Parveen Babi has always been unpredictable. In her life. In her loves. In almost anything she has done.
Her career in films brought her runaway success. It also brought her terrifying loneliness, and an anguish that haunted her and left her life in shambles. The emptiness and despair brought her to the brink of madness, again and again.
She tried to opt out several times. And each time she failed. She returned to films, to ride wave after wave of success. Cruel success. Success that brought her greater suffering, greater loneliness.
And then, some months back, she suddenly vanished from the scene. No one knew where she had gone. Rumours were rife about another mental breakdown after seeing Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth, the film based on their relationship. Others said she had gone off with U.G. Krishnamurti, the latest guru on the booming religion circuit. Producers are going broke waiting for her. The industry is scared. Will she ever come back?
In this fascinating autobiographical piece, Parveen Babi breaks her silence. In her quite, superbly-written style, she explains what went wrong and why. What the future holds in store for her. The way she wants to live her life.
Over to Parveen Babi.
For the past six years the famous Indian actress, Parveen Babi has been struggling with problems, decisions, and personal crises, heretofore reported solely by way of speculation and gossip. What follows is her own first–hand account of her life during these trying years, which she calls a fragment of my life.
In writing this heart-felt self-expose, Parveen Babi also puts to rest many of the absurd and ill-informed rumours regarding her close friend, confidant, mentor, and traveling companion, U.G. Krishnamurti. One clearly senses the forceful, though mysteriously benign influence this enigmatic, infuriating and unconventional man has had upon her and her welcomed recovery.
By now everything that is conceivable must have been written and said about Parveen Babi. Gossip, speculations and may be even accusations galore. Under these circumstances there is just one person who can clarify everything once and for all. Parveen Babi herself and that is precisely what she is doing.
Yes, I am she, and I am going to once and for all clarify the entire situation as best as I can.
On July 30th, 1983, I boarded a flight out of the country, leaving behind my home, my family, my friends, my career, my country, my everything! Why?
I arrived in Switzerland via London to be with a person called U.G. Krishnamurti. Again, why? Who is this person? What is my relationship with him? These are a few questions everybody must ask and I am going to answer them. But before I begin, let me make one thing very clear—I am not playing ‘hooky’ from work for my personal pleasure. My intention never was and never will be to in any manner to harm or hurt the film industry in general, or any of my producers in particular.
To understand my actions you will have to first understand the events of my life over the past few years. More important, you will have to understand this man called U.G. Krishnamurti, as I understand him. He has in the last few years played such an important part in my life that it would be impossible to talk about my life without talking about him.
In the year 1978, in Bombay, I walked into somebody’s middle-class, suburban living room to meet U.G. Krishnamurti. I was at the time already an upcoming star of the Hindi film industry. I had already appeared on the prestigious Time magazine cover and deeply in love with the dashing actor, Kabir Bedi. In spite of having practically everything going for me in life, I constantly suffered from a feeling of dissatisfaction. Disillusionment with existing reality …is what had taken me to the famous philosopher, J. Krishnamurti and had now brought me to the doorstep of U.G. Krishnamurti. This was part of my spiritual search.
Kabir and I first heard about U.G. Krishnamurti from a director friend, Mahesh Bhatt, who referred to him as the ‘Second Krishnamurti’, and described him as ‘a mind blowing guy’. It was he who took us both to meet U.G. Krishnamurti that particular afternoon.
The ‘mind blowing guy’ turned out to be a small, simple, mild mannered man in loose-fitting kurta and pyjamas. He was accompanied by an old European lady with exceptionally bright eyes. She was introduced to us as Valentine de Kervan from Switzerland. Our friend Mahesh told us she ‘looked after’ U.G. Krishnamurti. There was nothing seemingly extraordinary about this man. He looked and behaved like any other ordinary man on the street. Yet, when Valentine handed us a copy of his biography, the events of this man’s life defied all the known, logical, psychological, physical and scientific conventions. It talked about the physical transformation he had gone through in this forty-ninth year, when ‘each cell in the body exploded’, when he actually died ‘a clinical, physical death’, and was brought back to life by a phone call from a friend. He called these events ‘the calamity’. I interpreted it as the attainment of enlightenment. My interpretation was based on the reading I had done of the similar events described in various books of J. Krishnamurti.
We asked U.G. about what happened to him after the calamity, about his present state. Was he functioning differently now? He said that ‘the calamity’ had wiped out everything-–his entire past. Through a complete physical and biological transformation he was freed from time. The change took place not because of what he had or had not done but in spite of what he had or had not done. After the physical transformation, he fell into what he calls ‘the natural state’—a computer-like, animal-like state of being—a constant state of wonder.
He had to relearn everything like a two-year-old child, which he did with the help of the Valentine. In the ‘natural state’ he said the thoughts are there, only there is nothing linking them together and giving them continuity and perpetuity. The more I heard, the more I believed that I was meeting the second enlightened man in my life, the first being J.K. of course!
Our conversations invariably drifted to J.K.—we were all J.K. regulars and admirers and we had heard that U.G. at one time had associated with the Theosophical Society and J.K., and that later in life he had broken the association walked out on both.
