Periodically, I used to observe myself minutely, so as to keep negative tendencies in check. Once, on ‘Newshour’ on Times Now, I derided Renuka Chowdhury from the Congress. She had been trying to block all arguments against Robert Vadra, and, in response, I mocked her for ‘rolling [her] eyes and making faces’ instead of answering the nation. She was understandably angry, but many viewers were highly tickled. For the next two days, there was a flurry of emails, texts, Facebook posts and tweets that expressed amusement and applauded me for an ‘apt retort’. I began gloating over my sharp riposte.
It was on the third day that I suddenly realized what a monster I was becoming! Instead of apologizing to Renuka on air, I had taken delight in offending her.
My ego was getting the better of me; I was bursting with self-importance.
During the height of movement, I used to participate in TV panel discussions almost every night; in public places, people started recognizing me, praising my arguments or making suggestions. One day, at the Mumbai airport, I caught myself trying to make eye contact with people, hungry for recognition. I had to stop myself. What was I doing?
All my life, I had mocked those who took themselves far too seriously, who were pompous and sought the limelight. A white khadi shirt clad politician with gold rings on his fingers and thick gold chains around the neck was my idea of the absurd. While I had not yet become that man, I recognized that my attitude needed a complete rethink.
There is a Marathi poem that goes: ‘There was once a man who peed into the sea; he spent his life measuring how much the sea level had risen because of his pee.’ Was I travelling to the point of becoming that man?
I had erred in a similar manner as far back as 2007. While reconnecting with my spiritual self, through a process called ‘sun gazing’, I had energized my mind and body to such an extent that I had no desire to consume food. Instead of acknowledging the science guiding this, I gave all credit to ‘my spiritual evolution’. My family started broadcasting my ‘powers’, and as people started visiting me with wonder, my conceit only grew. When, after a twenty-eight-day fast—which left me feeling, not depleted, but energized—I got a call from my mother-in-law, I found myself gloating, full of pride at my achievement. Suddenly I stopped myself. I approached my wife Minal and said, ‘This is not my true path. Siddhi—miraculous power—has a way of distracting one from the goal of self-realization. I have strayed.’ Instead of humbling my mind before a higher power, I had allowed myself to grow vain.
I had brought myself in check back then; it was time to fashion myself again. I had to stop being an attention-junkie. To bring balance back to my life, I had to embrace anonymity—till such time that I learnt equanimity. I informed the media management team of the party that I had no desire to appear on television shows henceforth. The party wasn’t pleased—they believed I added value by being a spokesperson—but deep within I knew I’d turn into a liability for myself and the party if I remained self-obsessed.
For over a year, I did not appear on television debates. It was only when I grew confident that I’d be able to handle recognition without digressing from my path that I resumed media appearances—and that too, very rarely. I had moved on.