It is the 12th of November, `88. Bangalore is not going to be the same again at least for a few months. U.G. has touched the soil. It's hardly an hour after his arrival and I dial his number. Chandrasekhar picks up and almost immediately U.G. is on the line.
The conversation runs somewhat like a piece from a Wodehouse novel.
"Hello, U.G., arrived in one piece?" I ask.
"All in one piece. Your notes will be published in some women's magazine. Mahesh wants a letter signed by you. Anyway, we will discuss that tomorrow."
"Thanks for mailing all that stuff," I break in.
"Are you bringing the kids along?" he asks.
"Sure," I reply.
"Haven't got any gifts for you this time."
"It's okay, Santa Claus!"
See you tomorrow," says he and ends the conversation.
There is such joy in this brief meaningless talk, and the kids
share the excitement.
Next morning sees us in Poornakutee, quite early. Everyone is watching the new additions to U.G.'s cassette library. U.G. is eager to show us the new tapes. We watch the tape containing the U.S. television interviews with M. Sheela of Rajneesh fame.
Then U.G. gets very excited about a song, "Don't worry, Be
happy." Especially Prashant enjoyed it immensely. After the
video session, it being a Sunday, Delhi Station was screening
the "Mahabharata" on the morning program. U. G. walked out as
usual with his favorite "Down with Hindi" slogan and sat on
the stone bench in the garden. I, of course, walked out with
him and sat on a nearby chair.
We spoke about the sudden death of poor Nagaraj. The liveliest of the gang had suddenly left the world of us mortals, and U.G. said, "I told him not to stop smoking. He could not withstand the withdrawal symptoms. I even guaranteed that he would not die of lung cancer. He did not listen to me." Now, we all know that when U.G. talks with a smile and a laugh we never know when to take him seriously. I bet poor Nagaraj took U.G.'s warning lightly and paid for it. Anyway, I kept repeating, "U.G., I just can't believe Nagaraj is no more. I half expect him to walk in any minute with his loud hellos." U.G. replied, "What makes you think he is not there. He is very much here now." That jolted me. I turned around to see if I could discern any friendly specter gracing the scene, but to no avail. Trust U.G. to see things which the rest of us can't! U.G. continued, "Even when you thought you were seeing him when he was alive, you were not actually seeing him. Do you think you can "see" anything or anybody?"
After knowing U.G. for almost a decade, the mind (if it's
not a myth!) comes to a point where you just don't want to
know answers to questions. So I was blissfully unconcerned
with not even the slightest curiosity tickling the brain as to
whether I was really "seeing" when I thought I was "seeing."
One thing I am certain of. The day I think I can understand
what U.G. says will be too explosive for me to handle alone.
So I'd rather not understand or even try to understand. I'd
rather be happy with my illusions. Reminds me of the "Don't
worry, Be happy," song!
My daughter, Mittu, suddenly showed signs of indigestion and had bouts of nausea and vomiting. I had to attend to the poor kid till she felt better, and she certainly did after Chandrasekhar's father gave her an Avomin tablet. Meanwhile U.G. had some interesting guests. His brother-in-law, a cancer research scientist, was asking him some very interesting questions and U.G. was in real form. Though I was sitting next to Mittu in the bedroom, my ears strained to catch U.G.'s words. He was talking with his natural vehemence out there in the garden just outside the bedroom window.
I missed a lot of the conversation, almost everything, but I just caught a sentence or two, as the breeze mercifully wafted the words my way. He was saying, "When I look at anything, I don't know what I am looking at. You ask me what this color is (pointing at something), and I don't know whether it is green, red or blue. Of course, I know it is blue, but when I look at it, the word `blue' does not come. What I am trying to say is there is no `you' there. All that is there is the knowledge. If even for a second, one second of the clock, the `knowledge' is not there, the you as you know yourself comes to an end. You will drop dead immediately and the doctors will pronounce you clinically dead. If at all it revives, then `you' no longer will `know' whether you are alive or dead. Others will see you talking, laughing, eating, and think that you are alive. But you yourself will never know."