Now, by the very mention of J.K.’s name U.G. flew into a near rage. He blasted J.K.’s teachings. “He sits there and throws empty words and phrases at you,” and even went a step further to call him a ‘phoney’! U.G.’s extreme views on J.K. made me uncomfortable and offended the J.K. loyalist in me. But in spite of it all I liked this man. There was so much else that was nice and warm and pleasant about him that I could not walk out and forget him. In any case I thought both U.G. and J.K. were talking about the same things—a complete transformation of one’s being—in their own different ways. I was not ready to believe that J.K. was a ‘phoney’. On the other hand, there was a possibility that U.G. himself was one: a crook, a hoax—how was I to know? I had no apparatus to give either of them an ‘enlightenment test’; I had absolutely no way of finding out.
We discussed ‘love’ in man-woman relationship. I needed desperately to believe in it. I was up to my nose in love with Kabir. I don’t remember U.G.’s exact reply to the question of love, but I do remember it was neither comforting nor reassuring. It was quite the contrary—it was the truth I did not want to face.
After spending about two hours with him, Kabir and I took our leave. U.G. stood on the balcony waving goodbye. As we were getting into the car, U.G. observed to Mahesh standing beside him that my relationship with Kabir will not survive.
My relationship with Kabir did not survive. Though I gave all I had to keep my relationship with him from breaking. It broke. And so did I—may be a little, from inside.
At my next meeting with U.G. I found myself indirectly playing hostess to him and Valentine in Bombay. The friend with whom they used to stay had sold his house and now they had no home in Bombay. I arranged, for them, a small apartment in Juhu, and tried in my own way to make their stay comfortable.
A lot had happened in my life since my first meeting with U.G. I had left my film career for my love, Kabir, and had gone to live with him in Europe. Kabir in the meanwhile had fallen in love with his career and things had started to go wrong between us.
I had returned to India and to the film industry. For the first time in my life I had realized that I was on my own, alone, to fend, defend and provide for my self. I had also realized that money, as a means to survival, is one of the most important things in the world, and I was going to earn it. I had started working hard, had become a disciplined professional, had even become ambitious (an emotion I had always denounced and kept away from). The breakup with Kabir had been in many ways a turning point in my life.
In old friend, Mahesh Bhatt, I had found a comforting new love and companionship.
I was at this point in my life with U.G. Sitting in the apartment at Juhu, he playfully looked at the palm of my hand and said, “there is going to be another break in your career”. God! That’s all I needed now! I needed another break in my career like I needed a hole in my head! I was still struggling to recover what I had lost when I had walked out on my career to follow Kabir. I asked him if it was a mystical, clairvoyant prediction. He said it was ‘only an educated guess’. Though I could not conceive any such possibility, his educated guess disturbed me. My career was the center of my existence, it was all I had and I didn’t want to lose it. I said to myself—it was impossible! I was working hard, working well. I had 20 films on hand, enough work to occupy me for next five years. Producers were happy with me, audiences liked me—so why would be there be a break? I didn’t need it—I didn’t want it and I was determined not to have it. I examined every logical, rational possibility—the future of my career looked sound. The only two things I didn’t think of were death or crippling ill health, but then the possibilities of such things don’t come into the head of a 25-year-old, perfectly healthy, fairly successful, glamorous movie star. These two things happen only to the others!
This time Mahesh and I spent a lot of time with U.G. in the Juhu apartment. I was genuinely curious to know more about this man, whom I thought to be enlightened. Was he really? What was his life—public and private? Did he have a sex life? Did he have any powers? What was his relationship with Mme Valentine?
Whenever I had time I found myself in U.G.’s company. I didn’t ask any questions, but I listened a lot. Most of what he said was beyond comprehension for me. But what little I did understand and agree with was this: He hated the term ‘enlightenment’. He said there was no such thing as enlightenment as it has been described in the holy Scriptures and by numerous spiritual mystics and kooks. The idea of enlightenment being a state of bliss and beautitude was false. The state he was in was a state of perpetual physical discomfort and pain—not bliss. He seemed bent upon taking the poetic and the lyrical out of enlightenment, which is what attracted so many people to the concept. He equally hated the terms pure, unconditional love and compassion—he said nobody who talked about it knew anything about it either.
His main message of purpose seemed to be to dissuade people from their search for the utopian concept of the state of enlightenment. He said nobody was going to find it, because that state of being does not exist. The natural state in which he himself had stumbled could not be attained or achieved through any conscious effort, religious practice or spiritual discipline. Its nature was ‘acausal’, and it could happen to anybody—it would happen regardless of anything. His favourite phrase was, ‘You can kill the new born baby or your next door neighbour and you would still have as much, even more, of a chance of stumbling into your natural state than, say, a yogi, who has spent all his time praying and practicing the spiritual path.’
With the understanding of this, my personal spiritual search ended. I started visiting U.G. more on a friendly social level, and not with the hope of getting somewhere spiritually. The pretentiousness of compassion dropped away and I became a little more myself.
I often heard him tell people that there is only this world. This is the reality and the only reality. So stop chasing enlightenment and get on with your work, family and daily lives.
