The Ignorant Spokesman
(Fictional. Continuing The GodMen Chronicles)
A scandal had broken out the previous night. Some es-Mishtiqiyas had gone to the media with printouts of bank transcripts, land records, and a video that showed someone looking like Swami Mishtick in, shall we say, "a compromising position" with several female, blond sanyasins. The story had traveled like wildfire, trending into the top of Twitter overnight. TV channels were all over the story, some endlessly streaming an old BBC expose documentary on Swamiji and the "dark mishtiqiya cult", as they put it. The 24-hour news cycle was relentless, and late January is one of the slowest news periods of the year. Most business news channels too diverted their attention from the annual Davos love-fest, and featured stories about this new scandal instead. It made for great television.
(originally posted at http://rustus.blogspot.com)
By 8am, the ashram gate was surrounded by TV crews, their satellite connections beaming out images into homes all across India, and perhaps, out into the wider universe. The mela outside the ashram had taken a festive look, with reporters competing for square footage that covered the maximum of the "Himalayan Retreat" building behind them.
"Built like something out of Disneyland, this grotesque building is testimony to the massive extent of this swindle. Our sources estimate that this building was built with Twelve Million Dollars worth of donations. Donations that were meant to go to the poor and needy in India, but were spent on these luxuries for the fake Swami and his troupe. For KGB-32, this is Lakshmi Jain".
"The rumors of mis-management and mistreatment of inmates have surfaced every few months around the 'Mishtiqiya' community. Our anonymous sources, some of whom were high ranking officials inside this mysterious cult, have tipped us about the murders of four young men, and six young women at this very ashram in the last four years. It is said that the orange building that you see inside..", and here the camera zooms out to reveal the super-specialty hospital, " is the site of these crimes. The local police has refused to register the cases, and are said to be hand in glove with the ashram authorities...".
By 10am, quite a crowd had gathered. Some of the protesters were members of the local Satrang Bal, under the control of the local strongman. Very deliberately, and under the watchful gaze of the 24-hour TV crews, the protesters burnt effigies of the Swami, and started to tear down one of the walls of the ashram. Local police had arrived at the scene, but seemed to be under instructions to do nothing on camera. They watched on as well.
Unaware of the developments at the ashram gate, or even the news storm since previous night, Deva Ananda walked over to the ashram office inside the Himalayan Retreat at noon. He walked over to Andaracharya's plush office and smiled gently, "Shal-Aum Andaracharyaji. Swamiji's blessings on us".
Andaracharya turned off the 60" LCD television on his wall, and turned towards Deva Ananda. "Shal-Aum Deva Anandaji. Swamiji's blessings on us. Please come in and sit here". He gestured towards the deep orange sofas inside his office, as he himself sat down on his black leather sofa. "You are very lucky. Swamiji has chosen you for a very special task. Are you ready?"
At 12:30pm, Deva Ananda nervously touched his glasses, as he entered the MishTV media room. He looked again at the paper in his trembling hands, trying to memorize the text before him. He had never faced a live news camera, and this seemed like a bad time to start. He walked over to the center of the media stage, and took one last look at the crowd around him. Cameras had started flashing as soon as he had opened the door, and now the whirring of two dozen TV cameras filled the room. The room went quiet as he settled into his seat, the silence punctuated with the flash of still cameras, and the background hum of the TV cameras. They waited.
Hello. I am Dr. David Freeman, and I am the official spokes-person for the Mishtiqiya Ashram.
We would like to say that we are dismayed by the baseless allegations made recently in the press, and deny them completely. We would like to assert that Swami Mishtick is a divine soul and a renunciate. He does not have any earthly belongings.
We would also like to deny Swamiji's connection with any form of bodily involvement with any member of the community. We are aware that there are some videos claiming to be Swamiji, and would like the public to know that Swamiji is celibate. These videos are obviously fake propaganda created to sully Swamiji's name and good work.
The Mishtiqiya Ashram is a public service community. We would like to remind the public that the community runs 39 state-of-the-art hospitals, and 12 institutions of higher learning. We have a record of service to the community that cannot be tarnished by these baseless accusations.
Swamiji himself is away for his Maun Vrat, a vow of silence, in the Himalayas. He will not be available for comment on this matter until his meditation is over.
Copies of this statement are available on the table to my right. We will not take any more questions.
Thank you, and Shal-Aum".