Won Citizen Journalist award

I had exposed a scam in ticking at Sarnath in Varanasi with help of CNN IBN in September 2011. There was a huge scam of reselling of entry tickets was going at Sarnath and I exposed it and as an impact of my report the corrupt government officers were suspended and a reliable system of ticketing was introduced. For this work I was nominated as Citizen Journalist of the year and finally won the award. The selection process of journalists was divided into two parts- First Phase – when the IBN18 Editorial Board generates a list of nominees in the category of Citizens against corruption and Second Phase – which was based on an online voting on www.ibncj.com.

The award event was organized at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi. CNN IBN arranged my flight tickets, hotel and other facilities in New Delhi. The Taj Palace Hotel was just awesome, I was really surprised to see the luxury. Anyways, the event was nicely organized and chief guest of the program was Vidya Balan. When I looked at her first, I just thought that I had seen this girl somewhere because there was a huge difference between the face I see on TV and face sitting in front of me. It again proved that there is a huge difference between real and reel life:)

The event was a delayed by an hour and half but I was not surprised at all as I experience such thing all the time. There were other people also who were nominated and I got to talk with a few of them. It was nice talking and listening to the people who were fighting against corruption. There was a guy from Sonbhadra who was shot, but luckily survived, only because of his fight against corruption in government schemes. I met one other guy who from India-Pakistan border area in Rajasthan who was attacked and beaten so hard that he could not walk properly anymore.

It was a shock to see what could happen if you start fighting against corruption. Anyways, finally my turn came. They showed my story on a big screen, called me on the stage and gave me an award for my fight against corruption in tourism industry. The award was presented by Vidya Balan herself. It was really a nice feeling to get such honor. I had never thought that such thing would ever happen with me. The award motivates me to keep my fight on. Here is the video of the show:

Work with Gilles Delmas

Gilles Delmas is a documentary maker and an artist from France. I was introduced to him by a friend of mine from Varanasi. Actually Gilles was looking for an assistant to help him photographing in Varanasi. The theme of the photography was relationship between chair and death. He approached to my friend first but my friend had to no idea what Mr. Gilles was talking about so he brought him to me. Mr. Gilles explained me his project and since I had already worked with so many photographers and documentary makers, I just thought that this project would also be like any other project I had worked on.

I immediately agreed on working with Mr. Gilles but I had no idea how different this project was going to be:) A few really interesting things happened only in the first meeting. Actually Mr. Gilles was staying at Hotel Haifa and it is prohibited for me to enter in this hotel. Mr. Gilles asked me to meet him the next day in the hotel lobby and I told him that I cold not enter in the hotel. He asked me the reason behind it and I told him that hotel owner had told me once that it was their policy that they do not allow locals to enter in the hotel. Mr. Gilles did not tell me anything at that moment but later I got a call that he had already changed his hotel.

Mr. Gilles told me that he doesn’t like racism hence changed the hotel. I had never thought that somebody would even care about my personal problems this much. Anyways, it was really nice of him that he cared a lot about me and I really appreciate it. We met the next day and Mr. Gilles asked me to take him to the places where Sadhus or regular people live to die. I took him to several places and he chose one of them to work. Now he needed chairs which I did not understand. I asked him the reason behind this theme of relationship between chair and death.

He told me that he had always wanted to come to Varanasi to photograph death and once he was laying down with his closed eyes in Haridwar along the Ganga thinking about his project in Varanasi. When he opened his eyes, he saw a big chair in the sky with yellow and orange color and it gave him this idea that there was some kind of relationship between chair and death. He thought a lot about it and realized that it was true. He was trying to tell me things that I did not understand at all. He told me that even the people who come to die in Varanasi have to use a chair in their journey, maybe just by sitting on it waiting for a train.

I did not understand anything but at the same time things were becoming more and more interesting. I took him to several shops where they sell chairs but Mr. Gilles did not like them. At some places he did not like the way they were making the chair, at one place he did not like the children of the carpenter and at the same time he was asking me to take him to a right place. I did not know what was going on, it was kind of upsetting for me. I had no idea what was the right place for him. I kind of gave up at this moment and called the friend who had introduced him to me.

