[The following is a chapter I have added to my book. At the end of the chapter, I have included an account of Mahesh and UG visiting me in Seaside, which I have added to the Chapter in my book on UG's Teaching Process under the head "Care and Compassion."]
For many people, knowing UG involved travel to places all over the world, for as UG would boast, he never stayed in one place more than six months. Even at an advanced age, he managed to keep moving. For many years, he rented the same Chalet Sunbeam in Gstaad Switzerland, and people would visit him there from all over. He would make brief trips to other countries in Europe from that base. While I knew him, he visited California almost every year, first staying in the Mill Valley area, then in Palm Springs. He also made regular brief visits to New York, passing through, as it were. He often went to India, staying for some time with Chandrasekhar and Suguna in Bangalore before and during the time they cared for Valentine, and after. He also made many trips to Australia, and even China, although his forays into China were always solo. He traveled simply and insisted on carrying his own small suit case or carry-on bag, his total sum of luggage, a point of pride. In his last years, he forwent travel to Australia and China, but made short trips by car to Germany and more extended ones to Italy, his last destination.
I visited UG in many of these places, at his invitation, and always was treated with great hospitality by UG. Here are some highlights.
First Trip, Gstaad and Bangalore, 1986
Late in 1985, UG suggested I should visit him in Gstaad. I told him that I wanted to bring my 12-year old daughter with me, and that I would also like to go to India, since it would be so much closer—less miles and less cost. But, I said I wouldn’t go to India unless he was there, because half the fun of going to India would be to visit him there! So he promised to be there at the time I would be there.
It was arranged that Shyamala and I would go for about two weeks, spending 6 days in Gstaad, and then also go to see friends in Marseille, Paris and Heidelberg, after which I would send Shyamala back to the US. I would then go on to India, spend some time visiting family members, and also time with UG in Bangalore. My wife, Wendy, and one year-old son, Kiran, would remain at home in Seaside.
UG stayed in touch with us constantly by sending transportation timetables, picture postcards, and whatnot. The initial travel was difficult, with Shyamala getting airsick on the plane and in the Frankfurt airport, and me having to clean up after her. In the airport I had difficulty finding a money exchange bureau, then getting us on the train to Berne. Making a call to UG involved some fumbling and help from a German man, as I didn’t understand about the extra “0” in the number (I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to dial that). Once the call was successfully made, I informed UG of our arrival time, and also of Shyamala’s sickness, but when I returned to my seat, Shyamala suddenly got better.
We both were starved. We had to change the trains in Basel carrying our stuff across the train tracks. That was another hassle. Finally, around 7:30 PM or so in the evening we arrived and were met in the train station by UG and Paul Sempé who drove us to Gstaad in an hour and a half. It was dark, so we couldn’t see much. Once arrived, we had some soup and bread, which revived us. Kim was cooking for UG and Valentine (and others too). We were given two small rooms upstairs to sleep, and we were ready to rest.
The next day, I had a better picture of the Chalet Sunbeam as well as the surroundings in Gstaad. It was two-storied Chalet, with the landlord, Herr Grossman and his wife, living upstairs. Also from a side staircase you could go to an upstairs apartment and a room for guests. There was a bath with a shower downstairs. The Chalet stood on a small hill and you could see the town main street, tennis courts and the surrounding magnificent mountains all around covered with green grass which was mown by the owners of places in the summer time. In winters, Gstaad was a ski resort place and in summers there were world-open tennis tournaments. The place was abuzz with tourists in summers. The weather was pleasant with occasional showers. Gstaad was a delight to tourists.
I met many people visiting UG that were new to me, but whom I would see many times again on future visits. These included Paul Sempé, Marissa, Salvatore, Henk Shoneville, Robert Geissman, and Herr Grossman, the rather peculiar owner/resident of the chalet. Paul was once a pacifist and used to listen to J. Krishnamurti regularly. Salvatore and Marissa were also once followers of Krishnamurti. Henk, who ran an Advaita ashram in Amsterdam, once took me out for a beer and complained about how badly UG would treat him in spite of the fact that he did all the arrangements for UG’s visits in Amsterdam. Paul Sempé would discuss Descartes with me. Being a Frenchman, Paul was quite enamored by Descartes. Once, UG was trying to listen in, but I was too self-conscious to speak freely. Of course, UG was critical of Descartes.
