(Ravish Kumar is Senior Executive Editor, NDTV India)
I often stumble upon new stories when I am wandering on the roads in search of information. So there I was asking people for directions to Ghaziabad's women's police station when I drove past a poster on an electricity pole that caught my eye. It announced a festival to honour the goddess Quan Yin.
I had never heard of this goddess; my car had travelled much ahead, but I kept thinking about the poster and eventually drove back to the electricity pole. I took a picture of the poster and posted it on Facebook. There were many responses, some even gave me the Wikipedia link, but I wasn't satisfied. So I enlarged the photo and saw there were some phone numbers on it. I dialed a number and found myself speaking to someone who introduced himself as Dr Ashok Vasudev. This is what he told me - Goddess Quan Yin (deity of energy) is like our Goddess Katyayani. Many people in China believe that she balances the chakras. We have seven basic chakras in our body and it is believed that it is because of Goddess Quan Yin that people in China don't fall ill very often.
Intensely curious, I kept asking Dr Ashok many questions and he answered them all. He said there are few doctor's clinics in China.
"Since when have you prayed to Goddess Quan Yin?" I asked
"I have been praying since 2008 and I have been observing her birthday in India for the past two years," Dr Ashok said, adding, "Since here we do not celebrate the birthday of Gods and Goddesses, we call it the "prakat divas" or the day she 'appeared'. It is on March 19. Why don't you come too? There will be a lot of important people from across the city, including the Mayor. He is from the BJP.
He claimed, "I have invited MP Gen VK Singh, but since he is a minister, he may cancel at the last minute. Though if nothing is happening, there is 90 per cent chance he'll come."
He also said, "BSP legislators Prashant Choudhary and Hemlata Choudhary also use our healing services. So they will be there too. We have a bhandara since the food they serve in China will not work here."
I was amused at the thought that the food from China won't work here, but a Chinese Goddess might.
I asked Dr Ashok Vasudev, "So you are a healer?"
"Yes, I practice many kinds of healing. Business healing, corporate healing, relationship healing, area healing and political healing," he said.
I asked what area healing was. Dr Vasudev explained, "See, the National Capital Region or NCR is an area. I do area healing for the NCR so that there is no terror attack here and people can live in peace and prosper."
And political healing? "So if you are fighting an election, I can tell you sitting here in which area there are more negatives for you and I can heal that."
I wanted to laugh out loud, but did not as I wanted to know more. I thought, for instance, that if such healing worked, then the Prime Minister should have been told about Dr Vasudev by the Ghaziabad Mayor. Perhaps the doctor could've ensured that the Aam Aadmi Party was restricted to three seats in Delhi... and the BJP could have won 67 instead.
Dr Ashok Vasudev claimed that two AAP candidates did contact him for area healing and political healing. He also claimed that BSP and BJP leaders are constantly in touch with him.
"Going to China must be expensive?" I asked. "Oh, yes it is. That is why I charge one lakh rupees for each request. Most requests are political or related to business. Putting their requests at the deity's main shrine helps people get faster results."
"We also treat via prayer on phone. You have to visit the clinic once and then your healing continues on the phone. It is a 10-minute call, for which you have to pay Rs 150. Depending on the ailment, treatments can last between 10 days to four months." Dr Ashok told me he had done a course in such healing from China and he runs a course here in India. The fee for a beginners' course is Rs 11,000, for the intermediate level it is Rs 51,000 and for the highest level, he charges Rs 1,11,000. "I have clients and students the world over," Dr Ashok said.
"So, why it is this expensive?" I ask. " It isn't easy to decide how much energy to transmit to a patient... it has to be optimal so that the patient heals."
If after reading this you thing that I'm using Goddess Quan Yin as an excuse to promote Dr Vasudev, you would be mistaken. In this Delhi that we inhabit, I have seen the cult of Shanidev become popular and have documented this. I have studied how the popularity of Sai Bhajans has transformed the nature of Bhagwati Jagarans.
Jagarans have become Mata ki Chowki and people are turning to Sai and Shani perhaps because their temples are less crowded. The result, Sai temples and Shani temples are now among the most crowded.
When the economies of many older temples in Delhi started getting affected, they made space in their compounds for Shanidev. Who knows - maybe Goddess Quan Yin might also find some space one day. Dr Vasudev does have plans of building a Quan Yin temple.
The festival of Goddess Quan Yin's birthday (prakat utsav) should be seen as a gimmick of packaging in the name of faith. At a time when mosques and churches are facing violent attacks, a Goddess from China seems to be welcomed in Ghaziabad. Isn't this interesting? Our politics may be fraught with double-speak but our faith remains welcoming and liberal.
We can do an online course on how to pray to Goddess Quan Yin, use that as a means to earn a livelihood, give false hope to people and maybe, who know, as many claim, liberate them from this cycle of birth and death. Maybe even get votes in elections from areas in which candidates have no hopes of winning.
That is why I showed an interest in Goddess Quan Yi's poster which may seem much more that what was warranted.
We may put our faith in any entity to fulfill our desires but at the same time, speak of destroying someone's place of worship only because adherents of that religion had once ruled over us. To those who look at that one chapter in history as our entire history, I say look at what is happening here and now. Go to Shani Mandirs and ask why they were opposed to begin with...
India may aspire to become greater than China, look at it as an enemy who is also a neighbor, or want to trump China in global trade, there is a Chinese goddess that is being welcomed in a this country with pomp. Comparing Goddess Quan Yi to Katyayani has Indianized her... Goddess Quan Yi we welcome you to this land with myriad religious diversities!
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this blog are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing on the blog do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
Get Breaking news, live coverage, and Latest News from India and around the world on NDTV.com. Catch all the Live TV action on NDTV 24x7 and NDTV India. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram for latest news and live news updates.