Friday, 30 June 2017

“What is the worst thing that can happen to you?” - UG

UG and Kamal in Lonawaala ( Sahara Lake City), 2003
Sometimes in life, we suddenly hit a ‘cul-de-sac’ or the metaphoric ‘dead end’ and are left with no options but to STOP! We then feel an utter sense of ‘being lost’! In those moments, thought suddenly stops and gropes in the dark, inducing a fearful state!
‘Getting lost’ perhaps has a benign side to it too – it perhaps signals the end of the tyranny of ‘the known’, only if we could dare stop looking for solutions!
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UG pushed people sometimes to abandon ‘hope and help’ and to deal with uncertainty or reality ‘as it is’!
Here is a piece of pragmatic advice to our pilot friend Kamal who took UG out in a hired taxi in London for his ‘constitutional’ (UG’s equivalent of a ‘walk in the park’)!
This ride, it turned out, held several lessons for Kamal.
Before even getting behind the wheel, let us see how UG firstly helped Kamal to get a fat discount from the car rental agency giving us a taste of his pragmatic approach to life!
When Kamal walked into the rental agency, UG too tagged along faithfully. 
When they reached the counter and Kamal was about to pay up, UG who had initiated a conversation with one of the ladies there began introducing himself, “I am UG Krishnamurti, perhaps you may have seen me on your BBC Channel. I give interviews on your TV. This is my friend Kamal here! I am with him and he is driving me around London today…… Is it possible that he could get a discount?”
The lady at the counter understood and smiled, she did not have the heart to say no to the charming man and straight away declared a 25% discount.
Was this cheap and vulgar ‘self-aggrandisement’ by UG? That too at a rental agency? Was UG seeking any benefit for himself? 
UG was far more pragmatic than many who pride themselves for being worldly-wise! 
If his chipping in could help lighten Kamal's bill, UG was prepared to go an extra mile! UG constantly chided his celebrity friend, the Bollywood Director Mahesh Bhatt, “What is the use of flaunting your name or fame or celebrity status if you can’t translate that to do something useful, beneficial for people?”
Not only did UG help Kamal get a discount using his ‘ BBC fame’, but now he was working on a 'strategy' to maximise the discount, he now gently nudged Kamal, “Hey Mister, tell them you are an Air India pilot and ask them if they give special discounts to pilots, show them your ID. Also tell them that you fly to London very often and you will be able to give more business  in future and that you will introduce them to all your friends!” 
A practical lesson on hard-selling oneself in the cruel 'money minded' world!
The lady once again did not disappoint, She smilingly obliged with a new flat discount rate of 50% on the car rent! 
UG effect was tangible!
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UG’s ‘constitutional’  started! The rubber hit the road, as they say! Kamal, not particularly familiar with the dreaded traffic maze of London suburbs, wearily started driving.
{ An aside! 
Seems London suburbs present the most intricate traffic challenge to drivers. It is a well-known phenomenon endorsed by the brain surgeons that London cab and bus drivers have enlarged hippocampus (a seahorse-shaped section in the brain that facilitates long-term memory storage in the occipital brain as well as helps in spatial navigation.) Surgeons and brain scientists who have operated on the brains of London taxi drivers have concluded that the enlarged size of the hippocampus is due to extensive training involved and the memorizing of nearly 25,000 streets of the metro!
}
Many close friends of UG have tasted his shenanigans while driving, while seated next to him! 
To negotiate the unfamiliar entries and exits on the Motorways, Kamal kept constantly glancing into a printed copy of the A-Z road map on his lap! Back in early 90s, GPS was still to make its foray into automobiles in a big way!
Kamal admits that he was not doing well trying to cope up with the road as well as the map at the same time! At one point, UG irked by this inane act simply snatched away the map from Kamal and flung it into the back seat, “Hey Mister! Use your eyes, and not maps! Look ahead in front of you! Just read all those signposts, follow the directions and just keep driving! That is good enough!”
Kamal had no choice but to adapt to the new found driving style, that too on the fly! 
After several turns and twists, UG finally motioned Kamal to stop the car at some place in the city and got out asking Kamal to carry on.
As UG slammed the door shut, Kamal shedding all his inhibitions let out a cry, “UG, I am completely lost! I do not know my way around here!”
UG came around to the window and looking into Kamal’s eyes spoke, “Hey mister, just go on ! You say that you are lost! What is the worst thing that can happen to you? Just keep going! Good luck! ” and walked away without looking back!
Kamal, simply clueless prodded on for some more time…………eventually he hit upon a familiar street, closer to where his cousin lived and he heaved a huge sigh of relief!
Says Kamal, UG’s “What is the worst thing that can happen to you?” serves him as a guidepost to this day and gives him the strength to ignore the vagaries and uncertainties of life and carry on! 
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Another famous UG short one-liner was, " What next?" 
Major Dakshinamurti had a car break-down while driving UG from Bangalore to Chennai. They were in a No Man's Land! There was no hope of reaching a mechanic or finding a garage anywhere nearby. 
When UG learnt of their plight, he seemed to have asked," What next?" pushing Major to work on the next possible line of action. 
Major excused himself and went about looking for help while UG stayed back in the car. After a length of time when Major returned to the car after managing to secure some help in the form of a mechanic , he was shocked to see UG in a deep, peaceful slumber right in the middle of nowhere! 
Left to himself, in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to be done, UG just did what was the best thing to do....he fell asleep! 
UG's " What next?" was a gentle reminder to many of his friends who had been hit by life and suffered some kind of loss including death of near and dear ones. 
When UG's son Vasnath died of cancer, UG asked his son's girlfriend, a Christian girl who was religiously holding on to the urn carrying his son's ashes for immersion in the river, " What next?" asking her to forget about the dead man and pushing her to carry on with her own life, find a new life partner and settle down instead!
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“ I am a White Brahmin, of purest ray serene! ” - UG

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