Shyamala was entertained by Marissa and Kim. Marissa’s teenage son, Lorenzo, being there was very helpful. They all took good care of Shyamala. Kim took Shyamala on a hike on the mountains and they all played Dungeons and Dragons. I remember Marissa even doing my laundry.
In the morning of the second day or so of our arrival, UG took us to Mount Egli and took our picture there with our camera. That was touching. He left us there, asking us to take the lift to go up on the mountain. We did, and Shyamala and I walked on the Alps. Shyamala said, “I am not going home. This is my home!” I was pleased with her response. When we got back down to the town, it was 2:30 or so in the afternoon, too late to expect lunch at UG’s. So we decided to have lunch in a restaurant downtown. We went into an Italian restaurant and ordered some minestrone soup. I had to make sure, in my broken French, that there was no meat in it. (I used the word “viande”.) Shyamala thought the soup was delicious.
Generally, the food we had with UG in “Sunbeam” was good—the usual UG menu of soups with cream, bread, cheese and yogurt.
We went on car trips to various places. Paul Sempé drove us to Zurich one day, where we ate lunch in an Indian restaurant. In Zurich we met this German doctor and his psychiatrist wife (they were young) whom I had occasion to meet again much later. Paul also drove us to see Berne and Lucerne. The night before that drive, the weather was predicted to be dismal. The television showed a picture of the whole of Switzerland overcast with a forecast of rain. But the next day, it was sunny. In Berne, UG walked around the shops with us, and bought us some freshly-squeezed orange juice and chocolate for Shyamala. Only when we had returned to Gstaad did it begin to get cloudy. Observing this, I asked UG, “Should we say it was UG’s miracle or simply that the weather man was mistaken?” UG replied quietly, “Let’s say that the weather man was mistaken.”
During our stay, Shyamala and I took pictures all over the place. Once Shyamala’s camera fell on the street. I later had to supplement my pictures with Chandrasekhar’s either because mine were lost or there was not enough film left.
I think it was on this trip I asked UG if he would be interested in reading the article I wrote about J. Krishnamurti (“Fragmentation, Meditation and Transformation”). It was published later (in 1988) in the Journal of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research. UG said that he would always be interested in reading what I had to write. So, I gave it to him. He read it overnight and the next morning he nicely put it under a couple of other books or papers so that it would not be easily noticed. I asked him what he thought of the paper. He said I made clear some of the difficulties which the reader might have in understanding Krishnamurti, and the conversation ended there.
I commented to UG at one point how all the people who gathered around UG for his sessions (I had Robert Geismann and Bernard, the mailman from England, in mind when I made the remark) were so mature. And UG’s reply was astonishing: “The Old Man (meaning J. Krishnamurti) prepared them all.” That told me the regard with which he held J. Krishnamurti, contrary to all appearances.
Sometimes, UG would flare up on one person or another. I saw him flare up on Kim and another time on Paul Sempé. I remember Kim once saying, “You want me to leave now?” Then UG would say, “If you want to…” and soften. There was no apparent reason to flare up on Paul either. UG’s rationale was always, “This gun shoots wherever and whenever it sees the movement of thought.”
One of those days, may be on another trip, I saw UG yelling at Herr Grossman, calling him bastard or whatever, because Grossman had just raised his rent. And of course, UG didn’t like the idea. Grossman was quite money-conscious and, in spite of his riches, lived very modestly.
Grossman tackled me once when I was climbing down the stairs. He stopped me for at least 40 minutes or an hour and bored me with his talk about Rosicrucian teachings.
