Mission Delhi – Ram Krishen Das, Central Delhi
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
His is the simple life.
This sage survives on fruit and rotis—and has been living in a bamboo scaffolding within a temple for more than 40 years. Known as Machan Wale Baba or “the machan’s sage”, devotees regularly turn up at the central Delhi temple, sitting on the floor in contemplation or awe.
His 65-year-old kind face glows with so much wisdom attained over the years that some would think he was born that way. But of course, the Machan Wale Baba had a childhood and a real name—Ram Krishen Das. Very polite and soft-spoken, Mr Das declines to talk about his parents. “That part of my life is over.” He was born in Delhi’s Jumna Bazaar beside the Yamuna river, “and had always been into pooja-paath (prayers and devotions),” he discloses.
During a brief stint at a school hostel “I found to my great distress that my mind tended to focus on today’s breakfast instead of prayers.”
Later, back home, he devoted all his time to prayers “which naturally upset my parents.” One day he left the house, but returned the same evening. “I, however, left home again, and I again went back… Finally, I left for the third time and never went back.”
He says he “never again had any Ram-Ram with my family. I don’t know what became of them.”
Once in the pilgrim town of Ujjain, “I did spot some people from my mohalla (neighbourhood), but they were on the other side of the street and they didn’t notice me.”
Machan Wale Baba now closes his eyes and smiles, evidently content to have arrived so far removed from his childhood. He then offers a mango to an admiring devotee.
[This is the 232nd portrait of Mission Delhi project]