It was October 1995. Swamiji [Brahmachariji] many times described dramatically the events that occurred around U.G. in Mysore at that time. Mahesh Bhatt reported in his own book [his biography of U.G. called U.G.Krishnamurti, A Life] the affairs that happened in Kodaikanal.
It started on September 30, 1979. At 3:00 p.m. U.G. got off the plane with Valentine in the Bangalore airport, having arrived from Hyderabad. That was the ninth day of the Dasara festival. Ranganatha Rao and I were taking them to Jnanasram in a taxi.
"When will Viswanath's house be ready?" U.G. asked. I told him it would be two or three days. Because he had no other place to stay, we had arranged for him to stay temporarily in Jnanasram. U.G. normally doesn't like to inconvenience anyone. But he does take liberties with Brahmachariji. On the way, he announced his immediate plans: as his friends Parveen Babi and Mahesh Bhatt were visiting him, he was planning to stay for a month in Kodaikanal in the South of India.
Jnanasram is about twenty kilometers South of Bangalore, close to Bannerughatta. After Brahmachariji avoided with great difficulty the possible [mis]fortune of ascending the Seat of the Kudli Math, U.G. created for him the opportunity to build this ashram.With his ingenuity and incessant hard work Brahmachariji transformed the seven-acre barren land donated to him by the Government into a luscious garden. As well, he also built the Sakti Ganapati Temple in the Ashram. In course of time, he also built a school, a guest house, and quarters for those who would look after him. Brahmachariji said he owed it all to U.G.: when U.G. had first seen the barren land, he had put in Brahmachariji's hand the two rupees that remained after he had paid for a taxi that day, and he told Brahmachariji that this was his donation for the building of an ashram. Ever since then, whatever Brahmachariji touched turned to gold.
Our taxi arrived in Jnanasram. Looking at the sign of the Ashram outside the gate saying, "Jnanasram," U.G. remarked that the major defect that the sign had was not to have an 'a' before the word "Jnanasram" [instead of 'Abode Wisdom', the sign 'Ajnanasram' then would read 'Abode of Non-wisdom']. We all laughed at the joke. Brahmachariji, whom we expected to see waiting for us at the gate, was nowhere to be seen. We surmised that he must have waited for us, and thinking that the plane arrived late, he must have gone to town to do some urgent chores. So we ourselves had to take care of the guests that accompanied us.
Early the next morning at five o'clock, U.G. came and sat in the living room. "Last night that cobra came to visit me," he said. Our curiosity was aroused. Whenever he visited the Ashram, a big cobra used to visit him at least once. It was an almost twenty-foot long venomous serpent. It would make big sounds with its large hood and wake up U.G. U.G. would open the back door of his room and go out and walk with the cobra for a little while. "Maybe because of the big rain last night, the snake was not as fast as before. It crawled and moved slowly. It has become very old. Still, how beautiful it looks when it crawls in its zig-zag fashion!" U.G. told us.
"In this desolate place, the cobra has been protecting me for all these years. Some great person is visiting in this form, " said Brahmachari. His cook sometimes fed milk to it. Other people normally couldn't find it, but when U.G. would arrive at the Ashram, the cobra seemed to know, and would come to U.G. at night, and then disappear.
The next afternoon at exactly 3:00 p.m., Jnanachakravarti, an astrologer, entered, opening the gate with a friend of his called Anand. Jnanachakravarti was well dressed in the Indian fashion with a red shawl around his shoulders and a glow on his face. As they approached us, we all promptly made room for the two guests on the green lawn. After being introduced to U.G., Jnanachakravarti sat with everyone on the lawn. U.G. was mocking the Hindu traditions and religious ways in his usual manner. In about half an hour Jnanachakravarti abruptly interrupted U.G. and raised an objection: "Mr. Krishnamurti, many of the criticisms you have made have been made before by others. You must have the spirit of tolerance to not only reject the useless elements in our tradition, but to select the best. The scriptures don't approve of someone being a teacher merely because they are engaged [lit. rooted] in Brahman. He must also be tradition-bound. Only such persons are fit to be world teachers." U.G. did not reply. "Please furnish me the horoscope of U.G. Right now I will examine it minutely and analyze the status of his spirituality on the basis of scriptural authority. If I am offending his admirers, please forgive me. But I can't tolerate blasphemy," he said emotionally. U.G. quietly went in, brought a copy of his horoscope and handed it to Jnanachakravarti. Just as Jnanachakravarti started studying the horoscope, his facial expressions changed. He admitted that, without a doubt, it was the horoscope of a jivanmukta. He quoted many verses from astrological texts to support his statements. We were all stunned.
* * *
The next day, October 3, 1979, Mahesh Bhatt and Parveen Babi arrived from Bombay. That same evening they all went with U.G. and Valentine to Mysore in a car. My friends and I also went and everyone stayed in the University Guest House arranged by Professor Ramakrishna Rao of Mysore University. We all ate at Prof. Rao's house. As Brahmachariji hails from Mysore, he stayed in his own large house built by his father, the ownership of which was a source of dispute between himself and his brothers.
Something interesting happened on October 4. Prof. Ramakrishna Rao went to the university on some business. U.G., Mahesh, Brahmachariji and some other friends of Brahmachariji were sitting in the hall [of the Guest House]. One of them was Mr. Gundappa, a retired commissioner of police. Brahmachariji and his friends were all ardent followers of Sankara. U.G. seems to take pleasure in making fun of Brahmachariji when he gets a chance. Sometimes this can go on beyond tolerable limits and Brahmachariji would go into a rage. Then they would both calm down and laugh very loudly. That day, however, Brahmachariji was in a terrible mood. As if he didn't notice any of that, U.G. kept on making fun of him: "Why start an ashram? What's the difference between an ashram and a brothel? Prostitutes are better: they merely sell their body for a livelihood. In your ashrams you sell gurus. After so much education and becoming an I.A.S. officer, why did you have to stoop down to selling Sankaracharya?" Brahmachariji became furious that he was made fun of in front of everyone.
"Mahesh, I am not going to remain with this man for one more minute. When Ramakrishna Rao returns, tell him that I went back to Bangalore," he said angrily, and without heeding Mahesh's requests, rushed out of the house.
"U.G., Brahmachariji is really leaving in anger," Mahesh was shouting loudly.
But U.G., on his part, said quietly, "He is not going anywhere. He will come back. Wait and see."
Meanwhile, just as he left the house and went some distance, Brahmachariji ran into Prof. Ramakrishna Rao. All his anger returned when he saw the latter, "What kind of a demon are you having as your guest? Is he a Brahmajnani or a big demon?" he shouted in anger. Ramakrishna Rao held him by his shoulder and tried to comfort and pacify him.
Meanwhile, a Brahmin passing by saw them and begged pitifully, "Sirs, I am hungry. Please give me a rupee. I will read your palms and tell your fortune."
Ramakrishna Rao found a golden opportunity in this. "Brahmachariji, I agree with what you say. Let's take this palmist with us and expose U.G.'s true colors. If it turns out that he is a trickster and a phony, we will drive him out of the house. Come, let's go home," he said. Brahmachariji was pacified. "Hey, you Brahmin, you must look at the palm of someone and tell us the exact truth. If you read his hand carefully and tell us what kind of a man he is, I will give you ten rupees. If you talk gibberish, I will make your head sing songs! Be ready!" he said threatening the Brahmin.
In a couple of minutes they came into the house. As Brahmachariji looked at U.G., he curtly asked that U.G. show his hand to the palmist. U.G. extended his arms to show both his palms like a good boy. None of the people who had assembled in the hall understood what was going on; they were watching the spectacle. The lean Brahmin looked at U.G.'s right hand for a couple of minutes and started blinking with wide eyes, howling, "O ho ho!"
Brahmachariji held him by the arm and shouted at him, "Speak clearly in words." The Brahmin didn't hear him, and kept on studying the palm. After a little while, he said again, "Abbabbabba, ahahaha....!" and was gloating in his own ecstasy.
Brahmachariji could not contain his anger and got ready to hit him, "Are you going to say something in words, or should I break your head?"
"Sir, what can I say? I have never seen a palm like this before in my entire life. It surpasses that of the Rama Incarnation and the Krishna Incarnation. This palm is that of Srimannarayana [Vishnu]," the Brahmin said. Brahmachariji couldn't utter a word in response. He collapsed in the sofa dumbfounded. U.G. assessed the situation. He looked at the palmist and made an offer: "If you can look at his palm and tell how many children he has, I will give you twenty rupees," and showed him Brahmachariji's palm. The Brahmin scrutinized it for a minute and laughed, "He is a staunch bachelor. He was never married. How can he have children?" Brahmachariji then also joined the roomful of people there who laughed at this accurate deduction. Thus U.G. and Brahmachariji tested each other and found out that the stuff the other person was made of was genuine and not bogus.
* * *
That evening Dr. Ramakrishna Rao offered to take Mahesh and Parveen for a darshan in the Chamundeswari Temple. U.G., Valentine and Brahmachari also accompanied them. No one knows how he got wind of it, but by the time they arrived there, the priest in the neighboring Lakshmi Narayana Temple, Anandji, came running to U.G. to receive him.
Anandji was a devout man who remained a bachelor all his life, performed daily worship in the Temple, and, like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, spent his life meditating upon God. Many years ago, a friend had taken him to U.G. As soon as Anandji had seated himself in front of U.G., intense movement of the Kundalini energy had started within him. Ever since then, he placed a picture of U.G. at the altar and worshipped it every day.
The priests of the Chamundeswari Temple, showing great respect, led Valentine, Parveen and Mahesh, along with U.G., directly into the inner sanctum. Brahmachariji later said that the honor that was done to them that day was not normally accorded even to the Maharajah. It was inconceivable that people like Valentine, Parveen and Mahesh, considered untouchable [Mlecchas] by orthodox Hindus, would be allowed into the inner sanctum where even orthodox Brahmins would not normally be allowed. A special Puja was performed for them. It was another wonder that the sacred conch shell, [called Panchajanya] belonging to the Goddess, and the Sri Chakra#N1_that was installed there were also brought to them, and U.G. was allowed to touch them. That honor too is not normally accorded even to the Maharajah. From the moment he stepped into the inner sanctum, U.G. was feeling the effect of the energy that was there and appeared to be in a semi-conscious state. The Srichakra and Panchajanya stirred the energies in him.When he was about to stumble, Brahmachariji held U.G. Mahesh later said that he had seen on U.G.'s forehead a swelling of the skin in the form of the vertical marks worn by Vaishnavaites(namas).#N2_The swelling had remained for a length of time. For the duration of his stay in the Temple, there was also another mark evident around U.G.'s neck in the form of a serpent.
When asked about the nature of these swellings, U.G.'s explanations were always of a scientific nature. He says that the worship that was done with great devotion and devoutness, and the Yantras [mystical diagrams on metal plates] that were installed there -- all fill the area with powerful vibrations. These swellings are an end-result of U.G.'s body mechanisms reacting to these energy vibrations. They show up for a little while and then subside. U.G. says there is no need to attribute any more spiritual significance to such manifestations. #N3_
Brahmachariji's body mechanism, however, cooled itself down by drinking milk from four coconuts as soon as the group came out of the Temple. Valentine was the only person who remained unaffected by any of this. Everyone else was affected in some fashion or other by the energy present there.
* * *
Anyone who knew Kameswari would feel as if they had known her for many years. No one knows how she acquired that special trait. "She is a child of the Devi [the Mother Goddess, called Ammavaru in Telugu]," says General Ramanayya, a friend of Kameswari. While she was still in her mother's womb, her father, Pillalamarri Sundararamayya, adopted monkhood and acquired the monk's name of Ramananda Swami. He gave her the mantra of the Sixteen Syllables and taught her to worship the Goddess Lalita Parameswari. Since then, she filled her life with the Goddess. She later got married, bore children and became an Army doctor, but she never left the presence of the Supreme Goddess Lalita. Her world was immersed with the Goddess. Even when she worked in the Army, she would take leave for the ten days of the Dasara festival and dedicate herself to the Goddess. The Goddess is not just a conventional goddess to her nor is she an abstract idea in her mind. To Kameswari the Goddess is a unique expression of [energy] which embraces the whole universe, comforts it with love, and showers mercy upon it.
