There were a number of points on which he wished to correct certain of my misunderstandings. One of these was my not knowing about what actually took place when a very large group of sadhus were invited to the ashram by Sai Baba (i.e. the Andhra Pradesh Sadhu Parishad 2-4 January, 1987). I had reported what had been told all us foreigners that it has been a successful holy event of great significance (not least by Mr. Alvin Drucker who - since he did not understand Telugu and what was actually said - fantasised about it for foreigners in a talk he gave). The sadhu spokesmen had praised Sai to the skies (embarrassingly so, said Narasimhan) and all of them publicly received umbrellas and other goodies. But Sai had corrected them for not working while taking food and money from poor people. [It occurs to me now that he does exactly the same thing, though he mostly takes from the rich!]. They had expected better treatment and to draw advantage by getting some endorsement by their local 'Avatar'. Narasimhan insisted that it was no success at all and the sadhus had left demonstratively in high dudgeon before their invitation ran out. None of this was reported, of course, because it was used as pro-Sai propaganda, as usual. Instead, V.K.N. had written what therefore was a misleadingly positive account of this event in ('Sadhus in the Presence' by the Editor), on which article I had partly based my draft! I did not mention this or challenge his account, however, as I had already purposely not reported many untoward events of which I knew in my book. This attitude - to ignore all negative things and concentrate on what amounts to positive publicity is engrained throughout the Sai movement, not least due to Sai Baba's strong criticism (sic!) of those who spread any critical thoughts! Unfortunately, VKN had then also ceased to be an objective reporter of events and had given up critical writing altogether, for which he had once earned a reputation!
Sadhus were advised to work together and serve etc., see Sanathana Sarathi February 1987, p. 34f , or in Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 20., p. 2.
It was also noticeable how Narasimhan mostly avoided talking about what he had discussed with Sai Baba or what had been said in private, even when diverse eager residents and officials visited his apartment while we were talking to ask him such things. Most of the activities of the inner circle of Sai Baba's attendants and officials are kept so secret that they are a complete blank to devotees generally and even to top office-bearers in the Sathya Sai Organisation. Only slowly did I realise this, and I was often astounded at the ignorance of various VIPs about matters I had come to know about that had leaked out from various on-the-spot sources. This secrecy in inner ashram and Trust circles creates an arcane atmosphere and disturbing uncertainty, sometimes paranoia among those who are kept in the dark by lack of information and unhelpful responses. It takes much time and involvement before one can see how tightly this secrecy is also sustained by the top Sai Organisation officials.
VKN was definitely
no enthusiast of the Sathya Sai Organisation, though he mostly kept
his opinion well under his hat. Reading something positive I had written
about it, he told me it certainly did not give a correct impression,
whereupon he recounted to me some of the internal goings-on, jostling
for influence with Sai Baba and wresting control of the organisation
from all others, not least by Indulal Shah through his Maharashtra
clan which is strong throughout the India Diaspora. He had also witnessed
some of Antonio Craxi's battle with Italian opponents for ascendancy
in the European Organisation, which he told me had shocked him to
the core because of most hateful and vicious verbal personal attacks
(by Craxi) that he had ever experienced. This Antonio Craxi - brother
of the convicted criminal ex-Prime Minister Bettino Craxi (who was
still fleeing a 28-year Italian prison sentence by living in Tunisia
when he died in 2002) was also known to be involved with the Italian
Mafia, but he was one of Sai Baba's favourites for many years.(see scans of my notes made at the time of the discussions on this with VKN)
Transcript of scanned notebook page below (made and recorded during my visit to Prashanthi Nilayam in 1994):-
N. said his co-operator on Sanathana had liked my ‘Suffering’ article very much. The ed. is due here today/tomorrow and will be presented to Swami.
Narasimhan said my book was very personal and not too much ‘description’ etc. He thought that there was a little too much (for his taste). It interests him anyhow - He had made various notes in the marg. O had not understood the result of the sadhu conference (Samaj) at P.N. in the N. Year of 1987. Most of them left - only a few remained behind. (They had heard enough criticism clearly). N. told of the sadhu movement’s great degeneration in India. One leader, who became derobed, overdid his praise etc. of Baba - also his worships etc. so Baba told him to refrain or people would think he was cultivating him (i.e. Baba)!