I thought I had finished with these notes, but it sure
looks like a never-ending job. It has turned out to be an
entertainment in itself, and I have ended up enjoying it
The lull period was traumatic in its own way. On December 2nd, 1988 my husband had a heart attack, most probably due to over-medication for his asthma. The whole thing was over before my very eyes, and I struggled to keep a brave front before my young children who were quite attached to their father. Life looked bleak, and the future felt as if it had nothing to offer but emptiness. The shock of losing a person who had become so much a part of the last eighteen years of my life was incredible in its immensity. So much so that even the presence of U.G. in Bangalore at that time refused to play a consoling role.
The mind stood still and dazed and as U.G. rang up on the night of December 2, I remember he said, "Shanta, take it easy. We are with you through thick and thin."
Consolation only brought about fresh break-downs of the
shield that was carefully built around, and yet something
inside me was very quiet and resigned to the situation. All
that I had learnt from U.G. over the years gave me courage, so
much so that I felt I did not need even him to talk to in my
hour of need. I told him so.
The next day he hired a taxi and came over to my sister's place where I was staying till all those rituals were over.
It was the first time that he had voluntarily visited me. He avoids socializing of any kind, and only a crisis like this could have brought him to my doorsteps. Chandrasekhar and Suguna had also accompanied him.
My sisters and two of my very close friends formed the small group as U.G. entered my sister's home. He took his place on the edge of the sofa much to the concern of my sister. Prashant and Mittu sat on his either side. He held their hands and my eyes gazed on this scene, drawing immense strength. His first words were, "These things happen. There should be no guilt whatsoever. Now she has to bring up these kids. How is her financial position? Secure?" All this was addressed to my sister, and after hearing my sister's report concerning my financial assets, he seemed quite satisfied. He discussed the possibilities of my taking up a job, and the pension I would get. Finally he got up, shook hands with the children, told me not to care about anyone's opinions or advice, to live my life on my own, and not to let anyone interfere with it.
His visit really did something. There was more confidence
on the faces of Prashant and Mittu. The fear and insecurity
was no more in their eyes when I spoke to them. I owed U.G. a
lot for restoring the smiles back to the young faces, my
"mother's heart" overflowed with gratitude. I did need U.G.
My brother had come from Bombay to settle all my financial accounts and thus one more member of my family chanced to meet U.G., at the airport.
My brother's financial expertise and U.G.'s love for the subject of money helped them to strike an intimate conversation together since they happened to be on the same flight to Bombay.
I was hoping my brother would not get too shocked by U.G.'s outrageous-sounding ideas. Anyway the plane landed safely at the Bombay airport.
By the time U.G. returned to Bangalore I had already received an appointment letter from the firm where my husband had worked for the last twenty years.
U.G. did not seem to welcome the idea with enthusiasm that I expected from him. He said, "Lady, you are going to be exposed to the harsh realities of life. You don't need to work. You have enough money," and the like, but for many other reasons I had ultimately to decide on taking up the job. I tried to tell him of the inflation and the deterioration of the value of the rupee. At last he gave in by saying, "So you are no longer a housewife; you are a working girl."
My joining the office and the routine of a "working girl" have cut down my visits to U.G. Now I can take the children to Basavangudi only on Sundays.
It was initially difficult to fit in with the routine of
file work and computer training when for the last ten years
you were almost convinced that the mind was a myth.
U.G. has come from Bombay, this time with Lalubhai, a Gujarati gentleman closely associated with U.G. for the last several years.
Lalubhai had many interesting stories to tell me this time. He told me that once when he was on his way to Badrinath, a holy place in the Himalayas, he developed high fever at Uttarkasi. It seemed he sent a fervent prayer to some Divine Grace and he felt a surge of energy enter his body. It seems when after some time he kept the thermometer under his armpit to check his fever he felt the same surge of energy. After he had this experience he met Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj of the I am That fame. And Maharaj told Lalubhai, "You are lucky. Everything is finished for you. Now you can come and cross swords with me, or anyone for that matter."
The surprising thing is that when this same experience was related to U.G., Lalubhai got the reply, "This experience itself is a `stain' on your consciousness. It is still a stumbling block." Lalubhai was so shocked that he refused to see U.G. the next day. He needed at least a day to stomach the shock.
Nisargadatta Maharaj had asked Lalubhai to celebrate the day when he had felt this surge of energy, and U.G. called this same experience a "stain on the consciousness." It was too much for Lalubhai. U.G.'s reply was quick like an arrow, and it found its mark.
The next day when Lalubhai met U.G. again, it seems U.G. said, "This is a rare experience, but it is your own. I have nothing to do with it. I don't know anything about it. But it must have happened to you after you came in contact with me." I almost jumped after I heard that. To catch U.G. making a remark like that! I wanted to run up and ask U.G. who was upstairs, but Lalubhai said, "No, he has changed his tunes over the years."
