First Introduction: The first time I heard about U.G. was with Terry Newland (then Agnew). I knew Terry in Berkeley around 1969 when I was living in Berkeley. I once saw an announcement in the campus newspaper that there was going to be a J. Krishnamurti discussion group meeting in the Student Union Building on campus. I went there mainly out of curiosity (and perhaps also out a ‘need’ to belong to a group). Terry was conducting the meeting. It seemed like an organizational meeting. After the meeting we became friends.
It must have been some months later in the same year. Terry took a fancy to me and invited me to Sonoma State for a philosophy talk in a professor’s class. He also asked me to talk to a student group. Then I visited an elementary school where Terry was teaching at the time. He asked me to speak to the kids there and then showed me his yoga class. About that time he had a fall out with the Krishnamurti people, particularly in Switzerland. Terry was duly kicked out of the Krishnamurti circle. Earlier, he was specially invited to go to Switzerland to meet and spend time with Krishnamurti. At the same time, he was also listening to U.G.
Later, Terry invited me and three of my friends to spend the night in his place in Sebastapol on our way to Carson City where we were also going to visit another friend who was teaching in the Indian Reservation School at that time. Early in the morning, I got to watch Terry do yoga. He looked like the image of health – sounds of breath coming out of his nostrils like steam from pipes and perfectly precise and graceful asanas, all done seemingly effortlessly with a robust and statuesque body.
That morning Terry gave us a breakfast of musilex. He also showed me a picture of U.G. and referred to him as an enlightened man. Terry had heard him speak in Switzerland. He told me later how U.G. took him out for a coffee and talked to him about himself.
U.G. had invited him to spend three months in India (in Bangalore) with him and write his biography. Terry described how U.G.’s physical features had changed because of the transformation he had undergone: ashes falling out of his forehead, arms being turned backward, glands swelling, eyes not blinking, and so on.
Terry was obviously quite touched by the attention U.G. showered on him. Apparently, U.G. would get up early in the morning before Terry and arrange for his hot water for his bath! The biography he was supposed to write, for which purpose he took a typewriter with him, never came about. I heard several such accounts about U.G. from Terry and simply stored them away in memory without doing much about them.
Second Introduction: The next occasion I heard about U.G. was when I was in Hawaii with Terry. Around 1971, my then-partner Linda and I went on a trip to Hawaii on a special invitation from Terry to spend a month with him and learn Yoga. Soon after we got to his cabin in Molakai, there was an accident while he was lighting a stove to make dinner for us and the whole cabin burned down to ashes. We escaped with a few belongings, but lost our air tickets to the fire. We spent the night in Terry’s friends’ house and the next day moved to another friend’s rather large house miles away. There Linda and I stayed for a week and learned some yoga from Terry anyway. We came to the main island of Oahu after that, got replacement airline tickets and headed back to the mainland.
A day or two after the cabin was burned down, I went with Linda and Terri to one of his lady friends’ place. It was a lone house amid fields and pineapple plantations. There he played a tape of U.G. speaking. Again, I felt no reaction. I remember U.G.’s voice in the tape being somewhat shriek.
Third Introduction: Linda, to whom I now was married, our daughter Bujji and I went to India in the summer of 1975. Just that past year, I began teaching in the Monterey Peninsula College. We spent a few days in Madras and then went to Tiruvannamalai, visiting my old friend, the famous writer Chalam. Just as I entered Chalam’s front yard (across the street from Ramanashram), and was approaching the main house, I heard U.G.’s audio cassette being played. I distinctly remember him in the tape saying something about the space between two thoughts. At that time, I was suffering from a bout of the flu. I went upstairs in a few minutes, as the talk didn’t make much impression on me. Some kind of Vedanta, I thought. I also saw a picture of U.G. on a wall in Chalam’s house for the first time. Sowris, Chalam’s daughter and a mystic, said that U.G. was her distant cousin. I later learned from Chandrasekhar that a few years before I went there, he told them about U.G. and showed them a picture of him. Then Sowris recognized him as the one to whom she could have been married when she was young, except that U.G. wasn’t interested. Chalam and his family met U.G. through Chandrasekhar.
Sowris, Chalam and Sowris’s ‘gang’ used to visit U.G. in Bangalore. Apparently, after the initial visits, U.G., in his usual fashion, started tightening screws on Sowris and bluntly told her that if she wanted to see him, she should come without all her followers. He also forbade her singing in his presence (singing was one of her attachments!). Later, when Chalam, being already on a wheelchair, was having trouble visiting him in Bangalore, U.G. said, “Why should that old man come here all the way? I will go and visit him myself,” and went there to visit.
My First Meeting with U.G.: Then, some years later, early in 1981, I got a letter from Nartaki, the lady who lived in Chalam’s family for much of her life. She said that U.G. was coming to the U.S. and suggested that I should go and visit him. (I don’t remember if she gave me an address or a phone number.) I, of course, promptly ignored the letter.
