Thursday, 27 December 2018

Sage and the housewives


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!

****




Saturday, 22 September 2018

" Thoughts come from outside the body!" - UG

UG , Dr. Subba Rao & Dr. Sreedhav


Till that momentous day in Chennai, I had never dared to interview UG or offer him any sort of medical advice whatsoever! UG had adequately forewarned me that all those who had interviewed him had ended up losing their jobs!

But destiny had its plans… 

On that fine morning in Chennai, I got to ‘formally’ interview ‘the Natural Man.’

The interview took place in my uncle Malladi Krishnamurti’s house. My dad Dr. Subba Rao, a senior medical professional also sat in attendance, privy to the entire proceedings!

All my questions were prepared carefully and written down beforehand!

UG was actually waiting alone outside on the lawn, with chairs neatly arranged in rows!

Before the interview began, being aware of UG’s renowned flair for ‘butchering’  the questions and the questioner, I, with great trepidation firstly extracted a promise from him that he would not shout me down (while I was playing the ‘devil’s advocate’). UG graciously agreed that he would not raise his voice against me ( that he never did, in the entire fourteen years of my association with him!)

Here was my first question to UG ,

"Sir, how do you know that the endocrine system has taken over the running of your body?”

He gently asked, "Why do you ask?"

I replied," Since you refuse to undergo blood tests, refuse biopsy of these swellings in our (planned) efforts to prove that they are indeed of Endocrine origin!”

UG, keeping his word ( not to shout me down) calmly said ,"You have to take my word for it!”

***

The second question was about his constant refrain on ‘conditioning from birth’! 

I started,

" UG, I have medical proof, contrary to what you are always emphasizing, that ‘the conditioning is from the moment we are born’  but the fact is it actually predates birth! In this context, I wish to narrate an incident, if you promise me not to interrupt."

UG, in a pleasant tone, "Go ahead sir!"

I recalled,

" When I was a House Surgeon, a pregnant lady was wheeled into our Casualty Wing, barely conscious and in labour! Ultrasound revealed that the baby inside had the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck, choking it slowly.

The lady was wheeled straight into the Emergency Operation Theatre, where we were forced to open the abdomen, the caesarean section, in order to save the child.

The procedure was a success, both the mother and child survived.

There was a minor problem though! The baby's  blood Glucose was very low! Fortunately, amidst our team we had a terrific paediatric surgeon, who wasted no time, and fashioning a wick out of sterile cotton, he dipped into an opened I.V. Glucose bottle and just touched the liquid to the baby's lips.

The baby instantaneously started sucking on the wick, with a slurping sound. The surgeon patiently repeated the process until the glucose levels returned to normal. The baby actually smiled, started breathing normally and finally slept off. Only then the paediatric surgeon got up!"

I paused at the end of the long narration, and then promptly shot my next question,

"Sir, where is that ' conditioning right from birth' that you speak of , as there is no way for the just delivered foetus to know what it was sipping, the baby smiled as if it knew the SWEETNESS in the Glucose wick, as a pleasurable, palatable taste? How could this be?”

UG sat there, throughout my narration without interruption and with total attention.

           UG now said,

"Your question will prove to be longer than my answer!
Don't think I am giving a clever reply! THIS CONDITIONING IS PRE NATAL !”

(I felt elated, " I finally got him…!")

I went for him,

"What exactly do you mean by prenatal? You reject the traditional Hindu concept of reincarnation!"

UG simply said, "It's GENETIC sir!"

I was like a terrier dog that morning!

I protested, " That's a geneticist's answer. Since you reject for support any authority, how can you say it's just genetic?"

His unforgettable response followed!

UG threw back at me a pointed question, "Has not the dormant poetic gene in you, surfaced at the right moment?” ( referring to my sudden transformation into a poet and the torrent of poems on UG that just seemed to flow from nowhere!)

"What you call, ‘knowledge’ carried over from last births is poppy cock and it is only these genes that surface, when need be!

In that child, Glucose was paramount for its survival and thus that sensory gene for identifying sweetness surfaced!

That's why I affirm that the human organism is tremendously intelligent and the incident you just narrated is just a proof of that!"

***

The interview flowed on,


"Sir, you say the human brain is an antenna at best, whereas newer and newer studies are proposing a more dominant role in the body! Why do you downplay the brain's role?"

UG, again calmly said, "I have never denied its ( brain’s) role in motor function and in the reception and translation of the SENSORY signals! But, you have to stop there!"

