Book : Prophet of Love
Author : Farrukh Dhondy
Publisher : Harper Collins India, 2013
Pages : 314
Price : Rs 299
Religion is an interesting subject of study and it can be studied from many different perspectives such as psychology, sociology, spirituality and literature. For the vast majority of people none of these perspectives matters apparently. For the vast majority, religion is an illusion or a placebo that provides the much needed solace during times of turbulence and anguish. There is a minority who seek and discover genuine spiritual meaning with the help of religion. There is another group of people who make religion the source of their livelihood.
Farrukh Dhondy’s novel is about the last group primarily. Mr Bhavnani and Ms Shanti are the typical commercial agents of religion. They know how to sell religion. They make wealth out of it, and nothing less than fabulous wealth. The protagonist of the novel is Bhagwan Saket and he is not trying to make wealth. He is superficial both emotionally and intellectually. He has read much and was even a teacher of philosophy for some time in a college. But his knowledge remains untouched by the profundity that only life’s experiences can provide. He has no experience of love; he had been separated from his mother as an infant. He lived in a monastery in the Himalayas till the age of 7. Later he obtained education with the help of scholarships. He never dreamt of becoming a godman. Mr Bhavnani and Ms Shanti catapult Rahul the loafer into Saket the godman. Saket possesses a charm and an eloquence which can draw a lot of wealthy Westerners as disciples. Saket eventually becomes the wealthiest godman in India owning a fleet of luxury cars gifted by his devotees.
There is enough hint in the novel that Bhagwan Saket is modelled on Bhagwan Rajneesh who later became Osho. Saket’s empire is also situated in “a quiet suburb of Poona.”
Dhondy succeeds in portraying vividly the dark underbelly of a godman’s empire. Godmen like Bhagwan Saket found cults which become “the religion of the lost children.” The words “lost” and “children” are significant. In the case of Bhagwan Saket, the people who flock to him are those who lost their moorings in their original culture and religion, mostly because they seldom cared to discover their roots. They are also quite childish in their yearnings for love and attention.
There is another godman in the novel who is put to death by his commercial managers when he is no more able to deliver lectures and thus rake in the moolah. The followers of that godman are mostly widows and old men who are not wanted by their children. Religion is the refuge of the lost people, people who fail to discover themselves clearly.
Prophet of Love is a suspense thriller at one level. At another, it throws ample light on the world of certain godmen and other similar frauds. The world that Dhondy throws open to the readers is so bizarre that it may seem incredible and improbable in many places. That is a drawback of the novel.
The novel arouses the reader’s curiosity right from page one and sustains it to the end. How far the reader will be satisfied will depend on his/her religious inclinations, intellectual proclivity and literary tastes. Those who are not familiar with the world of religious fraudsters but are interested in a ringside view will find the book highly rewarding.
Acknowledgement: Thanks to Harper Collins India for sending me a free copy of the book in association with the Book Review Project of Indiblogger.