In the year 2002, as an investigative journalist of India’s first digital news portal that became famous around the world for its path breaking investigative stories, I had to go through a harrowing experience of witch hunt by the top echelons of power in the country. This period raised a Tsunami of questions within me and I was grappling with ways to find answers. I felt the web of the confusion inside me growing and was really looking forward to untangle it at the first given opportunity. In this state of mind, in the year 2009, I visited the Rikhia Ashram at Deoghar in Jharkhand to participate in the Sat Chandi Yajna, that was started by the revered Paramahamsa Swami Satyananda Saraswatiji.
I was also looking forward to some spiritual solace as well as an opportunity to live in a natural habitat. Since Rikhia Ashram is located some miles away from the city of Deoghar and deep in a village that is still untouched by the carpet bombing of concrete, in one form or the other, here one gets a feel of the earth in its purest form! Another thing that made me excited about visiting Rikhia was to get an opportunity to meet and interact with Swami Niranjananandaji (whom I had met several times in Delhi and at the Munger Ashram) as I didn’t get the opportunity to see him since my days of turmoil got over. I also wanted to hand him over a book that carried one of my investigative news stories as amongst the best in that particular year.
On the first day at Rikhia Ashram, as the day progressed at the Sat Chandi Yajna, I got a sudden opportunity to meet with Swami Niranjananandaji! I poured my heart before him as I had many things to inform him. He was listening to me patiently, even though the crowd of devotees started swelling around us as everybody wants to have a word with Swamiji and take his blessings. Ignoring the crowd, I took his blessings for all that I was doing in life at that point of time and handed him the book with a sense of pride that only excellence and achievement in your work gives you. Swami Niranjananandaji was aware of the hard battle that I had gone through recently and asked me relevant questions and also gave me some words of wisdom on how to circumvent things around it and keep growing. He blessed me and left hurriedly as usual with many in the crowd calling out to him for blessings.
Half of my purpose of coming to the Rikhia Ashram got fulfilled after meeting Swami Niranjananandaji as I had discussed all I had to with him in that unexpected meeting.
Next day, during the lunch break as per the ashram norm, all attendees moved in a queue from the place where the yajna and chanting were taking place to an adjoining premise for having lunch. As I came out of the main hall, engrossed in thoughts, walking in the serpentine queue, another unexpected sight awaited me. There he was, sitting just a few feet away from where I was, Swami Satyanandaji! Swami Niranjanananda was standing like a humble disciple beside him. I had heard from devotees that having Bade Swamiji’s darshan was rare, accorded to only a few fortunate ones. And here he was just a few feet away from me. I was overwhelmed! But being a human, I now wanted more! I did pranam to him and wanted him to bless me. But to my disappointment, even as I was crossing him with the queue, Swami Satyanandaji was looking in all directions but me! As I was raising my head after the pranam, my eyes met with that of Swami Niranjanananda who was smiling. As I got pushed ahead by the crowd, Swami Niranjanananda gestured his hand towards me and said to Swami Satyanandaji, “Yehi hai Kumar Baadal – This is Kumar Baadal.” Swami Satyananda turned to look towards me and Swami Niranjanananda continued,“ . . . issi ka kitab hum aapko kal diye the – It is his book I gave you yesterday.” Swami Satyananda looked at me with a smile and I felt the power of a Sun in his face!
Not the one to let go of such an opportunity, I broke away from the crowd and moved towards the divine space where both Bade and Chhote Swami ji were! I bowed my head at Swami Satyanandaji’s feet and he blessed me by raising his hands. I stood up and began to say something when he told me in a soft but authoritative voice, “Kitab hum padhe hain, bahut achcha ha – I read the book. It is very good.” I quickly added, “Aaapka aashirwad chahiye Swamiji, bahut bada-bada kaam karna hai – I want your blessings Swamiji. I am doing some very big work.” “Namo Narayana,” he said and raised his hands again to bless me!
As I left the divine piece of earth, I was overwhelmed with happiness so much that I heard someone was telling me from the queue that I was very lucky to get blessings from Swami Satyanandaji, but didn’t turn to acknowledge or see who it was. I was on cloud Nine! After meeting Swami Satyanandaji in person, during the rest of my stay in the Ashram I was in a pleasant and uplifted state of mind. Everything looked its best and divine.
Before I left, Rikhia, Swami Niranjananandaji told me that Swami Satyanandaji was telling him before meeting me, “Baadal has written an elaborate and well researched article on incidents that took place at far off places like Thailand and Middle East and exposed some big underworld operatives.” This was a pleasant surprise to me as when Swami Satyanandaji had told me that he had read the book, I wasn’t sure whether he had read my article or not. But now I knew that he had read my mind through my article!
Swami Satyanandaji’s aashirwad, blessings, proved to be miraculous, as the next year, myself along with my Editor and another colleague were able to do the biggest ever investigative journalism work in India in terms of impact!
In 2006, I got another opportunity to meet and interact with Swami Satyanandaji. By then I was toying with the idea of starting a media company for making investigative content for news channels (this was before the social media boom). I informed this to Swami Niranjananandaji during the Sat Chandi Yajna that year (I had made it a habit to visit every year) when I met him. And to my amazement, the same day, he took me to the private enclave of Swami Satyanandaji! Till that time, even after so many years of coming to Rikhia Ashram, like everybody else, I had only seen this restricted enclosure from outside with curious eyes.
Swamiji presented me before Swami Satyanandaji who recognized me immediately and smiled radiantly and said, “Yeh to Baadal hai – This is Kumar Baadal.” I again saw the power of a Sun in his face and bowed before him. Swami Niranjanananda was telling,“Ek media company kholne ka soch raha hai – He is planning a media company.” Bade Swamiji responded, “Achcha, karo. Kya naam rakhe hoi – Good, do it. What is its name?” To be frank I was just toying with the idea and Swami Niranjananandaji had told that I was starting a media company! As I grappled with thoughts as I had not settled on a name till then, Bade Swamiji read my mind, gestured in aashirwad mudra and said, “Namo Narayana.”
Before meeting Swami Satyanandaji, I was calculating the pros and cons of starting the venture, but once Swami Satyanandaji gave his blessings to the venture, there was no question of turning back. Swami Niranjananandaji had also confidently told that I was starting the venture, so I had to start the venture!
As luck would have it, that same evening the name of the ‘would be’ media company came to my mind, it was 'Shaktee Media Pvt. Ltd.' The company flourished beyond my imagination and along with doing some great work for some top notch News Channels of the country, I could give employment to many people in various positions. Several unemployed journalists were employed by the company, trained by myself and they delivered well. Today I am proud of the fact that some of them are now heading the investigative departments of various top news channels of the country.
Swami Satyanandaji took Samadhi in December 2009. Till 2010, I could manage to keep my media venture afloat after it was hit hard by the economic recession of 2008–09. The News Channels could no longer afford to outsource their content as their budgets were drastically slashed. I tried to branch out in the entertainment sector. It takes time. And one needs lots of resources to survive the transition period. Unfortunately, my resources depleted fast as I was looking after my team as well. Finally, I was alone. There were prolonged lean periods. Negativity all around, still I stuck my neck out. In the last two years I got not one but quite a few big entertainment projects. I could finally break in! What was giving me strength was the picture of Swami Satyanandaji looking at me in my room. The Revenant for me! Namo Narayana.