Thoughts come from outside the body! Brain is just the ‘antenna’ to receive signals from what I call 'the World Mind.'  Human brain is not the site of the 'MIND'. Western scientists are spending billions of dollars to locate the site of the mind in the Brain and they are bound to fail!"

I pressed on, "Sir, what about the Hypothalamus?"

UG, Though your neuro scientists consider hypothalamus to be part of the brain, it is in fact an ENDOCRINE GLAND!”

( It turns out that UG’s position now has a scientific basis. Please see the links below)

***

My final question to him that day, “ From where do you get all this information? "

UG (pointing his index finger up) said,


"The World Mind. I use that term for want of a better alternative. That's where the totality of human thought is constantly stored. 

Whenever I need answers, a channel opens and the necessary thoughts enter to supply the answer and later get ejected!"

The trepidation with which I started this interview ended with great relief at his unique answers !

This was a formal interview back in 2001.

Like all the others before me who had interviewed UG, I too had to face the consequences! I ended up losing my lucrative practice. In my case it was the chronic upper spinal issue, medically termed the ‘Thoracic Spine Disc Degeneration’ (intervertebral) that put an end to my medical profession!

With UG, there are no exceptions to the rule!



                                                                            Dr. Sreedhav, MD, Nellore, India

****


P.S.

I am thankful and grateful to Dr. Sreedhav for sharing his most personal encounter with UG, one of his best till date! This is nothing short of ‘stepping on the tiger’s tail!’

UG, at times, could be highly unwieldy and unpredictable! I commend Sreedhav’s sincerity, integrity and guts in going about the business of interviewing one of the toughest customers, despite the clear warning of 'personal risk to his own medical career!'

****
An aside:

I was once with UG at the boarding lounge at the Mumbai airport. As we sat there awaiting the boarding call, I noticed that UG was clutching something tightly in his right hand! I was curious but let that be, didn’t want to needlessly probe him.

There was very little verbal exchange going on between us. This was always the case. I simply let myself get soaked in an ‘ocean of silence and peace’ with a rare human being in whose company words were pure noise and clutter!

The final boarding call sounded on the PA!

UG bid me good bye and moved over to the Gate, and suddenly turned back and came hurriedly to where I was standing, unclenching his fist he revealed to me a piece of crumpled paper on which was written the words ‘Oxytocin’.

“ Sir, they talk of love, and I always say that it is nothing but a four-lettered word! Look here! It is nothing but chemically induced phenomenon!

(And pointing to the scribbled word)

“ They (scientists) seem to have now found out that 'this' is the chemical ( Oxytocin) giving rise to the sensation of ‘love’.
That is why I always maintain that it is all a mere  play of chemicals, nothing more!”

And quickly disappeared through the Gate!

I was left wondering about the twisted and distorted notions of ‘love’ and ‘life’ that we all carry, cherish, believe, defend and propagate! To UG, humans are no more than ‘fortuitous concourse of atoms’ – specks of stardust, recycled by nature, over and over again!

( As per the latest scientific findings, Oxytocin is the ‘love’ hormone produced by the Hypothalamus. UG was spot on! Today, Oxytocin is commercially popular. Companies spray oxytocin outside the showrooms to ‘seduce’ customers to increase walk-ins!) 



****





Sunday, 17 June 2018

" You doctors know nothing!" - UG



UG and Dr. Sreedhav

February 1992, Madras (Chennai).

It was 5 AM in the morning, I was on my morning jog on a road inside of the sprawling private Malladi Estate where I had my living quarters. 

As I was swishing past the Malladi Guest House (inside the Estate), out came Major Dakshinamurty (my uncle), and shouting across to me (as was his wont) beckoned to me, " Hey! UG is here! Come on in!"

Until that point in time, I had not even seen a picture of UG! I followed him into the house and stumbled right into a very handsome chap, dressed in trendy whites, seated on a sofa! Something inside of me told me, “Here is the Real McCoy!”

As is customary in this part of the world, I folded my palms and greeted him, "Namaste Sir" and UG too got up from his sofa and reciprocated!

The very first words that came out of him were, "Sir, though I am not a fatalist, I personally feel there is very little in your hands!" I was taken aback and felt a bit strange as what he uttered sounded totally out of context!

