As one of the best private investigators in Mumbai, we have come to believe that our job doesn’t just end at investigating the problems of our clients and corporate companies who pay us money to do so. We have decided that apart from work that pays, we must also use the ample and extensive investigative skills that we possess to do some investigative journalism of the benevolent kind. At the end of the day who can do a better job at investigative journalism than a private investigator himself?! We have started a new category on our blog called Investigative Journalism and we hope to cover some very interesting local stories in the future by using our beat detectives and young investigation team.
So one Friday morning, we dispatched one of our rookie field investigators to investigate the curious phenomenon of a diminutive barefooted man dressed in flowing white linen attire who has been for years steadfastly standing on his feet at a busy traffic intersection in Mumbai throughout the day with his arms raised upward holding a placard where he has scrawled,”Follow your own religion and love one another” in Hindi. This man whom we have dubbed ‘The Traffic Light Messiah” really amazes us. In India’s commercial capital where millions of people wake up everyday and set off from their homes in a mad rush to go somewhere, be someone and do something, this saintly man somehow seems to remind us that somewhere our ancient land of wisdom that has spawned many a great saint, seer and mystic is going in the wrong direction. Standing serenely next to a traffic light pole under the harsh Mumbai Sun in the midst of thousands of honking vehicles and benevolently smiling at all, the popular conception is that he seems to have the trappings of a mad man who has probably lost his bearings. Either that, or he may be begging for alms or representing some spiritual organisation like ISKCON or the likes. Turns out he is none of that. This man whose real name is Krishna Avatar or Krishna Das is in his senses alright, speaks eloquently and often fervently with a humanist approach and does not represent any trust, religion, sect nor creed but only himself and has till date never accepted a single rupee from anyone in the form of alms and yet considers himself wealthy beyond belief!
Read on to know about this maverick saint and what he stands for:
Q: What is your real name?
A: My real name is Krishna Avatar and I am popularly known as Krishna Das.
Q: Where do you live?
A: I live on Versova Beach (small tenements overlooking the beach in suburban Mumbai). I get by with the support of the local police stations as well as the municipality. People of all religions be they Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Parsi, Yehudi, Jews they all pass me by and read my message. About 200 to 300 hundred thousand people pass me by everyday and bless me and go their own way.
Q: What language do you speak? What is your mother tongue?
A: Its Hindi.
Q: How many years have you been standing at this traffic signal preaching your message?
A: About 5 – 6 years.
Q: Wow. And how many more years are you going to remain rooted here preaching your message?
A: As long as I breathe. My main target in life is to deliver this message. And the underlying theme behind my message is that: I want you and your family to be happy. And to remain happy one must follow a couple of principles. The first thing to remember and accept is that as many as there are people on this earth, there are as many different views. And so in order for us to be happy and for our families to remain happy, we must speak with others by respecting the other’s point of view. Secondly, our family members be they our spouse, our parents, our siblings, our children, our relatives, our friends and genuine well wishers desire only good things for us. Therefore we must take their guidance and advice in the right spirit. So these are the two eternal truths that I would like others to imbibe – one is that of adjustment with others and the other is that of surrendering. So if these two moot points can be dwelled upon and practised by everyone, we will all be happy and live peacefully with each other in society. There is no peace in society because these points are not being followed by one and all and everyone is simply trying to force their own opinion down the throats of others which is why individuals are not happy which also ensures that their immediate family members such as their wives and children also suffer the consequences of the individual’s harmful and malicious speech and actions. I just want you to be happy. That is all.
Q: Why do you stand here all day?
A: Look. About 200,000 – 300,000 people pass by everyday in the form of pedestrians and vehicular traffic and become happy on seeing a familiar face smiling back at them. It doesn’t take much for me to smile at others. It is incredible when you come to think about it. An average car contains about 4 individuals sitting inside. So one smile can get me 4 smiles back in return! Isnt that amazing? Think about it. If I smile a hundred or two hundred thousand smiles a day, imagine the wealth of smiles that I receive in return! Mind boggling isnt it? So I remain happy and seeing me happy also makes others happy. So this act is basically just an effort to make others happy.
Q: Has it happened that apart from smiles you have also received barbs and insults along the way?
A: Of course. See, about 5 – ten million unique people have passed me by at least. About 50 of those have hurt me with comments and remarks which I consider a very small percentage. In the beginning I used to see more of these kinds of remarks such as ‘What the fuck are you doing here?’, ‘You think you are a big fucking saint?’, ‘Go Home and sit or sleep.’ But I have seen that most of those who used to hate me have become my biggest lovers. Far from those initial brickbats, they now wish me well, say sweet things, salute me and go on their ways.
