India’s Prime Minister announced a nationwide curfew tomorrow, 22nd March, which also happens to be the day UG died in 2007. People in India have been told to stay home. The police will arrest anyone who violates the curfew. It is a national emergency.
A fiercely infectious viral pandemic is galloping across countries, sending shockwaves through every modern human institution, cracking up everything we humans have built and considered infallible until now. The paranoia is of an unprecedented scale.
I am with Guha in Kolkata. There is nobody else. We are in self quarantine at an Airbnb. We came to Kolkata on the 24th of February and moved into this apartment on 2nd March. To me, it appears as if Nature has hatched this conspiracy to lock me up with G! I know this sounds like a childish idea, but what the heck, I landed up with him! He said the same thing today evening sporting his usual grin!
I started feeling a bit hyper and serious a couple of days before the curfew was announced. I have lost my appetite completely since then. Something must have been brewing inside. I had a huge headache yesterday and loose motions. The piss and shit felt hot. When G jokingly asked a while back, “What will happen if you start shitting fire?!” I said, “I already am!” We both started laughing. Today, a fire is burning around the navel all day. I can only eat bitter gourd, we have tonnes of it brought by local friend.
What is it like to be locked up in a house with a phenomenon that has pervaded all that I knew as “Me” and “Mine”, a presence that has left little space for worries, fears and doubts? Well, there are too many thoughts now! They are all about him – of how to take care of him, what is the best food for him, what I should buy for him, what he said clearly or hinted at, so much to think about! There’s hardly any time to think about “Me”.
My knees have been aching all day. The right wrist is paining. Red, scratchy rashes suddenly appeared next to the navel and on the lower left side of the stomach. There is a swelling on the upper side of the right jaw, very close to the earlobe. It pains if I touch it, otherwise I don’t know. When I told him, he just said, “It’s ok, don’t ever scratch the rashes.”
He is shining in his full glory. He recited his Bengali poem Anidra and asked me to record it. He explained many things to me. He talked about some of his close friends and their dispositions, and how he deals with each one of them, as if imparting me a direct lesson. I was acutely attentive. That strange automation that I have experienced so many times before, is kicking in again. It is a relief because I don’t have the burden of choice when this happens.
Mother Nature is camping in isolation with me as the world deals with the Coronavirus epidemic. She is imparting life lessons like a mother bird teaches her chick to fly, like an elephant mom gently nudges her newborn to stand up with her huge trunk. It is serious business though, and he is extremely purposeful and focused. It is Nature’s song, its tune, its primal rhythm, a powerful pulse that is pushing through all barriers to express itself.
I lose my mind when I begin to think how the whole situation developed that left him and me locked up in an apartment here in Kolkata. Due to the highly infectious nature of the virus and the extent of its spread, all of India is under lockdown. Nobody can travel anywhere. So, I am with him, just him. He tells all his friends that only I stayed back with him, everyone else had to go away for one reason or another. He warned me jokingly, “Many people will be jealous of you now!”
He cooked pasta yesterday night! It was delicious, Guhine!!! (there’s no such thing as divine anyway!) We mixed it up with leftover boiled vegetables and fenugreek leaves and it tasted out of this world! Then he washed pots and dishes. He can do everything. I observe him in amazement, like a chick in the nest watching its mother soaring high up into the gorgeous blue, then swooping down, displaying all her moves, her grandeur. The chick learns unknowingly.
Today he suddenly dictated the following text to me. I was so high, so drunk, I couldn’t figure anything. He said, “I am just telling how you feel now, write it down and send it to Suman Babu!” Suman Babu is a local friend who visits often.
There is only one thing that I am intoxicated with. I looked far and wide, deep within and without, but I couldn’t find anything anywhere that could take away my pain, until Guha came to me. And now I don’t know what it is to live like I did before. All I can say is I am intoxicated with Guwine! (Guha+Wine)
The national lockdown got extended for twenty one more days!