It was Kameswari's being stationed as an Army doctor in Wellington, a town in the Nilgiri hills, that prompted U.G. to go to Ooty that year. Ever since she became acquainted with U.G., Kameswari had been inviting him to visit Ooty. For some reason, the climate of Ooty did not appeal to U.G. Although he liked cool mountainous places, he did not like Ooty. Nevertheless, because Kameswari lived there, he wanted to go to Kodaikanal via Ooty. Kameswari's joy knew no bounds when she learned that U.G. was coming with Parveen and Mahesh. "I ran immediately to the Post Office and sent a telegram saying, 'Welcome.' I also wrote a letter sitting right there. I asked him not to disappoint me, as I was so happy about his coming. Just before I got U.G.'s letter that day I was thinking during my Puja, 'It would be nice if U.G. would come here. I can't even take off from work this year on leave.' I had that intense desire to see U.G. I went to the hospital, and in the morning mail I received the letter from U.G. saying they were coming. I can't express adequately my joy," she wrote to me in a letter.
On October 5, 1979, two days after Mahesh and Parveen arrived from Bombay, U.G. started with them on a trip by car to Ooty. Kameswari's anticipation was like that of Sabari in Ramayana. After U.G. and company set foot in her house, she had one of her two feet in the kitchen and the other in the living room. Unable to bear that, U.G. settled himself down in the kitchen. He would taste the curries she made, add salt to her cooking and converse with her. Kameswari enjoyed this very much. He even kept her company when she sat for her Puja, so that she wouldn't miss him even there. He and Parveen would seat themselves on either side of her. He asked her to utter the mantra aloud when she was meditating. When she finished, he said, "Good, perfect." One day, when she was doing her Puja, he said, "Parts of the mantras are very powerful. They feel as if a great energy is flowing. But at some places the flow is interrupted. I will correct them if you recite them aloud." When she corrected them and recited them again the next day, he said, "Now they sound right."
U.G. once commented on Kameswari's Puja: "When she recited those mantras, those sounds caused strange movements and experiences in me. It must be such experiences some people aspire for when they do japa [uttering holy names] and tapas [austerities]. The question, 'No matter how mechanically they are recited, is it right to brush them aside as foolish?' arose in me. 'No, you mustn't,' came the reply." It doesn't mean that from that moment U.G. encouraged Puja and Japa. It's not U.G.'s manner to condemn anything as a foolish practice if it is done in good faith, sincerely and with a pure mind.
Kameswari's Puja altar includes U.G.'s photo along with the pictures of all the gods and goddesses. When she was offering food ritually to the gods, U.G. said in a chiding fashion, "I am here in person. Why do you offer the food to my photo? Give it to me. I am hungry." "There are other 'dignitaries' there besides you. So you must wait till the Puja is over," she said, calming him down.
Kameswari, thus, had the good fortune of, after identifying U.G. as the fulfillment of her thousand wishes, having him come in her own home, of serving him, of worshipping him, of making offerings to him, and of enjoying such worship. On the full moon day in October, during her Puja, Kameswari was overwhelmed by her devotion and emotions, lost her senses, fell into U.G.'s lap and started crying loudly. Parveen, too, put her head in U.G.'s lap and cried like a baby. Perhaps, the full moon filled U.G. with the splendor of motherly love: quietly he consoled them both.
U.G. told me later that it was on that day he had a vision of the Sage Agasthya. He is not wont to talking about such visions in a respectful manner. His manner is to treat with equal lightness visions of both Donald Duck and Sada Siva. So, it is not easy to extract the details of such visions from him. When I asked him, "How did Agasthya look?" his answer was, "He looked short, fat and dark." Everyone knows that Ooty is called the Place of Agasthya. Yercaud also is said to be a residence of Agasthya.
U.G. and company stayed in Ooty for four days and then left for Kodaikanal. "As soon as they left for Kodai, I felt that my body became lifeless, as though all the energy in it was pumped out of it like air," Kameswari said.
* * *
U.G. wanted to stay in Kodaikanal for a month. Parveen and Mahesh accompanied him there. Also, Mr. Narayana from Hyderabad and an English friend called Bernard Selby wanted to come there to spend a few days with U.G. Meanwhile, in Bangalore, we received an unexpected telegram from U.G. saying, "We are cancelling our stay in Kodai and starting back on the 18th. Please arrange for our stay in the Ashram, if the house is not ready." We were at a loss as to what to do. We had to hurry to Jnanasram to prepare for their arrival.
U.G. went directly to the Ashram on the evening of his arrival on Thursday, October 18, 1979. The next day Mahesh brought us to the Ashram in his car. "What happened, Mahesh? Why did you come back from Kodai so soon without spending at least ten days there?" I asked.
"Ayyo, Kadavalai, Andavane!
They had found an old bungalow called the Bhut Bungalow in Kodai to stay. Mahesh did not like the place, and was panic-stricken as if it was a Ghost Bungalow ['bhut' means Ghost in Hindi]. As soon as they got there, it rained torrentially. The nights were pitch black. Parveen was mentally ill, and her illness became worse from the bad weather. She would sneak into her room and lock herself in it. U.G. was unwell because the air was so humid and his aesophagus problem recurred again. U.G. looked like Yama in person. If anyone tried to talk to him about anything, he flew into a rage. There was a fireplace in the hall with a fire going on, which seemed to serve as a constant reminder of U.G.'s fiery visage. If anyone by mistake mentioned J.Krishnamurti, U.G. would rise into a fury like a cobra whose tail had been stepped on. "You and I are going to witness in person the demolition of J.K.'s teachings. I am not exaggerating," U.G. roared fiercely. "J.K. is merely a medium. He is used to speaking as if some spook possessed him. Otherwise, there is nothing to him," he would say, brushing J.K. aside.
One day, his aesophagus closed completely. U.G. couldn't even swallow water. If he forced himself to eat anything, he would throw it up. He was thus unable to eat or drink anything for thirty six hours. To add to that illness, as if in sympathy, Parveen stopped eating and drinking as well. Thus, there was more than one crisis on hand. U.G. felt as if his body was all stirred up and wrung out. He used to writhe in pain on the bed. No one knew what would happen. One night, his pain became unbearable. He felt as if his end was nearing. Mahesh was at a loss as to what to do.
U.G. said to Valentine, "It looks as if my time to die is nearing."
Valentine replied quietly in a jocular fashion: "This is not the time and this is not the place to die. It's not practical."
U.G. could not help himself from laughing at these words. "That was the only laughter that echoed between the walls of the Bhut Bungalow in a week," said Mahesh. Perhaps because of the irrepressible laughter which burst out of U.G. in response to Valentine's remark, his aesophagus loosened up. He was able to sip and take in water. A little later, he was able to eat food. When U.G. said, "That's enough of the Kodai experiment. Let's go to Bangalore," everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The chauffeur of the car was also gladly relieved. Immediately, everyone said good bye to Kodai and left.
"In the Natural State there are no higher or lower levels. Even before [I went to Kodai] there were no boundaries in my consciousness. It seemed like consciousness flowed with the body as its periphery. This is not an experience. In order to communicate with you I have to use a metaphor. After I returned from Kodai, even that 'bank' [boundary] has disappeared. Everything is a vast unitary stream. There are no obstacles to this flow. It's hard to express it in words. It's even more difficult to understand what I say," said U.G. the day after he returned from Kodai.
* * *
It was November 4,1979, the full moon day of Kartika. When he saw me early in the morning, U.G. said to me, "You know what happened today? Earlier this morning J.K. appeared." I was shocked. How could J.K. appear? Was that in a dream or was it real? U.G. smiled. "This was not a vision; nor was it a dream. I never have dreams. J.K. appeared in person," he said. What did he say after he appeared? "He looked at me and said, 'Old chap! Your teaching is too radical and too revolutionary. Water it down.' I told him, 'Get lost!' and he disappeared," said U.G.
* * *
"I used to hear that there were great loyal ladies who lived in such unity with their husbands' lives that they didn't even preserve their own lives. I didn't realize until after she had died that none of them would even stand comparison with my mother," said Bulbul [Usha, U.G.'s daughter] speaking the other night about her mother, Kusuma.
"You became a great king because our Janaki kept your company, Or else was it your own achievement?"#N5_ so said Tyagayya defiantly. True. What did Sita gain by marrying an ideal person like Rama? How happy was Kusuma made by loving him with all her heart an idiosyncratic individual like U.G., let alone being married to him? Kusuma was a faithful wife who suffered for her husband's pleasure, and with a view of not standing in the way of his attaining his goals. She was caught in the dilemma of, on the one hand, wishing to provide for her children's future, and, on the other hand, wanting to be in her husband's presence, a presence which was so vital for her own well-being. Finally, she punished herself cruelly and separated herself from him. She became an object of scorn in her relatives' eyes, but she wouldn't care about whatever they said about her. If anyone even hinted at blaming U.G., no matter how close a relative that person was, she would lash out at him like a veritable Kali. For the sake of her children, she sacrificed her life of 35 years living in the remote village of Pulla. Apparently she said to her sister Minakshamma before she died, "Sister, thus I not only became unwanted by my husband but also am becoming useless for my children. What good is it for me to live?"
When Bulbul was narrating to us these events on the terrace that night, we could clearly imagine Kusuma's suffering. We could understand why she had moved away from U.G. We also knew how inevitable the occurrence of such an event was in U.G.'s life, this separation from his wife. When Bulbul was crying loudly because she couldn't contain the pain of her memories, we too cried with her silently.
If a person who first didn't want to marry at all, melted like snow as soon as he saw Kusuma and decided that if he ever married it would be only to her, we need not be surprised. Her personality, beauty and nature were of that sort. Why did such a person move away from U.G. in her final days? U.G. had told her that she could leave the U.S. and return to India. All her efforts to persuade him to return with her to India, to live together as one family with him and the children as before, failed. U.G. was not interested in the family life. When she thought of the future of her daughters, her heart sank. She insisted on keeping them in India because she worried: "In this God-forsaken country my children will get used to this culture and will marry Christian men." She wanted to send them to school in India. She wanted to raise them according to the Indian cultural tradition, and not to play with their lives. At least that was her intention.
U.G. was adamant: "If you want, you can go. You can stay in India with them. I will live alone in this country or another country, but I won't return to India." By then he knew that separation with his wife was inevitable. He knew that his life was like a rudderless boat tossed away by Fate and drifting in the ocean of existence.
Having no alternative, Kusuma returned to India alone. She left her life behind with her husband and landed in India looking like a lifeless corpse. It's a wonder why the earth didn't take her into its womb immediately. Circumstances in India were topsy-turvy. Nevertheless, Kusuma was brave and would not admit defeat. She believed that U.G. would someday return to India for her sake and for their children's sake. She kept her hope alive as long as she believed that even though U.G. had no use for her, her children needed her. She bore and defied all hardships as well as her ill-health. One day in Pulla, Bharati [U.G.'s eldest daughter] and Bulbul came from Visakhapatnam for vacations. When she assigned small tasks for them, they wouldn't do them. She was hurt by their complaints.
No matter how low a state she was in, she was so proud that she wouldn't let others know of it. When she was trying to feed him, and he wouldn't eat, she learned that the four-year old Bujji [Kumar, U.G.'s second son] had gone to someone's house and ate a full meal that afternoon. She put the little kid down and made marks on his stomach with a hot pancake turner. Then she started crying. How many could understand the agony and tears of that mother!