I have heard this piece many times, but every time it is
delivered it has a fresh impact. You just don't want to know
anything more. So I very quietly came to my daughter's bed
and sat beside her. I noticed that she was feeling much
better. I was consoled. Those few sentences that I had
paused to catch near the window had driven out any remnant
desire of joining the little group outside.
The scientist's daughter, Gautami, was quite advanced in
her career as an actress, and she had brought with her some
cassettes of her own films, which all of us watched with open
admiration. U.G. too praised her talent, and also mentioned
today that she was an electronics engineer. A bright girl!
The guests left and we finished lunch. As we continued
chatting outside in the garden, Suguna brought me some tasty
sweets and as I was about to slurp at the first spoonful I
noticed U.G. looking at the sweets with a hypnotized look.
This I have always noticed: till the food is brought in front
of him he never thinks of food. But once the eyes fall on
anything edible, he picks it up and does not stop till the
eyes see the last of it down the gullet. This behavior is so
baby-like that I never fail to feel amazed at it. I
deliberately said, "U.G., stop looking at my plate so
greedily." "Of course, I am greedy. I may even pick the
sweet from the plate and finish it. So sit a little further
away." I acted scared and rescued my plate from him. While
this drama was being played Suguna quickly entered with a
little bowl of sweets for U.G. which he seemed to heartily
enjoy and appreciate.
The conversation sagged on its feet--U.G. seemed to be in
one of his "sinking" bouts. I just happened to look at
Suguna's palm, and, seeing its pinkish tinge, I told her that
she was not as anaemic as she thought she was. Well, someone
thought I was reading her palm, and that started the
fortune-telling session. Then U.G. looked at his own palm and
said, "This man has a funny `lifeline.' He died at the age of
49, and now what is there will continue to live for a long
time. The end will be far away from the land of
birth--somewhere in the foreign lands. See, this line near
the wrist shows that it will be so." Then Adri who was
present got equally interested in the "fate and future" of one and
The topic suddenly reverted to the question of how popular the book Mind is a Myth was getting to be in the U.S. It was selling in bookstores for eighteen dollars a copy, and it seems that the only two books being shoplifted were the Bible and Mind is a Myth. The Bible gives a slogan on stealing which says, "Thou shalt not steal." But U.G. says, "Steal, but don't get caught!"
The next thing I knew U.G. was seriously asking Adri if he
had at least one copy of the Mystique of Enlightenment to
spare. U.G. said that he would even pay for it. I would not
have believed it if I was not witnessing the fact that the
subject of the book which had hit the market and which was
selling like hot cakes was ready to pay for a copy of that
The time was almost 3 o'clock afternoon, and we all got up
to go inside because U.G. had some unpacking to do and had
some problems about his wardrobe being renewed--the matching
shades, the jackets to be disposed of, the kurtas to be
stitched, and the pajamas to be bought. As we went in,
someone asked U.G., "They are starting a Kundalini research
center in America," and U.G. said as he climbed the steps of
the house to go in, "Sir, if there is something like the
Kundalini Shakti, and if at all there is the rising of this
Shakti, then the person to whom this happens will brush aside
the very concept of Kundalini."
We ascended the stairs to find U.G.'s unpacked clothes lying about everywhere that you could set your eyes on. There were bags unopened and some bags unpacked, his room was littered with clothes, and he was looking so tired that he refused even my help to put things in order. He announced that one of those bags was a gift for me. He looked at me like an indulgent parent as I ooh-ed and ah-ed over the precious gift. He told us that there was a sudden increase in his wardrobe because he happened to accompany his Australian friends on a mad shopping spree during his last visit to Sydney. His generous friends bought everything that U.G. happened to touch or even paused to look at. I have gone shopping with U.G. quite a number of times: he has this habit of stopping and pausing at intervals to look at and touch almost everything that is displayed outside each shop. He is so taken up by this preoccupation that he totally ignores those who happen to be with him. It is not that he is interested in buying all those things, but he illustrates the dictionary meaning of window-shopping down to its letter. That this practice of his was misunderstood by his Australian friends was proven by the fact that U.G. ended up with at least six new woolen, cotton, and silk pullovers, two pairs of jeans, some bags, and some other items in an unending list.
U.G. was feeling quite lost as to which matched what, what
should be retained and what should be parceled to Switzerland.
