The Corona Diaries

Villa Devotion, La Bourdonnais St, Pondy

Mr. D, his wife B and their daughter Y came to Pondicherry on 3rd Feb. They drove down from Chennai, made a stop at Thiruvannamalai and reached Pondy around 3:30 pm. They came straight to Villa Devotion to meet G. As they walked in, G greeted them warmly and made them sit in the living room. Mr. D is a high-ranking officer with the Central Police and is currently posted in Uttar Pradesh. He is the college buddy of a friend of G’s. The family spent the last two days with us and left today morning for Chennai. They will fly back to Lucknow from there. Mr. D is a highly religious man. He has been following sadhus and gurus all his life. He reels out stories about gods, sages and mystics at the drop of a hat. His wife B is sweet, submissive and devoted, a quintessential Indian wife. After they left, G said about her: “She is very real”. Their daughter Y is strikingly tall and well-built. I was surprised to learn that she is only 11 years old. She looks big because of her physique but is just a kid. After the guests settled down, I couldn’t help notice that the kid was staring at me with her gleaming eyes peering through her high-powered glasses. I looked at her and smiled and she smiled back, her eyes almost fixed on me. I was rather surprised. Then as her father started conversing with G, she kept on staring at G and me. I signalled her to come sit next to me as G was talking. She seemed very happy to do so. Then she started chatting with me and asking me about this and that – what is my pet name, what do my parents look like, what is the power of my glasses, etc. She didn’t seem like a regular 11 year old girl. She was a bundle of innocence, totally transparent, unreserved, open and fresh. She could barely sit straight, swaying and swinging unbeknownst to herself, in unadulterated joy. Many girls her age usually start exhibiting a body language typically associated with the female gender. They loose their spontaneity because they are trained to look presentable and ladylike. But this little one showed no signs of being self-conscious. She writes cute songs about Shiva and Ganesh, which she sang shyly at first, and then more freely with great gusto. The next day, when they came to visit again, G ordered pizza for her. I served her and stayed by her side watching her eat like a baby. Her joy made G ecstatic!

Post lunch Mr. D was trying to lecture us (friends of G) about devotion and the meaning of it. He was trying to stir up a debate of sorts. G made me sing some songs and that made the guests very happy. Just when I had finished singing “Guru bina kaise” (there is no flowering without the Guru), the little girl blurted out, “You are my master, will you teach me to sing?” I was pretty amused and G started laughing. Mr. D looked very happy and said I had answered him about devotion in the most appropriate musical way, and that there was great feeling in what I sang. Then somehow, the topic of yoga nidra came up. G pointed at me and said how I had slept for 4-5 days at a stretch many times. Mr. D was startled and got curious. He asked me some questions like – do you sleep continuously? Do you eat? etc. He had read and heard about these things all his life, but never had any real experience of his own. Today morning before leaving, Mrs. B invited G to visit their place with great feeling and devotion. The little girl was jumping with joy at the very sight of G. He has a special effect on children because they are innocent. G was deeply moved and agreed to visit them someday. 


