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Sunday, June 22, 2008

[ ACTOR P.O.V VII ] Mataji and when I read 'Begone Godmen'

It was the time when I found myself standing in the temple in a long queue with my mom holding a flask of milk. I should've been in school instead I was there at the temple on my mother's command.. we were to go feed the milk to Lord Ganesha's idol as it was discovered earlier in the day that Lord Ganesh has miraculously began drinking milk .. and not just the idols but even the ones in the lockets hanging from people's neck. It was the time when I happened to see a lot of a guy named "Chandraswami" on TV claiming to posses immortality, he would appear in a religious outfit and a staff with a crystal ball on it ... he would claim fortelling the future, people would speak of his powers of healing... Chandraswami is now facing several trials for many of the scams that follow such characters.

It was this time, less than a decade ago that I helped myself to "Begone Godmen" a book from my father's reading collection. Curious to reaffirm the fact that we were simply being fooled by such figures I was happy to find my sanity restored as I indulged in Abraham T. Kovoor's encounters of Godmen and Godwomen around India and Sri Lanka.

He who does not allow his miracles to be investigated is a crook,
he who does not have the courage to investigate a miracle is gullible,
and he who is prepared to believe without verification is a fool.
- Dr Abraham T. Kovoor -

Like a detective he solved each case of a 'ghosts', 'magic', 'miracle',etc. chapter after chapter, with use of logic and scientific explanations. Kovoor had seen it all, ghosts, saints, shamans, godmen, etc. A Yale graduate Kovoor continually challenged any ghosts and Godmen to deal with him, he was ready to go through any ordeal to show how logic and reasoning prevails.

Kovoor did more than just solve the mystery, when possible he dug deeper to find out what in the person's life brought them to this stage. This caught my attention more than the tactics that unraveled the tricks. Kovoor often discovered common themes in the psychosis of these figures, the presence of all kinds of abuse, physical, psychological and sexual.

These figures whose disciples painted them as entities as untainted as the purest drop of elixir, strongest as the vigor of lightening, compassionate with overflowing forgiveness and powers of healing all calamities in the common man, were in fact broken, lost, defeated and most troubled among their own followers, only they had learned to hide it well and succumb to deceit.

I am excited about an upcoming production by Naatak that has caused me to reminisce and revisit the revelations put forth by Kovoor.

'Mataji' is Naatak's telling of what lies behind the mask of one such demigod and what happens when the mask is removed in the most unexpected of circumstances. While one might laugh at the specific exaggerations the play presents as it dvelves into the capabilities and powers of it's heroine 'Mataji (mother)', many might find it ironical that often worse is believed and fabricated to create such charlatans in the real world. 'Mataji' examines where the demigod stand in dealings of their own human emotions and adversities. The play portrays desperation experienced by both, the forces that feed the so-called 'phenomenon' and masses that feel the need for the 'phenomenon'.

From the playwright Sujit Saraf:

Mataji, born on the banks of the Ganga, has a simple gift to offer to the
world: a loving hug. Over two decades, she has travelled to sixty-five
countries, hugging thousands of devotees in one sitting, sending them into
raptures through the transmission of pure bliss that accompanies her hugs.
Her followers on five continents regard her as Krishna incarnate. Then, on
her sixteenth visit to California, she confronts a devotee she cannot
satisfy. Through him, she discovers much about her powers, and the world
discovers much about her.

Related Stories :
Interview with playwright Sujit Saraf
When the hugging mother is confronted. Click here

For more information on the play:

A play in English
Written and directed by Sujit Saraf (
Produced by Sunil Ganu

Cubberley Theatre
4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
July 26 - 3 pm
July 26 - 6:30 pm
July 27 - 5 pm
August 1 - 8 pm

2840 Mariposa Street, San Francisco
August 2 - 7 pm
August 3 - 3 pm
August 3 - 6 pm

Front Row Theatre
17011 Bollinger-Canyon Road, San Ramon
August 9, 2008 - 5 pm
August 9, 2008 - 8 pm

Until July 11, $15 general, $25 VIP
>From July 12, $20 general, $35 VIP
VIP tickets include preferential seating and complimentary refreshments.

Buy online at
Or email
Or call Asheesh, 949 394 8776

Children under 8 will be admitted ONLY to the July 27 show.
Child-tickets ($5 off the general price) are required for children under
8, including infants.
There are no VIP tickets for children under 8.
People accompanied by children will be asked to sit in "exit-friendly"
assigned seats.
While this is not a children's play, it does not contain language or
content inappropriate for children.
Proceeds of Naatak benefit non-profit organizations such as Asha, India
Literacy program, America India foundation, etc.

Naatak is a registered 501c(3) or ganization. For more information, visit