How to Spot a Neo-Shiv Bhakt

Pop Culture

How to Spot a Neo-Shiv Bhakt

Illustration: Akshita Monga


hen I was travelling through Himachal Pradesh a few years ago, I met a middle-aged man from Chandigarh who had long dreadlocked hair tied into a bun on his head. He owned a little shack in Parvati Valley, where he would entertain white people with stories of India – how it was “the best ever land of boom” and how it’s “always a party, you know”. When he would smoke his pipe, he would lift it to his forehead and say the words “Bam Bholenath” to himself, before taking a deep hit. The white people would ape him one after another as their little way of showing respect to Indian culture.

But this man was no Saivite. He was no travelling Sage with a white beard and saffron robes. He didn’t have a maala around his neck, or a deity set up in a corner of his shack. What he did have, was a giant silver wristwatch, Ray Ban sunglasses, and a neon t-shirt that had the words “Experience the Unknown” written on it. The man’s only talent seemed to be the way he seamlessly inserted the words “boom” and “baba” into any message that he was attempting to convey. Leaving you in a situation where sentences like, “Do you have change for a 500 rupee note”, would turn into, “Baba, baba, boom baba, change baba”?