Chandra Swami

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By Pritish Nandy, May 24, 2017: The Times of India

Chandra Swami spent most of his life conning people. He was clever in an earthy kind of way and he knew his own limitations. So he had Mamaji as his manager, who was actually even cleverer than him. It was the classic model: A godman who spoke little and often went into long spells of silence in dimly lit rooms with incense wafting in the air, and his manager who then took over and explained everything to those who were sitting around.Chandra Swami would pretend to go into a trance during that time and then wake up to demonstrate to those sitting around him -usually a bunch of famous and gullible people dying for some spiritual mumbo jumbo -a few clever tricks that any small time magician can replicate.

I remember on occasion when I deconstructed these tricks to some of his more illustrious victims at a lunch thrown by Tiny Rowland in a yacht somewhere in the midst of the Mediterranean: there many of them including Arap Moi and Kenneth Kaunda and a whole bunch of other African leaders who had succumbed to his so called mystical powers and paid a very heavy price for it.Moi lost some 21 million dollars worth of raw diamonds (or so he said to me with sadness in his voice) while Kenneth Kaunda hired an Indian guru (one Dr S Ranganathan from Chennai who I met during the course of my story) to ward off Chandra Swami's threats to him. Yes, Chandra Swami got that interview wrong simply because he was too confident of his own powers. He forgot the one most important tenet of self preservation: To know who you are talking to when you give an interview. But then, it was the pre-Google era.It was not that easy to figure out who was sitting opposite you. In any case, he was busy looking at Rajat Sharma because he was the journalist. I was merely his idiot assistant.But yes, he could have asked me my name. He was too sure of himself to do even that. And it would have questioned his own spiritual powers. His third eye, alas, failed him on that occasion and when the issue of the magazine appeared with him on the cover, he must have kicked himself.

It cost him his credibility.For a while.

But such men never give up. He went underground for a longish spell as the FERA guys kept following up on the leads.Then he sought court permission and went overseas on grounds of medical treatment. But not for a moment did he stop doing what he was best at: playing the power game. His moment of glory was when Narasimha Rao (who he often described as his brightest chela) became prime minister and he could use his proximity with him to get almost anything he wanted. But this time he was quieter, less flamboyant and stopped seeking too much attention.

I met him once, years later.He smiled at me and said one thing I still remember: You are a fool, you do not know how much good you did me.Your story made me more famous than all the others who were in the business. But you shouldn't have given away my magic tricks. That's not fair.

Never have I given away anyone's magic tricks after that.

If you don't believe me, ask Pamela Bordes. Yes, she of the Profumo fame. She knew him well too.

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