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Heart for an atheist, gold ring for believer

Heart for an atheist, gold ring for believer

Author: Jaya Menon
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: January 22, 2007
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/21444.html

An avowed atheist, who has little patience for godmen, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi not only played host to Sri Sathya Sai Baba at his Gopalapuram residence last evening, but also got a dose of the godman's famous 'miracle' of producing holy ash, gold jewellery, and other objects from thin air. Karunanidhi in turn equated Baba to 'God.'

At a gala function organised in Chennai this morning to thank the Hindu religious leader for his contribution of Rs 200 crore to help bring Krishna water to Chennai, PWD Minister and DMK senior Durai Murugan regaled an enrapt audience about how Sai Baba produced gold finger rings out of thin air for himself and Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran when he called at Karunanidhi's residence on Saturday.

It was Durai Murugan who greeted Baba when he arrived in a gleaming 'Skoda' that pushed into the narrow lane in front of Karunanidhi's Gopalapuram residence, crammed with media representatives and an eager crowd waiting to catch a glimpse of the religious leader, visiting Chennai after a decade.

The godman got into a wheel chair and was pushed up a make-shift ramp into the house and later taken by a lift to the first floor where Karunanidhi greeted him with a bouquet of flowers.

"Of course, Baba knows that Kalignar's (referring to Karunanidhi) finger adorned by a ring given by Anna (DMK founder C.N. Annadurai, who passionately adhered to the atheistic philosophy) will not accept any other ring,'' Durai Murugan hastily added, as if to reiterate his leader's rationalist credentials.

Dayanidhi Maran, however, was quick to correct his party colleague, saying Sai Baba had produced the ring for himself first and did so for Durai Murugan later, at his request. When they asked for a ring for Karunanidhi, Baba apparently remarked: "I will give him my heart.'' Karunanidhi and Baba chatted happily, laughing together for 45 minutes like they were long lost friends, Maran added.

While Karunanidhi was a non-believer, most of his family members are known to be devout, frequenting temples. So, it was not surprising when the cameras captured his first wife, Dayalu Ammal, almost prostrating before Baba at their residence yesterday.

On Sunday, the three-hour felicitation function was more an exercise in spiritual eulogising. It was attended by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Railways Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumarasamy, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu Governors S.M. Krishna and Surjit Singh Barnala, besides Karunanidhi and Dayanidhi Maran.

While Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said Sai Baba was "beyond space and time, he is divinity,'' the Railway Minister and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav said, "Baba is not Baba anymore, he is God now.''

Rationalist Karunanidhi added his bit: "I have always respected those who worked to ameliorate people's sufferings. They are equivalent to God.''

He was attending the function because he agreed with Sai Baba's words 'Service to Mankind is Service to God.' "Whether I accept God or not is not important. What is important is whether my deeds are acceptable to God, if at all God existed,'' Karunanidhi said.


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