The Saadhu Testament
Rohitha wanted to see for himself how his plan was working. He had almost forgotten the idea was first given by Pala. The income from his project had already far exceeded his vision. His only regret was that he could not talk about his success with anyone other than Pala. It would have been fun to see the faces of his friends.
When he told his friends that he wanted to visit Saadhu, they accepted it as just another whim of Rohitha. He would have liked to take Pala with him, but thought it could be too risky, because inadvertently he or Pala could make a slip. He could send Pala for a visit later.
When Senaka heard of his plan to visit the Saadhu, he too wanted to go with Rohitha, to which Rohitha agreed, because then he would be able to see first hand, the reactions of a Saadhu devotee.
They flew first class on Air Lanka to Chennai and took the next flight to Hyderabad and checked in at the Krishna Oberoi for the night. Senaka wanted to spend a day in Hyderabad to see the Golkonda fort and other places listed in the travel folders. Rohitha was not interested, but agreed to spend another day at the Oberoi. While he spent his day in the gym and the pool, Senaka arranged for a guide and left on a city tour.
The best car available for their trip to Ananthnandi was a Contessa, fortunately with air conditioning. They left after a late breakfast, and Senaka tried to get Rohitha's attention to the Himayat Sagar and the statute of the Buddha and other sites he had seen the previous day, but Rohitha was not interested.
They arrived at the Refuge Hotel, at Ananthnandi by noon. The lunch at the hotel was not to Rohitha's liking. He learnt that all restaurants in Ananthnandi served only vegetarian meals. Alcohol and tobacco were not allowed, not even in the privacy of their rooms. He tried to ignore the inconvenience, thinking about how it would be annoying the tobacco companies and the distillers. The respect and admiration of the devotees for the Saadhu also increased when they found the kind of restrictions imposed on the town.
The first thing Rohitha did, on going back to his room after lunch was to call Peter Dahanayake, using his mobile phone.
'Why didn't you tell me that there was only vegetarian food here' he shouted at him.
'I am sorry, it had slipped my mind. Everyone who comes here takes it for granted'
'You know very well not to take me for granted. Anyway, why i called you is to rectify this situation. Inform the manager here to set up a Chinese restaurant immediately. He can get down a good cook from Kuala Lumpur. Singapore would be too expensive. There are experts who prepare dishes to look and taste non-veg' he told Peter.
'But we cannot serve non-veg' peter protested.
'Wait till i finish. I am talking about vegetarian dishes only. These guys can make all these non-veg dishes using soya, mushrooms and beancurd. Make sure that these dishes carry a high price tag.'
'Ok. Will do' Peter said and Rohitha could picture him noting it down in his little pad.
'Can't we serve non-alcoholic beer?' he asked again.
'I have to check that and let me talk to Prof. Premaratne' Peter told him.
Rohitha had never met Premaratne, Professor of Sociology of Religion at an Indian university somewhere. He had been engaged as a consultant by Peter, as one of the first steps in their project. Rohitha could recall some details about his qualifications. Peter always consulted him and sometimes it was Premaratne who made new suggestions for this project. Upto that time Premaratne had never failed.
Senaka called him on the intercom suggesting that they go out for a walk, and to Senaka's surprise Rohitha agreed. Rohitha wanted to have a look around 'his town'. The town that had grown from a little Indian village, the town he had planned, and owned.
Senaka had a town map he had picked up at the lobby, and tried to show Rohitha, how the town had been planned, the straight roads, running parallel, making perfect rectangles, for shopping, for housing, for schools and other town facilities.
You can see the same planning if you go to Chandigar Rohitha tried to dampen his enthusiasm.
Chandigar may have been planned like that, but today it is just another messy town like any other, in India. But this town is different. Senaka insisted.
Rohitha tried to spot the informants and the guides employed by Peter, though none of them would know who Peter was. Rohitha knew that these 'intelligence gatherers' included young boys and girls who liked to earn a few rupees after school, prostitutes both male and female, taxi drivers, pan shop keepers and even some beggars. They all had code numbers and fed all their information to a telephone number, which was rerouted to another number and the calls were recorded.
A team of young men worked on shifts feeding all the gathered data into a databank, which was constantly processed by the machine to identify special visitors who required special attention.
The data gathering started in most major airports in India and at the Indian visa offices in the other countries where ever Saadhu devotees were found.
Rohitha had access to this databank through his notebook. Some of the information was useful to him in his varied business activities. He gave his orders to the Saadhu through Peter on how to treat any particular visitor.