The evening wore off as Lalubhai related his life story,
about his long acquaintance with U.G., and before that with
Vinoba Bhave and Vimala Thakkar.
Lalubhai also said that his body responded to everything
around him in a strange way. If anyone in the family was
about to develop a cold or fever or indigestion, Lalubhai's
body was the first to register it before it finally manifested
in the patient. This was similar to U.G.'s experiences. I
can even quote my own case. I had once a severe cold, an
irritating flow of coryza, a bad throat, and yet U.G. said,
"Come on over, I may not stay in Bangalore for long." So I
was soon sitting beside him and I gradually felt all the
symptoms of the cold vanishing. This Lalubhai calls the
self-correcting mechanism of the body. I have a hunch that it
must be accelerated in U.G.'s presence. Of course, U.G.
laughs away and brushes aside all these incidents as figments
of a fertile imagination. When Brahmachariji one day asked
about these so-called miracles, U.G. related his recent
recollections of his trip to Delhi.
It seems his host, Mr. Frank Noronha, who is an important Government official, told the following to U.G.: Mr. Noronha was suffering from a slipped disc. Just the night before U.G. arrived in Delhi Frank dreamt that his backache was cured by a tremendous kick that U.G. gave him. The same night Frank's wife dreamt that his car met with an accident and his right ring finger and right knee were injured. His life was saved by someone sitting next to him. Well, for obvious reasons the wife did not disclose her dream to Frank, nor did she stop him when he went the next day to receive U.G. at the Delhi airport. On their way back home, U.G. and Frank were sitting in the back seat of the car. The car was stopped at a check post for collecting parking fees, and all of a sudden a huge truck rammed into the back of the car, smashing it completely. Frank got the needed jolt to the back which cured his pain and he sustained injuries on his right ring finger and right knee. They were delayed till almost 2:30 a.m. A bewildered U.G. found himself on the streets of Delhi, with an injured friend with a cured back, a smashed car, and a disturbed driver. U.G. said, "Why am I here? How do we go back home? What happens to this poor car?"
Finally they reached home to confront Frank's frantic wife who had almost choked herself with worry. The first thing she asked Frank was to show his right ring finger which was slightly bleeding, and to her horror she knew that her dream had come true. The savior happened to be U.G. She ended up being so convinced of this fact that she refused to go for the Christmas Mass, saying that Jesus himself came to her as her guest. She also labeled U.G. a baby and wrote an article on him titled "The Seventy-Year-Old Baby." Frank and his wife exchanged notes about their dreams and convinced U.G. that he was a miracle worker after all. U.G. says he knows nothing of this. He says that for all he knows, Frank's backache may return with the slightest jerk of any vehicle. All this U.G. related to me as if he himself wondered at the coincidences. Brahmachariji asked if he could term an accident (this time Frank's) a miracle, and U.G. answered, "Every miracle is an accident." U.G.'s answers came out swift and straight without even a moment's pause, which never fails to surprise his onlookers. U.G. ended the "miracle" session by saying, "People want to believe, they need to believe."
Brahmachariji's presence I always considered as an
additional bonus to me for having come all the way from
Malleswaram to Basavangudi costing me Rs.20. In
Brahmachariji's questioning taunts and U.G.'s immediate and
witty repartees there was always a lot to learn.
The question of Brahmajnana came up and Brahmachariji, an
erudite Sanskrit scholar quoted a few verses to support his
arguments, while U.G. just brushed aside the very concept of
Brahmajnana, and I simply enjoyed his counter-remarks. U.G.
said, "There is no such thing as `Brahmajnana.' If at all
there is `Jnana' then `Brahman' is out!" The very statement
sent me to the seventh heaven of delight. Brahmachariji did
not give up easily. He said, "Brahman and Jnanam are the same
thing." And U.G. came out with, "If they are the same, why
use two separate words for it?" And there was nothing else to
be said on the matter!
This led him to relate a childhood incident. It seems
once when U.G. traveled by first class in a train and
alighted at the destination, he saw his grandfather getting
off the same train from an intermediate class compartment.
The grandchild got a quiet look from the old man. Both sat in
the bullock cart which was then the only mode of
transportation. After arriving home the old man called the
boy to his side and said, "You see, I am working so hard and
saving every penny denying myself everything so that your
future is comfortable when I am no more there." And U.G.
calmly replied, "Be happy that you have seen your dream come
true when you are still living." I don't know how much to
believe and take U.G.'s word when he relates all these
incidents. And he tries his best to convince us that he was a
"ruthless butcher" as his grandmother labeled him.
Another incident was when his grandfather lay on his
deathbed, he made the young U.G. sit by his side and
questioned him, "How are you going to manage all the land and
wealth? You are married and you are going to have children.
