Child of Ganga

Lali Baba

Posted in Uncategorized by Nadia Kamil on November 22, 2008


Young girl picking trash by Ganga at sunrise

Last evening, I walk along the ghats towards Lali ghat, where Lali Baba conducts the daily evening aarthi. I see him sitting on a platform and he gestures for me to join him. We talk for a while about his aarthi rituals. He wears 30kg of decorative necklaces for the aarthi every single day. I ask him why and he replies simply, “Because I am mad.”

I get the sense he’s a dramatist, playing up his role as an Aghori sadhu for the curious tourists. He wears a solemn expression as people walking along the ghats bow to him and touch his feet but when they are gone, he chuckles and says, “You see, everyone in Benaras loves me!” I say yes, of course they do, because you are a sadhu. He looks around and points out a white girl. “See that girl? She very fat. You give me two months, I can make her normal. You believe?” I nod, not knowing what else to say. He calls out to her and she stares suspiciously at him, but then sees me with my camera and decides it must be safe if I am a foreigner too so she comes over.

Lali Baba goes straight to the point — when she sits down, he pinches the folds of her tummy and asks if she would like to lose some weight. She looks puzzled and somewhat horrified but tries to maintain her composure and replies, “Um, yeah…” Lali Baba says, “I can help you. But first,” he clears his throat for dramatic effect, “you must eat less sugar and less potatoes and less rice.” He says this in the tone of a wise old sage, completely unaware of her incredulous expression, and I feel a desperate urge to giggle so I turn away and pretend to fiddle with my camera.

After convincing her to allow him to work his “magic” on her, he says that he will help both of us in different ways. He takes a long look at me and declares that I am looking for spiritual enlightenment, and that he will think of a way to help me but for now he has to get ready for the evening aarthi. He invites us both back to his ashram, where we are served chai while he takes a bath. The girl is a psychologist from Ukraine and is traveling around India for 4 months. She asks me what’s up with Lali Baba. I shrug and say what Nandan always tells me, “He’s mad.”

After the aarthi, I go back to Lali Baba’s ashram because I have left my shoes there, but the Ukrainian girl is gone. Lali Baba invites me in for another cup of chai and I decide to take this opportunity to interview him about Ganga. I start off by asking if he bathes in the river everyday.

“Yes,” he says, “Ganga is my mother. And you are my gift from Ganga Ma.”

“Why?” I ask.

“Because Nandan tells me you do research on Ganga. You want to help Ganga.”

“So you love Ganga very much?”

“Yes, she is my heart.”

Before I can say anything else, he continues, “And now you are also in my heart. I know how to help you. You want to free your mind, be happy?”

I ask him what he means, and he says that as a guru, he stores a lot of spiritual energy inside him and that he can share some of that energy with me. He wants me to be his disciple, he will give me the name Nikita Giri. He also offers to let me stay with him in his ashram. There is something that feels a little sinister about this whole thing so I ask how he transfers spiritual energy. He winks and says, “You must bring your own condom.” There is dead silence for a while as I try to digest this. Then I look frantically towards the door and pray for some kind of divine intervention. He asks me to show him my palm and makes a few more inappropriate remarks while I struggle to look calm. At that moment, my phone beeps. There has never been a sweeter sound. I say, “That must be Nandan, I’ll have to go back now.” Lali Baba tells me it is not safe to walk along the ghats at night but at that moment I think I would rather be anywhere else than alone with him so I say I’ll be fine and walk out of the ashram. He says, wait, he will get someone to walk me to the main street so I can take a rickshaw back to Nandan’s place. He calls for one of his disciples, a man named Munshi. It is already dark by then and I am trembling with both cold and fear. Munshi walks with me through some alleys and then we spot a rickshaw so I thank him and gratefully clamber aboard, telling the driver to take me to Assi. I need desperately to talk to someone so I make a call to my cousin back in Singapore, not caring about the international charges. I make her talk to me till I get off at Assi ghat, till I walk to the Bhadaini district, and till I am safely back in Nandan’s apartment.

I don’t know if I will visit Lali Baba again.

Today, Nandan is bringing me to an Indian wedding. I am very worried about my project, I don’t know where it’s heading, if it’s even heading anywhere at all.

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10 Responses

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  1. TJ said, on November 23, 2008 at 2:49 am

    See what did i tell you?? You need to learn to control your charm! Lol… but seriously… take care yeah. Try to stick with crowds, dont go to suspicious places on your own.

  2. sinyee said, on November 23, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    NANA,be careful…take care

  3. regina said, on November 23, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    that was really interesting! we are all worrying about our projects…you are not alone. So do your best!

  4. Ferooze said, on November 23, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Hey2 Nadia! Haha omg apparently Lali Baba still hvnt left the worldly ties…Take care of urself! Add me on Skype (oooozey)..Talk to you soon..

  5. Arina said, on November 23, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    NADIA PLEASE DO NOT VISIT LALI BABA AGAIN. He sounds deranged.
    And remember, you’re in a foreign land all alone so DO NOT trust anyone but your instincts. Make your own judgements but keep them to yourself.

    I am so worried for you suddenly. Focus on your project so you won’t have to rush at the last minute. There are tourist traps everywhere so be alert and wary of everyone (esp. those who seem too nice, because people do have ulterior motives esp towards strangers).

    Bottom line: Do not get too close to anyone, focus on developing a proper angle for your project on hand, and keep us back in SG updated regularly.

    Love you, please take care.

  6. hazariah said, on November 23, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Kak Na, wait till you hear the rest of her stories! I LAUGHED WHEN I HEARD OF LALI BABA SO CUTE!

    heh.

    okay la nadia. GO FOCUS AND START SHOOTING. i tell you already! take the Ganges pilgrimage! or the boat ride!

    or better still.

    IMMERSE YOURSELF IN GANGA, AND TAKE IN THE SPIRITUALITY OF IT. (might just spark off some inspiration!)

    <3

  7. The Donkey said, on November 24, 2008 at 12:30 am

    OMG! U want to stay in India? Hahaha.. they treat u like star man! You are so charming THERE! Hahahha.. But still becareful with the weird and crazy lalibaba! he looks like a pervert! Pls take care of yourself and know how to protect yourself ok! :)

  8. yun said, on November 24, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    nadia, you have to be wary and very cautious. seems like india is populated with weird people so take care ok. dont wander off by yourself. all the best for your project!

  9. ngiam said, on November 24, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    nikita giri!
    here’s a tip: next time you’re with someone suspicious set your phone alarm to ring every twenty minutes or something haha.
    Or you can just look at your phone and say omg it’s on silent and i have fifty seven missed calls?!

  10. Anonymous said, on May 4, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    идиотка, я лично знаю Лали бабу уже много лет, приезжала к нему и сама и с мужем, мы получили очень много знаний и духовных сил, а то что он любит пошутить на сексуальные темы так это только добавляет ему шарма, и шутит он таким образом с теми с кем не о чем больше поговорить. Задали бы вы какой то конкретный вопрос по тантричесим садханам и он не стал бы так шутить.


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