Brings up child abandoned outside his ashram
Almost three years ago, a tyagi sadhu — one who essentially renounces worldly life — spotted a baby lying outside his shabby ashram on the banks of the Sangam. He initially assumed that the baby was dead. The baby though ill and emaciated was breathing. Overcome by compassion, the sadhu decided to take him under his care.
Born Srikanth Narayan Das, he quit his job as a spinning master in a textile mill in Punjab’s Ropar district, leaving behind acres of land, to do penance.
Nobody knows for sure how the infant ended up there but according to the sadhu, the baby might 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, utilised 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.
As expected, the sadhu faced demands to hand over the baby to a child-care centre, but he did not buckle even under intense pressure. 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.
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, but he has also altered his life view. “I wake up daily at 4 a.m. and give him 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.