I was also beginning to see the basic difference between what U.G. was saying and what J.K. was saying. J.K. indirectly, subtly gave hope of attaining something different, something better, than the existing reality. He talked about ‘radical change’ through ‘awareness’—U.G. gave no hope whatsoever, and promised nothing better to anybody. After grasping a bit of what U.G. was saying, I could not go back to listen to J.K. again. At the same time I could not brush him aside completely, with authority, as did U.G.
As far as his lifestyle was concerned, the first thing I realized was that, unlike all of us, he was only one person. We all lead two lives simultaneously, private and public. We are almost two different people in private and public. This duality is missing in his life. Except for closing the toilet door, for the sake of decency, he seemed to have nothing to hide from anybody, anytime.
Unlike other spiritual leaders and holy men, he had no closely guarded inner sanctum. In the Juhu apartment he gave the only bedroom to Valentine and he himself slept out on the balcony. His clothes lacked the glamour of flowing white robes usually associated with spiritual personalities. Rather than trying to look different from the rest of the world, U.G.’s constant effort and obsession seemed to be to function like an ordinary man in this world. He often said, “If there is anything to this ‘natural state’ it has to function in this world, in day to day life, not away from it in some cave.”
While he stayed in the Juhu apartment I observed his routine. He rose early in the morning, went for a walk, had his breakfast, and usually received people who dropped in. All kinds of people came, actors, writers, businessmen, film directors, producers, hippies, religious buffs, westerners, followers of various other gurus. A maximum were J.K. followers. U.G. attracted them like a magnet—he called them J.K. freaks.
There was also a gentleman who called himself ‘Ambassador of God’. He wore shirts embroidered with his title and messages of love and peace. It was truly a democratic congregation. Unlike other gurus I knew of who granted specific private audiences to the rich and famous, I observed that U.G. truly didn’t make any distinction, especially between rich and poor, or celebrities and nobodies. He was available to all at any time of the day or night. His special advice to Valentine was never to turn anybody away from his doorstep, irrespective of time or his own personal circumstance. He always dropped his personal chores and attended to whoever came to see him.
He sat there day after day. Ten, maybe 12 hours, talking with people. He spoke relentlessly and with tremendous certainty and authority.
About sex, he said, referring to himself, “Such an individual is incapable of the physical act of sex or reproduction.” What about powers? Did he possess any? Well, a friend tried to record his conversation and the tapes ran blank. Lots of people got cheap thrills thinking it was a miracle. U.G. personally attributed it to mechanical failure, and I agreed with him.
U.G. did not possess any money or property anywhere in the world, which he could call his own. Valentine had inherited a moderate sum of money from her father and at one point in her life and entrusted the money, and her life, to the hands of U.G. They lived on that money. U.G. never concealed the fact that Valentine was financially providing for him. He seemed to accept the situation most rationally without any feelings of shame and guilt. On the other hand, one never sensed the superior attitude of the provider in Valentine. In fact, it was she who was more dependent on U.G. She was fiercely loyal to him. She was an exceptional woman in her own right. A thoroughly secular woman, she was not in the least interested in spiritual matters.
Still, she gave him shelter. In her youth she had been a film producer, a revolutionary, and had crossed the Sahara desert on a motorcycle!!! She was one of the first women to wear pants and have a contract marriage in the bourgeois societies of Paris and Switzerland in the 30s.
In 1963, when in her 60s, she had met a destitute drifter, U.G., in the Indian embassy where she worked. She gave him shelter, and ever since then she has stayed with U.G. through his ‘calamity’ and all. Theirs is a truly unique relationship. It is not a husband-wife, or a mother-son, or a brother-sister relationship. U.G. comes closest in naming it—“We are fellow travelers” he says.
They both traveled all over the world as friends; he said that they traveled to stretch the buck and to escape severe heat or cold.
When it got too hot in Bombay, U.G. decided to visit Mahabaleshwar.
I took a few days off and accompanied him with Mahesh and three other European friends of his. We rented a small house there, took turns running the kitchen, went for long walks and talked about everything from divinity to show-biz gossip. It turned out to be one of the loveliest holidays I have ever spent. For those eight days I felt totally carefree and happy. It was very peaceful to be with U.G. He always seemed so full of care for everybody. He smiled a lot—it was an open smile and at times it tuned mischievous, like a child’s and then he would say, “I have powers”. At other times he would look at his foot, point to his toe, and say, “What is that this foot cannot do!” He always made these statements with such casualness and playfulness that it was left entirely up to you to credit or discredit those statements. Most of the time we just listened, half amused, half in awe, but always without any proof of what that foot can or cannot do!
He constantly suffered from physical pain and discomfort specifically around full-moon time. Big bead like glands would swell around his neck in a necklace-like formation. Sometimes two horn-like glands swelled up in his head. He would show them to us; by now we were getting quite used to these extraordinary things that were happening to this extraordinary man.
During the course of the day U.G. would drop a word here, a sentence there, of such truth, value and honesty that it would stick in your mind permanently without any conscious effort. U.G. seemed to effect us most at the subliminal level.
Finally it was time for U.G. and Valentine to move on. He had friends all over the world, and wherever he went he was always surrounded by old friends and new acquaintances.