I asked him to take care of him as I felt like leaving the project. This friend came and we went to his place along the river side. I introduced my friends father to Mr. Gilles and told him that father also works as a carpenter but he usually makes boats. Mr. Gilles finally said that the father was the best person to make his chairs, big relief. We went to buy the wood and day was over today. I thought a lot of about working with Mr. Gilles and started talking about him with my western friends. They all told me that Mr. Gilles was not different at all, all the artists are same. They do things differently, they are very creative people and we should respect them.

When I met with Mr. Gilles the next day, I saw him with hair shaved. I asked him why he shaved his hair and he said that it was because he was going to start his project. He was wearing orange color jacket and it was also intentional. Actually most of the holy men and other people who come to die in Varanasi wear orange color dresses and since he was going to work with them, he also wanted to wear the same color dress. His devotion for the project made me feel like really artists are different. I realized that it was first time in my whole life when I was working with an artist. His devotion made me respect him and his project more than ever before.

Mr. Gilles had drawn pictures of several different kinds of chairs with different sizes. He needed a chair with really long legs, as long as four feet. Another chair with regular size, one chair one and half feet tall, one broken chair and three chairs as small as a match box. I was thrilled to see the idea of the chairs. The most interesting thing about the chairs were how they were going to look like. They needed to be in two colors- orange in front and yellow in the back. The space of the seat and back needed to be empty, wow. I was thinking that if someone sits on such kind of chair and get photographed then those empty spaces won’t be even visible but it was still very important for Mr. Gilles.

I told about this strange structure of the chair to my friends and they told me that the things which was not visible but still exist means a lot to artists. I was like, wow. I had never thought about such thing. Anyways, finally the chairs were prepared. They looked beautiful and different than any chair I had ever seen, even in my dreams. The chair with the long leg was so big that it would not fit in any taxi or auto so we had to hire a boat to carry them and then lift them to the photography place. Mr. Gilles had chosen one particular ashram called Machli Bandar Math which was situated near to the river and he wanted to photograph one particular Baba.

We arrived at the Ashram the next day with all of our chairs and started photographing. The tall chair was so big that the person could not even sit on it. We had to lift him up and help him getting on the chair, it was so funny. Mr. Gilles sometimes wanted the Baba to sit on the chair, some times just stand next to the chair, sometimes just look at the chair, sometimes walk towards the chair… many different poses. Mr. Gilles was super devoted for his work. Once he started photographing, it felt like he had lost connection from the world. Sometimes he would talk with himself and with the camera. His camera was also very different.

He had three cameras and all of them were roll cameras. One of them was very big in size. I asked him why he was not using a digital camera and he said that since his pictures are poster size, he could not print digital photographs in that big size. I did not know this before. We worked with the wooden chairs for three days and the fourth day something new arrived. Mr. Gilles brought chairs made of cloth. He had two chairs- one regular size and other one as big as a house. He wanted to stick the regular size one on the wall the spread the bigger one on the ground and just have the character look at it.

The big chair was so big that we had to go in a ground. He spread the chair and went on a roof top next to the ground and photographed it. The project was completed successfully but the last day was not happy day. Actually Mr. Gilles wanted to compensate the Baba for his time and we had agreed on a price but on the last day he started asking for ten times more money. I somehow handled the situation by paying the Baba from my own pocket. I did not pay him ten times more but a little bit more than we had agreed.

I think a lot about Mr. Gilles and his project and feel like I really learnt a lot. He was a gentleman and super professional person and I really look forward to work with him in future. Mr. Gilles want to come to Varanasi again for the documentary filming project and again I would love working with him.

Shiva Ganges View Guesthouse, Varanasi

Shiva Ganges View guesthouse is located near Manmndir ghat in Varanasi and is also well known as red bungalow as the whole building is painted red. The location is very nice as it is situated right along the river side and is walking distance from Harishchandra Ghat, the cremation ground. I had a French guest staying there and told me something about the guesthouse which made me write this post. In fact he was staying at Hotel Haifa before meeting me but changed the hotel only because of my report about corruption at Hotel Haifa and I really appreciated it.