5:29 pm
Villa Devotion

Yesterday night I moved to the New Guest House run by the Aurobindo Ashram. It is right opposite G’s apartment building. I moved out of the tiny room which I had earlier booked for a month. I was there for two nights and couldn’t sleep a wink. The noise of vehicles from the street and dogs barking all night drove me crazy. I wanted to move out after the very first night but G asked me to try another night and then decide. The second night was even worse. At least 5-6 dogs barked all night without a break right in front of our building. At times the noise was so loud, I felt the dogs were in my room screaming next to my bed! It was as if they wanted to chase me out of the place! My eyes burned and head felt heavy without sleep for two consecutive nights. There was also something else that was odd about the accommodation which made me uncomfortable. I told G something was not right there, but I couldn’t pin point what it could be. I usually relax easily, but something about this room (even during day time) was making me jittery and throwing my system off rhythm. I decided to forget the 30k advance we had paid to the owner and move to the ashram (the owner refunded 10k to me within a couple of days). I booked a room at the ashram guest house for 8 nights straightaway, although I didn’t know if the rooms were any good. I thought at least the place will be silent, that’s good enough for me at this point. When I checked in yesterday evening, I was delighted to see the cleanliness and simplicity of the place. My room is simply beautiful. Basic, sparkling clean, airy and cozy. My room number is B11 and is named TRUTH. Today Revathi too moved to the ashram. The elderly Manager at the reception, Mr. Dolia, is friendly with me, so I asked him if I could take a gentleman, who is like my father (G), upstairs to show my room. Usually they don’t allow outsiders, but he readily agreed. When he came out to see who was with me, G greeted him warmly with a namaskar, and pointing to me said, “She is my daughter, or rather my granddaughter!” The gentleman started laughing. He said he knew Bengali and had lived for some years in Kolkata long time ago. When G saw my door plate B11 Truth, he remarked, “Truth! Yes! And number “11” symbolises your two little feet … standing on your two little in life by yourself” Revathi’s room number is B14 and is named Miracle. G remarked as he entered her room, “Yes, miracles do happen!” He was very happy to see our rooms. Later Venky and his two friends also checked in, their rooms are Prosperity and Modesty. I feel so relieved to stay by myself right next to G’s house. I immediately felt good in my new place. 

G finally moved to Prosperity today after lunch. He even managed to get a cooking gas connection so he can make his coffee. 

4:35 am
B11, New Guest House, Pondy

I finally slept well here. This place is really nice and the staff are modest and low-key unlike any other Ashrams that I have heard about. There is no stench of religiosity, no show and no commercial activities like sale of ashram merchandise etc. 


G has asked me and Revathi to meet him for coffee at his house at 5 am.


G, Venky and me are flying to Kolkata on 12th Feb. A young friend is so desperate to be with G that he is taking a train from Delhi on the 11th and reaching Kolkata on the morning of 12th before we land there. He is a student and has hardly any money of his own.


I forgot to write about something. During the time when Venky’s family was visiting, Sanjiv looked unwell. He could barely move and kept lying down whenever he got a chance. A few days later, I asked Sanjiv about his health. He showed me his neck – the base of his neck had a ring-like swelling as if there was a snake under the skin. The entire neck also looked swollen to me. He said the back of his neck and head were jammed tight from the inside. Since I can’t keep anything from G, I went and told him about it. Five mins later, when Sanjiv came to the living room, G said to him, “Let me see your neck.” When Sanjiv showed him, he smiled and said, “Take it easy buddy! It’s all right.”


9:55 pm
B11 Truth, my room in Ashram

Krishna and Karthik cooked lunch today. Just delicious! Krishna is from a Madhava brahmin priest family, they are traditionally known to be great cooks. G says UG loved the Madhava food. In the evening we went to the Club Mahindra beach resort in 2 cars – Kamal’s Polo & Venky’s Etios. The beach was breathtaking as always. We ate lots of panipuris! Radhika surprised us all by ordering from US a beautiful cake and some chocolate twisters for G’s housewarming. Madhura, the baker from Le Petit delivered the goodies herself to Villa Devotion yesterday evening. She came with her father. She is a very sweet girl. We are going to invite her for coffee soon. Her breads and croissants are as good as in Europe or US. 


G stopped a friend from visiting him. Yesterday he left Pondy. He had stopped coming since the last 3-4 days. We saw him sitting on his balcony in the Park Guest House while walking on the Promenade. He looked dejected. Then we saw him walk past us at night as we took a walk with Nandini. Today G said about him, “Why do you think I do this with him? I want him to be disgusted and angry with me and to go away and do something with his life. The frustration needs to translate into some action. If he had his own money, I wouldn’t have stopped him, but he his wasting his father’s hard earned money. What will his father think about me? That guy is neither here nor there.”

7:11 pm
G’s house, Prosperity 

G is doing a zoom for Radhika’s birthday. He said just now – “I don’t understand how a human can own anything. He doesn’t even own his body, has no control over how his heart or brain works, how can he own anything outside? All you have is loads of misery.” The twin brothers from Manchester looked elated to see G after a long gap, so was Carol, she was giddy with joy like a little girl. We watched a slideshow of her paintings made by Radhika with Venky’s tabla recital as the background music. Louis freaked us all out with his usual humour. It made Radhika’s day for sure. 