Back in Bombay I still could not perceive any break in my career. It was moving on an upward graph. The future seemed bright, the present, comfortable. Also my relationship with Mahesh was settling into a comfortable groove. The following year Mahesh and I went to Gstaad, Switzerland, for a holiday with U.G. It was strange to see U.G. in western clothes. He said it was practical and comfortable to wear them in the west, considering the weather conditions and the life-style. He also disliked standing out from among the crowd by the wearing of Indian clothes. They (U.G. and Valentine) lived in a small, rented chalet. Gstaad is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, so beautiful in fact that years ago it made U.G. get off the train and make it his semi-permanent home. U.G. was very active and efficient in the west. He cooked, shopped in supermarkets for food and clothes, dealt efficiently with banking and finance—like any other average westerner.
His routine life-style continued even there. Friends and strangers dropped in to see him with questions and problems, and U.G. went on singing his song. After having observed him for more than two years, I could sum up his life-style with a paradox; he lived a life neither like that of a saint—going through life abstaining from everything, nor that of a sinner—indulging in everything.
Every time I met U.G., I liked him a little more. There was something about him that made him very trustworthy. Somewhere deep within myself I felt here was a man I could trust who would not take advantage of me in any manner.
I also felt that if U.G. betrayed my trust then there was nobody worthy of trust in this world. It was a very extreme emotion to feel, but I felt it strongly. In my mind I had put U.G. on a pedestal, reserved for the perfect human being who could do no wrong—U.G. confirmed my belief. “It is not the question of whether I will or will not do something wrong. Such an individual (one who is in the natural state) is singularly incapable of doing wrong” he explained. It was not because of any moral, ethical, or social reasons—it was just so.
Since I had known U.G. I had never seen him use, manipulate, or exploit either people or situations for his personal gain. It was this trait that made him so special, so trustworthy, and so different from the rest of the world, myself included.
One afternoon, I was sitting in the garden talking to him about Mahesh when he commented that my relationship with Mahesh will certainly end. No! I did not need a third broken relationship in my life. I had already been through two and that was quite enough. How I wished I could brush aside U.G.’s comments and forget about them, but I couldn’t. It disturbed me deeply. I could neither believe it nor could I disbelieve it. Though U.G. maintained that there was nothing clairvoyant about his comment—it was not a prediction, only an ‘educated guess’—at the same time he told me that “no thought that enters my head can ever be wrong.” He left it at that, without any further discussion.
I returned to Bombay and to work. My career had never looked better. I was looking, feeling and working better than I ever had. I was already in the running for a number one role. There wasn’t a film being made in Bombay without Parveen Babi in it. Everybody was amazed at my successful comeback.
A lot of people were turning green with envy and everybody was giving credit to my ‘luck’. Let me assure you it was no luck; it was pure sweat, tears and heartbreaking hard work. To the onlookers my position seemed ideal. Any girl would have given anything to be in my shoes, but I was beginning to feel the pinch. The struggle for survival in showbiz, its pressures and its demands, were getting at me. I was too much, and too far, into it to give it up now. I was almost half way and the only thing I could do was to push ahead. I continued to push.
One day I was sitting in my make-up room with full film make up, when I noticed that my skin had lost its luster, my foundation had turned dark on my face. I felt deep fear in the pit of my stomach. That was the beginning of my nightmare.
For the next two days I tried desperately to continue working. I kept on reporting for work in that condition, suppressing and controlling my fear, until finally one afternoon in the middle of a shot the fear took over. I became frantic. I ran out of the stage, sat in my car, and reached home. Every muscle in my body was shivering. My eyes were bulging out with fear. I was feeling sick, panic stricken and I lay huddled in my bed. From then on things only got worse.
Slowly, one by one, I lost trust in everybody and everything around me. Have you ever wondered what it is like to function in life, distrusting everything and everybody? We trust most of the things and people around us without questioning. We trust the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe. We trust basic modern amenities like phones, air conditioners, fans, not to mention doctors, medicines, family, friends, most of the world, and most of humanity. It is impossible to function in life without trusting. And that is precisely what happened to me. I lost trust in everything and everybody, including my mother and my boyfriend. There was just one ray of hope in this darkness, just one saving grace. For some reason, in that state, I felt there was just one person I could trust in this whole world. The person was U.G. Krishnamurti. I called him up in Switzerland and told him I was unwell. He told me he would be in India within a week and that I should hold on. I held on writhing in pain.
U.G. arrived in Bombay. He stayed at a director friend, Vijay Anand’s, place. For the first time since I ran out of the studio, I got out of the house to go meet U.G. It was his presence in Bombay that made me feel protected enough to be able to go out of the house.
When I saw U.G., he just shook his head and said, “Parveen—you! I can’t believe it.” I think he meant he could not believe that I of all the people was in that situation. I told him I was afraid; he did not ask of whom, or of what. He suggested that I should get out of Bombay, leaving behind everybody and everything that I distrusted. I told him I didn’t have courage to travel alone. He said, “Courage will come.” Unfortunately, I did not follow his advice. I could not. I was so full of fear that I could not imagine from where “the courage will come”! I discussed with him whether I should accept medical help. Doctors had been brought in, but so far, I had refused to take any medicines. I distrusted both doctors and the medicines. He said it should be entirely my decision.
