Long live Bullet Baba!
by Ojasvi Mohanty
9 September 2009
If you ever happen to be on the national highway from Pali en route to Jodhpur chances are that your vehicle won’t reach Jodhpur without paying obeisance to the Baba.
20 km from Pali, as you come to a halt amidst a horde of other vehicles, you are bound to wake up, if you were snoozing at all. In that sweltering heat it’s hard to miss the din of pilgrims and the orgy of colours that one sees in the vicinity, so typical of a Rajasthan social landscape.
If you happen to get down just out of curiosity, you might observe your driver buying a few incense sticks or a bottle of hooch and prostrate full length on the dusty ground in reverence. And after the initial shock at witnessing the unlikely idol, a full bodied, roaring 350 cc Royal Enfield, you may nosy out the stories that surround the legend.
But chances are that you haven’t or never will, so here’s the dope.
One fateful summer night in 1991, Om Bana - as he was known then - sped down punch-drunk that very road towards Chotila, the village of his birth and residence, but he ran straight into a tree that till date stands guard to the battered vehicle.
A gorge about 20 feet deep held his body till it was retrieved, dead but rendered immortal by the village folk who swore they could hear (and still can) the Royal Enfield rev up at night. It is said that Om’s family members who had claimed the bike after the post-mortem returned it back to its original crash site after experiencing the late night revs, replete with a framed and garlanded photograph.
The shrine was subsequently deified by the locals who had heard the defunct Royal Enfield - or Bullet as it is commonly known as - rev up, and by passersby who observing the apotheosis of Om Bana carried the tale far and wide.
Thus, they say was born the Legend of ‘Bullet Baba’.
Although this unlikely shrine does not boast of any old bewildering architecture, like most conventional temples it has a priest, blessed with the gift of the gab, who also manages the nitty-gritty of the upkeep of the shrine.
So if you ever happen to land up here, he’ll be the one enlightening you on the birth of this legend and many such tales which are better listened to than read. Also making up for the lack of grandeur is the prasad or offering which is the humble home brewed liquor in all its earnestness, especially embodied to represent Baba’s tastes.
Do not be surprised at innocent pilgrims emptying out bottles of hooch in honour of Baba after their wishes have been fulfilled, nor at the couple of booze shops nearby that aid the forgetful pilgrim or the extempore one nor at the melee offering exclusive Baba merchandise which includes audio/video CDs and colourful posters.
After reading all this claptrap, or maybe even after paying Baba a visit, chances are that you might not believe in the legend. Nevertheless, the legend of Bullet Baba lives on.