whose services her daughter had enjoyed just now. And silly me, I was considering it as free food all the time. I was about to ask her, “Since we had now kinda paid for it, could I have lil more?” but then I preferred to keep my mouth shut cuz my mother was really looking angry at that moment.

And SO, I finally get to see the Saint sitting on his throne with a dozen or so people bent down before his feet. I realized that this Saint was actually that stairs guy I met before while going down. Now I understood that awkward bump in the middle of flight of stairs. He was perhaps expecting me to fall in his feet in those stairs and give him the way by going all the way back upstairs etc. And since I didn’t, he gave me those weird looks. But then I thought, what the heck, even if I knew it was THE Saint guy in the stairs, I would have acted the same anyway. True story.

So as the entire crowd there were on the knees with their hands in the Namaste formation, I stood straight smiling at the Saint, my hands stuffed loosely in the side pockets of my shorts (My mom always wants me to wear pants whenever we have to go out but I just prefer shorts and that’s another point of quarrel but then that’s totally another story).

(I think I am going too much slow, I will now fast forward to the part where the post should justify its title). Little Background: This Saint is kinda our family saint and so knows all the children and family members by NAME. He also knows me and has met me 3-4 years before and still remembers my real name, it’s just I who have forgotten him or his name. 

RULE No.1 for Marketing: Always KNOW your clients. If you can CONNECT with the name and family of your customers, your business CAN run.

So after he made me sit down close to him and finally after an awkward minute of silence (in which I was supposed to bow down and rub my forehead in his feet just like others), he placed his hand on my head and kinda forced it down so it appeared to his followers that I was bowing down. I totally wasn’t, y’all. And here’s an excerpt of the convo that followed,

I have tried to summon you here a lot of times but you never came, huh?”, he said and named all those religious classmates and cousins and peers who had in the past 3-4 years had at times informed me every six months or so that Mr.Saint is currently in this this village and he was very much inclined to see me. But of course, I usually ignored them and spent my life without religion or spirituality.

I merely smiled and kept looking back at him while he told me that I should follow that that norms of this this particular region. And that I should stay away from bad company or non-veg etc in US. In between my mom would add a reply on my behalf saying, “Yes, yes she is a very good girl. She does and will continue to follow all these norms,” She was quite worried that the Saint might just impose a curse on her daughter for her arrogance or perhaps summon a fireball from his staff to punish her careless daughter.

Then he asked me for my full name and gave a weird look when I told him my real name. And he was all like, that I should change my surname to the surname specified by the norms of THE religion. And I was like, “Yeah sure.” (I should now cancel my flights, submit my passport for renewing my surname, wait for a few months to get it done, defer my admission for next year and then I will be good bcuz I'll be following the surname norms) I assured him again, “Yeah sure.”

Rule No.2 for Marketing: EXPAND your business. Ask your very clients to carry your company’s NAME ahead. It works.

Then he took me to a secret room away from all the crowd as the people were left behind whispering, “Oh-oh this girl is going to amreeka-shamreeka, Guru ji will be giving him special power or wish." There he pulled me awkwardly closer to his half naked body and began to place in my hands a series of sacred items whose descriptions he gave one by one,

Sacred Maala
These are very sacred and very costly maalas/chains which you should wear around your neck all the time and chant this mantra 51 times on each bead/crystal of it before going to bed. Then these are very important cards on which our sacred sayings are written, you should paste them everywhere in your new home in US. And try to distribute these to your friends so that other lost souls too can follow the path of god and righteousness. And bla bla (as usual here I lost track of what he was saying, as I was marveling at the huge pillars and pedestals of the fortress Saint lived in) and bla bla, keep these cards safe, don’t loose them. Only hand them out to other worthy people like you.”

Rule No.3 for Marketing: Hand out your Visiting CARDS as if they are not just pieces of paper but so sacred and important that the fellow holding them in their hand should feel immensely LUCKY.

Pure marketing I call it. In the name of religion and spirituality, of course. What do you say?

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