She didn't like to inform her husband of her hardships. "Wouldn't he suffer from pain knowing that I and the children are going through such hardships? How sorry will he be!" she thought. Her brother-in-law, Mr. Mrutyunjaya Rao, trying to set right the affairs of this family, and with the intention of calling U.G. to India, wrote a pleading letter to U.G. When she learned of it, Kusuma became a veritable Durga [a fierce form of the Mother Goddess], picked the gentleman up by grasping him from the sliding chair he was sitting on and threw him on the floor. She was so proud.
"Sister, he will come. U.G. will certainly come. Didn't he treat me like a princess? My prince will come on the seven horses." Kusuma used to daydream in this fashion. She had great imagination and an artistic bent of mind. There was not a moment when she didn't think of U.G. She used to reminisce about the days of her married life with U.G. and talk about them to her sister.
She recalled that one day she and U.G. went to some town. The hosts had given them a room to sleep in. There was only a camp cot, which would sleep one person, in the room. Kusuma became angry when U.G. told her, "Kusuma, you sleep on the cot. I will spread my bed on the floor and sleep on it."
"He used to bring me anything I wanted. He used to send me a sari wherever I was. When he asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I told him I wanted a sari. I was so foolish. Why did I ask for a sari?" she said, sobbing. Perhaps Kusuma was regretting that she should instead have asked him to stay with her.
"Sister, my husband used to look like Nagayya [a famous South Indian movie star]. He was fair, with long hair, white shirt and a panche [loin cloth] -- he looked like a prince. Her tapas was only to constantly think of U.G.'s appearance." Kusuma's daily routine was to recall the memories of the days she had spent with U.G. in the U.S. and talk about them.
It was January 20, 1991. That night Valentine died suddenly. She simply dropped off while she was sitting in a chair eating her dinner. The houselights were shining brightly. The light of Valentine, however, which had been shining brightly in our Poornakutee in Bangalore, went out permanently. Just the day before, my wife Suguna had gone to Bapatla after she had heard of the news of her brother's death. She had been quite distressed at the prospect of leaving the company of Valentine. She had grown fond of Valentine during the past five years, during which time Valentine became like a small baby in the cradle. The lives of our children, Aruna and Archana, were intertwined with Valentine's, as they had known her ever since they were little. They had played games and sang songs to her while she sat in her chair. They teased her and argued with her. As soon as they came home from school they would hug her and shower her with kisses. How could the children bear this sudden death while they couldn't even imagine living in her absence?
Unfortunately, I wasn't present when Valentine died that night. Just about an hour and half before her death, I had to go out on an errand. When I left I told her in English that I would be returning soon. She tried to smile and held her right hand out as if to shake hands with me. That once-strong hand which had previously given comfort and solace had now shriveled. I pressed her hand gently and said, "Au revoir, Valentine." She replied, "Au revoir," in a weak voice. That was her last good-bye, her last handshake. All was over by the time I returned home. Those hands had become cold and lifeless. My children and her servants were the only ones present when she closed her eyes forever.
It was pitch dark that night. Valentine's dead body was in the front room . And I was there, like a zombie, keeping a watch over the corpse on the sofa. The city had quietened down. Everything was still except for the occasional roar of a vehicle rolling down the street. I heard a mild moaning from the next room, which died down after a while.
How could I carry on the next day without Valentine? My brain was getting numb as soon I began to think about it. I felt my stomach turning. I was suffering from some inexpressible anxiety. What, indeed, was my connection to her? Who was she? What brought her that great distance, from the place she was born, the Jura mountain region of Switzerland, to Poornakutee in Bangalore, the place where she died? Who was she? Who were we? Who was U.G.?
It was thirty years ago when an anonymous person who lost all his roots and bearings, and who was roaming in foreign countries like a vagabond, was blown into the Indian Consulate office in Geneva. Valentine sponsored him with her generosity and handed over to him all she had without a second thought. It was a new turn in U.G.'s life. Who of us had ever dreamt that such a person as Valentine would live her last days and die from Alzheimer's disease right in front of our eyes in Bangalore?
In her years of stay here, our neighbors had also become involved with Valentine. How could I console them? What should I say to comfort them? I was reminded of the mocking voice of Chalam in a letter he wrote to me many years ago, "Am I still in that lowly state of pining after those who are dead?" I laughed apathetically within myself. This had to be my plight. My mind was to be ripped apart over and over again. Valentine lay still over there, as if she was sleeping.
"The body is a fortuitous concourse of atoms. There is no death for the body, only an exchange of atoms. Their changing places and taking different forms is what we call 'death'. It's a process which restores the energy level in nature that has gone down. In reality, nothing is born and nothing is dead," I was recalling U.G.'s words with Valentine's dead body in front of me.
The mind was in no state to contemplate philosophy or science. As ocean waves break upon rocks, all my thoughts were being shattered within myself -- I was frozen with the weight of my sorrow.
Suddenly the telephone rang, breaking the silence in the hall. U.G.'s voice on the other end. He was calling from California. There was no emotion in his voice even when he learned of Valentine's death. He reminded me of the important things I had to do: "Valentine is a foreigner. That's why you should inform the police of her death. They may give you trouble, if you don't. You must also inform the Swiss Embassy. When will Suguna return?"
I said, "She must be returning by tomorrow afternoon. I will wait till she comes back."
"All right. Cremate the body in the corporation crematorium. Valentine never believed in the rituals performed after death. She was born a Christian, but she never attended the Church even once," U.G. said. There was a moment of silence. U.G. again asked, "What will you do with the ashes after the cremation?
"I will immerse them in the Western section of the river Kaveri near Srirangapatnam," came the spontaneous reply out of myself. U.G. was laughing mildly. There was a pity in that laughter for the sentiments I couldn't free myself from.
Some days later, in the morning, Archana was peering from behind me at the papers I was writing on and asked, "Are you writing the biography of Valentine, daddy?" I nodded 'Yes' and looked into her face. The shadows of memories of Valentine flashed in her facial expressions.
Who cares about Valentine now? She never even cared about herself. Even when others reminded her of her adventures and sacrifices, she used to smile as though they were quite ordinary. Valentine had no more interest in her own extraordinary personality than the interest a flower has in its own fragrance. Even those who knew U.G. intimately knew her only as a companion to him in his world travels, and as an extraordinarily generous person who made it possible for U.G. to stay in Switzerland, but who knew of the heights of her magnanimity?#N*_
Ever since the time of the Calamity, U.G. and Valentine used to come to India every winter. U.G. used to say, "We are migratory birds: we come to this country to escape the winter in Switzerland. Here, unlike in that country, we can find all our conveniences. There is no other higher purpose in coming here."
Valentine always liked to travel to India, and particularly to visit Bangalore. She enjoyed spending her time in Bangalore standing in the upstairs balcony of the house and watching the huge peepul tree in front of the Anjaneya temple. She would watch the large bats that hung on its branches upside down and made screeching noises, as well as the ladies who circumambulated around the statues of snakes installed at the bottom of the tree. Also, there were the lazy buffaloes which were chewing their cud and swatting themselves with their tails, and the vendors who were selling a variety of wares from their push carts on the street. Everyday she would go enthusiastically half a dozen times to the nearby Gandhi Bazaar to buy something there. Until she was past eighty, she used to go around alone in the vicinity of Basavangudi in Bangalore. Valentine had the habit of walking fast. At times, I myself found it difficult to catch up with her. When one of us tried to hold her hand to be sure that she would cross the street safely at the cross roads, she used to shake our hand off and walk away swiftly.
Everyday in the evenings many friends used to gather to talk to U.G. Usually the conversation turned around trivialities. If there were any serious discussions with U.G., Valentine never moved out of the room. She used to sit there for hours and listen to the conversations with keen attention. I asked her once, "For how many years you have been listening to U.G.? Don't you get tired of it?" She would reply, "No matter how many times I've heard him, each time it seems new."
Valentine used to cook for U.G. while they were in Switzerland. Even there she enjoyed walking several times from their home on top of a hill, about a hundred feet high from the street level, to the market place, going with ease down and back up the narrow pathways, on the pretext of needing to buy things.
In Bangalore, in the house where we used to live, children used to gather around Valentine. She would be nice to them and pass out food to them. Children played with her and sang songs to her. She used to clap with them in joy, even though she did not understand their songs. Aruna and Archana felt great pleasure in spending time with her. They used to bring their friends and introduce them to her proudly and showed her off to them. It was Valentine's habit to say "Voila" for "all right". When she rolled her eyes and nodded her head while looking at the children, saying, "Voila", they would join her by singing, "Voila, voila, voila, voila Valentine." She too would burst out laughing along with them. The children liked to make her say their names. They would have great fun when she had trouble pronouncing their names.
Valentine had other close friends in Bangalore: the squirrels which jumped off from the coconut tree to the balcony and came close to her, the stray street dogs that approached her when she walked on the street fast, the baby monkeys saying hello from the peepul tree across the street from the temple, the lambs nibbling grass in the park -- Valentine was great friends with all of them. She took photographs of each of them and preserved them carefully. When she made a photograph, even the ugly face of a baby donkey would look like the face of a royal horse.
Once she took me upstairs, offering to show me something interesting. She took me to her table and silently signed to me to be quiet. After a little while, she very gently pulled the drawer open and asked me to peep in. There didn't seem to be anything in there except rubbish. When I looked in more closely, there were four dark mice moving around. Their mother, sitting in their midst, lifted her head and looked at me fearlessly. In her look I could see the confidence she had that as long as she had the protection of Valentine no one could harm her family. Valentine closed the drawer quietly and said looking at me, "Aren't they cute?" I can still remember clearly the glee of joy I saw in her eyes. She was quite preoccupied with that family of mice, as though feeding them bread crumbs and cookies and protecting them from the cat that came to say hello to her were her life aims.
Valentine by nature was not very talkative. She could communicate much better with her eyes and facial expressions than with words. She knew several languages. Her mother tongue was French. She also knew English, German, Spanish and Italian well. After coming to India she learned a few Hindi words. When I sang poems that I wrote about U.G. in Telugu, I could see her feeling sorry that she wasn't able to grasp the poems directly in Telugu, rather than in my English translation. I felt that I didn't need any more recognition for my poems than that. Later, she bought the book called Telugu in Thirty Days and tried seriously to learn the language. But she got confused with the Kannada vocabulary that was used around her, and soon quit her effort. Soon after that, Valentine reached a state beyond our words and language, a thought-free state where there was no need for words.
When Valentine was eighty-two years old, that summer she fell ill for a week in Bombay with sun stroke. From that time, although her physical health recovered, her memory deteriorated day by day. The doctors who examined her in the United States determined that she was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Medical experts are now of the opinion that the disease is spreading worldwide without regard to young or old. Scientists are still unable to fathom this disease which afflicts the memory-storing neurons in the brain. It's appropriate here to remind ourselves of U.G.'s warning: "Man's brain is intended to run efficiently this machine called the body. If the brain is used for any other purpose, mankind cannot but be subject to the horrible disease called Alzheimer's. It's not cancer or AIDS that will wipe out mankind which has appeared on the earth as a scourge among living species; the Alzheimer's disease is soon going to spread like an epidemic," says U.G.
With her memory loss Valentine also became less active. That's when U.G.'s troubles started. It was not easy for him to take her along on his travels. Sometimes an American friend called Kim Lawrence used to take care of Valentine's needs and go around the world with both of them. For some days, the famous movie star, Parveen Babi, also served Valentine while she was traveling with U.G. But as Valentine grew older, and as her Alzheimer's disease was advancing, it became clear to U.G. that she could no longer travel. He felt that she needed to stay in one place for the rest of her life. It was our sheer good fortune that U.G. decided that Bangalore should be the last stage of Valentine's life journey and that she should be in our care. It was indeed our good fortune to have been of service to that extraordinary person in her last days.
Before he moved Valentine to Bangalore permanently in September 1986, U.G. arranged a get-together of Valentine with her younger sister Rose and her elder sister Adrian. "Valentine has gone past the stage of being able to travel, and I cannot stop traveling for her sake. So, I am going to make arrangements for her to spend her last days comfortably in India. If you can arrange better facilities for her, I have no objection. I can hand her and her money over to you this instant and go my way," U.G. said to them.