           During this first encounter, UG was focused on "demystifying" this whole business of Enlightenment! HE actually kicked off by saying, "The so-called realization is NOT a psychological phenomenon but a purely PHYSICAL change, where every living cell in the human body undergoes mutation. If it were in the realm of that dirty word "PSYCHE" anyone can claim to be enlightened, sir!"


****

On that game-changing day in my life, UG bared it all, and showed me the many physical changes that had occurred on his person, and they were all quite profound and visible. 

As a preamble to what was about to hit me, he began, " Sir, whenever a thought enters my head, the brain begins to tighten and ejects that thought from the top of the head and it goes up as a spiral (he gestured), I don't know where!"

UG then showed me two prominent swellings on both sides of his neck (supraclavicular fossae) above the collarbones and said, "These are the Thymic swellings!"

The Thymus is an endocrine gland which auto-destroys itself by the age of twelve! It secretes a hormone named Thymosin, the function of which is not fully understood by the medical science to this day.

What followed was a physical demonstration of the various peculiar bulges on his neck, forehead etc. UG clarified, "Since you are a doctor, I am showing you all these!

UG threw the most amazing surprise when he pointed to a distinctly marked blue spot, and protruding veins on his forehead. He explained,

" Sir, this is your Ajna Chakra! Those ‘acid heads’ (Upanishadic seers) sitting in the jungles, drinking ‘soma juice’ also developed the same physical phenomena, but not knowing what exactly they were, misled you & everybody (else) by adding "mystique" to the whole thing!  These are the dormant endocrine glands showing up and taking over the running of the body!”

            UG then beckoned to me to move closer, and lowering the turtleneck collar on his shirt, and exposing the neck pointed to a clear blue spot, right at the base of the neck, (at the junction between the occiput (back of the head) and the cervical spine and calmly broke the thunderous news, "This is the entry point of that ‘shaft of light’ which hit me while entering the body, when I was seated on that bench, overlooking the Saanen Valley in 1967!


****

Finally, holding up his palms, UG prompted me, "Sir, observe these protuberances in my palms (I ran my fingers across his palms. They were not visible on the surface but I could feel them, they felt quite firm to the touch!). He explained, “These too are endocrine glands!”

I had stumbled into a wonderland, of sorts. I was in the presence of a strange man, witnessing strange things. I had never encountered anything remotely familiar, in my practice!

Back then, I was a practicing medical professional, and to say the least, it was mind-boggling to witness the wonders of all those physical changes in UG, who clarified further, “These are the actual "chakras’ that your rishis (seers) spoke of!"

Eventually I snapped out of the wonderment, and burst out," You are the first one to show, tell and clarify to me that endocrine glands exist even in the palm of our hands. This is nowhere mentioned in "The Grey’s Textbook of Anatomy!"

UG wasted no time, got into his stride in a jiffy, and shouted me down, "You doctors know nothing!"
            
Benumbed, I sat silently observing UG! I naturally began prodding my own palms and neck for any bulges! Hey presto! I felt two rubbery bulges on my collar bone! They were akin to golf-balls and were quite palpable. In utter amazement, I showed them to UG, who ran his fingers over and said, "Yes sir! They are thymic bulges!”  (Apparently, they seemed to be natural occurrences, very pronounced in UG’s natural presence, and they normalised soon after.)

Much later, during one of my visits to UG at Bangalore, I met Chandrasekhar Babu. Babu showed me similar but much bigger bulges on both sides of his neck and explained to me that they appeared during Full Moon and New Moon days!


****

  
          There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than dreamt of in your philosophy (science) - Hamlet


                                                         ****                                                                             
                                          - Dr. Sreedhav, MD, Nellore, India









Note : The Thymus gland looks like a bunch of Grapes, extending up! No wonder, when it enlarges,it goes to both sides of the neck!The small Green beads you see in the picture are Endocrine glands,the function we don't know!

On that " revealing day" in Feb 1992, UG, actually lifted up his sweater to show blue bead like swellings on both sides of the mid-line on the abdomen!These blue bead like swellings extended right down to below the umbilicus in him!

                                                                                                                       (Dr. Sreedhav)






Friday, 11 May 2018

" Why do you ask people not to meditate?" - Dr. Sreedhav



UG

The very first question I put to UG in 1992, when I got lucky to meet him, was,

" Why do you ask people not to meditate?"

UG replied, "Those who truly meditate will not ask this question!"

My meditative efforts had started from the age of fifteen. I was thirty-one when I put this question to UG! 