At about the same time, Terry also called from Mill Valley saying that U.G. was in town and was asking about me (“Where is this Dr. Narayana Moorty?”). Apparently, Nartaki had given him my phone number and address which he promptly lost. She later told me that she said to him, “You go and see everyone everywhere; why don’t you go see this man also?” Terry asked me if I wanted to come and visit U.G. in Mill Valley. I replied that I was too old to go see ‘teachers’ (I was already burned out with J. Krishnamurti), and if he was passing through here in Seaside, he would be welcome here. So, I didn’t go then.
It must have been about a month or so later: one morning (this must be in 1981, around October), I got a phone call from Ramesh Ganerwala, an engineer who worked for the California Energy Commission, from Carmel. He was driving U.G. and Valentine from San Louis Obispo after visiting James Brodsky (later Jane) or some other person. He said that U.G. and Valentine were with him and that U.G. wanted to know if they could come and visit. I said they would be most welcome and that they could have lunch at my place as well.
I had a large quantity of upma made for my in-laws who were visiting me that morning. After breakfast they had all gone out with my wife, Wendy. I was home alone. The time was about noon. Ramesh drove U.G. and Valentine in his small old beat-up BMW. I watched through the living room window U.G. getting out of the car and walking on the pavement toward my house. With his arms hanging loose, he had the gait of a zombie. His face was expressionless and he looked like a man on the death row.
Valentine and Ramesh as well as U.G., all came in. I greeted them, led them into the kitchen and seated them at the kitchen table. U.G. sat next to the wall in the kitchen and I sat across the table from him. I served lunch to everyone. U.G. was praising my upma to Ramesh saying that it was the ‘authentic stuff’. U.G. started talking mostly about himself. During the conversation he and I exchanged notes about our backgrounds -- he coming from Gudivada and I from Vijayawada, both towns in Andhra Pradesh, just twenty miles apart -- and about the people we had known in common. He went to Madras University for his Honors studies and had known T.M.P. Mahadevan who was also my thesis supervisor. We both also knew my Sanskrit lecturer in S.R.R. & C.V.R. College, Vijayawada, and a few others. Apparently he dropped out of his Philosophy Honors in Madras University, not having taken the final examinations.
During the conversation, U.G. joked about Satya Sai Baba, saying how he used to materialize Swiss watches before, but how he materialized only Hindustan watches now, after Indira Gandhi imposed an import restriction on Swiss watches.
They stayed for about two hours. As they were leaving, I tried to put my arm around U.G.’s shoulder as a gesture of affection, but he quickly moved away. I realized that he was not open to such physical contact. In the living room, as he was leaving, I shook his hand to say goodbye, addressing him as ‘Mr. Krishnamurti.’ He said that I could just as well call him ‘number 69,’ like a jail convict, and that people called him ‘U.G.’
It was a pleasant experience meeting U.G. I had the strange feeling as we were standing at the kitchen door and holding each other’s hands, that he was so similar to me in many ways, and that I was meeting myself. The feeling was one of closeness. I was already bonded with U.G.!
As he left, he invited me to visit him in Mill Valley. I thought that it was merely a formal invitation. I said, “OK, thank you,” and didn’t take the invitation seriously.
First Visit to U.G.: I think U.G. came a second time, when Elena, a Russian young lady, was also present. It must be about a month or so after his first visit. I can’t remember much about this visit except that this time he invited both Elena and me to visit him. Again, I didn’t respond except saying “OK, thank you.” But the night before Thanksgiving that year, I got another phone call from Ramesh in Mill Valley saying that U.G. would like to see me, could I come? Earlier, I had built all kinds of excuses in my mind not to go to see U.G. in Mill Valley, that the invitation was only a formality and he wasn’t probably very serious about it; that I didn’t like driving long distances; that my old AMC car wouldn’t make it that far; and that I didn’t like traveling -- to mention a few. But all those excuses had evaporated now, as the invitation this time was so specific and I couldn’t as well turn it down. Also, Kodvatiganti Subbarao, an engineer from Berkeley who worked for the FEMA and was visiting us for Thanksgiving, was leaving on Thanksgiving Day and was willing to give me and Elena a ride to Mill Valley. So, we all three drove to Mill Valley.
We arrived at U.G.’s house in Mill Valley around 5 in the afternoon. Subbarao and U.G. quickly got into an argument on the subject of the Bhagavad Gita. The argument got nowhere and Subbarao left after about an hour.
Julie Wellings, whom I had met long before (in 1975) in Tiruvannamalai, where she was living in Chalam’s household and learning Telugu from Sowris, was also visiting U.G. She brought her own beer that night and drank it, to my surprise. The next day a few pictures were taken.
U.G. gave me a room upstairs with a big (soft) bed and some sheets. Not much else. I couldn’t sleep very well. I was there a couple of nights. The next day in the kitchen, U.G. asked me if I could “look into” the cooking which Kim was doing. I put a few spices like cumin (or anything suitable I could find on the shelf) in the food.
On the second day I was there, Ramesh was also there. Then U.G. went on talking hours on end about his past life, his wife, family and so on. Then a young man visited U.G. He sat at the table and they talked about Zen. U.G. challenged the man, holding a cup in his hand, “Tell me what this is.” “Do you really see this? What do you really see here?” And he kept repeating the questions. Soon he enlisted my help. I remember saying, “There is something funny about Zen. How can anyone certify that someone had satori or enlightenment and to what degree?” U.G. appeared to agree with me.
