Peeping Shankar | An impressive Pie and Swami show

Our super sleuth attends a question-and-answer session between a godman and a corporate honcho and discovers a closely held secret

“Ask not what Twitter sayeth but see what Twitter doth do.”

This cryptic pronouncement from the boss surprised me no end because it came even before I could settle down for our regular Monday morning briefing last week. I instinctively sensed that something was bothering him since he had chosen to do away with the customary exchange of pleasantries and light-hearted banter. This, as everyone in office knows, is never a good sign.

“Why Mr Saxena, is someone trolling you?” I ventured to ask.

“No, certainly not!” he said rather emphatically. “I’m immune to such nonsense since I am not on any social or anti-social media. In fact, I hate anything to do with 280 characters however unique they may be. But right now, what I’m worried about is the government- it takes this damn Twitter too seriously.”

“So, what’s it now? Don’t tell me we have to go undercover and troll critics of the PMO,” I said, fearing a dismal assignment when all of us would have to bend over our smart phones like those sods participating in the “fastest finger first” round of Kaun Banega Crorepati stoop before their keyboards.

“No Shankar, this has nothing to do with trolls or trolling,” he said with an ominous undertone in his voice. “Unfortunately, it’s a lot more serious than that. Well, to put it in a nutshell, somebody high up in the government seems to be very impressed with a link posted by some twit on Twitter — it’s a video of an hour-long question-answer session between Nitiwiti-anandji, a godman from the South, and Karamchand Pie, a former corporate honcho turned strident Hindutva campaigner.”

Mr Saxena then went on to point out that I must surely have heard about the gentlemen in question although he was never investigated by the IB. “He is always on TV attacking the Opposition parties and liberals, so it’s difficult not to notice him. His original surname is a deep mystery, but he changed it to Pie on the advice of a Silicon Valley-based numerologist who felt that the new name suited his obsession with drawing pie charts and his penchant for calculating the area of circles (both vicious and others) by determining the value of Pi- R- Squared. Incidentally, his friends jocularly call him Humble Pie although humility is certainly not his middle name.”

From Einstein to Heisenberg, I interjected to say that I had heard about the video. “This Nitiwiti Swami does say strange things. In fact, I read somewhere about him waxing eloquent about how god cannot be one if he is infinite because infinity is more than one. And then he claims Einstein got E=mc2 wrong because he had a non-vegetarian’s mind. Why, the Swamiji even pronounced that Heisenberg wrote the Uncertainty Principle because he couldn’t distinguish between matter and doesn’t matter simultaneously. In fact, going by Nitiwiti, so confused was the German scientist that he is supposed to have simplistically postulated that the position and velocity of an object cannot both be measured accurately at the same time because position changes with velocity and vice versa.”

...The land acquisition you speak of dovetails well with Nitiwiti’s mantra that creating profit is punya (a virtuous act) and helps you express your inner life energy. According to him, this kind of `activism,’ which makes one wealthy, is healthy.

Here Mr Saxena must have lost the thread for he cut me short: “Shankar, it’s good to know you have already heard about the Swamiji. It gives you a good head start. Now, to get back to the point, what the HRD Ministry want us to find out is the secret behind this godman that makes him denounce western science with such disdain. Also, can he really make monkeys, cows, lions and other mammals speak as he claims? If it is indeed true, then the Information & Broadcasting chaps see immense possibilities in inducting new spokespersons for the government who will have what they call the 'animal instinct'. Then, we are supposed to test the veracity of the guruji’s assertion that food is Maya and the body does not require nutrition for sustenance. It can apparently live on water and thin air. If that is the case, then poverty alleviation acquires a new meaning and can be achieved by simply arousing super consciousness among the masses, as practiced by the swami…”

For once what the boss was saying was not only illogical and confusing but was also beginning to test my sanity. So, I protested: “Mr Saxena, godmen and swamis are known to say all kinds of incredible things. They have the spiritual license to do that. But does the government have to believe them?”

An accounting whiz
“I am afraid there are many in the current dispensation who get carried away,” he said virtually endorsing my thoughts. “Although I believe that more than the godman, they trust this Karamchand Pie, the interviewer in the video. I believe he is an accounting whiz. And the government likes money-minded high thinking people who have a way with godmen and self-proclaimed avatars. Moreover, I understand that this Pie is himself a miracle man of sorts for the infotech folks — a sage of prophet.. oops, profit-and-loss!”

“The story goes that he made his name while working for a Bangalore-based software company. It was there that he tested his ‘gains without any pain’ strategy. For a start, Pie convinced company honchos that real estate on earth is worth a lot more than any acreage owned in virtual space. The latter, he said, could best be utilised for building castles or Trump Towers in the air.”