6:03 pm
Prosperity, Pondy

After lunch G returned to Prosperity from Devotion, and we went back to ashram. It was around 2:30 in the afternoon and I slept like a log. Around 3:40 I woke up from deep slumber and heard a faint buzz on my ph. It was a message from G, “Hello, come”, he wrote. I went up to his room by 3:45 pm. Revathi was serving him some puffed rice (muri in Bengali). G said he suddenly felt like eating muri. Then as he started eating he said, “I am sinking, going down and down.” His eyes were sleepy and he looked drowsy. He kept on munching on the muri and I could see his jaw was moving completely mechanically like a machine with no controller inside. He looked very different, as if he was in some other place. Then he suddenly shook his head, as if coming out of a trance with a jolt, looked strangely at me and Revathi, as though we were strangers, then closed his eyes again, then opened his eyes again and murmured, “Somebody is coming to see me, somebody is here”. Then he looked at the main door and listened keenly for footsteps outside the door (which is right next to his couch). We couldn’t hear anything. Yet he kept listening for footsteps, sinking into himself and then waking up with a shake of his head and looking strangely and vacantly at us. Revathi and I kept watching him silently. After a few moments he said, “I was in some other world and seeing people I don’t know. I was thinking who are these people who have come to see me and was looking around to see who had come. I had no control over anything. It was showing me something and I didn’t know.” When I told him about how he was looking at us, he said, “You two looked like picture frames, animated …. The human brain is very strange. Something is cooking in my brain.” Then he smiled and said,  “I wish I knew what it is.”

9:42 am

We arrived in Kolkata yesterday at 2:40 pm. The flight reached before schedule. Venky booked a Honda City self-drive for G for all the 7 days. We will drop the car off on 19th Feb at the airport. Rahul arrived before us. He came in the morning by train. G asked me to stay 3 nights with my parents so I came home yesterday evening around 6:45. I bought sweets with me from Mithai, Ila’s shop. Things are calm at home. Both my parents seem to have developed some kind of respect for G. Maybe they read his books, I don’t know. G is staying at Handmade home with Rahul, Karan and Venky. They will go to Hindmotor today. I will go to see him in the evening at handmade home after he gets back to Kolkata. I am going to take some delicacies made by mom for him – potato curry, moong dal with bottle gourd, moringa flowers with grated coconut, homemade sweet crepes and muri. Tomorrow I am going to go with him to Hindmotor for his sister’s memorial feast. I will go back to him on 15th and leave Kolkata on 19th Feb. Venky booked the tickets yesterday. Revathi & Sanjiv went to Mumbai from Chennai. They have personal work to deal with. Most probably they will meet us in Chennai on the 19th.


6:11 pm

I am on my way to handmade home from Mukundapur. G is on his way back from Hindmotor. I spent most of my day sleeping. I woke up around 3:30 in the morning. Since my parents aren’t up before 6, I decided to check the 2 suitcases I had left here last time. I made a big bag of clothes to give away to the girls at Hindmotor, the clothes are all in good condition, I couldn’t wear them after loosing weight. I am taking with me the 4-5 sweaters G gave me in America. I will dry clean them and keep them at Prosperity. Some oversized pants and kurtas and other things I gave to my mom.

Villa Devotion, Pondy
9:12 pm

Today evening G spoke passionately about Julie’s state of existence around UG. He was describing how her focus and crazy love for UG could not be practised. How she gave everything she had to UG and to whoever was interested in him. He also said UG knew Julie was the only one on whom nobody depended and who was financially independent. He entered her apartment for the first time and that was it, he took over her life completely. He spoke for about 14 mins pumping huge energy into every word. I was fixated on his face. My head went blank and I was super energised. After he finished we went for a walk to the promenade. 