On hearing UG's whiplash of a reply, my immediate thought was, " Oh, here goes sixteen years of meditation down the drain!"

My next meeting with UG happened in Yercaud, a hill resort near Salem in South of India.[1]

UG possessed this uncanny ability to turn the spotlight on our most closeted concerns.

In Yercaud, UG resumed the topic of meditation, all by himself,

" Sir, only two things happen to people who are serious about their search, either they go MAD or commit SUICIDE!"

He continued,

" In the Himalayan caves, I was meditating for eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. I took only one day off to go to Dehradun to rent a hotel room to prepare a cheese-based dish, the recipe given by my grandmother, to sustain myself in the near starvation situation in the caves!"

I was considered a madman for all practical purposes, as I walked the streets of Dehradun. This continued for seven years!"

On the instructions of Swami Sivananda, I was surviving on a diet of soaked rice flakes, washed in the icy cold waters of the Ganges, flowing close by the cave where I meditated. This dish too was strictly once in a day.

I then ventured to ask UG," Sir, what actually happened during the 18 hours a day effort in that cave?"

His response literally blew me away!

UG said," Culture was getting flushed out of the system and all that man felt, thought and experienced got flushed out!"

UG continued,

"All those who stumbled into the Natural State were flushed out too. Here it was the opposite of 'all the saints went marching in'. Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Mahavir, Socrates, Akka Mahadevi and Allama and so many sages both from Orient and the Occident, just to highlight a few, all ‘went out’!"

The living room in uncle's (Major’s) cottage in Radha Estate was in a state of stunned silence!

He turned towards me and quipped,

" I could see them so clearly sir. Jesus was a clean-shaven man, Buddha was ugly, short, pot-bellied and Mohammed was so handsome that even men were falling for him!

How I survived those seven years of madness and regained enough functionality to survive in this world is anybody's guess!

That is why I affirm that whatever I say is from personal experience! I have wasted four decades of my life in a futile search. Only after the SEARCH ended and all questions stopped, did this ‘stumble’ happen!

That's why I maintain that the very search is the stumbling block to something happening there. Take it or leave it!"

                                               ( Dr. Sreedhav, Nellore, India) 



 Note: The kind write-up is a contribution by Dr. Sreedhav. Ever grateful for his time and effort. 



[1] (Major Dakshinamurti, incidentally Dr. Sreedhav’s uncle, had moved over to Yercaud to lead a life of quietude and solitude to pursue his ‘sadhana’ or ‘spiritual pursuit.’

Major was staying in the picturesque ‘Radha Estate.’  UG, on several occasions, visited him and stayed there.

Major had got UG’s nod to pursue his solitary life in the hills after a long-drawn ‘battle’. He had always sought and hankered for a life away from the ‘noise and din’ of society. After obtaining UG’s approval, he gave up his secure military career to embrace the solitary life in the hills. Currently he lives in a farmhouse in the outskirts of Bangalore.



Wednesday, 21 March 2018

“Don’t be surprised if the leopards start visiting you if I am going to stay in your place.” - UG




Leopards of Mumbai
UG chose middle-class households in India for his portals.

The Parekhs in Bombay or the Babus in Bangalore who hosted UG for several decades ensured that the portals remained warm, friendly and open to every eager visitor seeking to meet UG. Any fears or inhibitions were put to rest in no time, letting people feel at home and participate in free-wheeling discussions with UG and friends.

During the 90s, on many occasions, UG chose Bombay as his first port of call. We were fortunate to spend several days with the ‘raging sage’ on such visits.

On one such occasion, in 1998, after a hectic morning session with a large group of people, UG decided to take a break, suggesting a ride away from the crowds (UG termed this as his ‘constitutional’).  The ever-ready Kamal, near at hand, proposed a drive to the nearby Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a 150 square mile reserve (at the time) next to the bustling metro.

The National Park, a thickly wooded reserve is the habitat for some rare species of birds and animals including leopards. Located deep within the forest hills are the famous Kanheri Caves, the ancient Buddhist seminary-complex of rock-cut monuments dating back to the first century BC.

Kamal, a great nature enthusiast and an avid trekker suggested to UG, “Sir, we should visit the National Park, a beautiful place, thickly wooded, very scenic. Suresh stays next to the Park, his house overlooks the jungle.”

UG, “Kamal, where I live in the Swiss Alps, I keep my windows closed and curtains drawn. I am not particularly fond of nature or trees or hills. We should rather visit his home. I want to see his family.”