The boss cleared his throat, took a sip of water before continuing with his narrative: “Next, he strongly recommended the creation of ‘land banks’ on terra firma and persuaded the company’s board to push state governments for property allotments. The surprising thing was that a few of them obliged. For example, 350 odd acres was gifted by Karnataka for a song. Apparently, what did the trick was humming a few bars of the old Kannada hit Binkada Singaari for the listening pleasure of then Chief Minister, SM Krishna. The deal that Pie struck is now part of corporate folklore often referred to as a landmark event — no pun intended.”

I was taken aback by this bit of inside information but recovered soon enough to offer my own insight. “The land acquisition you speak of dovetails well with Nitiwiti’s mantra that creating profit is punya (a virtuous act) and helps you express your inner life energy. According to him, this kind of `activism,’ which makes one wealthy, is healthy.” At this point the boss perhaps thought the conversation was dragging on too far, so he decided to abruptly end it. “Well, I think we must not waste any more time and leave the details for a later discussion. Meanwhile, your ticket is booked for the first flight to Bangalore tomorrow. All arrangements have been made to receive you at the airport and drive you to the Swamiji’s ashram which is three hours by road. And yes, I have mailed you the link to the interview. So off you go,” he said, dismissing me with a wave of his hand.

A master ventriloquist
I spent the rest of the day researching on Swami and Pie. I heard the question-answer session in detail and took notes from Nitiwiti’s pronouncements. I learnt that GPS in the spiritual world inhabited by godmen stood for Guru Positioning System; religion a software which not only opens “Windows but also Doors.” I also understood that if A+B=C then C+D cannot be A or XYZ; Communism was the coming together of lazy people who take without contributing anything. Other ‘gems’ also found their place — it’s a straight road which does not turn; one more day goes by as the sun goes down; the mind seems to contain everything at once in a timeless and place-less space; fear of looking at your balance sheet gets you into debt; your enlightenment is more powerful than your ignorance and you can’t be taught spirituality but you can learn it.

As for Pie, I easily accessed his profile and his impressive academic and corporate record. But there was little on his personal life other than his interest in Vedic Science, mathematics, Indian classical music and yoga. He spent much of his time reading balance sheets, annual reports, drawing graphs, spewing venom on TV against liberals/leftists and spouting wisecracks on Twitter. Trolling and being trolled was what excited him the most. His only other hobby worth a mention was that in school he showed some promise as a ventriloquist, but he gave up after all his puppets deserted him for better salary and perks. Anyway, to cut a long story short, when I boarded the flight to Bangalore next morning, I was none the wiser than I was the previous evening. I tried to catch some sleep but the weather enroute was not particularly helpful. However, when I arrived at the ashram, my spirit perked up because of the warm welcome accorded to me. I was treated like a VIP devotee from Delhi and shown to a well-appointed room in the guest house. The Swamiji, I was told, was busy recording an interview but I could see him in action if I was so inclined or meet him later in the day.

I readily accepted the invitation and soon found myself in an auditorium which had been converted into a makeshift studio. Seated on a throne dominating the stage was Nitiwiti. Next to him, on a less ornate but ceremonious enough chair, was his interviewer, Karamchand Pie. “Swamiji, is there a God? And if he is indeed all powerful, why do we have so many gods?” Pie shot off his question and Nitiwiti answered as the cameras rolled.

As I watched the question-and-answer session unfold, the realisation dawned on me that it was not the Swamiji who was answering. The questions were being asked and answered by Pie. The not so articulate Nitiwiti was merely lip syncing like a well-behaved puppet. This was indeed a very clever act and I was most impressed. Pie was a master ventriloquist who knew how to throw his voice to perfection. What’s more, his natural speech was distinctly different in style, tone, diction and content from the one he used for the godman. As for Nitiwiti, he looked relaxed on stage - his face was appropriately expressive, and his gestures embellished the answers. This was an act truly worthy of a slot on prime time. I couldn’t help wondering why Pie had not tried his luck in the entertainment industry instead of wasting his time in the corporate world.

Later in the afternoon, I rung up the boss and reported my sensational findings. He was incredulous. “Are you sure it was all an act? Has someone confirmed this?” he hollered over long distance. I assured him that senior devotees had admitted that it was a Pie and Swami show in which the latter pretended to speak, though he did not utter a word.

The boss was relieved. He said he would send a report to the government and close the file. “Great work Shankar,” he said by way of appreciation. “Now go back to Bangalore and party! This one is on me.”

Thank God for small mercies.

(As imagined by Ajith Pillai)

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