I returned home and for the next two days continued to be crazed with fear. When I could bear it no more, I decided to take the medicines. I called U.G. to my place and told him about my decision to start taking medicines. He said it was a 'good decision'; I swallowed a handful of tablets without having any trust or faith in them.
I felt so weak I could hardly get up from my bed—medicines slowed me down, but they did not bring back the trust I had lost. U.G. would come to visit me whenever I called him. He would ask me not to be afraid, and time and again assured me that nothing would happen to me, that he would personally, protect me. But I was beyond assurances.
People around me were going through a different kind of hell. My mother could not understand what was happening to me. Mahesh was incapable of coping with the situation. He seemed more concerned about himself that about me, and I could sense it. This made things even worse for me—the nightmare continued. The only time I felt fearless and secure was in U.G.'s presence. I believe that U.G. was one person who will never harm or hurt me, and that he had extraordinary powers which could protect me.
One day I myself experienced something, quite inexplicable and extraordinary. I had just finished a hot cup of tea at U.G.'s place and I began to feel cold and my legs felt weak. It was not the ordinary feeling of cold or weakness. I identified those sensations in my body as loss of life. Yes, I was losing life from my body, starting from my legs. I was dying! As absurd as it sounds, it did happen to me. U.G. asked me to go home. He put a shawl around my shoulders, shook my hand and said, "Goodbye."
Mahesh took me to the car. I couldn't walk. I was reeling as though drunk. I had no control over my legs; Mahesh was literally dragging me to the car. I was in panic—I was dying! I collapsed in the car. I could not believe I was dying! Halfway to my home I felt as though my stomach had turned into a suction pump and was drawing all the air out of me.
We reached home. Mahesh physically carried me to my flat. They put me on my bed—I lay there flat on my back, my respiratory pattern changed. Instead of inhaling and exhaling, my body only exhaled. So far I had felt panic, disbelief and I had been fighting what was happening to me. Whatever was happening to me was so powerful that I could not fight it for long. It was taking me over physically and with great speed. I had no alternative but to surrender to it. I surrendered to this great physical force that was draining out the life from me. I mentally came to terms with the fact that this was the end of me. I was dying—I had no choice in the matter—all I could do was die!
Now my entire body from the neck down felt lifeless. The only evidence of life I felt was in my throat—two veins in my throat were stilt throbbing. I also felt a throbbing sensation in the middle of my throat between the collar bones.
I could not move any part of my body except my head. I could still think, see and talk. My mother, Mahesh, my secretary, servants, all stood around my bed, some crying. I wanted to be on the floor, closer to the ground. They lifted me and put me on the ground. I wanted to be fed some water, and I wanted to speak to U.G. They fed me some water with a spoon, dialed U.G.'s number, and held the receiver to my ear. I said in the phone, "U.G., I am going." U.G. laughed and said, "Where?" I told him I wanted to see him. He said, "Can you hold on until seven o'clock? I have some people here." I said, "I think I can. I'll see you at seven."
I lay there waiting—I must have waited about half an hour, the doorbell rang, I knew it was U.G. I asked someone to get to the door and looked at the watch. It was seven sharp. I heard U.G. enter the apartment. He walked through the passage, removed his chappals and emerged into the room I was lying in. At that very moment I felt a throbbing between my eyebrows, just above the nose, in my pituitary gland. He smiled, gave me his hand, and said, "Get up". I felt life return to my body. I took his hand and got up.
My life was becoming a vicious circle of pills and fears. I continued to be trapped in it. Finally, one day, I pleaded with U.G. to get me out of it. I remember his words distinctly; he said, "Parveen, the only way you'll get out of this is if you trust somebody and you have to trust that person so much that even if that person comes with a knife in his hand to kill you—you have to be ready to be killed by him." Was there anybody I could trust so? I searched within myself.
The answer was U.G., but it was unacceptable to U.G. He said he was not the right person, he had his own course of life and that he could not be with me. I needed someone who could be with me. He suggested I trust Mahesh. This suggestion was totally unacceptable to me. I fell to his feet and begged him to help me, to save me. I think it was my state of utter helplessness that moved him to help me. He assumed and accepted the role of mentor from that day onwards. Although I trusted him with my life, he never made any decisions concerning me without consulting the doctors who were treating me. He insisted that I continue to take the prescribed doses of medication, though I was always wanting to stop taking them.
The only thing he stood firmly against was the suggestion of 'shock treatment', which he firmly believed I did not need. He felt what I really needed was a complete change of environment. He was going to Bangalore, and he suggested it would be good for me to go there with him for a rest cure. It would be good for me to get out of Bombay. The doctors eventually agreed. U.G. left earlier. I was to join him there later with Mahesh.
I was petrified of the journey. The only reason I was prepared to make this journey was to be with U.G. in Bangalore. I left the house full of apprehension. But then something extraordinary happened. I became totally devoid of feelings, and since fear and distrust were the only two feelings I had felt for weeks. I became a automation, a physical being propelled in forward momentum by a force within me. My head held itself high and my body became straight and erect—the physical stance of a totally fearless person. I felt some force moving within my stomach, slowly catching hold of it. These past few weeks I had felt and experienced everything in my stomach. Fear used to start as a physical sensation in the pit of my stomach and used to physically churn the inside of my stomach. I felt as though this force was holding me together. I never again felt 'scared to death'.
