from India's Sunday Magazine 20-26 June 1993

Miracle Man
Or petty magician? Will the real Sai Baba please standup

P.N. Sorcar

The meeting between P.C. Sorcar Junior and Sathya Sai Baba has now become the stuff of legend. According to the magician, he had asked for an appointment with the Baba on many occasions, only to be turned down. Finally, he asked to see the swami, posing as the son of a prominent West Bengal industrialist. The godman agreed to see him.

After Sai Baba had given him a darshan, Sorcar asked for a gift. The Baba asked him to wait, and went into the next room, presumably to hide some object or the other up his sleeve.

Meanwhile, Sorcar had seen a plate of sweets lying in the room. He grabbed one and hid it on his person. Sai Baba returned shortly, and duly produced a sandesh 'out of thin air'. Sorcar said he didn't like sandeshes, and changed it 'miraculously' to a rossogolla instead.

The livid godman threw the magician out. Today, Sorcar scoffs, "He is no godman. He is not even a good magician. He is so clumsy that he is spoiling the name of all magicians. I think he should practise a lot more.

Scoffs magician P.C. Sorcar Junior: "He is no godman. He is not even a good magician. He is so clumsy that he is spoiling the name of all magicians. I think he should practise a lot more."

Sorcar's opinions were borne out by recent events. In November last year, the swami attended a function in Hyderabad to open a Kalyana Mandapam (marriage hall). In front of a huge audience that included Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, Sai Baba produced a gold chain 'out of thin air'.

Unfortunately for the godman, the event was being covered by Doordarshan, and the camera does not lie - it does not even get taken in by sleight of hand. And when the tape was re­played, it showed one of the Baba's assistants passing the chain to him, which the godman then 'produced' a few minutes later.

But the Baba doesn't have a high powered disciple list for nothing. The tape, which had done the rounds in the Hyderabad kendra of Doordarshan, was killed. Despite such fiascos, stories about the Baba's miraculous powers continue to do the rounds. One such story revolves around the mentally retarded son of S. Bhagavantham, former scientific advisor to the ministry of defence.

When the young boy was brought to meet the swami, he produced some vibhuti (ash) and rubbed it on the boy's back.. Then, with another wave of his hand, Sai Baba produced a long needle, punctured the boy's spine and drew out some liquid. He then 'produced' some surgical dressing to put on the boy's back. Apparently, this procedure cured the young boy.

Bhagavatham, however, denounced the godman as a fake towards the end of his life. He never went public with the-reasons for his disillusionment with the Baba, but cut the godman out of his life completely.

Other devotees, however, continue to swear by Sai Baba. According to them, he can cure his follower & by taking on whatever illnesses they are suffering from. And that he can cure himself of any ailment at will, as well; on Guru Purnima day, for instance, he is believed to have cured himself of paralysis in front of a large gathering.

This is hotly disputed by a doctor in Goa, who operated on the godman for appen­dicitis. According to him, he was shocked when he heard Sai Baba tell his disciples that he couldn't give them Jordan because he had transmigrated to another body. The swami is also believed to have suffered from a heart attack a few years ago, for which he required medical attention. But news of that was never allowed to get out.

Dr. H. Narasimhaiah, head of the Rationalist Movement says: "The
events at Puttaparthi have vindicated our stand. When his assailants entered the mom. ..he did exactly what I would do — he ran away."

The recent assassination attempt on the godman has provided further ammunition to his critics. Dr. H. Narasimhaiah, the head of the Rationalist Movement who has spearheaded a movement against Sai Baba for several decades, says. "The events at Puttaparthi have vindicated our stand. They have proved that he is just another human being, with no supernatural powers."
Narasimhaiah maintains that if Sai Baba was a true godman he would have been able to predict the attack upon himself. "At least," he says, "when his assailants entered the room, he could have used his powers to disarm or overpower them. Instead, he did exactly what I would have done: he ran away. One of the signboards at his ashram say, 'Why fear when I am here'. But he has shown that he is full of fear himself."
Sai Baba, for his part, refused to engage the rationalists in a debate, or even perform his 'miracles' in controlled conditions. But he has been known to tell a devotee, "Do not compare me to a petty magician. My power is divine and has no limit. I have the power to change the earth into the sky and the sky into the earth. But I don't because there is no reason to."

Dr. H. Narasimhaiah
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