Sage and the housewives
|UG , Kaushalya Ben and Sugunaji|
In UG’s company, the word ‘personal’ had no meaning! The humdrum, the toil, the fatigue, self-conflicts, everything ‘personal’ evaporated into thin air and became utterly meaningless and pointless.
When UG chose a place to stay, he pervaded the whole atmosphere, everything would revolve around his magnetic presence. Even the hosts jettisoned everything personal to serve as the chosen guardians of his portals.
Here is a potpourri of anecdotes. A window into how UG impacted people, especially the ladies of the household – the housewives who played pivotal roles at the portals where he stayed and moved.
In Bombay it was Kaushalya Ben (Mrs. Parekh) who was in charge of UG’s portal. In her, we find striking resemblance to the other, Sugunaji (Mrs.Chandrasekhar Babu), the graceful housewife who devoted her life to serving UG and maintaining the Bangalore portal for several decades.
Just like the Babus, the Parekhjis were wonderful hosts. Graceful and considerate, they neatly withdrew themselves into the background, letting UG hold forte. They left behind no trace of themselves or their private lives in the living rooms. Their role as hosts and facilitators was sublime –unassuming, unobtrusive and invisible. Their mission - to provide a platform and facilitate UG’s interactions with people who thronged his portals.
Nothing short of complete surrender and selfless generosity on the part of the hosts could ensure that UG could choose to make a portal of their homes. Really speaking, UG and the ‘seekers’ had the whole place for themselves 24X 7 for the entire duration of his stay!
UG, in a masterly way made sure that the hosts never felt burdened or intruded, nor the visitors stifled or miffed. Sheer UG magic! All of us felt at home and threw away all inhibitions. There were no barriers or frontiers. People poured their hearts out, spilled their deepest secrets and expressed their innermost fears and anxieties out in the open. UG brought everything out into the open - the tears and the laughter, the million shades of emotions and the unmistakable human drama, it was there for all to see. Our personal fears and anxieties, inhibitions and complexes began to pale out in the glaring light of UG’s intense scrutiny and observations.
The place turned into UG’s ‘Karma Bhoomi’. At times UG would joke that his portals were akin to a ‘Barber’s Shop’. He likened himself to a barber who ended up giving a free ‘haircut’ (a real dressing-down of ego and falsehood) to the endless stream of visitors who trooped in!
I enjoyed great rapport with the Parekh couple. They loved to share their spiritual journey, their ‘sadhana’ and bared how intensely UG had impacted their lives. They were quite deep and as UG would say, they had done their ‘homework’!
It was a shock of my life to learn that neither of them had stepped out of their dwelling for years, letting the servants do the errands. They never felt the need even once to step out of their four walls! Such was their resignation and approach to life. Their children were all well to do and settled in the US, and the couple remained supremely content in their humble abode.
During initial years, the Parekhjis had practised ‘Vipassana’. After UG’s arrival into their lives, all spiritual practices gradually faded away and they began to enjoy peace and contentment! The aging couple suffered from their share of physical problems and age-related issues but nothing ever came in the way of their services to the master.
Kaushalya Ben had servants and cooks. She treated them as her own family. With UG around, the place was buzzing with constant influx of friends and visitors. She would supervise the food preparation for all and also personally lend a hand in the kitchen. Despite numerous chores, she would every now and then walk into the living room to catch up on the proceedings, the lively debates and discussions. She was a keen observer of people and their strange ways.
On that day, after failing to catch a glimpse of the lady the whole morning, I barged into the kitchen. There she was with the cook organising lunch for UG and the ‘gang’. I expressed my surprise and enquired her why she had not shown up the whole morning? I was shocked when she pointed to a deep gash on her forehead. She didn’t want anyone to know that she had a fall. She was in great pain! While bathing she had a fall, hurting herself badly. Her nose was still bleeding. She took it all in her stride, prayed for strength and got back on to her feet to attend to the task at hand. None of us were made aware of her pain & suffering! This the stoic lady, Kaushalya Ben!
Her fortitude and courage remained exemplary even when she lost her life partner of several decades.
A few days after the demise of Parekhji, self , Kamal and his mother decided to call on her. She was delighted to receive us all. What struck us most was her extraordinary composure. She explained that UG had given her the inner strength to carry on with her life! She said she never felt the loss of her husband, saying she could feel the energy with her! She attributed this to being with UG for decades. He had steeled her and given her the courage to accept the vicissitudes of life. She felt tremendous peace and tranquillity.
Even on the day of our visit, she was in total control of the house. She wasted no time and organised our breakfast! There was no change in her graceful demeanour. Her presence was as tranquil and benign as ever, there was not even a hint of bereavement in the family.
When we finally took leave of the beautiful lady, Kamal’s mother, a widow herself, burst out, "Oh my God! She is a true Yogini! So composed, radiating so much peace. I wish I could be like her! I could never bring myself to be like her, she is so graceful even in the passing away of her husband!"
Mrs. Parekh came from a traditional Gujarati business family and was very sharp and pragmatic in running not only the household but even her personal finances. She knew all about the stock markets. In her leisure, she would sit next to her telephone and trade on the Bombay Stock Exchange by placing calls. She confided that she had made quite a fortune from these calls. She had amazing insights about the stock market and could discuss the market trends like a stockbroker! She said the money she made gave her financial independence and that she never ever turned to her children for her needs. With these earnings, she sponsored education and marriage of her servants’ children and also supplied the wherewithal to run their families!
In Sugunaji, we find a parallel to Kaushalya Ben, hers is an equally endearing and appealing life. She, along with Babu, is the architect of UG’s Bangalore home or portal.
When I visited Sugunaji and Babu shortly after UG’s demise, Sugunaji was heavy-hearted. She couldn’t bring herself to face the reality of UG’s death. Even their marriage was solemnised by UG. She slowly recounted her extraordinary life journey with the sage!
UG was literally the patriarch, the father-figure who practically oversaw the running of the Babus’ household. She fought back her tears several times reliving those beautiful moments. The couple turned to UG for everything in their life and now it seemed a total vacuum was staring at them after nearly four decades. The reality was hard to bite into!
Sugunaji was reminiscing UG’s guidance in their lives and his participation in every aspect of daily life. She recollected how he would accompany her to the grocery shop, the vegetable market, the tailor’s shop. UG would even accompany them to cinema halls and melt into the crowds becoming one with them. He was their guide, holding hands and walking along with them every step of the way.
Sugunaji rarely participated in grand discussions or debates that went on right under her nose. She said she had no questions to ask UG. Only once she had been curious and had queried, “You are so fearless and strong, tell me whether you have ever broken down or cried, UG?”
UG, in a rare gesture, could not hold back the truth from this gentle soul and admitted to her that indeed he had broken down once in London! This was during his tumultuous years in London when he was reduced to stewarding at local restaurants to earn a meal. Being homeless, he had no choice but to spend long days and nights on the benches in Green and Hyde Park, out in the biting cold! During one such occasion, while recollecting his journey from his birth into a wealthy family, his blazing career as an international lecturer, and the plunge into destitution, finding that his whole life had finally amounted to nothing, UG just broke down!
Only Sugunaji could have brought this truth out from a ‘tough cookie’ like UG!
Sugunaji and Kaushalya Ben stand apart as great enablers. They quietly and diligently toiled away to keep the portals alive and ablaze, night and day, enabling innumerable souls to pass through UG’s portals and benefit therefrom!
Salutations and gratitude to these extraordinary women!