People would often gather informally in chairs outside on the small lawn area in front of the chalet, with the backdrop of the town below and mountains behind. One afternoon, I was standing there, and UG asked me to please sit down. I told him I didn’t mind standing. He replied that it hurt him if I stood. Without making a fuss, I sat down.
Our stay in Gstaad was filled with trips, conversations and new acquaintances. It was memorable.
Another car trip we had was by Salvatore, the architect. We went to Geneva to receive Chandrasekhar at the airport (he was returning from the US after a training course in Detroit). It rained and hailed heavily in Geneva and on return we found a dent on Salvatore’s car from the hail.
On the day of our departure, we were driven (I think by Paul Sempé) early in the morning around 3 AM to the border train station and dropped off there to go to France via Milan. Shyamala and I put the luggage in the cloak room and went out to a restaurant for breakfast. We got on the train, and it went through a very long tunnel on the borders between Switzerland and Italy. When we got out of the tunnel it just stopped raining, everything was wet and fresh. The mountain sides were green. The train stopped at a station. Everything was fresh and green: the wet pavement reflected the sun. It was one of the most beautiful sights you could see. We continued on the journey to Marseille where we were met by my old friend Paul Albert.
After a couple of days with Paul and his family, then five days in Paris and four days in Heidelberg, I returned with Shyamala to Frankfurt. I sent her back to the U.S. and took a plane to Bombay, India.
After visiting my relatives in Bombay, I went to Hyderabad to visit my brother. From there I tried to contact Chandrasekhar in Bangalore by phone to find out about UG’s arrival and stay. I couldn’t locate him, so I left a message. Chandrasekhar never answered my message.
I then went on a trip south, first to see Kumaraswami Raja in Annamalai. Raja was a professor of linguistics in Annamalai University. He used to be a close friend of mine in Visakhapatnam where we both worked in the University. He was very much into J. Krishnamurti, having read many of his books. Many years ago he had helped me go to the U.S. by encouraging me to send my papers and submitting them in the philosophy department in UC, Berkeley. I spent a couple of days with him in Annamalai, met his new wife Saraswati and his son Mohan. I played all my Amsterdam tapes of UG for him on his tape recorder. Hank had given me these tapes in Gstaad. He had made them himself; he was actually selling them to others, but he gave a set to me free of charge. The tapes must have made an impression on Raja. He said, “This must be another Krishnamurti looming on the horizon.” After a couple of days of visiting, Raja dropped me off at the Annamalai bus station about 10 in the night for me to travel to Bangalore. He promised he would come to Bangalore a day or two after I arrived there, and I asked him to put himself up in a hotel and come to 40 K.R. Road, Chandrasekar’s house, where UG was living.
The next morning, after a sleepless night and with a back that felt broken, I arrived in Bangalore. I hired an auto rickshaw and went to 40 K.R. Road. Just as I was getting out of the vehicle I saw UG walking away on the street in an Indian dress (lalchi and pajamas). I hailed him; he turned around and recognized me, and took me into the house. He and Chandrasekhar showed me the room where I was going to sleep. It was next to the street, but quite decent. They arranged for a smoke device to keep the mosquitoes out. Usha, UG’s daughter, was there and also Valentine, living in the downstairs room at that time. There were a couple of servants and a constant traffic of people, Brahmachari, Kalyani, Radhakrishna, Nagaraj (the personal assistant to the Postmaster General), Shanta, her children Mittu and Prashant, Gopikrishna and others. I chastised Chandrasekhar for not answering my phone messages, but UG calmed me down, saying that since I was there anyway, it didn’t matter. There was also a mention of Sudha, my translation of Chalam’s Telugu poetry and Chandrasekhar was critical of it and seemed not to like it.
I stayed in Bangalore for six days. I was planning to stay there for less, but UG arranged my itinerary, insisting that I stay there for six days. (I had stayed for six days in Gstaad, I must stay here for six days, went the reasoning.)
