Brings up child abandoned outside his ashram three years ago
Like many festivals in India, the Maha Kumbh Mela draws participants as well as sightseers from across the world. This tyagi sadhu — one who has renounced his worldly life — and his adopted boy are a sight for many visitors on the banks of the Sangam. The sadhu took the boy in when he found him as an abandoned newborn outside his ashram. The baby though ill and emaciated was breathing. Overcome by compassion, the sadhu decided to take him under his care.
Born Srikanth Narayan Das, the sadhu quit his job as a spinning master in a textile mill in Punjab’s Ropar district, leaving behind acres of land, to do penance.
The child, into his third year, can be found playing with his toys or pets — a litter of puppies — on the banks of the Sangam, with the lean, matted-haired sadhu keeping a close watch. Devotees often visit the ashram for a peek at their singular bond. Not only has the child brought new responsibilities for Das, he has also altered Das’s life view.
According to Das, the baby’s parents abandoned him as he may have suffered from an illness which his parents did not expect him to survive or were too poor to cure. The sadhu, known for his keen interest in environmental conservation, used the crop of herbs behind his tent to nurse the baby back to health. He, however, hoped that the baby’s parents would come. “I waited for days, then weeks. But nobody came. Maybe this was god’s wish.”
He eventually adopted the baby — now called Bajrangi. But barely three months into it, the sadhu had to contend with allegations of kidnapping and fraud. “It was as if I had committed a crime by giving shelter to this child. They wanted to take him to the orphanage. Everybody knows how they treat children there. Most of them end up begging on the streets!” he says.
Incidentally, he is also popular as Flood Baba, as last year he climbed onto a tree during a flood and stayed there in a yogic posture for more than two weeks. The administration had to step in and ask him to come down for safety reasons. But the ascetic refused to oblige.
“I wake up daily at 4 a.m. and give Bajrangi lessons on the English and Hindi alphabet. He can already count till 25,” says Das.
He has begun rearing cows so that Bajrangi is fed well.
From his daily massage sessions, hygiene and food requirements and toys, Bajrangi enjoys all the things a three-year-old would appreciate.
However, as one might assume, with no source of income Das is anxious. But he gets aggressive when anyone talks of their separation. “Dare anyone call him an orphan!”