It was during this visit that Terry brought mimeographed copies of conversations with U.G. (later to become part of The Mystique of Enlightenment) and distributed them to people around. He collected five dollars per copy for the cost of mimeographing. I got a copy for myself.
That was where Elena met Krim, a young American of Russian origin, who had known U.G. in Switzerland and in the U.S. for a number of years. I remember going out for a short walk with them. Apparently, U.G. cautioned to Krim as we were leaving, “Make it, short—kurtz promenade!” That was the beginning of the disastrous relationship between Krim and Elena which ended a few years later. U.G. repeatedly mentioned how he warned him. I wonder if he knew what was to come.
That afternoon, an elderly man and a young couple, all Americans, came to visit U.G. I was told that they were friends of Alan Watts. U.G. received them cordially and soon got involved in a discussion with them. At one stage, I interjected saying something trying to help the discussion and U.G. immediately interrupted me saying, “I want to stop him right there.” I got the message and shut up.
I was ready to leave after two days. Kim was driving Ramesh’s BMW car for U.G. in those days. On the third day, sometime in the afternoon, Kim was ready to drive me to the Bus Depot in San Francisco. (I was going to take a bus, but U.G. would have none of that.) I remember giving a hug to Ramesh and whoever before I left. U.G. decided to drive with us to the bus depot. I felt flattered. At the bus depot, he got out of the car and bid me farewell. I felt so special that he came to see me off there. I bought myself a ticket, got on the bus and returned to Monterey.
* * *
In the beginning of February, 2007, when I heard (I guess from Julie Thayer and Paul Arms) that U.G. had fallen again in the bathroom in his apartment in Italy, I was concerned about his well-being (I was told that this time he had been badly hurt) and called him. The last time this happened it was in 2004. U.G. said he was doing OK and expressed his wish to see me. I called again a week later. Larry answered the phone this time and said that I should come and see U.G. I told Larry that I would try to come in the summer. He said, “No, no, you don’t understand. It’s rather urgent; you should come now.” U.G. picked up the phone and said, “I have to see you before I die. If I don’t see you, I’ll have to die in great pain!” I told Larry, “Let me look online and find a flight. Then I’ll let you know.” The phone went back and forth between U.G. and Larry and I could hear U.G. saying in the background, “Why should he pay? I will pay for his trip.” Larry repeated that to me. Later U.G. asked Sarito and Mario to arrange for my travel as well as for an apartment where I could stay while I visited U.G. in Vallecrosia, Italy.
I left Monterey, California on February 14th morning and arrived late night of February 15, in Nice, France, to be picked up by Mitra, a friend of U.G., and driven to Vallecrosia. Because of some time-zone confusion Mitra had to wait for a couple of hours at the airport. He was so helpful in transporting my suitcase whose handle was broken en route.
The first morning after I arrived, Larry came to pick me up at the hotel where I was staying, after I had called U.G.’s place using Mitra’s cell phone.
When I entered U.G.’s ‘cove’ with Larry, U.G. was lying on the couch and sat up to greet me. He looked frailer than even the last time I had seen him at my home in California in January 2006. I shook his hands after saluting him in the Indian fashion. As I approached him to do so, I could feel myself entering into a vast field of energy in which I was then enveloped. I sat down next to U.G., still holding his hand. Then came that strange feeling I had had a few times before – I could feel no separation between him and me! It was the same energy in both of us! It was the same field in which everyone was engulfed. No wonder U.G. could bind so many people to him!
Just as I expected, the room was filled with people. There was a constant influx of visitors, some of whom would leave after staying a while. The apartment was heated beyond normal levels – we all knew that U.G. liked to keep his surroundings quite warm, almost hot. The heat had the added effect of people not wanting to stay in the room too long.
U.G. expressed his appreciation of me: “You made me what I am today!” I replied, “Nonsense, if anything, it’s the other way round,” or something to that effect, knowing full well that he was exaggerating in his usual fashion.
Later, Guha told me that after I left the room U.G. had said “Moorty played a major role in my life.”
[On another occasion, I was expressing my appreciation to U.G. and said that I was glad to have met him and spent almost a third of my life with him. I also said that he played a major role in my life. Then I started bragging about myself: I said that I had integrated death into my life; it didn’t matter to me if I died the next day. He said that he was ready to die right then and there. I said, “Me too.” And then I started bragging again about my integrating death into my life. U.G. sarcastically replied, “Sounds profound!” Served me right!]
* * *
Vallecrosia is on the Italian Riviera between the towns of Ventimiglia and Bordighera and is about an hour’s drive across the border from Nice, France.
When Louis was drawn into the scene to be asked to read something or do some other chore, he would always add his irreverent humor to whatever he did or said: he would even rock U.G. in the couch by holding the side of the couch up. He would do an improvisation and mimicking of Larry lying with outstretched legs on the sofa, shaking his legs, and such. He would sing the songs he composed about U.G., mostly poking fun at U.G., or he would show his drawings or read from the book he was currently writing on U.G. Whatever he did he would sprinkle it with his creative humor.