I was overjoyed. That was to be UG’s first visit to our place. I felt honoured to receive him in my humble, middle-class abode. In the half- dozen years that I had known him, it had never even remotely occurred to me that he would come over to my place!

UG, self and Neeraj Mehta set out to our place in Kamal’s car. 

I remember Neeraj mentioning to me in the car how lucky I was that UG had volunteered to visit our place.


Initially I thought of reaching out to my wife and letting her know of UG’s visit. But I let that be. I wanted to give her a surprise. More importantly, I felt that the meeting between the ‘sage and the housewife’ should be a direct affair, stripped of any formalities!

On entering our home, first thing UG wanted to know was whether I owned the place. When I replied in the negative, he inquired about the rental. When I gave the figure, he exclaimed that I was shelling out a huge amount and that I should instead go for an outright purchase. I was about to blurt out that it was beyond my means at the time, but I checked myself, and meekly replied, “OK sir!” Within a few months, I ended up owning the place. Everything happened quickly, smoothly and effortlessly!

In those days, our little apartment had a balcony that overlooked the National Park. There was an abandoned construction plot, right in front, built up to the stilt level, standing between our apartment and the fencing of the jungle. This gave us an open, unrestricted view of the thickly wooded reserve.

My little son was swinging in a hammock in the balcony and UG played with him for a little while. I joined him at the balcony and pointed to the jungle outside and said that there was a lot of wild life there including leopards. According to a survey at the time, there were about forty big cats roaming freely in the woods and the surrounding hills.

On learning about the big cats, UG remarked, “Don’t be surprised if the leopards start visiting you if I am going to stay in your place. Can you see the big tree there on that side of the jungle? The leopards will first climb onto that tree and then jump over to the tree on this side and jump to this tree branch inside your compound.”

Of course, the security guards in our sprawling residential complex spoke of occasional sightings of leopards but none of the residents had seen anything!

Call it coincidence, soon after UG’s first trip to the complex, leopards suddenly seemed to cut loose and started to appear all over the place, even during broad daylight!
 
In what was one of the very first sightings, it was my immediate neighbor who ran into the big cats. He was returning home after a late night flight. As he reached our building, he heard some noises in the darkness, alerting him to the danger. He was shocked to see three little cubs playing on the grass just a few feet away from the gate, right in front of our balcony. He immediately jumped inside the gate and secured himself. Suspecting that there could be some adult leopards in the vicinity, he pulled out his new digital video recorder with night vision. As he peered into the darkness around the half-constructed plot, he was shocked to discover three adult leopards perched on top of the eave keeping a watch on the cubs playing below.

Next day morning, the whole community was abuzz with the big leopard story.

The leopard video footage was played in our Club House to alert all residents to the dangers of nocturnal visitors. The real estate developers of our complex were alerted. Soon the jungle fencing was raised another ten feet, bolstered and barbed.

But nothing was high enough for the agile cats!

Not long after, the leopard sightings began to make headlines.

Some of the daylight visits by the creatures took residents by surprise and in some unfortunate incidents people were attacked. An army of forest rangers were on call and pressed into service round the clock. They shot the beasts with tranquilisers, captured and removed them to distant jungles across India.

Our residential complex, Raheja Estate, had become the favourite destination for TV crew who shot live captures of leopards.

UG always held that we have no right to complain about animals or snakes as we are the ones encroaching into their territory and not the other way round.

****

Today incidentally is UG’s Death Anniversary!

Mahesh Bhatt was the first one to wish UG “Happy Death Day” in Vallecrosia, on the final morning of his earthly sojourn.

“How could you bring yourself to say such a thing to UG?”, I once queried Mahesh.

Mahesh, “This is what UG wanted! Remember, I was just doing what my master wanted me to do! UG wanted to go, I was summoned to pack him off, and I was just doing his bidding. I consider his wish as the mission of my life!”

“ Also remember UG wanted me to dispose off the corpse without any song or ceremony. If he really wanted an elaborate funeral service or rituals or ceremonies, he could easily summon an army of priests from India or could even choose to die there. He wanted none of these.

Why did he choose me of all people to do the job? I really don't know! I am not a Brahmin. I know nothing about Hindu rituals or ceremonies. UG just signed a piece of paper and handed over his body to a ‘mlechcha’ like me! 

My mission was to ensure that he died the way he wanted, silently and peacefully.”


****











“ 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...