The two sisters declined: "Look at our own state. We ourselves are dependent on others in old-age homes. What good is our money to us? Valentine is many times more fortunate than us. Who else besides you can look after her better? You do whatever you feel is appropriate, U.G.," they said and bid Valentine a final good-bye. Later, a year before Valentine died, her younger sister, and then, a year after she died, her elder sister, died in Switzerland.
* * *
Alzheimer's disease, which wipes out the 'self' and erodes the ability to recognize things, may be a frightening disease; in Valentine's case, however, it created situations which were amusing to everyone. The first incident of Valentine's forgetfulness which perturbed U.G. occurred in Switzerland: that year, as always, Valentine and her sister Adrian were reminiscing about their childhood events. After two or three hours Valentine suddenly turned toward Adrian and asked her seriously, "By the way, how did you happen to know about my childhood events?" Her sister was shocked: "What do you mean `how'? I am your sister!" "How could you be my sister? My sister is with me here. Look!" and she pointed to U.G. No one could say a word.
Ever since then such forgetfulness became quite common. On some occasions when she was forgetful, we could not contain our laughter at the timely jokes Valentine used to make.
When an acquaintance once asked her in the way of greeting, "Who am I Valentine?" Valentine answered, "If you don't know yourself, how am I to know who you are?"
On another occasion, when U.G. said, "If you keep forgetting everyone like this, Valentine, you may finally forget me too." She replied mischievously, "You deserve that!" We all broke into laughter.
Once when U.G. and Valentine were traveling on a bullet train in Japan, suddenly Valentine looked around and wondered, "How come there are so many Japanese in this train?" She calmed down when U.G. explained to her that the reason for that was that they were in Japan.
When she noticed that U.G. continued to talk to some friends even after dark, Valentine used to get worried that they might remain there. U.G. explained to her as though she were a child, "They have their own homes, Valentine. They won't stay here. They will leave after a little while." Then she asked U.G., "If they all leave, what will happen to them?"
Valentine had no real anxiety. No worries. She was always calm. If she became angry, it was just for the moment. Then she would laugh happily like a baby.
Sometimes, after she ate her dinner, when someone asked her, "Valentine, have you eaten your dinner yet?" she would reply emphatically, complaining to U.G., "No, they haven't fed me, yet! They haven't given me a morsel of food in ten days. They have been starving me," with conviction, as if she were expecting everyone would believe her. It used to be difficult to convince her that she had just eaten a full meal. She used to read newspapers holding them upside down. She would try to read them aloud in French, and not being able to make sense of them, she would throw them aside.
U.G. used to describe her by saying, "She is in what you would call the state beyond Turiya. There is no state higher than that. If that isn't the Turiya state, what else is Turiya?" When he asked that question, he didn't sound like he was joking.
In earlier days, Valentine's forgetfulness caused problems for U.G. Once he took her to the Swiss Passport Office in Berne to get the date of expiration on her passport extended. A couple of other friends accompanied them. When he observed Valentine, the official in the Passport Office grew suspicious and said he wanted to talk to her alone. U.G. tried in vain to explain to him her condition. Having no alternative, the company left the room, leaving Valentine alone with the official. The official came out of the room in just a couple of minutes, wiping the sweat off of his pale face. He had extended the duration of her passport, but said, "You can take her now. I don't need to see her again." He reported that he asked her, "Who were all those people who came with you?" and that she replied that she didn't know who they were. When he showed her her passport and asked her, "Whose passport is this?" she apparently replied that she didn't know. The official was shocked. Then he showed her photograph to her and asked, "Is this your picture?" she answered seriously, "That's not mine. Do I look like that?" The official got very confused by her answers.
What was the relationship between U.G. and Valentine? There is no doubt that this question has bothered many people in different ways. There are friends who have whispered among themselves, "When they both met in Geneva in 1964, Valentine was 63. But her age could not have been a big barrier for a physical relationship." There are others who gossiped, "If there was no relationship, why would she give away without hesitation all her property?"
What's interesting is that U.G. and Valentine were never concerned about such rumors. However, after the behind-the-curtain affairs, the secret romantic adventures, of the world famous philosopher J.Krishnamurti, who was reputed to be a world teacher, became public through a recent book, some close friends of U.G. were worried that future generations might misunderstand and gain a mistaken impression of the relationship between U. G. and Valentine. U.G. replied to this worry unperturbed, "Let them misunderstand. What do I care?"
Once U.G. went to the Bali islands accompanied by Valentine and Parveen Babi, the Indian film star. Parveen needed a change of weather for health reasons. Everyone knew how even a responsible magazine like India Today reported in big captions that U.G. had been married to Parveen, and that they both had gone to Bali for their honeymoon. When he returned to India from Indonesia, press reporters surrounded U.G. and asked him how true those reports were. Then U.G. replied, "I wish that news were true. What more could an aged person like myself want? What more could I want than a beautiful and famous movie star like Parveen Babi landing in my lap with a lot of money!" The reporters were disappointed at U.G.'s answer. When some of his friends suggested to U.G. that he should sue the India Today magazine, U.G. smiled and brushed the idea aside by saying, "If what they wrote was false, it doesn't bother me. And if it were true, I still am not bothered."
Valentine was never concerned about the rumors that speculated of a relationship between U.G. and herself who was already sixty to seventy years old, nor was she annoyed by people's curiosity about the nature of her relationship with U.G. When asked at different times about why was it that, on the very first day of meeting U.G. she was so mesmerized by her attraction to U.G. that she deposited twenty thousand dollars in a bank in his name, Valentine would answer with silence. How can a mind, which insists on believing blindly that for every action of ours there must be a motive, accept the idea that there can be actions which have no causes?
U.G. has said that there can be true relationship between men and women only when there is no sexual involvement. In our experience it seems only the relationship between a mother and her children is such a pure relationship. Many believe that the relationship between Valentine and U.G. was such.
When U.G.'s life was taking a crucial turn, Valentine entered the scene and stood as his support. However, she always knew clearly that U.G. had no need of her, and she knew that at any moment he was capable of dropping her and her money and going his own way. She led her life with U.G. in a precarious fashion, a life that could be described in India as: "Within every day lurks a danger, but you live till you're a hundred anyway," or living as if "wrestling standing on the edge of a knife." As soon as U.G. took her financial affairs into his own hands, she found no need to continue working at the Indian Consulate. U.G. directed her to sell all the gold she had in her possession, the antique art pieces she had inherited from her father, as well as other valuables, so as to convert these items into cash. He then arranged, on the basis of that cash, a fixed monthly income sufficient for Valentine's needs. In addition, she also received additional money in the form of a pension from her erstwhile job. With that limited income Valentine and U.G. financed their living in the Saanen area of the Alps mountains.
U.G., when talking about the intermingling of their lives, has said: "Ever since she met me, Valentine has had no life of her own as such. She has pretty much led my life."
I think her greatness would not have been any the less if Valentine had never met U.G. U.G. does not exaggerate it when he says, "In fact, Valentine's life-story is more interesting than mine." When asked to talk about her life, Valentine rarely opened her mouth. Nevertheless, I gathered many details -- some were extracted out of her, some were from what I collected from U.G. who told them to me according to what her sisters had narrated about her to him. I will briefly relate what I know of Valentine's wonderful life by piecing together all these various details.
Valentine's full name was Valentine de Kerven. She was born in the beginning of the twentieth century, on August 1, 1901, in a village called La Chaux de Fond in the Zura mountain region of Switzerland. It is noteworthy that that day is the National [independence] day of the Swiss people. That might be why Valentine was so fond of her freedom.
Valentine's father, Alfred de Kerven, was well known in those times as a great brain surgeon. His books were translated into almost all the important languages of the world. As he was the one who researched thoroughly a certain glandular disease of the neck, this disorder, the De Kerven Syndrome, which is mentioned in the current medical textbooks, was named after him. Valentine was the second of his three daughters.
Valentine had an unusual personality even as a child. She never believed anything blindly. She had to find things out for herself and act accordingly. She thus developed her artistic tastes and ideas of freedom. When she was eighteen, she decided to leave home and move to Paris. She wanted to mold her life in her own fashion by mingling with the artists of that time. But no one in her family liked her plan. When they all tried to prevent her from carrying it out, her father stopped them: "Don't force her. We all know what she is like. If we come in the way of her freedom, there is a risk of her leaving us forever. Let her go wherever she wants to go." He persuaded them, and they bade her farewell. He arranged for a yearly income of two thousand francs wherever she lived.
Valentine never forgot her father's generosity. She indeed loved him deeply. Even after she had married, she was reluctant to adopt her husband's family name, contrary to the custom there. She insisted on keeping her maiden name. Even when she had lost her memory because of Alzheimer's disease while she was under our care, her face would shine with joy whenever there was a mention of her father or she saw a photograph of him.
Valentine's big eyes always shone. There was some intense light in her eyes. I believe that no one could express herself with her facial expressions and eyes as well as Valentine could. Even when her body withered away in her last days, the shining in her eyes never went down.
Valentine was an artist from birth. Combined with her free and defiant spirit, her artistic tastes took peculiar forms after she arrived in Paris. Her interest in drama enabled her to become intimate with many prominent artists in the modern arts theater of that time. Antonin Artaud was a great poet and philosopher as well as a playwright. Spectators crowded to watch his plays, but knowing his eccentricity they always kept a respectable distance from him. Valentine was one of the select few who came close to him. Valentine used to produce in Paris, along with another artist called Dullin, plays written by Artaud. She did her own designing of the costumes for the plays. The new designs for the dresses which she had created earned her a notable reputation in Paris, the center of fashions, as an apparel designer. Valentine loved photography. She practiced it as an art. It did not take long for her to enter the film field. She was more interested in cinematography rather than acting in the movies. She founded de Kerven Films and produced a variety of documentaries. The film she made on the life of the Gypsies earned her a reputation as a prominent director. To settle down in life was repugnant to Valentine. That might have been why she was attracted to the life of the Gypsies which involved living without security, and in different places, as long as one pleased, and being jovial like a stream. The famous film institute called Gomo British Theaters showed her documentary in all European countries. She also made documentaries about the medical researches of her father.
When she started coming to India with U.G., Valentine used to observe with interest the movie industry in India. She watched some Telugu movies in Madras. In her opinion, Bhanumati was an unsurpassed artist in the South Indian movie field. According to Valentine, she was quite unique in her acting skill.
At the time of her stay in Paris, Valentine met a Swiss movie maker called Walmar Schwab. As he and Valentine were of one mind, they worked together amid the artistic and cultural areas of Paris. Gradually their friendship turned into romance. But she turned down the idea of marriage when it was mentioned, due to her independent spirit. Swiss women are by nature quite tradition-bound. Revolutionary ideas and independent spirit are scarce among them. It is perhaps hard to believe that until recently Swiss women had no voting rights. Strangely, it was the women in that country who led a movement against their own rights. Valentine was unique in the sense that, although born in such a country, she had very independent ideas, and was interested in free living within her own life. Although she never participated in any women's movements, her own life, from the beginning to the end, seemed like a liberty movement in its own right.
Valentine never wanted to marry. She detested the institution of marriage. She wondered why a woman should become subservient to man's authority, and why men and women shouldn't live together without marrying. When she wore pants in Paris, the center of fashion, women used to throw rotten eggs at her. As her lover had respect for her independent ideas, they lived together without marrying for twenty years, until the Second World War. Schwab had not had much schooling in his youth. So, when he was forty, he wanted to get some education. Valentine encouraged him, and gave him whatever support he needed so he could go to school. He was eventually awarded a doctorate in chemistry, but because he was over-aged, no one gave him a job.
Meanwhile, the Second World War rushed in. Valentine and Schwab escaped from Paris and took shelter in Switzerland in an attempt to avoid the Nazis. The laws in Switzerland were very strict at that time: it was a crime, according to Swiss law, to live together without marrying. When the Swiss police learned that the couple was unmarried, they went after them. Valentine and Schwab ran into trouble trying to avoid the police, and had to change their residence several times. They sometimes hid in potato storehouses. At last, unable to bear the pressure of the police chase, they both decided to get out of the country and get married.