Sometimes, Larry would be asked to do his stand-up comedy or read from Chandrasekhar’s book or something someone else had written. Or U.G. himself would read either from the ‘archives’ or from the Internet clippings collected by Lisa. Or, there would be an astrological reading by Nataraj. The cell phones would constantly ring asking to speak to U.G. And there were daily sessions of U.G.’s pulse reading by ‘the doctors’: Dr. Paul Lynn, Dr. Susan Nettleton (now Morris), Ramateertha, Doris and Vibodha. There would be periodic medical consultations about U.G.’s condition, which were more in the spirit of entertainment than serious consultations, because U.G. never really consulted doctors.
One of the pieces of entertainment (there were many) was done by Chin Meyer, a German standup comedian from Berlin. I saw several performances of his, of course, at U.G.’s request and instigation, all of them centering on U.G.’s Money Maxims which Chin translated into German. He would read the English version and sing his German translations. The Germans that gathered there, particularly Nataraj, appreciated the translations very much. As I didn’t know German I couldn’t appreciate them. Later, Chin showed me a video of his performance on the Internet and gave me one of his picture post cards. Obviously, he is well known in Berlin.
To add spice to the scene, occasionally Leonidas chocolates, specially brought by friends from Germany, or some other goodies would be passed around.
* * *
There were occasions when U.G. would ask all his papers to be brought, including clippings Lisa made from references to U.G. on the Internet, he would read from them, or ask Larry or someone else to read from them. Or, Vibodha would be asked to read a piece from the U.G. “Archives” on the computer, U.G. constantly chiding for not finding a piece quickly enough. Sometimes, there is a letter or two from someone and it would be read. Once Sarito was reading a letter from someone who mentioned how U.G. “touched me where no one else has touched me before,” and she broke down into crying herself. Someone else had to finish her reading. She was actually crying for everyone there, for each and every one of them was touched in a similar fashion. U.G. had a special, albeit a different, relationship with each one of us.
And in one of those sessions, U.G. started tearing up many of those papers and ask people to throw them in the fire in the fireplace. Included in those papers were Yashoda’s funny “letters” from the Dalai Lama, Ramana Maharshi and other celebrities and Robert’s U.G.-Marilyn Monroe morphing photos.
* * *
No one could have served U.G. with so much devotion as Louis. It’s not that others wouldn’t have served him well. But he did it all willingly, with gusto and a great sense of humor. U.G. was always grateful to him for his service; he even bought him an Apple laptop with a printer at considerable expense. U.G. would even say that he would give Louis the remaining three hundred thousand dollars, if he would only ‘pack him off’. But neither Louis nor anyone else would do any such thing!
You could sense that U.G. was experiencing pain, although, except rarely, he would not express it. His cardio-spasm was acting up too, as a result of which he was eating even less than normal, which was miniscule to begin with. A small amount of rice sticks, idli or upma or a few sips of orange juice or scalding hot water. He would frequently throw up, mostly liquids. Paper or plastic cups and paper towels or napkins were always on hand to help catch the vomit and clean up. It was obvious he was losing body fluids. His energy levels were diminishing. At times, he would just lie down with his head on the arm of the couch, supported by a pillow and his arms thrown back, and practically gasp for breath. Sometimes, he would just doze off.
A couple of nights I thought his life energies were leaving him. Those two nights, I didn’t see how he could make through the night. But to my utter amazement he would pull through by the morning.
I was encouraging him to get up and take a few steps, with support, of course. He tried to do that and was even able to walk a few steps across the room. He even held Louis’s hands and pretended to make a few dancing steps, to everyone’s delight. All that seemed fine until one morning there was a major setback: apparently, around 4 am he was taken to the bathroom (he was normally transported to the bathroom by being placed in a chair and moved); he stood up and, according to Louis, Louis’s attention was distracted momentarily when he looked at Melissa trying to say something to her, and when he turned around he noticed that U.G.’s eyes were rolling in their sockets and he fainted and collapsed on the toilet seat. Louis had to carry him back to the couch in his arms. As far as I know, U.G. never took another step after that.
* * *
Right the second morning of my stay, just as I entered U.G.’s room, U.G. put me to work in his usual fashion: “Why don’t you make some upma today?” I agreed and immediately recruited Larry and Susan’s help. U.G. in his teasing fashion forbade Larry to cook. But Larry and Susan did go out to get the necessary groceries for the upma. Susan helped me with the cooking. I made a little upma specially for U.G., as he doesn’t eat food with many spices, particularly ginger, with a little extra salt, to suit his taste, and sent to him with someone (I think it was Avner). Avner came back with U.G.’s comment on the upma: “Why did Moorty put so much salt in it?” I sent Avner back with my reply, a counter-question: “Since when has U.G. started complaining about excess salt?” Apparently, when Avner relayed my question to U.G., U.G. smiled.
* * *
Just to stay away from the heat in the apartment, as well as not to crowd U.G. too much, I would sometimes get out of there and sit in the ante-room next to the kitchen, doing this and that. I helped clean up Lisa’s laptop since she was complaining about how slow it was. Soon, thanks to her publicity, I ended up doing the same for Avner’s and Paul Lynn’s laptops. I also made CD’s on request, copying some of the Indian music I had played earlier to everyone in U.G.’s room.
* * *
One morning, there was the talk of the “Swan Song” that U.G. had earlier dictated to Louis which was now only on Louis’s computer. U.G. wanted me to edit it (one of his ‘chores’ for me). It took me an hour or so to edit it. The English needed work and the piece wasn’t all that coherent. I tried to make it a little better. I transmitted it by e-mail to Louis who, if I remember right, printed it with the help of Sarito’s printer. I think it was read to U.G. and the rest of the audience. The piece is now posted on U.G.’s website as well as in several other places.
* * *
Another morning, U.G. was talking away and was trying rather unsuccessfully to remember a Sanskrit verse about Vedantins, Naiyayikas, Bauddhas and other philosophers. I told U.G. that it was possible to get the exact verse from the Internet. He said “Do it.” I went into the ante-room and fished for the verse on the Internet. It didn’t take long. I wrote it in Sanskrit and showed it to him. He said he would be more comfortable reading it in the Telugu script. So I wrote it in the Telugu script on another sheet and he was able to read it with ease. I told him that the verse was written by Sri Krishna Chaitanya, the founder of the Chaitnaya movement, and related the legend of a conversation between him and Raghunatha, the Navya-Nyaya philosopher who was his fellow student. Chaitanya apparently was also a good scholar in Nyaya except that he didn’t believe that logic would help one to attain liberation. So while saying this, as they were crossing the river on a boat, Chaitanya threw the logic manuscript he was holding in his hand into the river.
* * *
Mahesh came about a week or so after I arrived. When U.G. was asking Mario to look for a place for him, I told U.G. that I had a room vacant in my apartment which no one was using, so why not he stay there. U.G. agreed and put him up there. The night Mahesh first arrived, he kissed me on the forehead and thanked me for the fast editing job I had done for him recently (on his journal concerning U.G.). There was not much conversation between Mahesh and me. For the week or two he was there, (I would say about 10 days), I would make coffee for him in the mornings and offer him some cashew nuts or a little piece of bread. Then he would leave early in the morning to see U.G. and spend the rest of the day in the villa.
Mahesh had a central role to play around U.G. He had a special relationship with U.G. U.G. would let Mahesh touch his feet with his head, (or U.G. would rub Mahesh’s head with his foot), kiss him on the forehead, make violent gestures (in jest) or crack crude jokes at him, and what not. I too thought this was the time to put aside all my background and pride and prostate once and for all in front of the energy called U.G. First, he tried to prevent me. But I said, “You would let Mahesh do all that, why can’t I?” and forced myself on him. After he left, Mahesh came again later, after I was gone, at U.G.’s behest.
* * *
Usha, U.G.’s daughter, arrived in the latter half of my stay, after being stalled in Bombay when her Italian and Swiss visas were delayed. Apparently, there was a screw-up in the bureaucratic process, thanks to the ineptitude of Mahesh Bhatt’s travel agent. Chandrasekhar and Suguna, who were supposed to arrive with her, had a worse fate. Their Italian visa was not only delayed, but Chandrasekhar had to go through an interview at the Italian Consulate.
Usha’s arrival was a major event. Everyone was, of course, glad to see her. (She was U.G.’s ‘darling daughter’.) As soon as she came in, she sat next to him and started nursing him, massaging his legs and feet with oil, as a daughter would minister to her father’s needs. She made some upma or idli for him. She wanted to give him a bath on a stool (she was going get stuff ready for it), but U.G. would have none of that. (U.G. had not had a bath in a month or so. Yet, there was not the slightest smell on him! He was clean like a whistle!).
I renewed my acquaintance with Usha. (I had met her before both in India and the U.S.) She wanted lessons in computing. I gave her a couple, teaching her basics of fingering on the keyboard, setting up and accessing e-mail, writing replies to e-mails, and such. Having been a teacher herself, she was a fast learner. When I left, I said she should continue her learning with the help of Chandrasekhar or someone else. I don’t know if she ever did, because later, when I wrote her an e-mail, I never got a reply.
* * *
As I said before, Chandrasekhar and Suguna weren’t able come with Usha. Mario and others were pressing me to stay on. I too was telling people how sorry I was that I wouldn’t be able to see Chandrasekhar, having come that far. I had another reason to see Chandrasekhar: I just finished translating the third series of his book Stopped in Our Tracks and I wanted to give him a CD of the book personally and talk to him about both that and his Second Series. I had also finished translating the Second Series recently and brought a printed-and-bound copy of it to present to U.G.
Of course, people had been reading passages from the Second Series to the crowd that gathered around. Guha apparently had read the chapter on the Upanishads in that book. U.G. expressed his appreciation of that chapter to me and mentioned what a good a scholar Chandrasekhar was. (I relayed that comment to Chandrasekhar later.) I told U.G. that the following chapter in the book called “The Upanishads and U.G.” was even more interesting and that he should read it. I don’t know if he ever read it or anyone read it to him. The book was going on its rounds and people were reading parts of it. In fact, U.G.’s granddaughter Kusuma, who was also visiting from the U.S., and Lisa proofread it and caught some typos in it. Lisa asked me to read the last chapter in the book which I had titled, “A Prayer to U.G.” Lisa made a video of my reading. As usual, the reading was interjected now and then with U.G.’s exclamations and ‘editorial comments’.
Finally, word got around to U.G., and about the 26th of February, when I went to see U.G. that morning, he asked me, “Could we persuade you to stay a little longer?” I said fine. I extended my stay till the 9th of March. Sarito called the British Airways, and I talked to them and rearranged my flight right then and there.
* * *
Chandrasekhar and Suguna didn’t arrive until the 8th afternoon. I and Mitra went to Nice to receive them at the airport. I only had that half-day to spend with him, as I left on the morning of the 9th.
When we arrived at U.G.’s, as usual there were a lot of shoes outside, and the living room was packed with people. I think first Suguna entered and then Chandrasekhar. As she went in, Suguna broke out crying, “U.G., why is this happening to you?” or something to that effect, in Telugu. Then you could hear U.G. answering in Telugu with his own crying voice, “Why are you crying?” That was most touching to everyone around. U.G.’s affection to her was boundless. She is a pure soul!
* * *
One day, being tired of his talk, I asked U.G., “U.G., what prevents you from dying now?" U.G. replied, “I want to go, but the body doesn’t let me!” He made that statement several times before. I tried to interject, “If you care about what the body is trying to say, you should pay attention to it, nurture it and bring it back to full life, instead of neglecting it and letting it go!” But he reacted rather sharply, speaking of my “school-boy logic” and so on.
One thing remarkable about U.G. was his attitude toward his condition: You might sometimes hear him groan in his pain or gasp for breath, but he always remained unconcerned about his health and well-being. He never, ever once worried about what was happening to him. I heard him roar once: “Do you think I care about whether I live or die?” He was never the ‘frightened chicken’ which he accused people of being when they were afraid of disease or death.
After giving an account of the money left with him, U.G. was constantly saying that he would give the remaining $300,000 to anyone who would pack him off. Then there was plenty of joking around that. I told him that I would do that and he could give the money to me. He said no, I wouldn’t do it. I said, I could strangle him or give him ‘the kiss of death’ and what not. Louis was doing his own part in the joking: he would say he could make minced meat out of the body of U.G., make patties out of it and distribute it to everyone, to put catsup on and eat. And so on. This joking would go on endlessly.
One morning, I had prepared a scheme for a ‘mortal combat’ with U.G. and was waiting for Mahesh to arrive on the scene so he would record it. (Mahesh had been taking copious notes so he could write a book on his days with U.G. later. Of course, he would chide U.G. saying, “You say you are dying, U.G., but you are not going to die!”) This mortal combat would be a kind of answer to U.G.’s repeated statement, “I want to go, but my body doesn’t want to go.” When Mahesh arrived, I was massaging U.G.’s legs along with Usha (I wanted to try a certain massage, Bowen style, which I learned from Linda, my ex-wife). As I was massaging, I stood up and said “Here are the three conditions (terms) for the mortal combat: 1) It’s a combat of debating until one of us dies; 2) We only use rules of logic and nothing else; and 3) No bullying on U.G.’s part.” I am not sure if anyone was amused by my idea.
My complaint to U.G. essentially was that if he treats his body as something separate from him (or if it is the same as him, as a matter of fact), he should listen to his body and do its bidding, since he often claims that the body can take care of all its problems. I said that he as ‘U.G.’ was not letting his body take care of itself. (He did admit that ‘U.G.’ was a nuisance.) If he did, he would listen to the body’s demands. The body was demanding nourishment and freedom from pain, and wanted to get some help in that direction. It wanted to get well. I added: “It’s ‘U.G.’ I want to kill and let his body take care of the problems. It’s that ‘U.G.’ who is subjecting the body to all the diet philosophy and other kinds of ‘crap’ and screwing it up!” U.G. right away agreed it was ‘crap’!
I don’t think U.G. heard any of that. But that’s how he was. In a sense he was right. He in fact told people later that U.G. was already dead. He was just waiting for the body to go. And he would give no encouragement (except the minimal food or elimination) for the body to linger or carry on. And that’s precisely what happened: he let the body wither away slowly on its own. It took a long time and he was deteriorating day by day, until finally he gave up when no one was around. He made sure (as he is always known to, when he wanted people out, he could always conspire toward that end) that the three who were attending him (Mahesh, Larry and Susan) were out for about 15 minutes for a cup of coffee and then he breathed his last.