U.G. was at the airport to receive me. We stayed in the modest homes of very warm and loyal friends of U.G. He was right. Change of environment was the solution to my problem. I felt secure in this environment. The fact that U.G. was physically present all the time was my main source of comfort. My behaviour changed visibly. I no longer locked doors and windows. I went out for short walks with U.G., met people freely and trustingly, started eating proper meals and was able to sleep soundly and peacefully. The difference between my condition in Bombay and my condition in Bangalore was astounding. What was more astounding was the fact that change had come about literally overnight. U.G. consulted doctors for me in Bangalore. I trusted these new doctors. I continued taking medicines on doctors and U.G.'s insistence. I traveled all over south India with U.G. and Valentine.
Mahesh was also traveling with us, chaperoning me. But I grew further and further away from him.
I rested a lot. Though the fears had disappeared completely, I still had a lot of recovering to do physically. I had grown extremely weak. My voice had deteriorated. Most of all my nerves and my brain cells had to heal. U.G. would from time to time transmit some energy through my palm and assure me that I would recover completely. At that time I strongly felt that it was U.G.'s energy and not the medicines that were helping me.
I spent nearly three months away from Bombay in Bangalore with U.G.
It was really a haven I most needed at that particular time in my life. Over there I was protected from any kind of pressures, social or professional. My recovery was almost complete now. One day I went for a walk with U.G. and asked him the key question, "What happened to me, U.G.?" The answer was short and direct: "You went mad, Parveen." For the first time I accepted that I had gone mad and that all that which I had experienced—distrust, fears—was part of my illness. The very acceptance of my madness made me 'not mad'.
With madness gone, the logic and reason returned, and with reason a few questions; was it medicines or was it U.G.'s energies that had cured me? I confronted U.G. with the question. His answer was, "I don't know—maybe both." He insisted that I continue to take a reduced dose of medicine. Another question that bothered me was if everything I had experienced was part of my illness, what about the trust, the blind faith I had felt for U.G.? "That, too, was a part of your illness," was U.G.'s reply. One more question I asked was, "Why had it happened to me?"
U.G. and the doctors explained to me that the root cause of this particular illness was genetic. Some people were genetically more susceptible to it—I happened to be one of them.
I started to meet my producers, and pressure for me to get back to work started to mount. I began with dubbing a few hours a day. Slowly, as I grew stronger, I prepared to get back to my career and to pick up the various lost threads of my life. Everybody, especially those connected with me professionally, seemed pleased with my decision. The only person who seemed apprehensive about it was U.G.
He felt it was not a good idea for me to go back to my old way of life. He felt it was the tension and the pressures of a show business career that were responsible for my breakdown. Now that I knew I was genetically susceptible to this illness, it would be foolish for me to put myself in exactly the same situation once again. He pointed out to me that there was always a possibility of a relapse with this particular illness.
Relapse! I had just survived and come out of one nightmare of an illness. I had barely heaved a sigh of relief. I wanted to forget all about it, not be reminded of a relapse. I thought it was a negative way of looking at my future. I wanted to approach my future in a much more positive manner. At that time, U.G.'s advice made no sense to me at all, but I made a feeble attempt to try and get away from my old way of life. I parted with Mahesh, he being a major part of my old life. As far as my career was concerned, I had commitments to fulfill. I returned to Bombay with U.G. and began work on my half completed films.
With each passing day U.G. seemed to grow more concerned about the possibility of a relapse. He started warning. Every time I saw him he talked about nothing else. But the possibility of a relapse could not be ignored. It started disturbing me, his warning started to haunt me and even though disturbing I felt fine—physically as well as mentally—strong enough to face the world and my career—it was my faith in U.G., my belief that any thought that enters his consciousness can never be wrong, is what frightened me. I certainly did not want to go mad again. U.G.'s warnings grew so intense that they almost became threats. The possibility of the relapse became a certainty. According to U.G. I really became afraid. I didn't know what to do. How do I avoid going mad again? U.G. suggested, I give up my old way of life entirely.
Giving up my old way of life meant giving up my career, my relationships, everything that I had built so far; my identity. It meant walking out on my entire past. The question that bothered me the most was what to do after walking out on my past. I could see nothing certain, like a different career, or some other job—or anything for that matter.
Another issue that was really tearing me apart was my responsibility towards my producers and their films. I really did not wish them any harm, financially or otherwise. But if at the same time continuing with my career meant going mad for certain, then what was the right thing for me to do? Should I continue with my career to save my producers or discontinue it to save my life? I discontinued it, with the intention of completing my films, slowly, with long periods of rest in between.
I left India to travel with U.G. and Valentine.
We arrived in Bali—this was the first time I was traveling as a nobody.
It was also the first time I was completely alone, stripped of my entire past.
I felt awkward and uncomfortable, even in my relationship with U.G. I didn't know what to do with myself. I began to miss the glamour, the glitter, the hectic pace of the old life.
Also, for the first time my faith in U.G. was waning. I really couldn't see myself having a relapse in the future. So why was U.G. frightening me all the time with such a possibility? Was he using that threat to control and to manipulate me? Why did he want to help me in particular? I thought maybe he was a little in love with me, or I thought Valentine was growing old, and I with my financial assets and my circumstances was the ideal person to replace Valentine.