Although they had already lived together for twenty years, Valentine still felt that marriage was a bondage. Just to prove her independence from the institution of marriage and authority of man, she prepared a marriage contract. According to that contract, although they were husband and wife legally, neither of them could exercise any rights or restrictions on the other. They both could feel free to lead their own lives without the permission or interference of the other. Their incomes were also kept separate. When they married they both signed the contract.
It was not in Valentine's blood to lead a life without turbulence. She never liked that sort of uneventful life. She felt that a life without adventure or adversity was not her kind of life. She would compete with teenagers in cross-country running competitions. They were tough competitions and involved running uphill for four or five kilometers. The organizers of the competitions required her to get a medical certificate saying that she had the stamina to run against women far younger than her. In spite of these odds, she got her way and participated in the competitions.
Before World War II, Spain was under the dictatorship of General Franco. In those days, when most of Europe was resisting Franco's aggression, some artists started a movement called the Revolutionary Association of Artists. Valentine joined this movement, along with her friend, and actively participated in its anti-Franco activities. She even received training, along with other fighters, in the use of firearms. The fact that she, who wouldn't hurt a fly, became a fighter and took to guns in order to bring down a dictatorship in a neighboring country indicates how deeply the love of freedom was implanted in her personality. She dreamt of going into Spain with her friend secretly, joining hands with the Republicans there, and fighting against Franco. She even had gotten the necessary false passports ready. But when Schwab backed out at the last minute, she too had to cancel her plans.
After the World War started, Valentine also worked in the Red Cross Society. Earlier, she had received training as a nurse. I think that only someone like Valentine can express her talents in multifarious ways -- as a fighter, as a nurse and as an artist.
In 1939, before the onrush of the World War, Valentine contemplated the conquest of the Sahara desert along with her friend. Even today it is not an easy matter to cross the Sahara Desert on a new motorcycle. Half a century ago, even most adventurers would not think of such daring deeds. Except for adventurers who contemplated crossing the English Channel or the Atlantic Ocean, no one would have had the guts to attempt to cross a three thousand mile desert, finding her way even in the middle of frequently raging desert storms. Valentine had great faith in her powerful 7 1/2 head motorcycle. If one were to write an account of how she sat Schwab on the back seat and then traveled day and night for three months in the desolate, terrible desert under the hot sun and in the hot winds, this account would be more interesting than a Jules Verne novel. The struggles they went through getting supplies and gasoline for the motorcycle, the meals they ate sitting on the cadavers of camels because they couldn't set their feet in the burning sand, the hospitality of the residents in the occasional desert villages -- adventures of this sort can only be told by a person such as Valentine. The album of photos that she assembled still remains with us as a witness of their Sahara conquest. Weekly magazines at that time gave high praise for their adventurous journey.
After the World War, in 1954, Valentine contemplated another adventure. This time she traveled to India from Switzerland with her friend Schwab in her Volkswagen car. She came to India for the first time via Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. She and Schwab drove across India, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, in their car. It may be from this trip that she developed, unbeknown to herself, a deep attachment to India. Indian people, especially people from small villages with their simple living, interested Valentine very much. She was so fascinated by the Indian sleeping cot, with woven twine, that she had one transported, along with her Volkswagen, on a boat from Ceylon to Switzerland. She used the cot for a long time after she returned to her country.
After she returned from India, Valentine accepted a job in the Indian consulate in Geneva as a translator. It was about that time that she severed her relationship with Schwab. Valentine never had any children, even though she lived twenty years of life with him before their marriage as an unmarried companion, along with twenty more years after marriage. Meanwhile, an eighteen-year old young lady had come between them. It was such an unexpected and sudden development that the sixty-year old Schwab fell in love with this woman and started a relationship with her. Although in the light of her own marriage contract she couldn't find any fault with her husband, Valentine could not swallow the harsh truth of losing someone whom she thought was her own. That is why later, whenever a discussion about woman-man relationship came up, Valentine used to say, "As long as there is a tendency among men and women to own each other, no matter how sweet the relationship is, it will have to turn bitter. No matter how many ideals you cite, and no matter what you do, that tendency will not go away. If the lives of married couples are horrible, the lives of unmarried couples are even more horrible."
At that time Valentine was living in a house given to her by her father. Valentine could not tolerate Schwab carrying on an affair with his new girlfriend. When, not stopping with that, Schwab went ahead and filed a lawsuit in a court asking for a divorce from her, Valentine's mind was closed to him. At the time of the verdict, the judge read their marriage contract and asked in shock, "What kind of a marriage is this? How could you call this sort of a contract marriage? With such a marriage, why would you still need a divorce?" He immediately annulled their marriage and sent them off.
"I never saw Valentine shedding tears. She had the courage to face any kind of hardship," says U.G., "The word `sentiment' does not exist in her vocabulary." After forty years of relationship with her companion broke up, Valentine started feeling that her life was in vain. What must she do? Why should she live? She was crestfallen, unable to find any use or aim for her life. One midnight, unable to sleep, Valentine sat on the banks of the Geneva Lake . For one who had never cared about her future before, now it seemed terrible. When she told me much later about the mental agony she had experienced that night, U.G. was with us. U.G. asked, looking at Valentine mischievously, "You didn't feel like jumping into the lake?"
She replied, "No use jumping into the water. I knew how to swim."
U.G. later jokes about her saying, "She must have been afraid that the water in the lake would be frozen from the cold. Or else she would have jumped in it." She seemed to have been fated to return home that night without attempting anything drastic on herself, and it was the very next day that U.G. stepped into the office of the Indian Consulate. The lifelines of those two seemed to have merged on that day and started to move in the same direction: they both had not the faintest idea of how they were going to live, what their future was, or why they should live. And both their lives were like kites cast off to the winds of fate.
* * *
That evening Lulu and Eddie, friends of U.G., brought some nightgowns for Valentine. Valentine did not like them. By the next morning she forgot that they were hers. She was asking, "Whose gowns are these? How did they get here?" She continued to deny that they were hers, even after we told her they were.
Suguna, U.G. and I were standing outside the front gate and talking about Valentine's forgetfulness and laughing about it. Only Nagaraj was upstairs. "I will be back soon. I will have to go to Eddie's house and talk to him about some important things," said U.G. and started to leave.
Before he could go a few steps, a boy in a torn shirt pursued him begging, "Sami, Sami, Alms, please." While I tried to shoo him away, U.G. walked away quickly. I turned around to go toward my home. The boy continued to follow U.G. pestering him for alms. After walking about twenty yards, I could see U.G. taking some money out of his lalchi [shirt] pocket. The next moment, a currency bill was flapping in the boy's hand. U.G. cleaned his hands, and started walking quickly as before, as if nothing had happened." There was no trace of the boy anywhere.
"That was a lucky day for that boy. U.G. does not think of how much he is giving away," I said to myself and walked into the house.
That night, during a conversation with U.G., Suguna brought up the incident of the morning. "I don't know how much I gave. If I had a hundred-rupee note in my pocket, maybe I would have given that," said U.G. It is surprising to see a person like U.G., who normally says that he does not believe in charity and generosity, in action.
"Isn't better to do what you can, depending on the circumstances, and forget all about it? If you start institutions and collect donations in order to remove poverty in the world, would you be really helping the poor and the destitute?" U.G. asks. "Three quarters of what they collect goes toward the operating expenses of the institutions. Who benefits in the end?"
"How did you get to be in the position of giving charity to someone else? How can there be paupers if the rich don't rob them in some fashion? First, we smite their mouths and fill our bags, and then we drop a few grains in the name of charity just so we get the credit for being a generous donor .... Isn't this what happens?" U.G. asks.
* * *
"I don't want to leave at all; but I must," said Venkataramayya sadly. He had to leave town the next day. He came from Delhi hoping to see U.G. here. Luckily for him U.G. was in Bangalore. So, he stayed with a friend and visited U.G. But the day arrived when he had to leave. It was his ardent wish to be around U.G as much as possible and spend time taking care of U.G.'s affairs. On the other hand, he had to go to Delhi for a job or go to Rajahmundry to find some way of making a livelihood. His way of life consisted of doing a job that he liked, when he wanted to do it, and when he needed the money, and to live as he liked, the rest of the time. He had spent forty years of his life with this lifestyle. Now, he was caught deeply in his attraction for U.G.
The next morning, Venkatarmayya came to say goodbye. He perhaps didn't imagine even in his dreams the marvels that were awaiting him: "I have been waiting for you. I was thinking of sending Chandrasekhar to the train station, if you didn't come. You stay here till the 2nd of April. I will give you the money to make arrangements for yourself," said U.G. handing him hundred-rupee bills. Venkataramayya was flabbergasted with joy. His wish was fulfilled. He would not have imagined that U.G. would treat him so generously. He was very happy. U.G. appeared as if he was sharing Venkataramayya's joy.
"My actions are not things I do after contemplation. Every moment, the circumstances around me determine my response. I don't know what I do. That doesn't mean I am thoughtless about the future. We believe that if we don't think before every situation and plan for it, we may be causing hardships for many. On the other hand, we believe that living without forethought is some sort of spirituality. But in reality that is foolishness and superstition. I am not saying to do any such thing."
"In my case, my actions are not mine. They are not run by my thoughts. Thoughts have no influence on them. My senses are what drive this body. Circumstances are the basis for what decision I should take at a given moment, and how I should act."
"The orders must come from above," U.G. says sometimes, smiling. I believe that he is not joking when he says that.
"This Ajna Chakra plays a major role in the functioning of the body. The yogis call it the Ajna Chakra, but I say it is the pineal gland. That gland which is beyond the forehead between the eyebrows becomes very active in the Natural State. It controls all the functions that the body performs. That's why they call it the Ajna [command] Chakra," says U.G.
* * *
"I am a very lucky man that I met a man like U.G. Oh, U.G. is a precious gem. He is very unique." When the Australian, Max, was talking about U.G., he looked as if for the first time he found himself close to realizing the significance of his life.
There were four of them. Three of them were brothers; and a sister called Mary. She listened to U.G.'s conversations with a fixed smile and rapt attention. The four of them had the courage to dedicate their lives to spiritual practice. They quit their own tradition, adopted the Hindu tradition, served gurus, and tried to realize the mysteries of spiritual truths. They were spiritual aspirants who had made spiritual practice their mission in life.
They saw and heard U.G. and talked to him. I heard in Max's words the sentiment of Kabir expressed in his song "Ram ratan mai payo...." ["I gained the jewel of Ram"] It wasn't the conversation, it wasn't his jokes, nor U.G.'s eloquence in English. There was some other authenticity in U.G. that made them slaves to him.
"Where is U.G. going now?" asked Max.
"He went to our house. He will eat there and come back soon."
Max looked thoughtfully at the sky for a moment. He talked to his brothers and asked me hesitantly, "Could we come too. We are curious about watching U.G. eating his lunch."
"Surely, please come. No problem," I said and took them to my home.
Meanwhile, U.G. and Brahmachariji were coming down the stairs. "Where are the Kangaroos [the pet name U.G. used to refer to the Australians -- 'kangaru' in Telugu means 'confusion'.]? Have they left?" asked U.G.
"They want to watch you eat. They are sitting inside (downstairs)," I replied.
He said as he greeted them, "It's time to feed this animal. So, you want to see the animal chew its cud!" We all laughed at this.
U.G. explained to them the details of his meals. "I don't have any requirement that I should have sattvic [mild and gentle] food. Because there is a defect in my alimentary canal, the food, instead of going into the intestines directly, sometimes makes trouble. Just like cattle, I too have formed two stomachs as a result of this defect," he said laughingly.