There were all kinds of visitors there. Kalyani was one of them. She would sing and dance and beg for money. She was well to do, being the sister of a civil service officer. Later, she died of breast cancer or something. She was apparently pretty psychic and a bit crazy. All kinds of stories about her are told in Stopped in Our Tracks, Series I, by Chandrasekhar.
Shanta Kelker was a frequent visitor. I held her arm once while UG was watching. She was having an affair with one of the gurus in town on the sly, and UG would constantly chastise her for that, asking her what would happen to the children. The guru was apparently a no-good guy and eventually UG was able to wean her off of him.
There was the bicycle shop owner Niranjan, Radhakrishna, the tea merchant, Ramachandra and his partner, Rechal Das, financiers to the movies, Chandrasekhar, the architect and his wife, Gopi Krishna and his wife, Brahmachari, the would-have-been Sanakaracharya of the Kudali Math, Satyanarayana, the statistician/astrologer, etc. etc. We all sat on the floor or on a cot, while UG sat on a chair. There were few chairs. Lots of gossip and joking around made for a party-like atmosphere.
Mahesh Bhatt was also there, staying at the Woodlands hotel. A couple of days after I arrived, we went to see him there. And Mahesh ordered some beer. Brahmachari, the swamiji, was there. Then Raja was ushered in, as he had arrived at 40 K.R. Road and they brought him over. Apparently, he was given the room which Usha was occupying, UG asking her to sleep in the living room instead. He, myself, Mahesh and Nagaraj, all drank beer in UG’s presence—generally unheard of. Brahmachari who would not normally approve such things, nevertheless joined the merriment minus the drinking. Apparently Raja had been asked to take up a room there in K.R.Road house, the room which was being occupied by Usha, so he didn’t have to stay in a hotel.
Another night, UG asked me to join him to go to Mahesh’s room where a drinking session had been arranged. We took an elevator to go to Mahesh’s room. Mahesh wasn’t in his room. But UG had a key, and on entering the room we could hear a big band playing next door downstairs. It was so loud that I thought UG would do something to quell the noise. He went into the bathroom and closed the curtain there and came back into the main room. As he was sitting down in the armchair he swung his arm broadly. A minute later the band noise stopped and never came back again. Mahesh and I had did have a couple of drinks in the room, and then the three of us went downstairs for dinner. I can’t remember Raja or anyone else being there at that time.
Nagaraj was so addicted to smoking. He was taking “French leave” all the time from his work to be with UG. He wanted to quit smoking but couldn’t. UG would advise him that he shouldn’t quit; he should keep smoking. If he quit, UG warned, it would be a great shock. Some time later Nagaraj even called me at home in Seaside and asked me for tips to quit smoking. I told him to “just quit”. Anyway, apparently he did, and he died soon after. UG, I heard, went to visit his family to console them.
In the house there were two servants taking care of Valentine. Whenever UG walked in I noticed how the faces of these servant maids would expand with broad smiles. They were happy to see him. Of course, he always remunerated them lavishly for their work. Why wouldn’t they be happy? Besides, UG’s aura was such.
One night, Chandrasekhar and I brought vadais and hot chutney from a restaurant nearby. We all ate them to spare the women cooking in the house.
During my stay, I was offering to spend some money on this or that, but UG would always stop me, saying, “Wait, your turn will come.” When we were on a shopping spree, one time UG sent me and Mittu ostensibly to shop for comic books for Kiran, but the outing was apparently arranged to give a blasting to Shanta in our absence. I did buy a bunch of comic books, including a couple for Mittu as a gift. We went into a cloth shop looking for a sari for Wendy. UG let me pay for a piece of fabric for him and he helped me to pick a nice sari for Wendy, a blue one.
The time in Bangalore was the last time I saw my friend Raja. While there, he once participated in a conversation with UG. As usual, the topic was enlightenment. UG is usual downplayed the idea of “waiting for something to happen.” Although I never saw Raja again, I wrote to him a couple of times, but never heard from him. I learned a couple of years later from his son Mohan that one evening around 5 p.m. he went for a walk downtown and never returned. His family and friends advertised in the papers and other venues searching for him. No one knew what happened to him.