Anyways, it was my first time when I got to enter the hotel and my first impression was very good. The hotel is run by an old man named Mr. Tondon whom I saw greeting his guests and doing all the formal things. After a while he asked me about what I do and when I told him that I am a tourist guide, he asked me to meet with him later personally. He said that he has a lot of work for tourist guides and would like to work for him. I knew that I would not be able to work for him as they do not even pay the real wage of tourist guides decided by government of India but I just agreed on meeting with him later.

I knew that if a tourist guide ever gets an assignment through any guest house or budget class hotels then they have to give a cut from their wage to the hotel and I just don’t do this. And in any case, since I charge more than the government rate he would have not been able to afford me. I went to the hotel several times while my guest was staying there and every time I had a positive impression until the day before my guest left. He asked for the final bill and bill indicated the amount different than what they had agreed before the guest checked-in the hotel.

When the guest moved there the first day, Mr. Tondon, the owner, asked for Rs. 3500 per night but on the last day he gave the bill of Rs. 4000 per night. When the guest asked about the difference of Rs. 500, he said that he was not sure about the room he was going to rent. It was crazy, how come a hotel could the tariffs? And in any case if they agreed on Rs. 3500 then it means Rs. 3500. It could not be Rs. 4000 without informing the guest. The guest was very upset and tried to convince Mr. Tondon that it was his fault and he needed to charge Rs. 3500 but Mr. Tondon was very profession in saying that it was not a fault of anyone but it was just a mistake that happened unintentionally.

The guest decided to give up as he just wanted to relax and did not care about Rs. 500 extra but it was really disturbing for me. This behavior of Mr. Tondon made me curious to see the room. I went to see the room of my guest and it just did not look worth Rs. 3500 or 4000 per night. The architecture was old and unique but walls were dirty. It had a strange golden color on ceilings. The washroom was also dirty and I just did not get any feeling of staying there. I would never ever give Rs. 4000 per night for such a room. I often have to book the hotels for my guests and if their budget is over 3000 per night then I prefer Hotel Ganges View, Palace on Ganges or Rashmi Guesthouse.

Palace on Ganges or Ganges View rooms are expensive but they are worth it but Shiva Ganges View rooms were not worth Rs. 4000 per night for sure. Another complaint about Shiva Ganges View was noted by a Hindi teacher named Mr. Binit Mishra who had a student staying there. On the very first day Mr. Tondon asked him for 50% as commission but Mr. Mishra immediately denied to give him anything. Mr. Tondon said that if he doesn’t get any commission then he won’t allow Mr. Mishra to enter in his hotel. Finally Mr. Mishra informed about it to his guest and the guest checked out the hotel.

It is really strange behavior from hotel owners in Varanasi and I often have to encounter through such situation but I never understand how a business owner can do it. What do they think of the business? Do they know anything about how the world is changing and it is becoming easier to find information online? Anyways, it was such a stupid behavior of Mr. Tondon and I hope someone gets to read this post before staying there. I have already made a few reports about other crazy services in Varanasi. But it doesn’t mean that I am trying to target certain people. I believe that it is better to take action than being quiet or keep complaining. And I will be keep writing about anything weird like Shiva Ganges View guesthouse. Peace. Thanks.

tourist guides work for free?

Something really strange happened with me today that made me realize the condition of the tourist guides in India. My brother who is an Italian tour escort called me a few days ago saying that one of his friends from Varanasi wanted to start a travel agency and needed my advise. He had already visited my websites and was impressed with it. Finally I got a call from this gentleman interested in starting a travel agency in Varanasi. He basically needed suggestions tours that could really attract foreign tourists.