"I can't tolerate Green chili, ginger and pungent spices. If I eat even a bit of them, I get hiccoughs. I have been a vegetarian ever since I was born. No matter how much you try to avoid it, in foreign countries they mix some meat stuff in the vegetarian food. It's difficult to explain to them what I want. So I have difficulty in the restaurants. Once, in a foreign restaurant, the waiter brought me tomato soup with beef stock in it. First, I didn't find any difference. After I drank a little, my friend told me that `Those red bits are meat!' Yet, it did not cause any disgust in me. 'Meat' is just a sound. Because I had no idea of meat, there was no reaction in me even when I knew that it was meat. If the same thing happened to me earlier in my life, I would have vomited it the next moment.
"All the protein I need I get from this pappadam. That's enough. Normally people eat their ideas and tastes. They sprinkle them on their food and mix their food with them, and they ruin their stomachs and their heads with theories such as: there ought to be vitamins in a diet for good health, nutrients must be in equal quantities, and the diet must be balanced.
"I like cheese. Yogurt is important. In Switzerland you can find as many as a hundred different kinds of cheese. I am used to cooking semolina, spaghetti, noodles etc. with cheese."
Suguna used to buy buffalo milk for U.G., and curdle it in a clay pot. U.G. used to relish it.
"If you eat idli and dosai [South Indian breakfast dishes], they have everything in them: in the urad dahl [in these dishes] there is protein and in the rice flour there are carbohydrates. And that's enough. However, idlis can only be eaten when South Indians make them. On the other hand, I don't like chapatis [a common Northern Indian bread] made by South Indians," says U.G.
Once Shanta Kelkar brought some coffee in a thermos. "Whom is it for?" asked U.G. "Is there enough for everyone? If you want me to drink it, I must have cream with it," he said. The next day cream was brought. "Your coffee is wonderful," U.G. would admire Shanta's coffee. Since then, she brought coffee everyday. "If I say something is good, you shouldn't understand it as 'I want more of it'," he used to say.
"I don't have any special interest in eating fruit. Every morning Suguna gives me some orange juice. I like avocado very much. " It was a mistake on U.G.'s part to express his likes and dislikes in this fashion. The next evening the Australians brought baskets full of avocados, and several kilos of cheese and cream. U.G. didn't quite know how to store them and so he became annoyed at this. Much of the stuff was left over after we all ate.
* * *
This was an event that happened many years ago. U.G. was then in Bangalore. A correspondent, sent by YNK, the editor of Prajavani, a Kannada newspaper, came to interview U.G. that evening. The conversation took place in English. When the conversation turned to Hindu religion and culture, U.G. in his usual style started condemning all the things we normally consider to be great.
The correspondent asked, "Is there not a single good factor in our culture?"
"No. Not even a single redeeming factor in this culture. I am sorry," emphasized U.G., and elaborated on his viewpoint.
A week later, the newspaper published an article on U.G. written by YNK. The next evening, some RSS [Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh -- a paramilitary Hindu communal organization] volunteers presented themselves with canes in front of our house. "How can you say that our culture is inferior. What do you know about it?" so saying they started a commotion.
Unperturbed, U.G. made them sit in the hall and asked them quietly: "Who among you knows about Hindu culture and religion?" No one answered. They all looked at one another. "I know more about Hindu religion and culture than any of you. If any of you can prove that my statements are not true, then I will accept that," said U.G. "Do you think you can protect the great heritage of India by wielding those canes? One machine gun will wipe you all out!" U.G. chided them.
It is irrelevant to report what particular arguments U.G. used to justify his position. U.G. does not like debates. He knows clearly what he says. He feels that what he knows clearly does not need to be proved. He is also clear that it will not be clear to others. That's why he does not try to impose his opinions on others.
"The opinions we form, almost all of them, are based on hearsay and other people's values. 'Hindu religion and culture are very ancient.' 'They are sacred.' 'The ancient Hindus were all sages --' such popular opinions have gone into our blood."
Mere emotion is not useful [and sentiment even less so] in looking at things from U.G.'s point of view when he questions, "In this country which has been proclaiming for ages the oneness of life and Advaita Vedanta, how come there is such untouchability and such foolishness?"
"Our respect for and unshaken faith in Hindu culture and civilization must help us look at the current situation from a proper point of view, but not make us mere blind sheep. Something went wrong somewhere. There is no use blaming politics, history or circumstances. If every word the ancient sages and wise men had uttered were true, and if the ways of living they formulated were all so great, then what is the reason for our society to deteriorate and disintegrate so much?"
"What is the difference between other religions and your ancient religion which you are so proud of? What difference is there in your behavior? You claim to be the stewards of such an ancient religion? Whatever we say must be expressed in our actions. Mere sentiment that is not translated into practice is just a show."
The only problem for those who listen to U.G. is that U.G. does not have a social outlook. "If man is eradicated from the face of this earth without a trace, there is no reason to be sorry --" No wonder that such words of U.G. sound like complete extremism.
* * *
Normally, U.G. keeps his word, even if he gave it casually. This event occurred some years ago. Aruna [my daughter] was four years old. When she noticed that U.G. and I were going to the Bazaar, she refused to go to school one day because she wanted to go with us instead. "You tell me what you want, and I'll get it for you," said U.G. She said she wanted a rose.
When we were returning home after finishing our business in the Cantonment, U.G. did not forget his promise. "We must buy a rose for Aruna," he reminded me. We went to the flower market. That was not the season for roses, so we couldn't find a single rose. We came out empty-handed. On our way home, we stopped our car at several flower shops and looked for roses.
"Never mind, we will get it when we find it," I tried to get U.G. out of the bargain, but he wouldn't budge. "
I promised it to Aruna," he said and went into the shops of Gandhi Bazaar. We couldn't find any there either. When we returned home, U.G. sent Valentine to the City Market asking her to buy what she needed and also a rose. And Valentine bought a rose. U.G. wouldn't leave the matter until he got the flower and gave it to Aruna.
I was surprised to thus see the true colors of U.G. who normally says, "I have no commitment to consistency. I don't care for my promises. They are like writing on water."
* * *
Just as Sri Rama pleads with the sages in the Ramayana, "I am no God, I am merely Rama, son of Dasaratha," U.G.'s greatness seems to lie in the fact that he does not seem to have any awareness of himself as someone important. U.G. used to say, "Who am I? And where am I?" In whatever context he is, whomever he is with, he mingles with them. "No matter how many people are around me, I am always alone," says U.G. He may appear to be doing many things, but he is not aware of himself doing anything, saying anything, not even that he is eating. That state of unknowing is unimaginable, something that cannot be experienced; it is uncommon. "You are among people, but you are not yourself any person; you appear as non-appearing," these words of Suryanarayana written long ago about Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi seem apt when used in reference to U.G.
Mr. Adri narrated the following event. A while ago, U.G. was in Bombay. A gentleman called Pratap used to visit U.G. Pratap was one of the people who argued with, criticized and condemned U.G. strongly. That day in the middle of the conversation, when the argument became heated, Pratap said, "I feel like throwing this ashtray at your face." If it were someone else, there would have been a great altercation as a result of such a remark. But U.G. appeared unconcerned about what Pratap had said. He said to Pratap in his usual affectionate manner, "Throw it!"
Speaking on the occasion of U.G.'s birthday, Jnanachakravarti Satyanarayana said, "Perhaps he is the only man who encourages his critics. I am sure he would be the happiest person if someone calls him a scoundrel to his face. That is his greatness." As the Bhagavad Gita says, "Praise and blame are the same to the true sage ...."
But is this a purely insensitive state? U.G. says, "No. If someone blames me, I too am pained just like you. But, as soon as there is a division in the awareness saying, 'This is pain', that feeling burns itself out. The pain does not continue. Its existence is for that moment only. There is no thinking about it. There is no reaction in me. There is only the response."
A long time ago, when U.G. used to live in the house on Vani Vilas Street, Dr. Bhaktaram came to visit U.G. He reacted to U.G.'s words and started abusing U.G. in foul language. U. G. did not show any reaction to this. All the time Bhaktaram continued to talk, U.G. remained indifferent, as if the abuse was not addressed to him. It would have been impossible for someone else to remain so indifferent.
In Europe, when a Westerner got angry at U.G. and said, "I feel like hitting you with this chair, U.G.," it was to U.G.'s credit to encourage him without being upset, "Do it!" How many people can understand U.G. when he says, "You must throw stones at me. I wonder how you people sit around and listen to this crap"? U.G. says, "By giving expression to this state, I am paving the way for somebody else to come after me and blast what I am saying. That has been the greatest tradition of India."
It was the year 1989. The letter U.G. wrote saying, "Hereafter
the cascade [of my letters] will reduce itself to a trickle," puzzled
me. We received a copy of a letter he had written to Mahesh, and the following
lines disturbed me as well as my friends.
"Our visit to Pune and what happened there forced a major rethinking of the whole way of my lifestyle. I refuse to let myself be transformed into a cult figure or allow what I have been saying to be turned into an institution. It is possible that I might fail miserably, but the time is approaching, if it hasn't already come, when a great change has yet to take place. Actually, this year, both in Rome and here this summer, I asked those who come to see me to leave and tell everybody else that no useful purpose would be served by coming to see me. My theme song to those who persisted in staying on has been: "I don't want to answer any questions on meditation, yoga, or the teaching of J.K., much less questions that arise from reading the Mystique of Enlightenment.
"It is not that I am observing a vow of silence, but media will be the medium through which I will express myself from now on." These last couple of lines were confusing. I could not believe that the same U.G., who normally takes care not let media journalists come near him, would express his opinions through the media. I wonder what he was going to do? #N6_
* * *
"Keeping your rules to yourself is part of wisdom...."
U.G. is an arch enemy of ancient traditions, beliefs and customs. He also condemns the ignorance, ostentation and pride that have accumulated in our minds. At the same time, he is moved by the humanness shown by those who sincerely follow ancient ways.
The following event happened seven years ago. Suguna's grandmother used to live with us here then. She was about 85 years old. She was in good health. Wearing ritually cleaned clothes, maintaining ritual cleanliness, fasting, eating only once, in the daytime -- her world consisted of these spiritual disciplines. Yet, she was very much interested in knowing and understanding about things that were going on around her. It's not clear what she thought of U.G. One day she apparently asked U.G.: "What is moksha? How can one attain it?"
Normally U.G. doesn't give disturbing answers to the questions of elderly people. "Why should I cause unrest in them. Let them die in peace with their beliefs," says U.G. When the elderly lady asked thus, U.G. asked in reply, "What makes you think I know the answer?"
"You are a great man. What don't you know?" replied the lady.
"Who told you that I am a great man?" said U.G.
"Nobody needs to tell me. If you are not a great man, why would all these people come to see you? Why would they sit in your presence?" replied the elderly lady.
He smiled and said, "I don't know anything. Ask Chandrasekhar. He knows about such things very well."
Some days later, during the course of a conversation, I was speaking to the old lady about Vedanta, our Upanishads, and codes of conduct. She patiently heard me and said, "That's why that great man told me to ask you. You explained those matters to me very well," she said. I was stunned. "Who told you that? Whatever happened?" I extracted the whole story from the elderly lady.
When U.G. was staying on Sannidhi Street, 'Father' Chalam came along with Nartaki and others. A small crowd gathered in the yard in front of the house. Several college students gathered around Chalam and talked to him. Suguna's grandmother and Valentine were talking to each other under the corner tree. A little while later, Valentine proceeded to distribute some cookies brought by Nartaki and tried to give one to the old lady too. U.G. was watching all this. He called me and said, "Watch them. See if your grandmother will take the cookie."
She indeed took the cookie, smiling. When Valentine signed to her to eat, she signed back as if she were saying, "It's O.K. I won't eat it now. I'll eat it later."
U.G. said: "It takes a great amount self-education to learn not to pain others with one's rules of discipline [cleanliness, in this case]. It's part of her rules not to eat food not only offered by friends such as Valentine but also any food prepared by others, but it's her wisdom to keep her rules to herself. Valentine would have been offended if the old lady hadn't taken her food. It's rare to live with the sophistication of not offending others and yet not violating one's own rules." U.G. often criticizes Brahmachariji and Krishna Bhagatar for eating snacks from the restaurant down the street or pakodis on the street and yet bragging about their ritual cleanliness and discipline.