It had started raining crazily since late last night and continued today till 11 am. Some water seeped into G’s apartment and he mopped and cleaned everything himself. Revathi and I helped him. The streets were flooded and car tyres were submerged. The canal was overflowing. The water drained out rapidly though and by evening the streets were dry. I worked on editing some talks during the day. Since there was no power we didn’t get a chance to take shower. While giving finishing touches to one of the talks titled The Signal part 2, I read out portions from it to G. Revathi was also there. I could see they looked captivated as I read. G said the editing was excellent and the flow was very good. He said it was so good that he was forced to pay undivided attention. Revathi also said it was very well done. Actually I spent hours and hours on every paragraph to improve the readability and restructure the flow so that it makes sense to people who are interested in these things but have never met G. After a late lunch of Pizzas, and after Venky arrived, all of us came back to Prosperity. The power was restored. Venky made coffee and Kamal made tea. 


Venky arrived from Chennai today around 3 pm after finishing his recordings. He had stayed back in Chennai when we came back to Pondicherry from Kolkata on 19th Feb. Aruna had invited us for lunch at Shiva’s family house. They have a beautiful apartment. Aruna and Shiva adore G and he also shows them a lot of affection. We had lunch with them on the 19th and then took a cab to Pondicherry. Nandini and Kamal were waiting for us at Devotion. Nandini had already made lunch. At night Revathi and I checked into the ashram guesthouse. 


10:38 pm
B12, Dignity, New Guest House

After today’s stormy weather, the sea was choppy and waves were swelling with fury in the evening. The wind was powerful, blowing with force. While looking at the dark ocean I felt a funny sensation in my feet. Light and euphoric. The vast scenery of water and people also made me breathless. It continued for sometime then died down gradually.  

After coming back from our evening walk, G, Revathi and I came back to Prosperity as G wanted to freshen up. I felt like talking shower and asked him if I could use his guest bathroom. He said, “I haven’t tested the geyser in the guest bathroom so you go to my bathroom. My geyser is top-of-the-line!” Then he opened his closet and offered me his best bath towel! I hesitated for a second then picked it up! He said, “Why not? What’s the point in having them if you can’t use them?” Then he turned his geyser on and told me to wait till the temperature read 50 degrees celsius. He told me to use anything I wanted in his bathroom, anything from all his toiletries! After I finished bathing, he asked me how was the shower. I said I felt extremely cozy, as if I was in the mother’s womb, a wholesome and self-sufficient cocoon! He was really pleased and smiled beautifully!

Villa Devotion, Pondy 
3:06 pm

G just finished recording Barshano Mandrito. Venky and I  kept pointing out some off notes as he sang and he corrected them impeccably. Also the landing notes and release happened beautifully after a few retakes. He follows the instructions blindly with utter innocence. After finishing, I gave the headphones to Revathi so she could listen. As she was praising his voice, he said, “Music is the purest form of communication through sound”. A feverish heat gripped me after we finished the recording. My head felt tight and I could barely keep my eyes open. 


Room B12, Ashram
9:18 pm

We went to Mahindra resort early morning today to have breakfast with Nandini & Kamal and to bid them goodbye. They were soon leaving Pondicherry and driving through Ooty and other places to reach Bangalore. G was ecstatic as he walked on the private beach. He chased crabs, enjoyed the gusty winds with his arms spread out and ran away from approaching foamy waves so they couldn’t wet his shoes! I felt giddy and overwhelmed by the vastness of the sea, open skies and the infectious joy emanating from G. We came back and went to our respective rooms to shower. Then we met again around 11 am at Prosperity. 

There’s only Venky, me and Revathi with him now in Pondy. With less people around he makes himself a lot more available. Too many people make the dynamics complicated. Yet he handles things according to the demand of the situation. There is no perfect response to anything in life. He follows his sharp instinct and if things work out, he moves with it, if they don’t, he gives it up or tries another way. There’s no room for frustration because he doesn’t want anything to be in a certain way, he doesn’t have any idea of how the future should be. 

We had a zoom today at 5:30 pm. Kevin, Ryan, Carol, Radhika, Julie, Rahul and Sanjiv joined. G had invited Sivapriya for coffee and dinner and he wanted Julie to see her on zoom. Sivapriya had met UG in Yercaud in 1993 for the first time. She continued to see him in India for the next 8 years. Julie knows her. Before that she had also attended JK’s talks for 10 years in Chennai.