I told him about the unique things I knew about Varanasi that I show to my guests like road side dental clinic, bull shop, facebook baba, walking tours. I told him a little bit about the concept of LGBT tourism also. Everything was fine, we had a nice conversation but suddenly he told me that he had a group of foreign tourists traveling to Varanasi and he needed a tourist to show them around. I was going to tell him about Incredible India office in Varanasi but he said something that just shocked me seriously.

He said that he had heard that tourist guides in Varanasi charge a fee for their work and I was what??? I asked where there is a place where they do not charge a fee? And he said that tourist guides in cities like Agra and Delhi do not charge any fee and they work for free. I asked him why somebody would like to work for free and he did not know why such thing could happen but he was so confident as he had already used service of such guides who work for free.

I knew why guides sometimes work for free. It is because they are more interested in bringing their guests to shops rather than showing them around. I told this to him and he asked me if there was no such scene in Varanasi. I told him that I was not aware of such guides for sure. I told him that there is a set rate decided by the government of India and in fact Varanasi is the most expensive place to hire a tourist guide because tourism starts before sunrise and ends after sunset in Varanasi hence guides are paid for 3 half days (4 hours each).

But he really needed a free tourist guide even after knowing that these free guides take the guests to shops and not to the tourist sites. I called my brother asking if such things happen in Delhi and Agra and my brother also said that yes there are such guides who work for free. But once you are with them they start telling you so many crazy stories and bring you to the shop that finally you buy something and they get a commission. I really could not imagine how someone could even think that tourist guides are free?

His guests will be staying at the Radission Hotel in Varanasi and I know that not everyone can stay there. The people who stay at hotels like Radission are rich tourists and I was wondering about them that even after paying so much money and spending so much time they would meet a guide who works for free and brings their guests to the shops instead of touristic sites. My brother and a lot of other tourist guides tell me the same story that they are still treated as a guy who entertain tourists by telling funny them stories.

There is no standard of tourist guides in India and I also notice the same. I feel really proud that I am tourist guide because it is really nice profession. I meet people from all over the world, I teach them and they teach me and finally I make money which is good on India standard. India is known for being delayed all the time and we are only people who are always on time (when working :) We represent our country which is a huge and very important responsibility. Ministry of Tourism calls us tourist guides cultural ambassador of India.

I think government of India should take some steps to make tourist guides respected in India. During my tour guide training I was told that Ministry of Tourism was planning to start an annual award for best tourist guides from different regions to encourage tourists guides to provide best services and people to take interest in it. Whatever was told to us about government planning seemed very nice but today when I see what government has done in favor of tourism then everything seems the same. I recently visited Incredible India website and I was shocked to see when it was updated last time.

Incredible India is the most famous brand of tourism in India. One can see the importance of this word just by googling India, India tourism, tourism in India. I think people google these words way before they buy their flight tickets and the first link that appears on Google is Incredible India website which has all these information that comes from world war II time. They are still saluting the medal winners of commonwealth games which took place last year.

They request tourists to use only authorized tourist guides but do not have any list of them. There are awards mentioned on the website but there is no category for best tourist guide, I don’t know when the government will take tourism seriously. Tourism already contributes 5.90% to our GDP and this percentage can increase a lot only by making small changes but… I don’t know when government will start thinking about such issues but they really need to.

Impact of my CJ report

Sack is replaced with a metal box

I am very happy and proud today that government took my citizen report seriously and took some action against the corrupt government employees. Today I visited Sarnath to make a followup report and I was really shocked to see the change. A lot of my colleagues had already told me about the change in system at Sarnath but I was really not expecting for that huge change. The first change that I noticed is that staffs at the ticket counter were different. Actually the main guy who was involved in the scam was transferred first and later suspended (maybe, not sure yet).

new tickets with bar code and unique number

I bought the ticket as I entered in the monument I saw second change. The ticket looked different. This new ticket had a bar code and a unique number. The third change was that the ticket checker was different. He took my ticket, teared off into two parts, kept one part with himself and returned one part back to me. Fourth change was that my camera was checked whether it was a still photography camera or a video camera. Actually there is a charge of Rs. 25 for filming and they just wanted to make sure that I was not going to film anything without paying the fee.