* * *
As everyone knows that there is no need to wait for a fixed appointment or time to see U.G., people come at different times. On Sundays, from morning until night various people continuously come and go. When U.G. came this year [1985-86], one day he was talking incessantly without a respite. The visitors came and left one after another. Even after it was past the time for lunch, the hall did not become vacant. One group of people went downstairs and left. Then Jagadish arrived. U.G., who was sitting leaning against the wall, stood up and said to us, smiling, "This has turned into a barber shop. One after another, people come and get their hair cut. They have been coming since morning without a break." We all laughed aloud. True. What U.G. performs is the Big Tiru Haircut#N7_. Without a penny's expense the burden of their Karma is diminished. If we offer to regulate the inflow of people, because their uninterrupted visits are an inconvenience to him, U.G. refuses. "This is how it should be. There should be no special duration, prior appointment, and such," he says.
* * *
It was perhaps in 1977 that U.G. first went to Ramanasthan. I accompanied him there. Ms. Talyarkhan, a devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi, invited U.G. to her ashram. We all went with him. That afternoon, Arunachala acquired a real beauty in the cool sunshine. U.G. went up to the terrace of the house of Talyarkhan, and looking at the hill of Arunachala in front of him, he remarked, becoming breathless with excitement, "Look, how great is the scenery! It's fantastic; it's wonderful. The hill is so near! I feel like staying here forever."
Talyarkhan pleaded with U.G., "I will give this whole ashram to you. Please stay here."
U.G. laughed and shook his head as if to say, "That's all of no use."
Nartaki too pressed U.G. "You feel good here. Why not stay here?" she said.
Talyarkhan begged many times, "I will change the title of this ashram to your name. I will be happy if you stay here."
"No way," said U.G. turning to me and laughing. "Tell her this: if she gives this house to me, the next day I will turn it into a brothel or a bordello."
I was shocked at this. How hurt Talyarkhan must have been when she heard this! Who could imagine that words of this sort would come out of a person like U.G.? Why did U.G,. who wouldn't normally hurt a fly, say something so offensive and hurt someone's feelings? Sometimes, U.G.'s words and deeds are so shocking. What was his intention? I think now that U.G. used such abusive language to break down Talyarkhan's pride and egotism. She never mentioned the question of the ashram again, perhaps because she became frightened of U.G. Once before this incident she came to Bangalore in a car with 'Father' and others to see U.G. I think she avoided U.G. altogether after this incident.
* * *
This morning at 9 a.m., Suguna, the children, Nagaraja Rao, a friend, and I -- we all talked to U.G. I want to relate here the details of the experience that happened to U.G. last night -- not an ordinary experience, but the divine experience which U.G. described in Telugu. Why I am calling it a divine experience is that such experiences do not happen normally to anyone, not that I want to attribute to them any spiritual value.
"Last evening, I had such inexpressible anger. How I condemned the Buddha, Jesus and other incarnate prophets! How I poured abuse on them! I was furious. Irrepressible anger. It hasn't subsided even now as I am talking to you. My anger did not subside with all that abuse. I went to bed with it. My whole body was burning. Flames, flames. Everything was burning with that irrepressible anger. It felt as though the whole house was burning along with my body. Everything was gone. The whole body was going to turn to ashes. I was saying [to my body], 'You can go [die] now.' Meanwhile, someone said, 'No, you cannot. There is a lot to be done by the body.' It sounded like a dialogue which J.K. had with Death. Slowly, the burning in the body calmed down and the body became normal.
This morning Sampat came and said he had a dream last night that U.G. had died. "There was a huge wail inside myself; irrepressible sorrow. How much I cried in the dream! I set out right away to come to see him," said Sampat.
"In Bangalore, in Subbanna's house, something similar happened once to you," I said to U.G. I asked him, "You mentioned that your experience was that your body was burning. Was this experience the same?"
"When compared with this, what happened then was not worth mentioning. When compared with this heat -- the flames that happened last night -- that was nothing. It was pleasant. Last night, the rage, the anger and the flames haven't subsided yet ," said U.G.
Sampat spoke later: "I never had such an experience before. Normally I am not moved by death. In my dream last night, U.G. was talking sitting in a chair and suddenly breathed his last. Then I was looking at a photo of U.G. in a dancer's house. Immediately there was big cry within myself, an unceasing cry. I felt that I was never going to see him again. That's why I came running early in the morning. I didn't even feel like phoning first before I came. I felt that I couldn't very well ask someone on the phone, "Is U.G. still alive?"
* * *
Why is the moth so attracted to the flame? What kind of courage is it which enables it to throw itself into the fire? Julie, a friend of U.G. from New York, has a similar courage. She must possess that foolish bravado of burning everything and turning everything into ashes in the fire of U.G. Toward the end of last December  U.G. came to India. He told Julie not to come with him. He told her nicely, and he threatened her too, that if she came there would be no place for her around him. She knew the consequences of not doing what U.G. told her to do. Yet, it is beyond me to understand why Julie couldn't remain in California. One morning she landed in Madras without notice, with the excuse of bringing some computers to India. Her bags, which contained two computers, many video tapes, couscous which she bought specially for U.G., oats, and other food stuff, were all missing. In the attempt to trace them, she spent four days in Madras. U. G. was then in Yercaud. Julie called U.G. and said, "My luggage is lost. What should I do?" Finally, U.G. agreed to let her come to Yercaud. She came, and three days later we all started back to Bangalore. Three days after that, on February 6, U.G. sent her away. He made her take her computers back with her. He scolded her in the presence of everyone in the Bangalore Holiday Inn, and furiously told her not to show her face to him again.
Why did Julie want to carry all that silly food that far for U.G.? Why was U.G. so adamant in not letting her stay for a few days longer, and why did he make her take the return trip to the U.S.? U.G. can't stand her presence. Yet, he loves to have other friends like Bob and Paul [Robert Carr and Paul Arms]. But he gets annoyed by Julie, who would kill herself for him. Julie is a great lady who would hug the very feet that would kick her.
* * *
In February U.G.'s younger brother Dr. Sriramachandra Murty came to visit U.G. People generally address him as 'Ramu'. He is one of the most distinguished mathematicians in the world. He is professor at a university in Canada. I took him with me in a car to Yercaud. He liked the weather there, U.G.'s presence, the friends around U.G., and the surroundings of Yercaud. We stayed in Yercaud and returned to Bangalore on the 8th. On the way, in the car, when I asked Ramu what he thought of U.G. , Ramu said, "I saw him long ago in my childhood. Later, perhaps in 1970, I spent a week with him in Switzerland. Recently U.G. came to Canada and stayed with me for a couple of days. The time I have spent with U.G. hasn't been much. The more I observe him, the more remarkable a man he seems to be. I notice that the ring of authority behind his words seem to silence everyone. Even scientists seem to have to bow before that authority. It's amazing how he acquired that strength of authority." True. The tone of authority in U.G.'s words, and the unhesitant certainty, the undefiable authority -- who knows how many people's lives it is meddling with!
* * *
In February, for a few days U.G. camped in the Malladi 's [Malladi Krishnamurti, a friend of U.G. in Madras] old residence. One day, The Bob and PaulN_8_ Duo put on an amazing performance of their magic in Mr. Krishnamurti house for everyone's entertainment. Bob Carr had been a professional magician in the past. By the time, on February 16, Mr. Raju [an astrologer friend of Mr. Krishnamurti] arrived, the whole atmosphere around U.G. was filled with the perfume of astrology.
Mr. Raju had come from Masulipatam to see U.G. U.G. repeatedly showed him his palm and pestered him to tell about his future. "Ingram Smith read my palms in Australia and said that the lines in my left palm have been changing. He interpreted the lines as indicating that the femininity in me is growing stronger than the masculinity." He showed us the lines in his left palm.
Mr. Raju said, "On April 2 the planet Uranus is entering the constellation of Kumbha." In U.G.'s horoscope Uranus is in Kumbha. Mr. Raju opined that it was very significant that at this time in the planetary movements Uranus happened also to enter Kumbha. "The Aquarian Age which the whole world has been waiting for for years is going to start on April 2. Those who will be born in this Age will be able to easily grasp U.G.'s message and incorporate it in their lives. The essence of U.G.'s message must reverberate throughout the world in every area," said Mr. Raju.
U.G. immediately retorted by saying, "That's inevitable. Even scientists cannot swallow what I say. I am uprooting the very theories which they use as foundations to build their edifices of scientific theories. It's not possible for them to accept [my attack]. Thus, it's not just the nostril-closing religious buffs that pick up a fight with me. It's certain that the best of the intellectuals in every field will declare a war on me."
U.G.'s German astrologer friend, Nataraj, says the same thing. Mr. Raju argued that there must be some link between the [position of] Uranus in the horoscopes of those close to U.G. and the [position of] Uranus in U.G.'s horoscope. "What about you?" I asked Raju.
Raju smiled and replied, "In my horoscope Uranus is in Kumbha, just like in U.G.'s horoscope." There was then a discussion about how the Uranus in the horoscope of each person present was linked to the Uranus in U.G.'s horoscope.
* * *
A young man called Ashok came to see U.G. that evening. Apparently Sashidhar, who works in the J.K. Library, told him of U.G.'s arrival in Madras. Even after I invited him in, he hesitated for a while wondering whether he should or should not come in. After lingering by the doorway for a while, he came in and sat on the edge of a sofa in a cringing fashion. It was apparent that he was overwhelmed by the joy of meeting U.G. "I read a couple of your books. I don't feel like talking about them to anyone. I can't express in words how strong a hold they have on me," he said in a faltering voice.
"If you still came to see me this far after reading those books, it's evident how little effect they have had over you," said U.G. in a ridiculing fashion.
At this remark, the boy turned pale. He didn't move his lips after that. U.G. didn't give him an opportunity to speak, either, and talked incessantly for a long time. The following are a few samples of the gems that came out U.G.'s mouth that evening:
"There is more life in the chorus of the barking dogs than in the music of the singing performances of famous singers like Balamurali and Musuri Subrahmanyam.
"You and I are two stray dogs. We make some sounds. You are not listening to me if you are finding some marvelous meanings in my barking. You are not understanding a bit.
"What is music? It's a pause between two sounds, between two notes. All our tastes are a result of the conditioning imposed on us by our culture. We form our likes and dislikes according to our tastes. We call one sound 'harsh', and another one we call 'the sound of gods' and go into ecstasies. I don't like Northern Indian music. All the things that come from the North of the Vindhyas are taboo to me -- Northern Indian music, Northern Indian foods, Northern Indian dresses and languages -- all of them.
"The body is not concerned about tastes. What it needs is some food, for energy. You can eat sawdust and fill your stomach. For taste you can add a little glue to it. In that you will find all the nutrients necessary for the body. I have been a vegetarian all my life. Yet, I don't eat vegetables nor do I drink milk. I don't like fruit. What is lacking in my health? All the doctors who have watched me eat cream warned me that I would die of a heart attack from the cholesterol in it, and they are all dead now. I am now seventy five years old. I have no diseases. Eating more than you need is the cause of all diseases. I don't need any medicines or treatments. Still, I wish that the pharmaceutical business of the Malladi's should prosper for a long time!
"Man is the architect of his own fortune and the molder of his destiny. However, when we have to share our lives with someone else, we need give and take. Everything changes after that [after a relationship starts]. After I married, I couldn't avoid compromising sometimes. Yet, I was firm in some matters. My life principle is and has always been, "Get along [with me] or get out!"
"The middle class is a threat to this society." U.G. elaborated this by saying that the middle class stands in the way of the poor class revolting against the rich class and destroying it. The middle class is a solace for the lower class. It creates the hope [in the poor] that they too will attain that status some day. Thus, the poor suppress their discontent and intolerance.
