Tuesday, 21 February 2017

UG and the World Economy



That evening in Parekhji’s home in Bombay, UG had a pleasant visitor, an accomplished Economist. A humble, open and receptive man.

An engaging conversation took place between the visitor and UG. They touched upon many topics of interest highlighting the economic scenario both in India and the world.

What amazed one and all was the authority with which UG spoke about the goings on in US and the world on crucial aspects of economy. His clarity and sharpness was evident throughout the meeting and the economist listened to him with keen interest. At times, the visitor gently intervened with a few leading questions teasing UG to offer his unique and extraordinary perspective on current affairs.

To say the least, it was a revelation about UG’s extraordinary understanding and depth on matters mundane!

When the meeting got over, the visitor thoroughly impressed and satisfied, thanked UG for his time and took leave.

Those were the days I was keenly engaged in socio-economic issues, financial literacy being my chief concern.

I quickly moved over to UG and demanded, “Sir! It is really amazing to see that you know the workings of global economy and the intricacies of the New York Stock Exchange so well! You really seem to know it like the back of your hand!”

UG’s answer to say the least was a shocker, “Sir! I have followed Wall Street for eight long years, on and off! I should know it better than anyone else! Sometimes I spent whole days in Wall Street, from morning till evening, just watching the proceedings. Not that I was interested in investment or anything. I was just plain curious!”

****

Thursday, 2 February 2017

"What is wrong with you? Why did you do that?" - UG



A famous man and a long-term associate of UG once invited him for a lunch at the Woodlands, Juhu, Bombay.

The day arrived.

Many of us, clueless about UG’s luncheon appointment, sat around UG in the main hall at Parekhji’s place discussing and debating things.

At noon the celeb’s wife appeared at the door.

UG was right in the middle of some interesting talk and didn’t appear to notice her!

The lady stood near the doorway for a long time before calling his attention, “Hi UG! How are you? Could we proceed for lunch, I think it’s time!”

Noticing her for the first time, “Oh! You are here! Where is he?” asked UG, referring to her husband.

“He is in the car downstairs, waiting for you!”

The gentleman obviously wanted to get on with it and had sent in his wife to wean UG away from the crowds for a private lunch!

UG took it all in and seemingly ignored her plea and promptly returned to his conversation and the talk resumed.

Another ten minutes passed by and the lady now determined to seek his attention drew herself closer to UG! UG still appeared oblivious to her presence and carried on with his conversation.

Minutes ticked away, the lady now shedding a little more of her patience took a few decisive steps towards UG and reaching him gently patted him on his shoulder,

“UG, I think we should get going now! It is your lunch time……he is waiting in the car since the last half hour!”

UG (suddenly turning to us) “What about you guys? Are you joining us for lunch?”

Even the lady appeared startled but recovered quickly. She blurted out an instant invitation to all of us, “Yes gentlemen! Why don’t you all join us for lunch! That will be nice!”

 “Er.....Hmmm ….Yeah…”

The prospect of being uninvited guests was not easy to digest!!

With UG egging us on, “Come on! Let’s go!” we had no choice in the matter!

At the restaurant they stitched the tables together so we could all assemble in one corner. We were a sizable crowd and numbered almost twenty!

The lady chose to sit with some of us at one end of the table while UG and the celebrity host sat at the far end with others.

The awkward feeling of being an unwelcome guest was already weighing heavily upon some of us for sure and it was more so in my case! I decided to skip the lunch and apologetically ordered for a dosa preferring a light refreshment, to keep it light on someone’s pocket!

The lady host seated next to me chattered on non-stop, sometimes fussing over the menu and sometimes explicating the dishes and recipes. Woodlands was a regular joint of UG’s and the à la carte was all too familiar for us regulars. The chatter only helped fill the somewhat uncomfortable silence!

At long last, we reached the end of our awkward luncheon ritual! I now checked with some friends for one last time about their preference for hot beverages and we all decided on coffee. I promptly ordered for a pot coffee for us – fully aware that the quantity would suffice for the four of us at the table. The lady butted in almost immediately, “Be aware that one pot coffee should suffice for all of us here – no need to order more, it makes for four cups you know, why waste?”

This was the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back… At least I had enough! Blame it on my thin skin!

Instantly and silently I made up my mind! I shall be picking up the tab for the whole party!

I now secretly schemed and summoned the Udipi waiter who spoke Canarese, my native tongue and instructed him to quietly submit the bill to me. Our Hindi speaking friends at the table had no clue what transpired between us.
Without much ado, I settled the bill in a silent coup!

After a while, UG and the celeb at the far end finished their lunch and waited for the bill to arrive. Except for my friend who sat next to me, no one had a clue what had happened.

When our host finally called out for the bill, he was shocked to learn that someone had already paid the bill. Even UG appeared shocked! Many at the party didn’t know what actually had happened!

I got up quietly and started towards the door before the others got the wind of it!
Someone finally spilled the beans and the celeb couple rushed towards me to accept their money, I excused myself and quickly disappeared down the stairs.
When we made it back to Parekhji’s place, the couple were already there waiting for me at the top of the stairs. There was disbelief and dejection in the gentleman’s voice at the turn of events but I dodged his attempts to compensate the bill.
What happened next morning is still fresh in my memory.