Throughout our travels (with all these doubts in my head) I spent most of the time locked in the room, not participating in anything.
We came back to India to do some more work on my films. I could not work properly. I was all the time afraid I might go mad again. By now the producers were starting to become aggressive. Some even filed lawsuits against me. I had no way of explaining to them what I was going through. In any case, they were not interested in explanations. They were interested in getting their films completed. U.G. made one more attempt to help. He offered to take me with him to Switzerland and help me establish a new life. He reminded me again that my old life-style would destroy me. I left for Switzerland out of fear.
In Switzerland I slept for 14 hours a day because I had nothing to do. I kept on waiting for my new life to start—nothing happened. I grew more and more desperate and lonely. My health felt perfect. Mentally and physically I had never felt better, and so I decided that I was well. I asked U.G. for my return ticket to India.
He made the last effort to stop me from returning to my old life—he said I would certainly have a relapse and that it would be fatal for me. I did not listen.
On the July 27, 1980 I returned to India, to my home, to my family, to my friends and to my career. I was so happy to be back in my world, where, I felt I really belonged. I decided to wipe U.G. and his warnings out of my system and start life anew on a positive footing. Publicly I never denounced U.G., but to a few close friends I spoke about how U.G. had tried to control and manipulate my life.
Getting back to the career was not easy. All the producers who were producers came my way. I started work. The phrase, 'You cannot keep a good worker down' proved right in my case. The producers realized I was sincere and they all began to come round.
Initially, I wore kid gloves and tried to protect myself from tensions. But soon I realized that in a competitive career like mine the only way to avoid pressures and tension was to avoid the career itself. I evaluated my mental and physical condition and felt no cause for alarm. I regularly kept in touch with doctors to keep fit and slowly I discarded the kid gloves. I gave all I had, mentally, physically, emotionally, to my career—I had jumped into the arena; I was fighting and even if I say so, it was indeed a good show.
In July, last year, I went to London for some stage shows. For the first time since I had left Switzerland, I strongly felt like meeting U.G. I rang him up from London and told him I might come to see him. Later, I got busy with work, and abandoned the plan to see him.
A few days later I returned to India from London with a feeling in the pit of my stomach that all was not well. I kept up a bold, cheery front, which lasted precisely one night, most of which I spent sleeping. Next day the familiar distrust returned and started to encompass all the areas of my life. I couldn't take it. At night I broke down in front of my family and friends. In a desperate attempt to feel better, to feel serene, I tried a change of place—went to a friend's place, only to feel worse. A doctor was called in, medicine prescribed, which was no help at all. As I lay there on the bed, the truth dawned on me—this was the relapse. I was slowly but surely being consumed by it, and there was nothing I or anybody around me, could do about it. This was the situation U.G. had so desperately and frantically tried to warn me about. One more thing became clear to me: last time it was not the medicines that had helped me, and they would not help me this time. It was not within the power of medical science to restore a human being. It was U.G.'s energy that had restored my health. All that time he had been genuinely concerned about me, about my life, about my future.
Now that I had realised the truth about a lot of things, there was just one thing I wanted to do. I wanted to talk to U.G., not to thank him, or to ask for his help again. I just wanted to speak with him.
Next morning I left the friend's house to return to my mother. I was concerned about her. She is old. How will she be able to take what is happening to me? Better than I had thought. Everybody around me seemed OK—almost resigned to my inevitable ill fate. They couldn't help me, they all seemed so helpless themselves.
I called Gstaad. U.G.'s familiar voice came on the line. The words that came out of my mouth were "U.G., be with me in spirit."
He laughed. "When are you going to America?" he said. When I had called him up a week before from London, I had mentioned to him the possibility of my taking a trip to America.
"I will be in America in September for some shows I want to see you, U.G."
"I will see you in America in September," he said.
I put the receiver down and I knew I would see him in America in September—he had said so on the phone, and by now I knew enough to know that anything that came into U.G.'s consciousness will certainly happen, anyhow.
At home I tried to isolate myself from everything and everybody in the hope of feeling better—it didn't help. My condition was worsening. Suddenly I heard my own voice dictate to me from within. "Get out of Bombay. Get out of India." I felt I had to get out and get to U.G. He was the only hope, the only redeeming factor. I also know that nobody, friends and family alike, would let me travel or let me move out of their reach in the condition I was in. There was no way I could share with them the faith, the confidence, the bond that I felt with U.G.
My mother had always viewed U.G. as an opportunist, an enemy of her daughter in the disguise of a friend, trying to take her beloved daughter away from her.
That night I told my distraught secretary and mother that I wanted to go out of the country for a rest. In the midst of violent protestations, my secretary misplaced my address book, in which were the addresses of every single person I knew outside the country. My mother pleaded with me not to leave home.
I left. I had to. It was my entire life in question, in consideration.
On July 30, 1983, I boarded the flight out of India with only my passport and the clothes I was wearing. As I sat in the plane bound for London, I looked back and was myself astonished by my own inner strength. I was suffering from fear—and where had all this courage to travel on my own come from? Was it all my own strength and courage? I am not a very courageous person. Another extraordinary thought flashed through my mind. On the phone I had asked U.G. to be with me in spirit. Could it be? I had no way of knowing.
