All the Babas in My Life

Social Commentary

All the Babas in My Life

Illustration: Namaah


large billboard of Radhe Maa looms over the residential complex in which Preeti Harnal lives. It’s almost like the universe knows she’s a believer. Delhi suburbia, like everything else about the capital city, is a paradox. Leafy, but the zones are some of the most polluted locales in the country; residential, but hubs of crime; crowded, but no one wants to be here. This is prime hunting ground for the God-men and -women of the country. In Anand Vihar, where Harnal lives, the holy visages of everyone from Sathya Sai Baba to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to Asaram Bapu are splashed across billboards liberally; benign, forgiving faces looking over the cacophony that mere humans create below.

In Harnal’s building, the insignia of faith hangs over the elevator as a signal to visitors – a red swastika dotted onto the wall and a lemon knotted with chillies over the door. Once you step out, it is easy to spot her home out of the identical doors of the apartment complex. A garlanded photo of a bearded God-man hangs over her door.