The man behind the miracle man

Seafood tycoon Gul Kripalani is the point man for the largest event in Mumbai’s recent memory

Mumbai, February 6: On his direct line at his plush Colaba Causeway office, he has former police chief P S Pasricha. On his cellphone it’s a client from France looking to close a mega deal.

Later, in his gold Sonata, shrimp exporter Gul Kripalani gets a call from a Benny Hinn in Dallas, asking if it will rain in Mumbai next weekend.

Could be another frenetic day in a high-society businessman’s life.

But Kripalani, chairman of the Indian Merchants Chamber, has a little-known facet: he’s the brain behind American evangelist Hinn’s upcoming prayer festival, Mumbai’s largest event in recent memory.

Ten times bigger than the recent World Social Forum, the American preacher’s show at the Bandra-Kurla complex on February 13-15 will dwarf anything that Sonia Gandhi and Bal Thackeray have whipped up.

‘‘Praying for India,’’ declare the posters that have taken over railway stations and walls. Over a million are expected at the Bandra-Kurla Complex MHADA grounds between February 13 and 15 for Dallas-based Benny Hinn’s ‘Festival of Blessings.’

That includes Governor Mohammed Fazal, who’s confirmed attendance, cream of Mumbai’s high society—there are 1.7 lakh seats in the VIP gallery—and lakhs of poor and middle-class faithful.

‘‘Benny Hinn has a piercing personality and I’m fascinated by him,’’ says style guru Sabeera Merchant who plans to attend all three days. ‘‘I’m looking forward to meeting an individual who commands so much power, and gives peace to so many people.’’

Hinn’s dramatic crusades have attracted millions around the world, who credit him with with unleashing the Holy Spirit on the audience, causing entire sections to swoon under the power of God.

The opposition comes not from the Hindu or Muslim fringe but from the Catholic church. Cardinal Ivan Dias, the archbishop of Mumbai.

While preparations are underway for the mega-event, another giant in the global Christian movement will descend on Mumbai this week. And Kripalani is involved in this as well.

But while Hinn caters to the masses, Atlanta-based philosopher Ravi Zacharias will deliver a provocative lecture in a downtown five-star hotel to the classes: a 100-strong group of select civic leaders and businessmen. Municipal Commissioner Karun Srivastava confirmed his attendance today.

‘‘Benny Hinn handles the heart; Ravi Zacharias tackles the mind,’’ says D S Soholkar, Zacharias’ representative in the city.

There is much solace, muses Kriplani, that Mumbai’s party set needs.

‘‘My heart goes out to the people of Page 3 because they’re my friends,’’ says Kripalani. ‘‘Just because we’re physically comfortable doesn’t mean we have peace of mind.’’

1.5 lakh
chairs, coming in from Pune as well; Mumbai doesn’t have enough

10 lakh
visitors expected to attend the three-day event

60,000
parking spaces

1.2 km
distance between the stage and the last row

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