Ten days before that, after everyone had left the room, he asked Mahesh to go out and tell everyone to “go back to where you all came from and not sneak around in the corners to try to see him.” Larry and Susan also left, but when they arrived at the airport in Nice, they were called back. Usha also was sent away, as well as Chandrasekhar and Suguna. (I believe that if I had stayed on I would have met the same fate.) Mario and Sarito were asked to hang around in town to do any chores that were necessary. Guha had come back after going earlier to India with Lakshmi and their children, saying goodbye to U.G., in spite of U.G. telling him not to return. He didn’t have the heart to stay away, but when he came back he still had to stay out along with others. So he hovered around in town with his cell phone (every one of these people had cell phones).
U.G. gave clear instructions to Mahesh that there would be no funeral. And there was to be no ceremony of any kind. His body was incinerated locally. Of course, Susan was on hand to take care of any death certification process that was needed, as she is a medical doctor. I don’t know what happened to the ashes that were collected from the incineration. I believe that Mahesh took them with him to India; but I don’t know that. I heard that Mitra was asked to take the few of U.G.'s personal belongings to Gstaad and I do not know their final disposition. I also heard that Sarito was left in charge of the ‘German’ funds to be disbursed according to U.G.’s wishes. Mahesh was left in charge of the other funds, mostly to be given away to deserving young girls of Indian origin studying abroad. There was a ‘will’ which U.G. had dictated to Mahesh and which was read aloud in some gatherings, but I don’t think it will have any valid legal status. As for the apartment which was already rented for U.G. in Gstaad till the end of August, U.G. invited any of his friends to come and stay there for free and enjoy themselves.
Sometime toward the end of my stay, Yashoda collected money from those present to buy a tree and present it to Lucia and Giovanni, the hosts, in token of the appreciation of the group that had gathered there for their gracious and wonderful hospitality. They would plant the tree in their yard in memory of U.G.
* * *
The night before I was to leave, I gave a little talk addressing everyone present there: I said how I appreciated everyone taking such good care of U.G., especially Louis. What Louis did for U.G no one else could do, including myself, I said. Everyone worked together like a family, I continued, like an orchestra without a conductor: everything got done and no one was there to tell them what to do. I mentioned the names of various people from various countries and I also made references to some who were not present, particularly Julie Thayer.
* * *
U.G.’s apartment was built for him by his friends Lucia, Anita and Giovanni in their villa in Vallecrosia, Italy. It was right behind one of the main streets of the town and was an annex to the two-story main-building. Sandwiched between these two was the kitchen with a dining ante-room with steps leading upstairs and a door which led to the back street. The villa had spacious gardens with lemon and orange orchards and a grass lawn. There were reclining lawn chairs as well other chairs and a couple of tables. The grounds were constantly kept clean by the very hard-working Lucia. As you entered from the main gate, you went on a paved path through an arch to reach U.G.’s apartment. Outside this apartment, you could see dozens of shoes on the stone floor. At times, there was also a black cat hanging around.
In the ante-room there was a window overlooking the grove, a table and several chairs, and places for people to leave their belongings. People always left their shoes outside even here. They put their computers and other paraphernalia on the table. For the computers, there was a slow and tentative broadband connection which could only handle a couple of connections at a time. People sometimes had trouble getting on the Internet, but with Mitra’s and others’ help they sometimes had better luck.
A glass door let you into U.G.’s apartment. The red curtains to the wide glass windows on the walls were almost always closed to prevent the intense daylight from bothering the resting U.G. On the right of the entrance was U.G.’s bedroom, with his bed and his few belongings such as some clothes, ‘archives’ and other papers.
The living room was rather small; it had a fireplace and had light fixtures which gave plenty of light when needed.
On the left was the entrance into the small bathroom and a cooking place with a microwave, a stove and a refrigerator.
* * *
My hotel apartment was on the sixth floor in an apartment building with a pizza restaurant and shops in the first floor. You had a grand view of the Mediterranean from my bedroom and another spectacular view of the Mediterranean as well as of the beach road with tall buildings on one side and tall lamp-posts with double hanging-lights, on the other.
* * *
After I arrived, I learned the details of U.G.’s fall in the bathroom which had happened about five or six weeks before. According to his own account, U.G. fell in the bathroom, got injured on his leg, his head hit the sink and was bleeding, and he fainted. When he regained consciousness, he heard knocking at the door in the living room. It was around 5 in the morning. He slowly crawled his way on the floor to the door and was able to open the door. It was Avner making his early morning call. He saw U.G.’s condition and helped him to the couch.
Since then U.G. had round-the-clock caretakers, the most constant of whom were Louis and Melissa. But many others were at his beck-and-call, performing sundry chores: minding the fireplace (Avner from Israel), taking care of accounts (Sarito from Germany), cooking and feeding (Melissa, Trisha, Larry and Susan, Anandi, Lakshmi, Kathy from Hungary, Lucia, Golda from Australia, Paul Arms and Viresha, and so on), out door chores such as transportation, airline bookings, finding places to stay for people who visited (Mitra and Mario) and last but not the least, photo and video shooting (Lisa and Avner and others). People took turns to cook. There were some phenomenal gourmet meals, all of them vegetarian, especially from Melissa (her great soup!) and our hostess, Lucia. Golda made her famous chai. It is thanks to Lisa and Avner that we a record of many of the happenings around U.G. in his last days. The recording abruptly stopped because for one thing, Lisa had to leave with me on March 9, and for another, about ten days before he breathed his last, U.G. asked Mahesh to go out of the room and announce to everyone to "go back to where you all came from, and not sneak around corners!”
