There are saints, there are godmen, there are spiritual seekers, there are guides to a better life, and then, there is Swami Ramdev. Who could’ve thought that a young boy from Saidalipur, Haryana, would not only become an important catalyst in the restoration of the Indian culture and the indigenous sciences through his instant yoga, and would oversee the rise of one of the fastest growing FMCG player, the Patanjali Ayurveda.
The Baba Ramdev Phenomenon – From Moksha to Market is the journey of this very man, from his humble beginnings as a seller of ayurvedic medicines in Asom, which he used to do on a scooter, to becoming a nightmare for the FMCG giants.
Written by Kaushik Deka, an Assamese journalist, and a Senior Associate Editor of the India Today magazine, The Baba Ramdev Phenomenon is a biography depicting the life of Swami Ramdev, famous yoga guru and patron of Divya Pharmacy and Patanjali Ayurveda Limited. The book tells the story about the brilliant student, Ram Krishna Yadav, who overcame a paralytic attack, and metamorphosed in to a man instrumental in restoring the honor of Yoga and Ayurveda.
In the conversations that the novelist, Mr Kaushik Deka, struck up with Swami Ramdev, Baba Ramdev comes across as a jovial saint, who is not very interested in worldly matters, and yet, never comes across as a recluse. For him, no job is big or small. In his own words, ‘I’m a sanyasi, not a nikamma [good for nothing]. I will learn everything that makes my job better.’
While many would downplay him as just another spiritual teacher, or look at him in contempt as a fraudulent godman, with a considerable influence in Indian politics, Swami Ramdev is much more than just that. Baba Ramdev doesn’t sell religion, he sells health and healthy habits. Far from being a traditional sanyasi, Swami Ramdev is the mendicant who works for the welfare of the people. To quote from the book, this is one of the main reasons that drives the empire of Swami Ramdev:-
“…….The purpose of a sadhu is not to be nikamma and sit idle, rather he has to accomplish bigger tasks for the greater good,’ he continues, ‘So I came back from the Himalayas because I realised my knowledge will be fruitful only when it’s of any use to the people’. “ Despite being the owner of companies, whose annual turnover exceeds more than Rs. 6000 crores as of now, deep down, Baba Ramdev is still the simple village boy, who’d prefer to sleep on the floor and the book describes all the tales of Ramdev’s simplicity very well.
The book begins with an emotional flashback into the childhood of Swami Ramdev. We get to know how Ram Krishna Yadav, the boy born to a poor farmer couple, excelled academically despite all odds. Even when he was attacked by a brutal paralysis, he did not lose hope. Before he made yoga popular once again amongst the masses, he had practised it upon his paralysed body, patiently for over a decade, to make sure his actions actually brought results. To quote a passage in the book, “ …….Barring a slight squint in his left eye, Ramdev conquered the paralytic attack. Yoga gradually removed the paralysis in Baba Ramdev’s left side, much before he renovated yoga as an instant thirty minute drill to cure multiple ailments. Baba Ramdev actually practiced what he preached.”
The book delves deeper into the struggles Baba Ramdev, and his best friend, batchmate, and now the majority stakeholder in Patanjali Ayurveda Limited, Acharya Balkrishna, once faced, when they started their journey of restoring the Indic sciences and the Indic way of life. From humble beginnings as selling medicines for malaria and Kala Zaar in Asom, especially at a time, when the state was under siege, from both Catholic missionaries and Bodoland separatists.
One shall be mesmerized upon reading how Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balkrishna managed to make their voices count, and also successfully brought the alleged Bodo rebels back into the mainstream. When Catholic missionaries ganged up against the two, it were the Bodo rebels, who upon realizing the true intent of the duo selling medicines, decided to back them up against the religious extremists.
This is not all. The book also focuses on how Swami Ramdev, with his simple and indigenous techniques, always managed to leave his opponents dumbstruck. When Baba Ramdev was laying the foundations for the mighty Patanjali empire, communist leader Brinda Karat tried to involve him in a legal mess by accusing his Divya Pharmacy of producing medicines mixed with animal bones. Swami Ramdev shot back at her, highlighting her proximity with soft drink companies, most of which are multinational giants. He accused Brinda of completely turning a blind eye to the harmful effects of the aerated drinks. A communist, for whom anything multinational is capitalist, was exposed . Brinda was left licking at her wounds, and her nefarious agenda was exposed by Baba Ramdev.
With precise figures and infallible statistics, Mr Kaushik Deka proves how slowly, but steadily, Baba Ramdev proved himself a worthy name in FMCG sector which was a tough market to enter in.
For Baba Ramdev, Patanjali’s entry into FMCG segment, was India’s way of achieving economic sovereignty. To quote Mr Kaushik Deka, ‘………..Patanjali’s strategy relies on spreading itself thin across dozens of FMCG categories, and carpet bombing on consumers with scores of products, rather than focusing its energies on one or two large wins…..’ This is something not many MNCs would love to take a risk for.
However, as glorious is Swami Ramdev’s aura, there are some dark sides to his persona too. The author has not forgotten to mention his lofty political ambitions, including the infamous satyagraha at Ramlila Maidan in 2011, which ended in disaster. It does talk about Baba Ramdev’s ever fluctuating political interests too.
‘The Baba Ramdev Phenomenon’ is an interesting journey of Swami Ramdev, a copybook rags to riches story. The book covers his pursuit to bring forward the benefits of natural sciences and the indigenous techniques, through the revival of yoga and Ayurveda. And the book does give more than a glimpse of the dark side of Baba Ramdev as well. ‘The Baba Ramdev Phenomenon’ is a delightful read if you need a good biography on Swami Ramdev.