tickets were teard off

Fifth change was that now there was a metal box instead of a sack to collect the ticket and this metal box was locked which means once the tickets go inside no one can take them and resell them. I went inside for a walk and again noticed changes. Now there were more security guards really working. They were walking continuously, stopping people from walking over the ruins, helping people and they all looked very active. After walking for an hour and making the report I just went near to the entrance gate and sat there for a while to see the affect of my report.

new ticket checker

I saw that each and every ticket was checked, teared off and was kept in the box. I saw another change of stopping people from bringing any eatable items inside so that people do not throw the waste and monument stays clean. I had also noticed monument was a lot cleaner than it used to be. Finally I wanted to photograph the new employee and I did not know how to ask him for it. I made a plan that I asked my friend to stop me once I reach near the exit and get photographed. This way we wanted to pretend that I was getting photographed but in reality we wanted to photograph the new employee.

shaked hand happily cause he did not know that I was the who exposed the curroption

We did the same, as I reached near to the entrance gate, Babu called me and said that I should get photographed in front of the entrance also. I stopped there and was pretending to be photographed and suddenly the ticket checker called me and did exactly what I wanted. He asked me to come close to him and get photographed together. He did not know that I was responsible for all the change. He did not know that he was transferred to Varanasi only because of me. He did not know that he could not make any illegal money by reselling the tickets because of me. hahahaha.

I was a little bit nervous about they identifying me but nobody could identify me as all of the staffs were new. I had really great time today and I was so so happy and proud to see the change. CNN IBN again showed my report.

Scam in ticketing at Sarnath exposed

Sarnath

CNN IBN contacted me a few weeks ago asking about corruption related stories from Varanasi. They said that they have a show called citizen journalist in which the people themselves become the journalist and expose the crime. I already knew about this program as it is very popular in India and decided to give them some stories. Actually they had contacted me after reading my blog so they had already read a few corruption stories that I had written on my blog. I had also been noticing corruption on ever level just like another Indian citizen and now I had a platform to talk about it.

excavation site

Anyways, I gave them total of four stories- one about corruption in MNREGA, corruption in drinking water supply system in Varanasi, corruption in sewage treatment plants, encroachment over old and sacred ponds of Varanasi and scam in ticketing at Sarnath. They asked me to find someone who was personally affected by these corruptions and would like to come on camera and talk about it. I contacted Lok Samiti to find someone who had faced any kind of corruption in MNREGA. I knew about a social worker named Shanti Lal Jain who has worked a lot on Ganga and contacted him to talk about corruption in sewage treatment plants.

Stupa at Sarnath

I had recently read a magazine which talked about a retired engineer who used his right to information act to ask government about the present condition of ponds in Varanasi and High Court of Uttar Pradesh asking Varanasi city administration to restore all the ponds that were illegally captured after 1957. I contacted this gentleman and he also agreed on telling the story to CNN IBN. Now it was turn of scam in ticketing at Sarnath which I had personally noticed several times, actually every time I went to Sarnath ever since I got my tourist guide license.

entrance gate of the site

The scam in Sarnath was that the ticket collectors at the entrance of the excavation site would keep the whole ticket with themselves and resell it. Whereas by law they are supposed to tear off the ticket into two parts, keep one part with themselves and give one part back to the tourists. This scam was going on in Sarnath with the support of government employees and tourist guides as well. If tourist guides support them then they also get a cut. I was also offered the same service several times but I never supported them as I always believe in this Hindi saying- खाना है तो हांथी का लीद खाओ, गधे का नहीं (if you want to eat the shit then eat the shit of an elephant better than the shit of a donkey :))

filming of the show

The area of my work is full of such opportunities where I can get commission all the time when I feel better asking for money rather than bringing my guests to shop so that I get some money. Anyways, I had always thought to do something about stopping this corruption and now I had a chance. But I was a little bit worried about about my safety. I called my brother who is also an Italian interpreter and works in tourism industry to have his advice and he was like go and fuck those people.

