Dear Sadhguru, This is What ‘Talibani’ Actually Means

Earlier last week, Jaggi Vasudev aka Sadhguru called a Muslim student at London School of Economics (LSE) a “Talibani”.

Immediately after, LSE’s student union issued a statement calling his comments “Islamophobic”. Sadhguru then said that he did not mean to insult anybody.

The spiritual guru, who appears to be a harmless mystic with the quintessential flowing white beard, baggy robes, a rustic turban and what he thinks is a sense of humour, in many ways, also appears to be the nationalist, conformist and pro-establishment cousin of Chandra Mohan Jain, also known as Osho.

I’m not the only one to find the resemblance between them uncanny – there is an actual Quora thread titled: “Has Osho Rajneesh transmigrated into the body of Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev?”

Coming back to Sadhguru, after the controversy, he used a standard age-old one-liner defence that has been used by nearly everyone whose transgressions have been caught on camera.

He said that the video was “mischievously edited.” He also “clarified” that the term “Taliban/Talibaniya” stands for “an ardent student” in Arabic.

Now Sadhguru is many things: He is a Ducati-riding yogi, a social entrepreneur, a problematic mystic with utter disregard for the environment, a defender of a violator of human rights and a pop-philosopher.

But he is certainly not literate in Arabic.

The word Taliban originates from Pushto language, which means students and is the plural of Talib.

Talib is a loanword from Arabic using the Persian plural ending aan. In Arabic, Taliban is dual and not plural. It means “two students”.

The Arabic plural for Talib is Tullab. In Urdu, a student would be called a “Talib-e-Ilm.” Sadhguru’s defence at best rests on the hope that his audience is illiterate and gullible.

Besides, one expects Sadhguru to be aware of the negative political connotations of the word ‘Taliban’ and the baggage it carries in terms of what it has come to mean in our times.

Or is that too much to ask of this celebrity spiritual guru?

I am sure he is not a literalist. If yes, he also probably believes that the Taliban in Afghanistan are a bunch of “ardent students”.

Bizarrely enough, Vasudev has also claimed that “the term is always used in India in relation to someone who is over enthusiastic.”

There are many slang words for over-enthusiastic in India, that Sadhguru could have used. For example:

        • You could be amped about Sadhguru’s lecture or amped up with hyper-nationalist pride.
        • One could be chomping at the bit to see the new season of Game of Thrones.
        • You can be an ‘enthu-cutlet’ in a Delhi college who wants to debate, act in a play, win a student election and have hundred percent attendance at the same time.
        • You could be ciced about going to the BJP rally or you could be crunked up about going to the after-party.
        • The sight of a Ducati could get you all fired up or the whole media could be hyped to see the prime minister finally deliver a press conference.
        • You could be jacked on Ecstasy or Hindutva pride (whichever is easily available.)
        • One could also be jazzed up while lynching cow traders and beef eaters or juiced when trolling dissenters on twitter.
        • The prime minister can be something of a live wire because he works for 25 hours in a day. The prime minster can also be wired all day even after getting no sleep.
        • People could also be psyched about getting the Rafale. They could also be pumped about the idea of filing defamation suits.
        • Some could raise the roof during what they wrongly believe to be a news debate. Others could also be stoked while performing their theatrical antics in that same “news debate” that airs at 10 pm on a channel that must not be named.

There are many words that can be used to define someone who is over-excited and enthusiastic. Talibani is hardly the first that comes to mind.

Syed Faizan is a freelance journalist based in Delhi.

Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty