Heart for an atheist, gold ring for believer

An avowed atheist, who has little patience for godmen, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi not only played host to Sri Sathya Sai Baba at his Gopalapuram residence last evening, but also got a dose of the godman's famous 'miracle' of producing holy ash, gold jewellery, and other objects from thin air. Karunanidhi in turn equated Baba to 'God.'

At a gala function organised in Chennai this morning to thank the Hindu religious leader for his contribution of Rs 200 crore to help bring Krishna water to Chennai, PWD Minister and DMK senior Durai Murugan regaled an enrapt audience about how Sai Baba produced gold finger rings out of thin air for himself and Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran when he called at Karunanidhi's residence on Saturday.

It was Durai Murugan who greeted Baba when he arrived in a gleaming 'Skoda' that pushed into the narrow lane in front of Karunanidhi's Gopalapuram residence, crammed with media representatives and an eager crowd waiting to catch a glimpse of the religious leader, visiting Chennai after a decade.

The godman got into a wheel chair and was pushed up a make-shift ramp into the house and later taken by a lift to the first floor where Karunanidhi greeted him with a bouquet of flowers.

"Of course, Baba knows that Kalignar's (referring to Karunanidhi) finger adorned by a ring given by Anna (DMK founder C.N. Annadurai, who passionately adhered to the atheistic philosophy) will not accept any other ring,'' Durai Murugan hastily added, as if to reiterate his leader's rationalist credentials.

Dayanidhi Maran, however, was quick to correct his party colleague, saying Sai Baba had produced the ring for himself first and did so for Durai Murugan later, at his request. When they asked for a ring for Karunanidhi, Baba apparently remarked: "I will give him my heart.'' Karunanidhi and Baba chatted happily, laughing together for 45 minutes like they were long lost friends, Maran added.

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