Q: So did you ever feel angry at those people who used to humiliate you? Did you feel the need to retaliate back?
A: Ah, yes! I am only human! I would get angry at them. But I analysed my anger and I realised the reason my body was sending me automatic signals of anger and other such reflex actions. I also realised how easy it is to control these emotions which can only take one away from the path of love.
Q: And what is the secret to controlling such negative emotions?
A: The secret is acceptance. Whatever it is, accept it.
Q: But the Buddha used to say – If someone is throwing abuses at you, refuse to accept it so then negativity cannot touch you.
A: No, I am of the opinion that the secret to controlling yourself is acceptance. If someone is hurling abuses at you, accept the fact that they are abusing you. What is the point of refusing to accept it. You will only internalise your anger which may manifest itself at a future date in some other form.
Q. So you stand here all day long. Haven’t you gotten bored of it all by now? People get bored of doing things within a matter of minutes, hours or days! You have been doing this for years! Besides your hands must hurt keeping them raised all day long?! My hands are hurting just holding my phone near your face for the last 2 minutes and I already need a break!
A: Ha ha. Yes that is the most common question that I get from passersby – Dont your hands hurt? Dont your legs hurt standing all day? I just tell them one thing. It seems as if I am doing this. But its all the work of the one above – the master of the universe! Boredom and pain I do not feel because how can I feel these emotions when there is a higher purpose guiding me through it all.
Q: So how do you make a living? Surely you don’t have sponsors and you do not represent any commercial organisation or other vested interests. Dont tell me your body only survives on air and water?!
A: You see, it would have been very easy for me to make a living and even become rich. There are so many wealthy well wishers who drive by in big cars who offer me a 500 rupee or a 1000 rupee note every now and then. But I have always refused them politely. I have one or two well wishers though who take care of my basic needs such as rent and food. Other than that I do not need anything more. And whenever I have some extra money in my pocket, I make it a point to distribute it equally among the poor street kids in the area. So my basic existential needs are thus taken care of by my well wishers and otherwise like I mentioned I have never taken nor do I ever wish to take any alms from the general public.
Q: So if I were to ask you to give a lasting message to India, what would it be?
A: My friend, my message will not be just to the people of India but for the whole world! The message is written right here. It says – Follow your Religion. Love Everybody. There has never been and there never will be a message for humanity that has more truth and weight behind it than this one. This is my only message to India and to the rest of the world. And as far as India is concerned, India once was one of the greatest nations on Earth. My desire is that India must now aim to aspire to regain the glory and the greatness that she was once known for. I want to see in my lifetime the India that was once the cynosure and envy of the world’s nations. All Indians must aspire to be as great as their forefathers once were and set an example for the rest of the world. All Indians must once again show the world the way of peace, solidarity, brotherhood and love.
Q: So how about a new message now? Its been 5 years. Surely you have more nuggets of wisdom to give to the people?
A: Brother, I have aspired in the past to dwell on different subjects and topics. I used to often go to Juhu Beach (where thousands of people gather every evenings) with messages such as ‘The Biggest Service is To Serve Your Parents’, or ‘Be Aware Always’, ‘Say the Truth Always’. But I came to realise that the message that can never change and that which is eternal is the one that I am holding right here between my hands! Because true religion is the one that is not made by man. Which also brings me to another important message – Care for the world you live in. The Supreme one has created the sky, earth, water, wind and fire. Similarly every human being is made up of these elements and we carry on our day to day lives because of the presence of these elements in our bodies and in the world around us. Look, man must not play around with these 5 elements. If we push our luck with the environment beyond a certain point, we may end up creating grave and irreversible problems for all of humanity as well as for all other living creatures on earth. A very simple observation – Take Global Warming. Every educated person today in India and the rest of the world talk about global warming. But see all the cars around us. Their actions are not following their speeches. Everyone still wants to go from point A to point B in fuel guzzling cars that are heating up the planet on a daily basis.
India has a great tale that ended in a great war and destruction – The Mahabharat. The armies of ancient India were in possession of knowledge and power that gave them great control over their enemies through the use of advanced weapon technology which they were able to use to decimate and destroy entire armies and civilizations and resulting the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. The world has in the recent past also fought two great wars resulting in untold misery and suffering for humankind. But it seems to me, that the lessons of the past have not been learnt and governments all over the world are engaged in amassing more and more weapons of mass destruction with ever increasing power and potential for causing death and destruction. We must learn from history and ensure that then grave mistakes of the past are not repeated again.
I hope that youngsters like you convert your speeches into righteous action and initiate correct steps and actions to reverse the decline in human values and to arrest the effects of global warming. Remember to survive on this planet, all you need is Love! Any steps taken towards increasing love can only be good for the happiness of human beings and for the planet. Anything else which does not have love at it’s heart can only lead to annihilation of lives and of the entire planet’s harmonious ecosytem.
Q: You sound like a literate and educated man? How much of an education have you got?
A: Brother, if you are talking about the education systems created by man, you can consider me a Zero in that aspect! I have studied only uptil the 9th Grade at Nainital’s Sainik School but failed at tenth grade. I do not remember anything about the education material that I was ever taught. I have always lived in the lap of nature since I was born and I believe tha Nature is the best teacher that man can have. As I grew up, my greatest teachers have been my varied experiences in life and my interactions with people and circumstances. Ever since I took on the life of an ascetic and a monk too and after coming into contact with many great and learned men, I have also learned a lot about life and I continue to learn and educate myself. My observations on life have taught me one crucial thing that education as we know it has not changed man for the better. Learned men, educated men, scholars well versed in religion, life and love fail to apply what they have learnt in order to make this world a better place. They do not even apply their education for the betterment of their own family.
Q: So do you have any family members who you are in touch with?
A: I have two brothers whom I am not in touch with. My parents have long expired. Some distant relatives invited me to a wedding in the family last year. Everyone knows where to find me! So it was the only time in recent years that I was invited to a family function. I try not to hurt the sentiments of my well wishers and so I went back to my native state to attend that wedding. Otherwise I have absolutely no give and take relationship with any of my relatives. I am alone in this world and the entire world is my family and I live in the world as a member of one big family. I live in a jhopdi (slum) near the sea and the only other person living there with me is God. There is really no desire nor space for a third person in my dwelling. During the day I am here in the presence of my worldly family which includes you and during the nighttime I retire to my home to live with God. During the day too, I am always thinking about God and it is God whom I live for.
Q: So you never desired a wife nor children at any point in your life? Did you feel that you were missing out on worldly pleasures and duties?
A: Brother, there was a time when I was young and of marriageable age. At that time I did think about getting married and it was indeed one of the targets of my life just like everyone else’s. So I had told my parents not to start looking for a girl until I had enough resources for two people to live on. But I went on with my life’s experiences until my marriageable age went by and then my parents expired. I left my hometown and started living with my elder brother. It was during that time that I realised that I wanted to be a sadhu (monk). I roamed around for a few years, met many learned scholars of different religions. I decided that I would join Islam at one point of time after having seen the brotherhood and love that they preached. But somehow that did not materialize because maybe the universe had other plans for me. I doubt if any staunch follower of any religion can stand here like me and preach selflessness and love for others. All men of religion will want to preach his own religion to the exclusion of all others. And then the ultimate truth dawned upon me viz. all the religions Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jain, etc. have all been made here on this planet by man. God has only made one man! So I believe that God now considers that since most human beings on the planet have aligned themselves to certain religions, the least that is expected of them is to peacefully follow their own religion and to let others follow their own. All roads eventually leads towards God.
Q: Any final words of wisdom from the Traffic Light Messiah?
A: Look, I am no messiah. I am just a simple man following my true nature i.e. the love of God. Having said that, in this world, the human body is a receptacle of the larger vessel that it resides in – the world. The senses are your antennas and therefore whatever your eyes have seen will register in your memory, what your ears have heard will register in your memory, what your tongue has spoken will register in your memory. Whatever you have done in this lifetime will be stored in your memory. And all of this, on the day of Judgement as they say in Christianity or on Akhirat as they in Islam will be presented before God before Bhagwan before Allah and you will be asked – Why were you created in the image of man? What were you sent here on Earth for? It was to Love others, to help others. And what you have done in this world which has been registered and saved in the holy hard disc which has no memory limit, will be assessed and you will be dealt with accordingly. Final Words: When man follows his own religion truthfully, only then will he learn to love others because all Religions preach only love and not hate. And if there are any words of hate in any religious book, then you can be sure that it is work of man who has inserted them in there to further his own vested interests and to brainwash and to control his fellow humans. So follow your religion truthfully my friend and spread love and happiness. That is all.
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Atin Dasgupta is a writer, musician, filmmaker, entrepreneur and co-founder of Alliance One – a private intelligence and knowledge gathering organisation based in Mumbai, India. He likes to create original art, do unusual things and mash outdated old ideas together to create new concepts that can live and breathe in the modern world. Using young private detective interns from the firm to cover interesting human angle stories is his latest passion!