explaning the corruption

So I agreed to work on this story with CNN IBN. In order to prepare for the story CNN IBN asked me collect some evidence of the corruption. I went to Sarnath with my friend Babu and we filmed the ticket collector taking the tickets and keeping them direct in a sack. Finally the crew arrived in Varanasi and at first they worked on other stories. All of the stories were successful and affective. The woman who had faced corruption in the MNREGA got her salary and Varanasi administration started working on the ponds.

volunteer Erica

I needed a few foreign volunteers to act like my guests. I advertised on couchsurfing and a few people wrote me also but finally I ended up choosing a British couple staying at my guesthouse. We went together to Sarnath on the filming day and first they filmed me working, talking with people, doing things… Finally they went close to the entrance and sat about 30-40 miters away and filmed people coming inside, handing over the ticket to the ticket collector and ticket collector keeping the whole ticket in the sack.

the ticket collector at the gate

After they had enough evidence we went for lunch. I was not enjoying lunch at all as I was really tense about what was going to happen next. I was mostly worried about ASI taking some action against me. They could easily cancel my license by saying that I was found scratching the monument or something. I knew that the local officers would not be happy with myself after exposing the crime. Finally lunch was finished and I was asked to come on camera and explain the crime by standing right next to the entrance gate.

very tense moment

As the big camera appeared and I was holding the mic, so many people came to us. I was surrounded by at least 50 people who were trying to understand what I was talking about. Luckily the show was in English hence not many people understood what I talking about. At first they asked me to explain the corruption and then we bought a ticket and gave it to one of the volunteers and asked her to go inside, give the ticket to the ticket collector and see what happens.

filming

Obviously the ticket collector took the ticket and kept it right away in the sack and this was the moment when we entered in with the camera. As the ticket collector saw us he immediately teared off the ticket, went to our volunteer to return half portion of the ticket. We asked him why did not he tear off the ticket right away and then ran away from there. Now there was no government employee at the entrance so we checked the sack and found more than 500 fresh tickets which were all going to resold.

Babu, Erica, Chitra and I

We were filming all this and suddenly one government employee who was posted at the ticket counter came. We asked him how come all these tickets were not teared off and he had this really funny excuse that all the Sri Lankan tourists who come to Sarnath just throw the tickets on the street so they collect it and finally tear them off in the evening time after the monument is closed which was completely false because I had personally seen them taking the tickets out of sack and bringing them back to the ticket counter so that they could resell it.

the officer in charge's office

After he could not answer us, he asked us to come inside his office where he had this another funny excuse that the young couples who come to Sarnath everyday throw the tickets on the street because they do not want to be caught at home that they went to Sarnath. I was kind of laughing after hearing all these funny excuses. We came back to the entrance gate to talk with a few visitors and suddenly this lady showed up asking what was going on. She asked us to ask her questions as she was also an employee of ASI who was posted at the museum.

We asked her if she was aware of the scam and she was like yes, I have seen it hundreds of times. We were shocked but it was really good that she admitted it. She also said that tickets are resold and each and every government employee working at the excavation site is involved. Finally we went to the officer in-charge of Sarnath but he also ran away as he saw us. Story was completed and I was feeling so proud to have done it. I was really happy with the public support.

When we were filming at the entrance gate, we were surrounded by 100s of people who shouting fuck these corrupt people, don’t leave them…I think this support gave me real power and energy that I was able to expose the crime. The next morning all of the news papers reported this news but none of them talked about me or CNN IBN. Although they said that the officer in-charge of Sarnath, who had ran away after seeing us, said that he was not aware of such corruption and would take action against the people involved in it.