They entered one of the many shops that displayed Saadhu memorabilia. A sales girl approached to help them make their selection. Rohitha felt a thrill to be inside a shop owned by him, but unknown to the sales staff and even to his fellow traveler. They looked around, Senaka trying to select a few items to take home and for his friends, while Rohitha tried to identify items which had been created, based on his ideas.
There were figures of the Saadhu, ranging from tiny statues meant to be fixed in automobiles, to life size carvings in wood and marble. There were wall hangings with the Saadhu's sayings, and paintings of the temple, and of Saadhu's visits to other countries. Some paintings were probably by reputed artists because the prices shown were sometimes over one lakh rupees.
He saw the latest Saadhu CD with the virtual reality sermon, in fourteen languages and the DVDs with the Saadhu's visit to Europe and the United States. These films had been produced by the same advertising agency that handled all visits of the Saadhu. Rohitha admired their efficiency and creativity and most of all the way they managed to remain unseen and unheard. All their work was done through small time operators hired through dummy companies.
Everyone worked on a need to know basis, including Peter.
Next morning, as it had been arranged by Peter through his line of communications, Rohitha was among the select few to be summoned to the inner sanctum. Rohitha wanted to see the Saadhu and see if he could recognize any trace of the recluse he had met at Udawalawa over ten years ago. He was confident that the Saadhu would not recognize him, and any way the Saadhu had no idea who was the puppet master.
Rohitha recognized some of the invitees, as they were well known figures in India. He wondered what their reactions would be, if they learnt that 90% of the contributions they made to the Saadhu Jana funds ended up in a Swiss bank account. There were three white skinned women who were inexpertly draped in Indian saris with long sleeved jackets.
He looked around the garden which was familiar to him from photographs and films from the initial stages of landscaping and even prior to that, when the Saadhu first settled down here in the uncleared jungle.
Saadhu's arrival here was very carefully planned by Rohitha, improving on the initial plans prepared by Premaratne. Saadhu left Sri Lanka as a pilgrim visiting the holy Buddhist places in north India. He was accompanied by peter. Peter was to take him to the Himalayas, and they were to live there visiting one recluse after another, getting familiar with their daily rituals, lifestyle, their walk, dress and speech. Before leaving Sri Lanka the recluse had learnt Hindi. After about three months, when Peter was confident that the recluse was ready, he made a video film of the recluse in his daily routine and sent it to Premaratne, who studied it and made his comments and suggestions for improvements a month later the next video was studied by him and the green light was given by Rohitha to take the next step.
The recluse was brought by car upto Umarga and from there while Peter followed by car, the Saadhu walked. He arrived at Homnabad and spent a few days, hanging around the small town, hinting to a few people who offered him food, that he had been in the Himalayas for twelve years.
On a signal from Peter he left Homnabad and came to the jungle, where he occupied, what appeared to be an abandoned hut.
The hut was familiar to Rohitha, too, as he had given the idea for it to Premaratne through Peter. Premaratne had to work with several architects before Peter could get the final approval from Rohitha. However, none of them but Peter knew of the underground rooms or the secret entrance, which were constructed before the hut, about a hundred meters away from its intended location. It was covered with about two feet of earth and landscaped, so there would be no sign of any construction. The entrance was opened up later, after the hut was completed.
Rohitha knew the underground apartment well, because he had seen its video on completion, the full air conditioned interior with wall to wall carpeting, luxurious bed, giant screen television set, the latest audio equipment and the ultra modern kitchen. The apartment was connected by an underground tunnel to a building outside the temple grounds. This was occupied by a retired diplomat, who was now in the payroll of Rohitha. All the provisions required for the apartment and other needs of the Saadhu were supplied through this house. As a double precaution to ensure that this secret was well kept, the diplomats driver and the two maids were also paid handsomely by Peter, to report on the diplomats movements, while his telephone was also tapped.
A woman he had picked was already a Minister in Australia and would do anything requested by the Saadhu.
Rohitha did not feel that what he was doing was wrong. The money he earned was no different from what he earned from his other business ventures. This was a little different because of the secrecy involved and because it was not an ordinary type of business, which was taught in business schools.
Rohitha believed that he was doing a service to mankind, by supplying a service that was badly needed. Pala had supported him on this and had explained to him, that what Rohitha was offering were crutches for people who could not stand on their own two feet.
As he walked around Ananthnandi that evening with Senaka, a plan was growing in Rohitha's mind, to set up another project, somewhere else, and he thought the best place would be somewhere in Europe.
May be this too was envisaged by Pala, when he first proposed this project, though he had not told Rohitha.