Santharam was in a meditative mood - a rare phenomenon
- he was almost sorrowful.
That was surprising, for I was all along thinking that
Sadhu Santharam would be extra-jovial.
“Hey, you, silly feller! You are in the habit of showing
scant respect for Sadhus, aren’t you? Now, hang down
your head in shame! The nobility of the Sadhus has been
recognized by no less a person than the President of
the Indian Republic! Babu Rajendra Prasad, knows the
great ‘service’ that we the Sadhus are bound to render
to Bharath. In fact he requested the Sadhus, (after
paying his tribute to their godliness) to contribute
their quota for raising the level of the people, especially
their moral character. The politicians could build up
dams - but of what avail are they when the soul is damned!
Factories and laboratories, work houses and colleges,
cultural parlours and a host of other institutions could
be built, in their hundreds - but of what avail, if
in this process, spiritualism is lost?; That is exactly
where, we are needed. We alone are ordained, to keep
aloft the Torch of Heavenly Wisdom and through us alone
could you the Materialists hope to get a glimpse of
the Supreme Being.
Babu Rajendra Prasad knows this - he is well versed,
a Sanskrit scholar, and hence it is, he sought our help.
I was ‘of course’ expecting Sadhu Santharam to pour
forth his thoughts - torrent like - in some such way
- for I had seen in the papers, that Babu Rajendra Prasad
took a prominent part in a Conference of Sadhus, and
spoke in a reverential way - almost praying before the
Sadhus - asking them to bless this land, its rulers,
and their attempts at improving the lot of the commonfolk.
Sadhu Santharam had a grouse against me from a very
I used to argue, with animation, that these Sadhus should
not be given an honoured place in the society at all.
I had some ugly things to say against them, and my words
were not totally vituperative, I had a mass of evidence
to substantiate my thesis.
Oftentimes Sadhu Santharam used to retreat. He would
be infuriated, naturally, but not being in a position
to advance any argument in defence, he used to mutter
that the times are bad - that people have lost the real
perspective and so on.
Naturally, I used to be elated.
So, when I read in the papers that Babu Rajendra Prasad,
in spite of his multifarious engagements found time
to take part in a conference of Sadhus, I was aghast.
Instantly my thoughts went to Sadhu Santharam. That
man would gloat over this - in fact he would be emboldened
to question my very common sense. He would begin to
admonish me even.
When such were my thoughts, I found Sadhu Santharam
appearing before me, with meekness. Is it any wonder
that I was surprised, mildly shocked?
Perhaps, he knows not the news, I thought, and I was
determined not to let him know it.
“What ails you, Oh! good-for-nothing!” I asked Sadhu
Santharam, in a jocular way. He grumbled something -
and sat by my side in a pensive mood. Now this was a
sight that usually irritates me. I am delighted to meet
those who discuss with me, though inwardly I used to
wish that I should be the victor.
This spectacle, of submission and silence, is not to
my taste. So I wanted just to lift him up, tickle him
if that could help him.
“Santharam! Why are you in such a mood - especially
when ...” I did not finish my sentence, for I did not
want to give up my stand, by a lack of prudence.
“Especially, what?” asked Sadhu Santharam. There was
dejection visible in his tone and demeanour.
I was a bit moved. Said I, “Why Santharam! I thought
that you would be jubilant.” He picked up the hint,
but did not change his mood.
“Are you referring to our conference!” asked Santharam.
I was not happy, over the word ‘Our’, hence instantly
corrected him, “Yes, your conference.” I added.
“That’s what is worrying me.” said Santharam, to my
What impudence I thought, and lest I should give vent
to my anger, I kept mum.
“Naturally, you people are apt to think that we Sadhus,
would be mightily pleased by this Conference. Not me.
There may be some Sadhus, ready to share your views.
There are Sadhus and Sadhus, you know. But no self-respecting
Sadhu would be happy or proud over what took place”
This was too much - impertinence of the worst type -
I was all along thinking that all right-thinking individuals,
all liberals, the Radicals at any rate, the self-respecters
at all costs, should take Babu Rajendra Prasad to task
for having degraded the great trust imposed in him by
millions of our country men; for was it in the fitness
of things, that the Head of the State should mingle
Only the distance between poor me, and Babu, stood in
the way of a reprimand.
And to hear, Sadhu Santharam, to say, that he is not
happy over the incident, is something in the nature
of a shock.