I know it very well that he was also part of the corruption and had intentionally given this news to media so that people think that he did not know about this corruption. I asked CNN IBN to contact the regional office of ASI in Patna and head office in New Delhi and ask them to take some action. I hope that ASI will take some action and now I also feel much secured because of that lady officer of ASI who had admitted that this corruption of reselling of tickets was going on in Sarnath. Here is the link of the show on CNN IBN website-

http://cj.ibnlive.in.com/fullvideo/cnnibn/193435

Interview with Arun Pathak

Mr. Pathak addressing a public meeting

Arun Pathakis a politician and a social worker from Varanasi. He is famous all over the world for his style of protest by committing suicide. His protest against the movie water in the year 2000 made him popular all over the world. I had been hearing about him ever since I started hearing, had seen him several times in my neighborhood and had read his name in the newspapers and magazines several times but I got to meet with him last year when I was working with Irene, a researcher from Italy. When Irene asked me to arrange a meeting with Mr. Pathak, I was not really if I would be able to arrange it because Arun Pathak has become a very powerful politician now.

Mr. Pathak on the stage

I was thinking about Arun Pathak like any other Indian politician who do not have time for people after the elections are over but my impression about him completely wrong. I was able to arrange the meeting with Arun Pathak and I was seriously surprised to see how helping nature person he was. I went to interview him with Irene at least 20 times in 2 months and he was always so welcoming. He treated us very well and answered all of our questions. I got to learn about him a lot by interviewing him.

Mr. Pathak at Roja Iftar party in Varanasi

I was seriously surprised to listen his stories about his politics, style of protest and his struggles. Mr. Pathak’s family was very poor. His father worked at Jain Dharamshala in Varanasi as a store keeper. Pathak said that often times they did not have enough money to buy both meals everyday and they slept empty stomachs several times. He had to stop his studies and he was sent to his uncle’s house in the village only because the family could not afford to send him to the school.

Mr. Pathak at a meeting

He returned to Varanasi only after a few months because his uncle also not nice to him. Finally Pathak joined municipality school (free schools but just waste of time) in Varanasi. During his schooling when he was only 14 years old, he went to a shop in his neighborhood asking for a job because he wanted to make some money to help his family. The shopkeeper laughed at him and said that he could employ a 14 year old student. Arun Pathak said that he wanted a part time job for evenings.

Mr. Pathak in 2002

After so much request by Pathak, the shopkeeper agreed to have him as a part time employee. Pathak worked at his shop for one month and when he got his first salary, which was only Rs. 30, he was so happy to share it with his family. But when he was going back to his home with his salary, a few bullies stopped him and took his money. They asked him to buy them alcohol using the same money. After drinking alcohol they all went together and beat his family. Mr. Pathak says that his family was beaten up only because they were not able to pay the rent of their apartment on time.

Arrest

Those days a political party called Shiv Sena was very popular in India for working with youth. Shiv Sena has always been known for being a radical Hindu party. There was a rumor those days that Shiv Sena was providing a pistol to all of their new members and after hearing this Mr. Pathak also thought to join the Shiv Sena so that he could get a pistol to kill the people who had beaten his family. Since it was only a rumor, Mr. Pathak was never provided any pistol by Shiv Sena but Mr. Pathak proudly says he found nuclear bombs instead of pistols in Shiv Sena.

Distributing books in Mumbai

When talking about nuclear bombs he talks about the radical people of Shiv Sena. He says he had always led the life of a leader even during his school times and after joining Shiv Sena he again became popular because of leadership quality and so many people in his party became his fans who were ready to die or kill anyone for himself. He did so many programs organized under the banner of Shiv Sena and became so popular very soon. After 11 years of hard work he became district chief of Shiv Sena in the year 2000.

Honored by Sankaracharya

His protests were always huge and always became matter of conversation in the society. His protests against the movie Water, Girlfriend and Chori-Chori Chupke-Chupke was talked about all over the world. Shiv Sena has always been protesting against the Valentines Day celebration in India and he also organized huge protests against the festival in Varanasi. His protest against the liquor stores, corruption and several other things also got huge popularity. Very soon Mr. Pathak had became a very big name all over India.