In spite of the looming tragedy, there was a sort of festive atmosphere in the air. [It must, however, be mentioned that at the times when U.G. was resting, you could notice that people sitting around him looked quite solemn and somber.] People were joking around U.G. and U.G. never quit his ranting and raving and teasing and scolding people. His hyperboles, particularly about himself, knew no bounds. In the anteroom next to the kitchen, in the kitchen and outside on the patio, people were chatting away, e-mailing, chatting on the Internet, transferring videos and photos they had taken on to their computers and so on and so forth. The place was abuzz from morning six to evening about 8 pm.
Why were all these people so attracted to U.G.? On the one hand, they considered him as their spiritual master guiding them in their lives. On the other hand, thanks to their belief in his ‘supernatural’ powers, they were looking to him for help in worldly matters as well, to become successful in career, money or success in other areas. Some regarded him as an invaluable friend, who was always loyal to them and who couldn’t be replaced by anyone else. Some were simply in love with him. Many of them also regarded him as a father figure, giving them that love and affection which they received from nowhere else. Their respect, love and obedience abounded to the point that they totally disregarded any apparent abuse by him.
Nothing explains better all these relationships than the one crowning factor, namely, that U.G. represents to many the end of a search: you feel with U.G. you have come ‘to the end of the road’. There is nothing beyond. No wonder he became such a ‘reference point’ (to use Julie’s expression) for many of us. Such was U.G.’s magical spell on those around him!
U.G. did ask several people, including me, to visit him one last time before he died. But some he didn’t. It’s not clear what his logic was behind this. Whatever it was, it was clear that when people didn’t come to visit him, he never showed any disappointment. You are always left with the impression that his invitations were extended to people for their benefit, and not for his, just to give them one last chance to visit him.
I cannot but be impressed by the mutual cordiality which people expressed to one another in this group. Not just respect, but affection and friendship. I know that at least some of them will remain friends with me even after U.G.’s death. With the others I feel that I could renew my friendship any time I might choose or when an opportunity might present itself; then it would be like I saw them only yesterday.
* * *
I told U.G. and everyone present that whichever way he decided, whether he decided to stay or leave, we would respect his decision. If he decided to live and carry on, I would be glad to see him again in Seaside. On the other hand, if he decided to leave, that would be his decision, and we would respect that.
I thought, in the back of my mind, that U.G. might want to ask me to postpone my departure further; but that wasn’t forthcoming. And, as far as I was concerned, it wasn’t so clear to me that U.G. was going to die; there was some possibility that he could kick back, as he did once before, a few years ago, and hang on. But, I didn’t want to sit there on my own initiative and keep a death watch. For some reason, that didn’t make such sense to me. For one thing, U.G. said several times he wanted to leave everyone here and ask someone to drive him to Gstaad where he would settle all his affairs and simply disappear.
On the eve of my departure, I said my goodbyes to all friends. I asked U.G. if he would be available at 5:30 in the morning to say good bye. He said, “Why 5:30, you can come at 5:00. I will be up most of the night anyway.” Lisa was going to leave at the same time and travel with me to London where we would be going our separate ways, I to Seaside and she to Palm Springs. Mitra was to take me to U.G.’s with my bags at 5:00 am. I hardly slept that night. By the time we arrived at U.G.’s, Chandrasekhar and Suguna, Larry and Susan, Guha, Goldie, Lucia were there. So were Kathy, Avner, Usha, Golda and several others. I said good bye to everyone once again. I prostrated one final time at U.G.’s feet to show my respects.
* * *
I feel, and I am sure that he was not unaware of it himself, that irrespective of all my ambivalences and ambiguities, there is a fundamental feeling non-separation from U.G.
I can’t say I really miss U.G. Sure, he is gone. But the unity I felt, the identity, the energy, they are not gone. It’s just like I always said, “Whatever real is there in U.G., it is here now!” I am not real fundamentally. And what is real is always there with or without U.G., and with or without me.
One could ask whether I feel the same ‘non-separation’ between myself and other people as well. The answer is, in principle, yes. But most of the time it doesn’t surface, because my conditioning and background keep operating and prompt me to react to what others say or do, thus creating a division between me and others. In U.G.’s case, however, these reaction mechanisms were at least temporarily, on some occasions, suspended. There was no room for them to arise, at least for that moment. Then it’s not that I actually felt that there were two ‘non-separate’ people, but rather that I felt as if there was just that field of energy, which I could feel any time I step outside of my reaction mechanism.
You could feel the same way in intense moments of love, when the separation between you and your lover is gone. Then it’s not that you feel you two are united into one, but you touch on the underlying energy field which exists everywhere and in everyone and in you and me. Of course, we can’t remain there. The world has to go on and have its play and we are part of the play. We act and we react to other people. We get involved and then we get disengaged. But fundamentally there is only that energy!