And he talks about the ‘Self-respecting Sadhus!’
“Santharam! There should be a limit even to arrogance.
The Head of the Republic condescends to take part in
a conference of Sadhus, at a time when they have become
the laughing stock. Not only the teenager, but grannies
too are today up against these saffron-clad men, who
pray but to prey on the poor and the unlettered. These
Sadhus - at least most of them - are parasites. Pandit
Jawaharlal Nehru said once; and there are many who wish
that Nehru should say this again and again. And yet
Babu Rajendra Prasad, the President of the Republic,
honours you folks, by his presence and participation;
and you have the cheeks to say as a self - respecting
Sadhu you don’t feel happy over it.”
I could not resist the temptation of being virulent.
Sadhu Santharam refused to apologise - on the other
hand he became aggressive.
“You say, we Sadhus should feel honoured by the presence
of your President, don’t you! You are bound to say that.
Why any B.D.O. is enough for you folks - you are all
alert at the very smile of any officer. Not the Sadhus.
Why should we? Babu Rajendra Prasad is the President
of your Republic - not ours! - Our Republic has for
its President, none else than the Almighty! We bow before
the Supreme Being and take orders from Him alone. Do
you think that we would - and should - get elated by
the presence of the President? No. Certainly, not. Had
I been to that conference, there would have been pandemonium.
How dare you Sir, however highly placed you might be,
how dare you dictate to us? - I would have asked with
all the emphasis at my command.
"Immersed as you are in mundane affairs, you do
not know, you cannot understand the history behind our
holy institutions. Time was, when Monarchs trembled
before Sadhus, and thrones toppled because of the Sadhu’s
"We the Sadhus, gave Laws, -nay gave life unto
the Laws enunciated by Emperors.
"You are not a Sadhu to know, that in days gone-by,
those who wielded the sceptre, when in doubt or in remorse,
when faced with danger or dilemma, would in all humility
confer with the Sadhus. And the Sadhus used to point
out the Path to be followed and no monarch refused to
listen to the words of wisdom from the Saffron-clad.
"Mighty monarchs, used to pray and beg before the
Hermit - for just a nod, a few words - a blessing.
"Deserts would blossom forth, by the mere sprinkling
of the Holy water, and Sadhus have driven away not only
devils, but also droughts.
"Sadhus, used to offer their advice to Sovereigns,
but now, it is a topsy-turvy world! We the Sadhus are
gathered together like so many naughty school children,
to hear advices - admonitions - from the President.
"We the Sadhus were the Law-givers!
"We are now asked to respect Law!
"Our very presence meant, Holiness and Godliness
- and look at the awkward situation, we are reminded
of our duty, we are asked to become Holy and God-like.
"We, Sadhus, are ordained to get the services of
and obedience from the ‘Worldly ones’ - and here is
your President asking us to Serve Society!
"Is that for such ‘menial’ work, that we discarded
the worldly ways - to serve the people!!
"It is indeed an irony of fate, that we the Sadhus,
who ought to have convened a conference of these Rulers,
to examine how far they have carried out their duties
according to the ancient Scriptures, bless them if they
have been following the path of righteousness, warn
them if they were wavering, curse them if they have
erred; it is indeed an irony of fate, that we the Sadhus
were asked to gather together to hear sermons on good
conduct, service, humility and the like from those in
“That is what is tormenting me”.
Sadhu Santharam’s outburst astounded me.
He had a logic of his own, and there was a sort of sincerity
too. I thought that I would be no match for him, at
that particular moment.
As if understanding my difficulty, Santharam asked me,
“Do you know what I propose to do?”, and without waiting
for my answer, he said, “I am going to give up this
garb, this Saffron cloth.
"If in spite of this garb - or to be more correct
because of this - we are asked to sit and learn the
motto of service why not we discard this and don on
the white garment!
"Saffron is not safe now from the eyes and tongues
of those in power! And why should we continue wearing
"That conference, is an eye-opener, and it is now
clear, that the future before the Sadhus, is not bright.
The prying eyes of the public will be on us! Babu Rajendra
Prasad’s speech, is a time-signal - a warning!”
Sadhu Santharam did not remain there, to hear my remarks.
There was determination in his voice, and he dashed
on in the direction, not of his favourite Mutt, but
to the hovel where, I along with a select few knew,
Oh! Why should I expose poor Santharam, at this juncture.
Let us all wish him success!!
(Editorial - 17-11-1957)