Hunger strike

Mr. Pathak has always been known for his extreme way of protesting. He has consumed poison five times in order to protest. Once he cut veins of his right hand when he stopped from entering in a temple. When I asked Mr. Pathak about why he did such things, he laughs and says that nobody listens to the poor people. If you are poor and powerless then this is what you do to make people listen to you. He proudly says that he is the inventor of staging suicide as a form of protest.

Attack

I had read so many articles about him and some of them said that the thing Mr. Pathak consumed was not basically poison and when I asked Mr. Pathak about it he showed me his palm which sweats all the time and he says that his body developed this problem ever since he consumed poison first time.  He showed me his medical prescription which says that he can not eat any heavy or spicy food, he has to drink filtered water and it all happened because of the affect of the poison he consumed several times.

offering food to poor

He says that it was not only himself who consumed poison but there were other people as well who consumed poison or tried to burn themselves only because he asked them to do so in order to protest. After saying this he called one of his workers named Bulli. Bulli is 29 years old and had consumed poison when he was only 14. He did it in order to protest against the movie Chor-Chori Chupke-Chupke. I asked Bulli several times when I met him alone about why did he consume poison and ever time his answer was same that he did not know.

offering food to blinds

He always says that Mr. Pathak had asked him to consume poison so he did it. I asked him if he ever regret about it and says- why would I regret? It was Bhaiya’s order. He knows what is best for me. I was shocked to hear it. How come someone can have this big control over someone else? The bigger shock is people’s belief in Mr. Pathak. Anyways, he worked with Shiv Sena till 2003 and then left because he was not happy with the way Shiv Sena was discriminating against certain communities.

at a school

Actually Shiv Sena was beating the North Indians living in Maharastra and was kicking them out and Mr. Pathak was seriously hurt with the situation that he decided to leave the party. He formed his own political party and run it for four years. Finally in the year 2007 he realized that he needed a bigger platform to raise his voice and fight against big evils. Finally he joined Bahujan Samaj Party which is known for working with lower caste community and fighting against Mafias.

offering food to lepers

Again because of leadership quality he was appointed as co-coordinator for two state assembly seats in Varanasi. During his work period he made Bahujan Samaj Party very popular in Varanasi where there was no existence of Bahujan Samaj Party before. He has been kind of away from politics for the past one year and has been devoting his complete time in social service and religion. He says that he has been doing a research on the outcome of religious practices. To do it he has hired 11 priests who perform vedic yagyas everyday.

Mr. Pathak's priests

These yagayas including other rituals have been going on continuously since October 2010.  He says that he wants bring the truth in the society. If there is no outcome of such practices then people should not waste their time and if performing rituals really work then they should do it in right way. He believes that rituals do not really seem helpful nowadays because they were made thousands of years ago and now when the time has changed they also need to changed. And he wants to know this change.

distributing books to poor students

I have been to Mr. Pathak’s place several times and every time I go there I see people coming to him asking for help. He makes some kind of donation almost everyday. I have seen him offering food to the lepers, blind or physically challenged people. I have seen him paying poor students fee or buying them books. I have seen him paying for poor people weddings. I think he does all kind of donation possible. He never any new cloth until he donates the same to a few poor people. I still remember that once he bought 12 tracksuits. 11 were donated to the beggars on the street first and only then he wore one.

performing aarti at Assi ghat

I have seen people running behind him, I am sure he thousands of fans only in Varanasi. He is like a star in Varanasi who is always surrounded by minimum of 6 security guards. He says that there is threat of life for him because there are so many people who do not like his popularity hence he needs security guards all the time with himself. After saying this he stops for a while and then said that can you imagine that I started working at the age of 14 because of my poor family background. He proudly says that his first salary was only Rs. 30 and now he has to spend good amount of money only on his security.

Mr. Pathak with his security guards

It is definitely a huge change for anyone and Mr. Pathak definitely deserves it. Now I have met Mr. Pathak several times and I like him a lot. I love his style of working, his devotion for his work, his understanding of the society and his super helpful nature. I am sure that I have also become his fan and would love to see him progressing in his life because I personally believe that he is a thousand time better leader and politician than anyone I have ever met. My society definitely needs people like him.