I am really worried about you." U.G. replied to the dying
man, "Why don't you go peacefully. All that money is going to
be spent immediately on shopping." U.G. loves to paint these
horrid pictures of himself and flaunt his ruthlessness, but
those who move closely with him know that he deliberately puts
on this false front to disenchant people.
Once a friend of U.G., one Mr. Prasada Rao, who was once
U.G.'s schoolmate said, "I remember U.G. and Billy going to
the film "Harischandra," and he was surprised to find tears
rolling down U.G.'s cheeks--(this surprised me too)--and being
questioned about this it seems that U.G. replied, `I am crying
because of the poor Indians who have to live up to this lofty
ideal.'" I asked Mr. Prasada Rao if he could remember U.G. as
a boy, and he replied, "I can't remember much because U.G.
hardly attended school. He was always playing truant. He
attended school only five times in a month." U.G. who was
sitting quietly listening to this conversation supplied the
details, "I was too serious when I was a boy--no fun, no
games, no entertainment. I never smiled or laughed even later
on. My wife used to ask me, "Don't you ever smile or laugh?"
The subject of laughter reminds me of one Mr. Narayana Rao
who spent one whole week in Bangalore entertaining U.G. with
his mimicry. He impersonated all the film stars, the
politicians, and even U.G., so much so he had U.G. rolling up
in fits of laughter. U.G. said, "My wife would rise from the
grave, if she saw me laughing like this. I never laughed so
much in my life." Mr. Narayana Rao was really funny. He
imitated U.G.'s every word and gesture, and entertained
everyone during his stay at Purnakutee. I was lucky for
having had the chance to see him at least on the video because
Chandrasekhar had the presence of mind to start his own video
collection of the Poornakutee Gang.
It being a Sunday Chandrasekhar was enjoying his weekly holiday. Even after all these years of having known U.G., none of us had given up even the semblance of hope which we nurtured carefully in our hearts. Chandrasekhar still felt that U.G.'s so-called sadhanas, the countless repetitions of the Gayatri Mantra and Shiva Nama, his visits to the various sages, especially Ramana Maharshi, must have helped him to stumble into whatever state he is supposed to be in and U.G.'s total denial of the fact leaves no room for argument. U.G. said, "All that happened, if at all anything happened, despite everything I did. All those things I did are irrelevant. My favorite sentence is `I really don't know how it happened, why it happened, when it happened, and did anything happen at all?"
Chandrasekhar ended by saying, "U.G., regardless of your
denials we still have the feeling that it may be because of
all that sadhana that you did. We don't want to even hear
about your denial, because that takes away the only hope we
Sometimes U.G.'s narratives appear crude, almost vulgar,
much to the discomfort of the people who happen to be around
him at the time. But though I blush, my ears turn hot, and I
hang my head in embarrassment, in my heart of hearts I know
very well that every word he says is true. (U.G. says, "This
you must put in your book!") Once a childless couple came to
U.G. asking for his blessings for a child, and U.G. as usual
replied, "You don't need my blessings. All you need is to go
to the doctor, to find which of you needs medical help." This
is the last kind of answer any sage or saint would offer to a
couple who fall at his feet considering him as a savior.
Anyway, after a year the couple did turn up with a baby, and
I'd rather not write U.G.'s remarks. I would leave them to
the reader's imagination.
People usually find it difficult to be on the same wave
length with U.G. when they start a conversation with him. It
does look like he is talking about something totally
different, and the exasperated listener exclaims, "U.G., I am
talking of chalk and you are talking of cheese." But U.G.
comes out with a cheeky answer, "Maybe, but the common thing
to both is their calcium content. Isn't it?"
It was a special New Moon day and the TV splashed the
Kumbh Mela on the screen for the least reason and every
opportunity they could chance on. The honored guest
Brahmachariji was embarking on a long fast. U.G. seized the
opportunity to joke. He told Brahmachariji that fasting was
an unnecessary ritual. He said, "Only the do-gooders fast.
Keeping yourself deliberately hungry helps you to be `high'.
There is no other spiritual benefit." Brahmachariji just
walked out of the room, unable to bear any more of this. U.G.
followed saying, "Sir, why don't you join us for lunch.
Anyway, it's not a New Moon day. I can assure you: even the
astrologers have agreed that my body is very much in tune with
the lunar phases, and today I am neither dull nor drowsy. So,
no New Moon day today. You can eat to your heart's content."
Brahmachariji was already on his way home!
That did not discourage U.G. from continuing with the rest
of us, "You know, once I was invited for lunch to a Madhva
Brahmin's house. The man apologized that it happened to be
`Ekadasi,' a fast day, so he could not offer me a full meal.