The world outside is shaking with fear but within these four walls, there’s only joy. What is happening in this modest apartment is historic as far as my life is concerned. I feel intoxicated from head to toe all day. I have tasted beer and wine and I know what it means to be mildly intoxicated. But this intoxication triggers on its own and does not have the effects of hangover like headaches, nausea, agitation or a huge low, that drugs and drinking induce. Its effects are exactly the opposite. The system slows down, there’s a deep refreshing feeling inside and a restfulness. My speech slurs, eyes turn puffy and my steps are unsteady, even though I am wide awake. I don’t know what exactly induces this state, but I have no doubt it is because of his life-abiding presence. I feel extremely aware and everything in my environment comes alive with a vibrance and power that is incomprehensible yet undeniable. G says, “The right resonance leads to an energy exchange with Nature which is life-abiding and results in an unburdening for the system.”
Nature seems to be breathing a sigh of relief as we humans are forced to stay indoors. I can almost hear it in the chirping and singsong of the birds. Birds that would otherwise never enter our localities, are happily hopping around, mating and doing what not!
I am crazy with bliss! My head says, Mother Nature is spending time with me! He cooks, does dishes. This is between the mother and child.
He has taken over the kitchen! He plans the menu for our lunches and dinners. He is teaching me everything – washing dishes, then wiping them dry, having a standard measure for every ingredient of cooking, optimizing the portions so that nothing goes to waste, storing the rice, lentils, whole grains in jars and labelling them – a super efficient and practical way of functioning.
We cook once, eat for two days, then cook again. The refrigerator is mostly empty, except for 2-3 bowls of rice, curry and some daal. We also stock a few cartons of milk for coffee and a little salad.
He organises his closet neatly. Every piece is where it should be. He wears a shirt for 3 days, then washes it. It is almost like what people call “A Zen living”, but they have no clue what it is to fall into this rhythm without practice or the idea of achieving a preconceived goal. There’s no way to define or put a stamp on the way he lives. It is spontaneous, not consistent, it is a response, not a conformance to some silly ideology. He says emphatically, “To mould one’s way of living in order to prove to others that one is in a particular state of being, is to actually falsify oneself.” After watching him from close quarters, I have realised he has no notion that he is in any particular heightened state, hence his actions do not conform to any of the much-described and glorified states like Advaita or Satchidananda, which we have been brainwashed to believe exist.
If I have ever learnt anything useful in life, it is only from him. Most of what I was either taught or I tried to learn myself, before he came into my life, were garbage that needed to burn away in his pure fire. I suffered from the lack of focus since childhood. And now, he has taken over my mindspace in a way that nothing else ever could. Everything about him, his gestures, his movements, his rage, his laughter has a magnetic appeal for me. The sound of his voice is music to my ears! This feeling I cannot generate by will. It is its own thing.
The phrase familiarity breeds contempt falls flat when it comes to the dynamics around him. The more I observe him, the more my respect and adoration deepen for this guy. And it seems to only increase by the day.
The totality of his presence has a massive effect on my body. The intense burning, the slowing down of thoughts, the loss of speech, the intoxication and the currents of joy that spring out of it are possibly the physical exhibition of a deep living resonance between two systems.
A friend of G’s, wrote a piece after spending ten days with G here in Kolkata earlier this month. It was about his discovery of something that he did not know existed before. G sent his writeup to other friends and asked them to comment on it. He read all the responses to me, asked what I thought about each and then helped me interpret them. I freely said whatever came to mind at that time. A little later, I was thinking aloud, “What right do I have to comment on the psychology of his friends? Who do I think I am?!” He heard me and said reassuringly, “What you did is fine”. I immediately knew that he wanted me to do it and be attentive to these aspects. I felt relieved.
Later he compiled all the comments and sent them back to the friend in a beautifully written letter which I place here:
This is a glimpse of Subject Specific Functional Reality, which reflects the variation in our understanding of the same text! This is the world you have to navigate. What you have just experienced is the response from a relatively benign and friendly segment, you can imagine the real possibility of what is probably to come. Your depth of understanding and courage to hold onto very precious, deeply-perceived personal feelings can help you find a stable ground on which to stand, to keep yourself functioning sanely as a balanced and appropriate member of the human race, at this present time.