4:57 am
B12, Ashram Guest House

G asked us to give him 10 mins. I am ready to go to Prosperity and make coffee for him. All day yesterday I was busy publishing pieces from my diary on my blog. There was an unshakeable focus and I had to do it in the middle of cooking lunch and moving between Prosperity and Devotion. G was telling Julie and Radhika on the phone how I was busy all day running around, cooking and writing fervently. Carol wrote a very nice letter after reading the blog and G at night asked me to forward it to the ladies and a few guys in two separate emails. She wrote: 

“The contents of your words can be found in ages gone by in the books, but to read them now in the present moments (Feb. 26, 2021) is a gift beyond gifts. A living breathing human expressing these treasures today is so rare, it is almost impossible to believe it is really happening and I am on the receiving end of such a treasure!”

Amazingly Carol was reading my blog almost simultaneously as I was uploading stuff from here. She had told me earlier that she checks my blog everyday for new entries.


Today is a full moon day. For the last 2-3 days I was kind of sick. On 24th & 25th I was in a catatonic state, sleeping most of the time. I couldn’t eat and felt heavy bricks were hanging from my eyelids. While I felt this way, we had to drive to Chennai on 25th to pick up my credit card from Citibank. We went to the Phoenix mall before going to the bank to pick up a Kiehl’s shampoo for G. I just wanted to crash somewhere and sleep. After we were done at the mall we came back to the parking lot to get Venky’s car. G wanted to eat some bread and lettuce that he had packed for himself. He offered bread to me, Venky and Revathi. I took a tiny piece and had a bite. In 2 mins my throat filled with acid and my glands started itching. I felt just terrible. I told him, “This tiny piece of bread gave me so much acidity, I feel sick!” He said, “Oh really? Maybe you already had some acidity”. Venky immediately handed me some coconut water and G said it was alkaline and good for acidity. I gulped it down and felt better soon. Then I slumped in to my seat. Then we drove to the bank. As the bank official was working on my request, I started sinking again in my chair. Then we went to an upscale restaurant for lunch. The food was contemporary and fabulously cooked. We ordered A salad, a burger bowl and a Vietnamese noodle. The subtle flavours and zing in the salad dressing kind of woke me up. I felt fresh and lively. 


I forgot to write that G and I recorded some songs before Venky left on the 25th (he drove us all to Chennai, stayed overnight at Chennai, then drove to Bangalore on 26th Feb). Venky had set up his mobile studio and kept everything ready for us to record at Devotion. On 23rd G recorded Barshano Mandrito. On 24th I recorded Murshid Paroshmoni, Dhonyo Dhonyo, Labonye Purno Pran and Arunokanti Ke Go. I could feel my voice was at its peak and flowing without resistance. G sensed it very quickly and said I should record as much as I could. All the songs came out very well. Both Venky and G were greatly satisfied. They both said my voice quality and delivery were top notch, one if the best they’ve heard. Then G recorded Tomar Kotha Hetha. His voice sounded sublime. His tone and texture has something special that cannot be pin-pointed. He said this quality developed after he met UG. It has something to do with the thyroid and parathyroid glands getting activated to work in their natural rhythm. He said it happens if an individual has attained a stability that is not disturbed and rattled continuously by information. He said the special quality or zing (he used this term) in the voice did not originate from the nose or throat but somewhere in between. He sang an unplugged version of the song in his natural flow. When we listened to the recording, it sounded hypnotic, to say the least! Since he started singing regularly during the lockdown, his voice has become smoother and his delivery confident and controlled. He implements the nuances in bhava and navigates between the high and low notes effortlessly these days. His pronunciation of Bengali is just impeccable, must have always been that way, I guess. His grasp over his mother tongue is phenomenal, of a very high order. 


4:42 pm
B12, Ashram Guest House

G is thinking about doing a zoom on 22nd March, the day UG died in 2007. He is floating ideas about what to do, and who can do what. He wants to do something with the My Oblation to you UG video that Radhika had made earlier, when G and I were locked in the apartment in Kolkata.