Especially an orangish jacket had to be gotten rid of because
of its "swami" color. It was not very surprising to see soon
the cook parading in the orange jacket and U.G. thanking him
for helping him to get rid of it. A kurta was too tight, yet
it was brand new. So, it was immediately gifted to
Chandrasekhar's father. Everyone was eager to help U.G. get
rid of the unnecessary or extra items in his wardrobe.
Finally he said to Radhakrishna, "I wish somebody did the
thinking for me. Who wants to waste energy in thinking!"
Radhakrishna remarked that the cook seemed readily pleased
with his new jacket. U.G. replied that he had not done any
act of kindness. He added, "I don't practice kindness. I
just had to get rid of these things, and I give them to the
first person who happens to be around. The practice of
kindness will only bring about cardiac arrests."
The afternoon coffee lifted up the sinking spirits of U.G.
and the rest of us were filled with fresh energy. So we all
had another session of video viewing. This time it was
"Charlie's Angels." U.G. seemed quite excited and praised
this particular serial. But when all of us were actually
watching, U.G. sat with his eyes closed. I woke him up and he
said, "Oh, it's boring!" Now what can you say about that!
I told U.G. that very soon my family would be an excited
owner of a new V.C.R. and that he had long ago promised to
gift me with a video tape of his to inaugurate the new set.
To my dismay he said that his promises were always like lines
drawn on water which disappeared as fast as they had appeared.
Yet he gave me a copy of the interview "Thinking Allowed" and
kept up his word.
Soon we were leaving because it was almost evening.
Almost the whole day U.G. showed signs and symptoms of jet
lag, and he kept "sinking" whenever he was not drawn into
conversation. He was mostly in what he calls his "dull and
stupid" moods. So just as I left I wanted to see the smile,
hear the witty remarks. So, to shake him out of the dullness
I stretched my hand and said, "So, U.G., we are leaving. See
you tomorrow. Here, shake my hand. Want some energy
transmission?" Those were his own words thrown at him in his
most vulnerable moments. But he seemed indifferent and looked
up at me without even a smile. I had no heart to disturb him
any longer. So the kids and I made our way home.
Next day he needed my help at shopping and delivering some material to the tailor. As I have mentioned before, though he says that he just could not do without our help and makes us feel very indispensable, he knows exactly what he wants and we follow around like dummies. But it's just great to go on a shopping spree with him. Suguna, myself, and U.G. walk leisurely along the streets leading to the shopping area, and U.G. says, "It's like I have never left Bangalore--walking the same street, going to the same tailor." I agreed, because it's really strange: every time I see him I feel he's never been away, though I am seeing him after a long gap of four months.
I gossip with Suguna as we walk along and U.G. is left
many paces behind walking along and engrossed totally in
whatever is happening around him. I somehow get the feeling
that we should not let the 70 year old baby walk behind. So
we shift positions, let him walk in front so we can keep a
protective eye on him. You know, there are instances when his
body suddenly slants at dangerous angles and he recovers
equally fast. But for those of us watching it is enough to
jolt us in the pit of our stomach.
The material for the pajamas is bought and safely delivered to the tailor, who charges exorbitantly. Yet U.G. pays with mute obedience saying, "What with the rising prices, the poor fellow has to make a living. I have known him for 20 years, now his hair is turning grey." He makes kind enquiries about the tailor's wife. The tailor is pleased with U.G.'s sympathy, and then we walk back home. Who says U.G.'s heart was meant only for pumping blood in his body?
Talking about hearts and love, I was surprised last month
when I received U.G.'s parcel of my edited notes with stamps
stuck all over the envelope with the word "LOVE" and flowers.
I smiled as I received the envelope. When I met U.G. I
mentioned it to him. He laughed. He recalled that one of his
Australian friends who had some sort of psychic experiences
had told him that the whole course of his (U.G.'s) life would
change, that he would talk differently and profess the
philosophy of love, that the "Love" stamps marked the epochal
moment of the dawning era, that he was not taking care of his
body, that he was being careless about his health and diet,
and that he'd better preserve the body because he was sent
here for a great mission....
Go to Chapter 8