I mentioned this later to UG and mused aloud that someone might have murdered him. UG replied, “Murdered, no!” I didn’t know how to take it.
As my time in Bangalore was coming to a close, I remarked to UG that it seemed about 90% of the people who came to see him there were really there for the supernatural effect of his and not for his teaching. He replied, “Why 90%? All of them!”
After the six days had passed, I said goodbye. Suguna made some Upma for me (as it was too early for dinner) and I ate it. As a parting gift, UG gave me some incense sticks to give to my family.
On one of his visits to Seaside, UG invited Wendy to come to Switzerland, with our two children, 4-year old Kiran and by then a 17-year old Shyamala. I told him that if we went all the way to Switzerland, it would be only a bit longer to go to India, but it would cost too much to go to both places. UG said that it would be more interesting for Wendy to go to India. I pointed out that I wouldn’t care to go to India if he weren’t there, so as before, he said he would make a point of being there when we were there. So, the trip was arranged.
The four of us traveled from Seaside first to Madras, and then took another plane to Bangalore. Julie and Chandrasekhar received us at the airport.
At 40 K.R. Road, our family was given a special big room upstairs and was treated like royalty. The food was great. And I remember going for a walk with UG (Wendy following and taking a picture) in the Lalbagh gardens. And also, UG invited us all to the M.T.R Restaurant where everything was made with ghee.
We stayed in Bangalore for 10 days. On the third day, it was June 25, my birthday. For that day, I arranged that Julie would take the family in a taxi to Mysore and show them around while I spent time with UG in Bangalore. But at 6 in the morning, just as I went downstairs in my pajamas to get some coffee, I learned that Julie had backed out of going—she couldn’t tear herself away from UG! UG suggested that I should take them to Mysore, after all, they were my family. I agreed, and got ready in 15 minutes. I did have a great birthday celebration, with a lovely beer-and-cashew-nut repast in the luxury hotel located in the Brindavan Gardens near Mysore.
One morning, UG arranged for me to go have a Nadi reading (I think it was called the Agasthya Nadi). I had anticipated this possibility even while I was back in the US, as there was talk about it then. So I had my horoscope that had been done by my late father sent to me from Hyderabad and I took it with me to the reading, along with information about Wendy’s birthplace and date and time. We had both our readings done. Brahmachari and Chandrasekhar were with us, as well as Wendy, and I think Shyamala and Kiran. The session took place I think for no more than an hour. At the end I gave the Nadi reader a hundred rupees. The Nadi reader had long matted hair and read the palm leaves inscribed with archaic Tamil (I think) text which he translated into contemporary Kannada. Chandrasekhar recorded it and typed it up that night. There were some predictions about my being famous and rich in some sort of international business, about my living till I was 93, that Wendy was my second wife, and that my mother was going to die in the next year or two, due to her past karma. The reading was right about Wendy, and perhaps my mother, but not about the “international business.” Neither I nor UG ever believed that I would be good in any kind of business. At the end of the session, I was prompted to ask three questions. I asked, as one of them, whether I would get enlightened (or, when I would get enlightened.) The answer came that I would be enlightened when I was 93. When this was reported to UG, he chastised me for my question. I said I just asked out of curiosity, although, I told him, I believed that in some sense I was already enlightened. That put an end to the conversation.
One afternoon, there was big gathering at 40 K.R. Road. The upstairs room was packed with people. A little girl from a Telugu family was asked to perform classical dance for UG. Her teacher was accompanying her with her singing. It was painful to watch. The dance was so long and the girl was literally in pain. Julie shot a video of this and other events. At some point in the late afternoon everyone moved up onto the rooftop terrace. Evan Valentine was carried up the stairs in her wicker chair. There Shyamala charmed everyone with a dance, and also her dramatization of a Dr. Seuss’s poem “What Was I Scared Of?” It was quite nice. While everyone was chatting, Shyamala and the other girls, Mittu, Aruna and Archana, were teaching each other some dance movements. Mittu and Prashant were Shanta’s children. Shanta is the author of The Sage and the Housewife. Aruna and Archana were Chandrasekhar’s daughters. Bharati, UG’s elder daughter, was also present. The women had a grand time decking Shyamala with saris.