I replied, "It doesn't matter to me, if you agree, I am always
ready to go without food." To my surprise he placed twenty
two dishes before me, except rice." Now that was really an
extravagant way of fasting!
Next day Brahmachariji was back on the scene. As soon as he entered U.G. joked, "Good morning, Sir. But why that mark on your forehead? Brahmachariji justified that it was to locate the "Third Eye." And U.G. said, "That mark blocks the Third Eye, if at all there is one."
This was an interesting way for the day to begin!
U.G. casually remarked that before the "Calamity" he was
rather surprised to read about the fact that an "enlightened"
man's feces did not have the usual decomposed smell. He took
this information rather skeptically. But after the "Calamity"
he found that whenever he would be in the toilet the feces
smelt like mango or raspberry or strawberries. He wondered
why. The doctors who examined him for his gullet complaint
told him that his stomach lining had lost its sensitivity
completely, the acids no longer secreted in his stomach, the
food was not acted upon but went straight to the intestines.
The stomach acted just like a vent or a pipe for the food to
go to the intestines, and this retained its original odor even
when it came out as waste. There was less decomposition in
All this sounded quite logical to me. But Brahmachariji had a cynical look on his face and turned down U.G.'s tall claims. It's all so funny because he usually decries everything U.G. says, denies, argues and fights, and upholds the great Indian tradition. Without having much in common, he disagrees with every word of U.G.'s. Yet his friendship with U.G. has continued over two decades. He says that U.G.'s life from the time of his birth does not have one redeeming feature to justify the label of a God-man.
With all this he has this strange affection for U.G. He
even finds himself rushing to the kitchen to bring U.G. a
spoon and a plate at lunch time. A strange relationship! (It
doesn't seem so strange when each of us considers what he or
she in turn feels for U.G.)
U.G. has this standard treatment for the newcomers in his
"school." He throws them out. They keep coming back and he
threatens to call the police. Insults are added as spice to
the injuries. Those that remain are the ones who have
survived his long and repeated onslaughts. Yet you never get
the feeling that you are out of the "baking kiln." It's too
hot to be comfortable, or if it has cooled down a bit, the
glowing embers are still burning under a cover of ash that
gives a false sense of security. But the "hardened" ones know
exactly where they stand in relation to him. Brahmachariji
asked U.G. why his behavior was so "wild." And U.G.
answered, "Do you ask nature why it is wild--why the
earthquakes, why the destruction?" Brahmachariji said,
"That's different." And U.G. quipped, "It's the same. This
is worse. Here, there are words to add to the storm."
The heavy lunch and U.G.'s acid remarks had made Brahmachariji very sleepy, so he got up to catch up with the afternoon nap. U.G. asked him to rest on the swing which was made into a comfortable rocking bed. U.G. added, "You can swing your way through life!"
The rest of us watched old video cassettes which featured
the regular gang. Seeing Nagaraj in one of them U.G.
remarked, "Who can say Nagaraj is no more? There he is,
laughing and talking. That is the only immortality. There is
no other--no cosmic planes, no astral planes, no eternity of
U.G. had some shopping to do, so he left with Suguna, promising to be back soon. Lalubhai and myself were exchanging news when Prasada Rao (U.G.'s childhood schoolmate) walked in. After an exchange of small courtesies, Prasada Rao, watching me jotting down some points in my notebook, inquired what I was doing. I told him I had started writing a sort of book on U.G., and he said, "How very flattering! How the hell can you write something on a subject like U.G.?" And I said that as he was a close associate of U.G. for so many years he could help by adding a few lines to my notes. He obliged. He started saying that all of us experience a fatal attraction toward U.G. (like the spider and fly story); though U.G. was hopelessly predictably unpredictable, we were drawn toward him again and again.
Prasada Rao said it could not be because of U.G.'s talk,
because he repeated himself to the extent of boring his
audience. He was not very knowledgeable, to be frank, but his
presence was vital. But how? Because all of us were unique,
and there could not be, and will not be another Prasada Rao on
this planet. (Long association with U.G. turns people
vehement about professing their convictions!) He turned to
Lalubhai and said, "There is only one Lalubhai," and Lalubhai
added under his breath, "Thank God for that, or it would mean
trouble for my poor wife!" That broke the seriousness of the
tone, but Prasada Rao carried on, "U.G. once told me, `It's
not what I say--even if I read something from the telephone
directory, it would affect you.'"
Finishing his piece, Prasada Rao left, and Lalubhai
continued with his story. He said, "U.G. told me last year,
`Lalubhai, you have to throw God out of your system.' This
year, I think at this point, I feel I have managed to throw
God out of my system." I listened and paused, and U.G. walked
into the room, declaring that his shopping was a great
Go to "Pulling Yourself by the Bootstraps" An Introduction to U.G. and His Teachings by J.S.R.L.Narayana Moorty