The friend replied:
I cannot begin to express my gratitude and luck. The real troubles of life I was escaping from, could have landed me in a bigger self-created trouble. For me, a social kafir, the natural phenomenon called Guha did prevent that crash and put me in the midst of real troubles. The phenomenon called Guha is very vital in my phenomenology.
We went for a quick early morning jog in our neighbourhood. The Lake is closed because of the lockdown. After coming back he suggested we finish shower first and then make breakfast.
He told me I should chronicle my daily life with him during these extraordinary times. He described how he and Julie used to write everyday when they were with UG, and that they would feel uneasy if they didn’t.
So, here I am in my room writing and recording whatever is coming to my head. This house is the nursery of Mother Nature. The seeds were sown sometime back, now, in the right environment, new life is springing up. G’s piercing attention, his loving shade and his fierce glare provide vital nutrition and protection to my sapling.
In my most serious and intense interactions with him, most things are unsaid. His body language does all the talking. One look from the corner of his eyes, one movement of his hand, or just one word falling from his lips, and that’s enough. I think it is a more direct way of communication as compared to using language. There’s no question of confusion here, because I am not trying to understand anything through my ideas. I had identified this “effort to understand” as a wasteful, energy-draining exercise after I met him, but the momentum kept going for quite sometime, then it finally died down in his proximity.
Just a while ago, I heard him washing something in his bathroom. I asked him what he was doing. He said, “Look I have to wash these socks and my mask. I am going to soak them in detergent. Can you pour some detergent liquid?” “How much should I pour?”, I asked. He seemed rattled and said sternly, “Why ask me, don’t you know? You lived all by yourself for many years, yet you don’t know these things?” I got a jolt and realised I had been casual with him. I ran to the kitchen looking for a measuring cup. As I was searching, I turned around and he was right behind me! He said softly, “Grab a tablespoon and put two spoonfuls of detergent. Then see if that’s enough, if not, put more. This way you will know the exact measure for a particular volume of wash.” What a lesson!
Moral of the story: Optimising and streamlining repetitive activities lead to efficiency in daily living, because you don’t have to break your head every time you execute them.
He is purposeful and focused in everything he does. From cooking, to cleaning dishes, to addressing people’s questions on complex human problems, he does it all with a breathtaking ease and simplicity.
His affection is like a warm blanket in the freezing cold. He never imposes himself on me, I have a free rein to be just the way I am. Yet, he is my universe, I have nothing else to think of. All my social ties and drives paled rapidly into non-existence since his advent in my life. Everything, other than him, turned tasteless. Now, I have nowhere to go, and nothing can hold me back either.
A dear friend of G’s, a local, called in the evening. G was on the phone with Julie so he asked me to take the call. I was making dinner so I put the call on speaker. The friend started talking about an experiment he did long back by keeping a few bats in a cage and giving them food on alternate days. He boasted that the bats became so fond of him that even after he freed them, they would still hang around him. He said he loved animals and wanted to help them by doing experiments on them. My insides twisted when I heard this. I blurted out uncontrollably, “You think you love them, but to them it is torture. How would you feel if your wife or child is locked in a cage and fed once in two days in the name of scientific exploration? Then you will know what pain is. What do you think gives us humans the right to torture other forms of life for our own recreation? G wrote in his poem: You have read so much, you know so much, but why don’t the demands which are beyond your need fall off? Your situation is like that. Has knowledge reduced your mental pain, your restlessness?” He sounded a little shaken but gathered himself and said, “It hasn’t, on the contrary I am more restless than ever and remorseful. I feel I have wasted my life.” At this point I suddenly realized what I had just told him. I said, “I am sorry for speaking to you like this, before I knew the words came out of me involuntarily.” He said what I said was true, so I shouldn’t be sorry. He was a sport.