"Who will benefit from technological progress? How has it helped the lower classes? " asked U.G. All the countries in the rest of the world are plotting to see how they can trap the two hundred million middle class people in India. There is no other idealism than that for the rich nations. U.G. handed out a new slogan that day, "The middle class must perish!"
"Religious fanaticism is a disease that afflicts this society.
It is that fanaticism that made this country emaciated and useless. The
Americans are going to turn this country into a body-selling prostitute.
At least now, P.V. [Narasimha Rao, the then Prime Minister of India] should
resign from his office, dissolve the Parliament, and hold elections,"
said U.G. commenting on P.V.'s politics.
In Yercaud many Western faces gathered around U.G.: The Duo of Bob and Paul had brought a Sony video camera with them for which they had paid three thousand dollars. They wanted to make a documentary on U. G. As they didn't quite know how to make a documentary, they were taking videos of the rocks, the trees and the flowers. Whenever they got a chance, they not only made U.G. talk of this and that, but they also made him cuss as explicitly as possible by encouraging him to use expletives. They were trying to preserve on the video tape such situations, so that future generations can witness the Natural Man's cultural message and be saved! The future generations should also be grateful for the fact that Mahesh Bhatt not only directed this activity, but also participated in coaxing these particular words of wisdom out of U.G.
In March, the German astrologer Nataraj, came to Yercaud with a friend of his called Peter, who was also a Rajneeshee. U.G. nicknamed Peter, who is strong, tall and burly like a bodyguard, 'the Bouncer'. The name his guru gave him was 'Neerava' [shade]. The glory of that name fizzled next to U.G.'s nickname.
I didn't realize that the scene at Yercaud from U.G.'s drama of wilderness living would soon come to a close. He prepared the stage for the end of it on March 7 early in the morning. He had contracted to have the wooden wall between his room and the Major's room opened and a door put in it. He vacated his room and arranged for all of his things to be moved to Bangalore, then handed over to the Major the whole of the South side of the Yercaud Bungalow, and he himself became homeless.
That day Mahesh was arriving in Bangalore from Bombay. Early in the morning the Major, U.G. and I were traveling in the car to the airport. The young sun was sparkling with colors all over the sky like an orange. The Major looked out the windshield, unable to contain his excitement. "Look how bright the sun is today," he said, and it was as if he was giving expression to the feeling inside me.
U.G., who was sitting in the front seat next to the Major, took him on right away. "To get so excited is exactly what a pleasure movement is. I am not saying it is wrong. I am only saying that if you want liberation, that same pleasure movement is an obstacle. The body's functioning is completely opposed to this pleasure movement. It won't get excited like you, saying, 'Ah, oh!' As soon as I saw the sun, my eyes closed automatically. There is no movement in my head saying, `How beautiful!'" U.G. said. Our mouths shut.
* * *
When we were returning with Mahesh from the airport, U.G. said, "Unless you abandon the idea of God in yourself, the life in you cannot carry on. Before the body dies and becomes immobile, God must die in you. That is true immortality. [True] living is only possible after God dies.
* * *
When we were still in Yercaud, one morning I was cooking oats in the kitchen for breakfast. U.G. came in to eat his second breakfast. He usually eats once early in the morning a first breakfast of parched rice and milk. Then, later, he eats another breakfast of oats and cream. He looked at all the pots and pans on the stone bench in the kitchen and asked impersonally, "Why does a single person need so many pots and pans?" referring to the Major. "This is what I mean by hoarding. It is weird for a person who cannot let go of his pots and pans to want liberation," he said and took some empty cups, spoons and a plate into his room. For U.G.'s taste the kitchen and the refrigerator must be empty. "If not for mere craziness, why keep vegetables in the refrigerator?" he says, annoyed.
When U.G. saw the Major, he interrogated him about why he should keep so many pots and pans. "I don't need all those things. If you want me to, I will get rid of them instantly," said the major angrily.
"It will not do to give them away to your neighbors. That would be giving to the undeserved, which is a great sin," said U.G. reminding the Major of the movie Maya Bazaar which they had watched on the video the night before. It wasn't clear to the Major, then, who the deserving receiver of the gift was! Not just to the Major; to no one else was it clear!
* * *
In March U.G. stayed in the Purnakutee for many days. That morning Shanta, a friend of U.G. in Bangalore, came to Purnakutee with Mittu, her daughter. As soon as she saw Bhaskara Rao, a Vedanta scholar and palmist, also a friend of U.G., she held out her left palm and asked him, "Please look at my palm, and tell me how my future looks!"
As Bhaskara Rao was reading her palm, U.G. came downstairs into the hall. As soon as he noticed Bhaskara Rao, U.G. said, "I only want to know of one thing: how is her love life going to be? That's all I am concerned about. She has plenty of beauty and she has money. She is also intelligent. She just doesn't have a husband. Anyone would jump with joy to have her," he said. Then he asked Mittu, "What do you say?"
"What you say is right," Mittu answered, supporting U.G.
Shanta was considering a prospective bridegroom for Mittu. Some astrologer had warned Shanta that Mittu has a Kuja dosha [defect], and that if she were to marry before she was 24, there would be a danger of the husband dying too soon. Shanta was frightened. She asked me if it was advisable for her to consult Satyanarayana. "When U.G. is here, why should you consult someone else? Present your problem to U.G.," I told her. She duly reported the astrologer's bad news to U.G. U.G. listened and said, "Let there be Kuja dosha. You have told me that the groom's family is rich. So, what if the husband dies after marriage? No problem. Mittu will inherit a lot of property. Then she can marry someone else."
When U.G. solved her problem so easily, Shanta was horrified, and Brahmachariji, who was right there also, covered his ears in shock saying, "Rama, Rama." He continued, "My God, what kind of a Brahmajnani is this?" and then left quickly.
* * *
Rangarajan was a design engineer in the HMT [Hindustan Machine Tools] factory. He had been mentally ill for the last ten years. He had been given some shock treatments and now was managing to be normal with the help of medications. He never quit coming to see U.G. all those years. He had been a follower of the Radha Somi Bhakti Pantha, a spiritual path in the North of India. He now was a staunch devotee of Charan Singh Maharaj, a spiritual master in the same path. He is an innocent man who gave thousands of his hard-earned of rupees to the ashram and became indebted. Recently he had a strong desire to marry. About four months ago, he advertised in the papers, wrote letters, and chose a bride. All that happened suddenly. When he heard that U.G. was in town, he came, accompanied by his prospective bride.
"You are all-knowing. You know everything," he said introducing the girl next to him as his prospective wife.
U.G. looked at them both alternatively. The girl hailed from Tanguturu in Ongole District. She went to school in Andhra University. She appeared intelligent. "You couldn't find a better fellow than this?" he said to her smiling sympathetically. The girl dropped her head. Rangarajan explained that he announced in the advertisement that he used to be mentally ill, and that he had already explained to the girl his condition. "How much are you spending for your wedding?" asked U.G.
Rangarajan replied, "Fifty thousand."
"Why spend fifty thousand? Isn't a registered marriage enough?" asked U.G. Rangarajan said his elders would not agree to that. "If they don't agree, poison them and kill them. Why waste money unnecessarily? What merit will you gain from that?" asked U.G. We were all worried that after listening to U.G.'s words Rangarajan would lose his mind again. When U.G. asked, "All these years, you only used to beat your mother. From now on you will beat your wife too?" Rangarajan turned pale. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I witnessed the manner in which U.G. greeted the new couple who were about to be auspiciously married.
* * *
We all watched the movie Sita Rama Kalyanam on the video. U.G. admired the character of Ravana, as played by N.T. Rama Rao in the movie, very much. "I don't understand why all those old fogies consider Rama as a great man and praise him. Ravana appears to me to be many times superior. He treated Sita with great respect. Rama, on the other hand, asked her to walk into fire. Without pitying her because she was pregnant, he sent her away into the jungle. I, on my part, sent away my wife with honors by seating her in a jumbo jet. Am I not better than Rama?" We couldn't stop laughing at U.G.'s words. He said, "I liked very much the portrayal of Ravana in this movie not as a demon, but as a unique person."
* * *
U.G. likes to make fun of Brahmachariji. This time there was a young lady called "Gorgeous" [Lisa] present. The young lady jokingly showed off her beauty as if she were saying, "Look at me and look at my beauty." U.G. accused Brahmachariji of eyeing the lady out of the corner of his eye. "Oh, no, I am not even thinking of her," complained Brahmachariji. When U.G. started calling him names such as, "Brahmachari, peeping Tom," Brahmachari seemed indifferent. That indifferent response surprised us all very much.
A similar incident occurred two years ago. Brahmachariji had rented an apartment upstairs in the house of a friend of mine, with a plan to be near U.G. U.G. had only one objection to his staying in Poornakutee: Brahmachariji's craving for tasty food would commit and confine Suguna to the kitchen. U.G. remarked to Suguna in front of Brahmachariji, "The farther he is from Poornakutee, the better it is. Or else, he will establish himself right here and sit on your shoulders." My friend then reported to U.G. the 'good news' that Brahmachariji had hired a widow, who was a distant relative of his, to cook for him. U.G. was worried that Brahmachariji, who is a staunch bachelor, would undergo all these troubles for his sake and become a victim of bad reputation. Immediately, U.G. got us all up saying, "Let's go, let's find out what's happening." Brahmachariji had no idea that we were all going over to raid his house along with U.G. suddenly, without notice.
When we arrived, as U.G. pushed the front door open, the widow saw him and withdrew into the kitchen. While Brahmachariji, being both overjoyed and confused, was spreading the mats for us all to sit, U.G. said with a serious face, "There is a verse in the Upanishads in which the father looks at his son's shining face and says to him, 'Your face is shining now like that of someone who had realized Brahman.' Similarly, your face now is shining like that of someone who has experienced the pleasure of copulation last night."
We all broke into laughter at this. Brahmachariji covered his ears saying, "Siva, Siva!" U.G. also kept laughing with us. Brahmachariji tried to defend himself by saying, "No, U.G., she sleeps in the kitchen, and I sleep in this room," and pointed to his cot.
U.G. teased him some more: "How can this small cot be big enough for both of you?" Finally U.G. said, "Brahmachari, I wish you well. You earned a good reputation for yourself among all these people all these years. Why should you, at this age, become a victim of such infamy? Even if you both intend well, if she lives in this house with you, wouldn't everyone talk ill about it? You first send her off to her home town," said U.G., averting Brahmachariji's fall into ill-repute.
* * *
1. Sri Chakra is a design for meditation with sacred syllables carved on a metal plate worshipped in the temple.
2. When this passage was read to U.G., his explanation was that his `fainting' occurred because the plate was too heavy and he was feeling week, and that it had nothing to do with `energy'.
3. When this passage was read to U.G., his 'editorial comment' was: "And such things happen to me even when I am on the toilet."
4. Mahesh's Taxi driver was a Tamil speaking man. When they were in the Bhut Bungalow, he apparently offered his prayers to God in this fashion.
5. First line in a song of Thyagaraja, South Indian composer who, in this song, was singing the praise of Janaki, Rama's wife.
6. Later, when asked why he suddenly decided to go public, U.G. explained that he became sick and tired of the religious buffs of all shapes, sizes and colors coming to him, and so he thought that the media men would do a better job in putting across what he wanted to convey without involving themselves. "I have a motive in going public. Somebody out there, struggling to find answers to his questions, may listen to what I am saying and stop in his tracks," said U.G.
7. Tirukshavaram -- the balding of the head at a ritual hair offering to the God Venkateswara in Tirupati, the idea being that U.G. relieves people of their burden.
8. Bob Carr and Paul Arms are old friends of U.G. and were visiting U.G. in India from San Rafael, California. Bob and Paul's lives were in transition. Trying to figure out their futures, they came to Yercaud following U.G. They were thinking of opening a coffee house after returning to San Francisco. Since they had previously sold the restaurant which they were operating in Marin County, California, they now were needing to find another means of livelihood.
Go to Part IV