My boss asked me to find him a 2-acre plot on the outskirts of the city and get in touch with some placement agency for a dozen MBAs, besides a front-office executive and a personal secretary — both of whom must be women. The MBAs could be men (with beards preferably) or women, it didn’t matter.
I could not figure out the reason for his urgent decision to acquire a big land and hire all these professionals, but I had no reason to doubt his bona fides. He has been with our company for more than a decade and this is his second innings. His first innings with us was for five years and it got over when he quit the job to start up his own manufacturing venture that ran well until the economic crisis brought down the demand of his products. That was the tragic end of his brief entrepreneurship.
A decade later, why all of a sudden, he was planning to buy a sizeable plot? Maybe to build another unit. The idea thrilled me, since our factory was in financial crisis; and everybody, including me, was hunting for better prospects. I started consulting real-estate agents for the plot, placed ads in newspapers for hiring the manpower, and floated tenders for acquiring latest audio-visual systems.
Before going on to his new venture, the boss threw us a last party during one of the weekends, where he spoke to us. “It is the age of swamis, gurus and babas in our country,” he said, “so I have decided to start up an ashram, a modern one. Discounted land, tax-free supplies of eatables, and guaranteed income-tax exemption—there is economic sense and a lot of respect, too, in being a charitable institution or a baba.”
“There is no dearth of followers either. Politicians, bankers, actors, or barbers; you name any; they all visit their swamis for blessings, and the peace of mind. Gurus have considerable clout. They belong to all parties, and can switch sides at will and according to the circumstances. Leaders shield them and they are immune to political upheavals. A convoy of SUVs and limousines follow them wherever they go, and they are allowed to declare self the living gods,” he said.
He spoke for hours together, like a holy man in discourse. It started becoming clear to me why he was acquiring latest gadgets and hiring bearded MBAs. Of course, he will dress them up in saffron robes, disguise them as his young disciples, who will market him overseas. The computers and Wi-Fi systems will be the back office of his proposed big hall at the upcoming ashram, where he will appear on the LED screens.
The followers will bring generous donations in cash and kind, and there will be only income and no major expenses thereafter. There is no business like running an ashram indeed.