From “Baal Brahmachari” to a sadhu with great connections

Author Bhavdeep Kang
During his sojourn in the Himalayas, (then known as Nemi Chand) had met ascetics who lived in obscurity and were spiritually evolved. According to him, being spiritual doesn’t entail renunciation, giving up on the good things of life. For instance, in (the businessman-turned- arms dealer) his inner eye saw past the love of luxury, women and money to discover the spirituality within! In one of his interviews to India Today magazine, he had bragged that under his tutelage, Khashoggi wound up his arms business and along with his son, turned a strict vegetarian.

Nemi Chand decided to embrace celibacy at the age of sixteen and formally became a sadhu at twenty one. He then conducted a “mahayagya” (a religious offering involving sacrificial fire and prayers), the first of twenty-six he would conduct all over the globe in the coming decades. According to him, four years of continuous “sadhana” in the forests granted him extraordinary powers and he acquired a reputation as an astrologer and mind-reader, an impressive cocktail which helped him gain access into the homes of those who mattered.

His powers must have been extraordinary to impress among others, so uncompromising a rationalist as S. Jaipal Reddy, a senior member of the party. In 1972, accompanied by a Congress MLA, Chandraswami visited Jaipal Reddy at his home in Hyderabad. After exchanging pleasantries, Reddy recalled, he was asked by Changraswami to write down a series of complex questions on separate strips of paper and fold them. The Swami, who hadn’t seen the questions and didn’t know English, couldn’t possibly have known what they were – but he did. And repeated them back flawlessly! An intrigued Reddy agreed to have breakfast with him the following day, but was disappointed to discover that the swami knew all the questions before they were even asked, but drew a blank when it came to the answers.

Thereafter, Chandraswami “acquired” the then chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, as a discipline, and the godman’s live witnessed a remarkable transformation.

Although the swami claims he never had a formal education, economist Dr. Mohan Guruswamy, then a student at Nizam college in recalls seeing him hanging around the campus with a bunch of boys who studied at the City College. He was an obliging youth, who would fetch tea and coffee for the goons of Nizam College. Guruswamy told me he’d heard that Chandraswami became a scrap dealer buying waste metal from the Nagarjuna Sagar dam project and selling it at a profit. A problem occurred regarding the authenticity of one of the bank drafts he presented. After that, he disappeared and then re-emerged as swami in the company of P V Narsimha Rao.’

By the mid-1970’s, Chandraswami had trapezed to London. K – the ex-diplomat, politician, Union Minister and author - documented his encounters with the godman in his book, “Walking with Lions”. At the time, Natwar Singh – then deputy High Comissioner in - met him, the swami was already well connected. Natwar described his first meeting with the young godman :

“He called me with Yashpal Kapur’s reference. He must have been 25-26 years old at the time. We met at India House and he name-dropped throughout but didn’t speak English. After that, we met again. I found him a likeable rogue.”

[ Excerpted with permission from “Gurus : Stories of India's Leading Babas” by Bhavdeep Kang, Westland Books, June 2016. Views expressed are writer’s personal ]
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