I called up U.G. from Dubai Airport—and told him I was on my way to Switzerland to see him. He had every right to refuse to even talk to me. I had hardly been a worthy friend to him. He had no obligation to help me in any manner, yet he arranged for me to stay with his friend in London until I made necessary travel arrangements to reach Switzerland. He even came to receive me at Zurich Airport. It was not an emotional or dramatic reunion. It was a very matter-of-fact reception. Once in his presence, my fears started to disappear.
Within a few days I started to look and feel better. The change in my physical condition was so apparent that everybody commented on it. A friend said I looked like a corpse when I arrived at Zurich Airport. Everyone agreed that being with U.G. in Switzerland had done me a world of good. I myself couldn't have agreed more.
This time U.G.'s attitude was not protective or patronising like last time. He told me he would not be able to give me any advice, that I was well enough to make my own decisions, and that he didn't want to get involved with the Indian film industry, directly or indirectly. Last time, when I was in a similar situation, his genuine concern and his efforts to save me from another such nightmare had been questioned, misunderstood, and misconstrued by everyone including myself. A leading newspaper had even reported, falsely of course, that we were already married and honeymooning in Bali. U.G. was apprehensive that if he got involved the same thing would happen all over again: my producers, my friends, my secretary and even my mother would blame him. Gossip magazines would print gross, baseless untruth, even I might turn against him like last time.
Therefore, he told me to go back to my own life and to my own fate.
I stayed on. I could not go back. In my old life I had seen for myself the terrifying certainty of a doomed future. I knew now for certain that if I tried to hold on to my old wreaths, I would be lost. I have to carve out for myself a future different from my past.
For better or for worse, truly there is no business like show business! Either you stay in it and pay the price or you are out of it for good. You can't have it both ways. For me it has come to this: if I stay in it, I lose my head.
So I am staying out. Sorry, but I just can't take it any: more.
For the first time in my life I am finished—done with it all; my fame, my success, my identity as an actress and my old life. I have come to U.G. because I feel he is the only man who can help me bridge over to whatever fate has in store for me. My starry past makes this task all the more difficult. For so many years that was the only life I had known. Now, trying to move on to something else makes me feel like a bird trying to fly with clipped wings. But I am going to try. What a world of misery would have been averted—if only I had listened to U.G. then.
I am now in America with U.G. and Valentine. Resting, doing everyday chores like cooking, cleaning, watering plants and shopping for food. I have never felt more secure. I am peaceful and happy.
What would have happened if U.G. had turned me away when I came to him from India? It would have been total destruction for me. This man—this extraordinary man—has saved me not once, but twice from destruction.
What is it that I can do for him in return? Even if I give away everything I have, including my life, to such an individual it would not be enough. I have no means to repay the enormous debt I owe him. He has no need or use for my gratitude in emotional or material form. He is one person who has given me everything within his power, without expecting or actually receiving anything from me in return.
What have I really given him? I have merely shown him some common courtesies, no more than anybody would do for a friend; arranging a stay for him in Kashmir, hosting him in Bombay, taking him for a drive, and such. Beyond these normal expressions of friendship I have done nothing. In fact, he housed and fed me for months in Bangalore, and, even after denouncing and turning on him, in Gstaad. Reciprocity played no part in our so called 'relationship'. He gave and I took. I have only received—he helped me when friends, relatives, acquaintances, including my own mother, had either been unwilling or unable to. He has given me strength, support, friendship and affection whenever I have needed it.
I should really consider myself lucky, and my meeting with U.G. a benediction. He is truly an extraordinary person. I am one person who can say this with certainty because I have witnessed and have been touched and have been affected by that extraordinary energy. I have seen and experienced for myself manifestations of that extraordinary force in him. Even now I see him die physically and come back to life two, maybe three times a day!
Valentine, who has been with U.G. for 21 years and has seen many people in the world, says, "U.G. is the nicest, kindest man I have ever known." I agree with her. He goes through people's lives doing and giving whatever he can quietly. So quietly that sometimes even those who receive are themselves unaware of having received from him. He says he is like a migratory bird, and travels only to escape extremes of weather and inflation. Not true! I have seen him travel great distances to be with friends or acquaintances who really need him. He travelled for nearly eight months with me when I was ill.
Why do people come to him with their problems, for advice, for help? I think it is because U.G. is one person who is a part of this world, but not a party to it. He demands no rights and therefore assumes no obligations. He is emotionally attached to nothing and to no one in this world. He is a free individual in the truest sense of the word. If there is anybody who can help anyone in this world, only such an individual can.
His personality is enigmatic. He can be very puzzling. He can be so many different things at different times, from child-like innocence, to extremely sharp wisdom; from gentle kindness to firm ruthlessness, whatever the situation demands. The best way, and, I feel, the only way of dealing with him, is to trust him.
The common adjectives ascribed to him—saint, sage, guru, holy man, enlightened individual—don’t really describe him.
His own striking claim that he is just an ordinary man', leaves one befuddled. What then is he? I wish I knew!