As I walked through the door, I heard UG shouting, “There he is Mahesh! This fellow paid the bill! What was the need for him to pay? ”

The heat was turned on full blast even as I entered!

It continued as I tried to settle down on the floor beside UG!

UG looked really upset!

He was breathing fire and turning to me and tapping his forehead with his knuckles he gestured to me that I had botched it all up, “Hey, what is wrong with you? Why did you do that? That guy is a multi-millionaire, it was chicken feed for him! He even has a Swiss account!”

I never knew I would be inviting such wrath from the raging sage! This and another occasion were the only time when UG gave me the ‘stick’ and they stand out in my memory to this day!

For some reason, UG the ‘gentle Jesus’ at least for me all through those years of my association with him had been really upset for some reason better known only to him!

The fiasco was even conveyed over the phone to our Bangalore friends and Chandrasekhar Babu had the full report!

I somehow felt it was inappropriate for me to air my feelings out in the public and maintained a stoic silence.

But UG did not seem convinced! He took every opportunity to remind me about the fiasco!

I wanted a private audience to put an end to the matter. I did not have to wait long!

A couple of days later UG took a flight to Bangalore and I went to see him off at the airport. When we were alone at the VIP lounge, I apologized to him on my impulsive behavior at the restaurant and UG heard out the whole episode and said, “That’s alright! Let us now forget about it!”

I heaved a sigh of relief!

But here was the shocking thing!

Only a few weeks after this unfortunate fiasco, the celeb who was supposed to host UG’s lunch that day had suddenly died of heart attack.

His last and final opportunity to host UG’s lunch had been unknowingly hijacked by me ! I had transgressed and had trespassed into the sacred space between two intimate souls!

I never felt more agitated in my life!


****


As I am finishing this blog, I just now receive the news that my first flesh and blood guru Sri Nagaraja Rao (Rayaru) has journeyed into the Great Beyond just a few moments ago!

This remarkable man did play a great role in the initial years of my life. He thoroughly bashed my arrogance, the consequence of my bookish knowledge and upturned my investment in some spiritual experiences calling their bluff! He helped me in shedding the intellectual baggage grounding me into the essentials!

Just after my engineering, I ran into this guru of mine! I enjoyed some great moments and had the privilege of his exclusive company for the next three years before people began to mob him! He had a unique and revolutionary approach to life and helped many individuals to shed personal weaknesses and bizarre complexes to unflinchingly face trials and tribulations and move on with their lives.

I am reminded of an incident very similar to the one above with UG! What a coincidence!

During the months that followed my graduation, I kept myself busy doing sundry jobs before I got a good break through a well-wisher, a close friend’s father to join as a part time faculty in a polytechnic!

The gentleman who helped me was also the Trustee of the institution and had a special affection for me. I almost became a member of their family!

When I mentioned to him about my guru during one of our conversations, he expressed his keen desire to meet him at least once!

I spoke to Rayaru and proposed that we should visit the family once. Rayaru appeared very reluctant and in fact kept dodging my plea every single time I broached the subject. This went on for a long time till one day I insisted that both of us should visit the good Samaritan and not postpone the visit anymore!

As he reluctantly climbed into the pillion of my bike, he once again remarked, “Is it really required for me to see him?”, I wasted no time, “ Yes Rayare! He is very sincere and I want you to meet him at least once! Let’s go!”

Just a few hundred yards from the destination Rayaru stopped me again for his ‘jarda’ (a betel leaf preparation) in a roadside shop! We stopped! Again he turned to me, “ Suresha, can we skip this visit and return home!”

I declined!

He then said, “Look, I am coming only for your sake! Mark my words, the time and the day, you shall remember!”

We soon arrived at the destination. I introduced Rayaru to my well-wisher. On seeing the man, Rayaru immediately said, “You are a very good cook! Especially you are a past master in making Mysore Pak (a popular sweet in the South of India). I want you to make me half a piece of this sweet because the flour in your kitchen will suffice for a small piece. We shall talk afterwards. Now off you go and start the preparation!”

The man was delighted at the encounter and rushed into the kitchen and shortly returned with a container that had only a little flour enough to make a small piece of the sweet! It turned out that he was a fantastic cook and his delicious Mysore Pak was greatly relished by one and all, a fact hitherto unknown to me!

Rayaru spent conversing with each and every member of the household well into the night till the wee hours of the morning. He could read a person like a book! And helped the individuals to overcome fear, disbelief and bolstered their confidence to accomplish their aims. Sometimes he would advise people to give up certain pursuits and switch over to others more suitable to their individual nature.
When we finally took leave, it was almost day break!

The next day was a Saturday! I dropped him back at his remote place, a tiny hamlet, East of Nandi Hills near Bangalore!

The following Monday when I reported to my college, I was greeted by a black board announcing the demise of my well-wisher who had been our host barely 48 hours ago!

Rayaru’s words suddenly came ringing back to me hitting me in the guts!
He had clearly smelled death from a distance!

*****




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I just recall this one-off anecdote. UG and Mahesh Bhatt had just returned to Parekhji’s place after their lunch at the Oberoi...