This gentleman used to work in a bank, and is a scholar and a self-taught researcher with interests in diverse subjects. His interest in spirituality took him all around India, from the mountains in the north, to the seas of the south, in search of sadhus, yogis and pundits. He is fond of G and visits him often. He says about G, “What sadhus struggle to attain even after a lifetime of practice and penance in caves and forests, this guy here (G) has got it just like that! And he doesn’t make any fuss about it, it is so simple for him.” G tries to point out how running after sadhus and reading about spirituality have failed to address his deep seated sorrow and the sense of lack of fulfilment, because what he is engaged in is merely a knowledge game, which has nothing to do with his overall well-being. This is not easy for the gentleman to accept. He thinks knowledge is sacrosanct and an end in itself. He asks many questions and brings out a lot from G, which are mostly in pure Bengali. G’s choice of words, sentence construction and delivery in Bengali is of the highest order that I know of, being a Bengali myself.
Today was a strange day. I felt sleepy all the time. I can’t keep my eyes open. Usually, when we sleep, the outside world gets wiped out of our consciousness. But this is a different kind of sleep. It is like being in the waking state with eyes closed, wherein I can hear, smell and feel things as if I am awake. My body goes into a state of suspended animation and I can’t move or speak. Thoughts slow down to an extent that I can’t process any information in that duration. Sometimes thoughts appear, then vanish immediately, they don’t stay. The body is highly alert and charged up. When the “spell” breaks, I can gradually move my limbs to sit up. My head feels completely empty and light. If G says anything to me at that time, I stare blankly, words and their meanings don’t find tags in my head. He smiles lovingly, he is all too familiar with the workings of the human body! I feel calm and grounded, as if in a deep state of restfulness. After a few minutes, I swing back into action. Today, he asked me with an impish smile on his lips, “Why are you sleepy all the time, is it because of the heat?” Then he added, “It is actually a constant state of meditation.”
Just finished lunch. I cooked and he did the dishes. He made rice too. I ate everything but in tiny morsels. Food never tasted so good. When I eat the first spoonful, my eyes close in bliss, the sensation of various tastes is explosively pleasing! Every flavor is distinct and sharp. Every sound is clear. I feel as if the inside of my head has cleared up and I can hear, see, smell and taste everything like never before! The sense of smell is also heightened. As I was chopping coriander leaves in the kitchen, its smell flooded my head – bliss again. Perhaps, this can truly be called “satisfaction”. I am in awe. I won’t trade this with anything in the universe! I am wonderstruck at discovering what G says all the time, “Your system is already peaceful, it’s your thinking that keeps you from being in equilibrium.” This condition set in around 21st March and it has been nine days since. I don’t want to do anything that disturbs this delicious disposition.
G was explaining a friend’s piece “Fruition of a flower” to me. He said mysteriously, “What you are discovering also discovers you.” This reminded me of something he told Suman Babu a few days before the lockdown began. He had said, “In the process of discovering UG, I ended up discovering myself!”
I was texting a friend on the phone, telling him how intoxicated I was feeling and how my eyes became puffy although I was wide awake. G said, “I will tell you what to write”, then he dictated the following to me:
Often after sitting with G for sometime, when I go to my room and look at the mirror, I see my eyelids are swollen and drooping and my eyes are red. When I asked him what was happening, he said “Although you were awake, your system was going through a restful state as if you came out of a deep sleep, which is a sign of core rejuvenation.”
I just read to him the draft of my reply to Carol’s email. He said he liked it and asked me to keep writing! Then he uttered, “The order that thought creates has nothing to do with the order of life!”
Since the Lake is closed, we walk on the Southern Avenue and its by-lanes in the morning. Today, he kept walking to the end of Southern Avenue where it meets the SP Mukherjee Road. Upon reaching the crossing, he took a left turn. I now knew where he was taking me. Shortly, we reached the gate of Suryodaya! This is where I met him 3.5 half years ago on 29th October! What a pleasant surprise!