Another day, I invited everyone for lunch at the Woodlands Hotel. We all ate pizza and other foods. Indian food was served, but in another part of the restaurant where you ate in the Indian style.
The night before we left, we saw UG off at the airport. He left to go somewhere. The same night, after 10 o’clock, Chandrasekhar took me to see his friend Satyanarayana, the statistician, who was also an astrologer, for a reading. Satyanarayana was kind enough to give a detailed reading. I did take some notes. The reading didn’t seem all that striking to me, when I looked over the notes later.
Apparently, Satyanarayana was pretty psychic too. He could cite phrases from a page of a book, along with the page number, of UG’s (I think Mind is a Myth) before it ever came to be published. Apparently, his father was a monk; I noticed his picture in one of the rooms.
On our final day, we were all invited for lunch by Ramachandra and Rechal Das. They were partners and billionaires. There were snacks and beer and all that. But we didn’t see their families. There was some philosophical talk, part of it turning around who would succeed UG. I felt that they got interested in me because somehow they suspected that I might be the one to succeed UG. Not a chance! (In fact, I commented once on UG in everyone’s presence: “UG is an odd ball. I don’t want to be like an odd ball!) After the lunch, Ramachandra dropped us off at the airport.
From there we flew to Hyderabad, where we visited my brother and his family for several more days. In Hyderabad, my family was treated for dinners and parties by UG’s daughters Bharati and Usha. UG’s grandson Kamesh drove us around showing his place of work, the Defense Research Laboratories.
We then briefly visited several other places, Bombay, Guntur, Delhi, Agra, Banaras and Madras, partly on a lecture tour, before returning to Seaside.
Although this period of four weeks did not involve traveling for me, it was the only time that UG stayed for more than two or three days in the area where I live. The occasion was to provide Mahesh Bhatt a place and some assistance from me and UG to write his biography of UG (UG Krishnamurti, A Life, published later in 1992 by Penguin Books, India).
UG sent some money from Europe, asking me to find a place for him and Mahesh to stay while they visited the US with the plan of Mahesh writing UG’s biography. Wendy and I found a vacation rental house in Carmel for them and rented it for a month. They arrived and set up house there. I brought in my 286 PC computer and a dot-matrix printer. The idea was for me to help Mahesh write the biography in the afternoons when I wasn’t teaching in the college. For a whole week I came, but there was no movement, as Mahesh didn’t make even the first stab at writing. I was beginning to doubt if the biography would ever happen. But soon after, he picked up speed and would dictate material to me and I would type it into the computer while simultaneously editing where it was needed.
There were few visitors – UG made sure of that. There was this odd and odoriferous couple whose story I recounted in the chapter on “UG’s Teaching Process.” Larry Morris came for a couple of weeks to help with the writing. UG himself had newspaper and magazine clippings as well as some old letters with him, and he would dictate some of those to me. At times, he and Larry (and I too) would work together on a paragraph or two. Also, Douglas Rosestone visited, giving an account of the night of the calamity, which was duly recorded in the biography. [A few others mostly from the San Francisco Bay area and Santa Cruz managed to drop in for short visits. ]
Mahesh was intense in his work. When he was not working, he was talking to his daughter on his birthday or to some others in Bombay about his films. He never cared much about what he ate or drank and lived practically on what UG provided him. At nights, when he was alone, he would write his stuff and dictate the material when I was on the computer.
The last night of the writing of the biography, at about 10 p.m., the computer keyboard promptly broke down. Not knowing what else to do, I called the person who had sold me the computer. Fortunately not only did he answer, but he said he could replace the one I had with another one right then! I told Mahesh I would go down to this man’s shop to fetch the replacement keyboard and Mahesh said he would go with me. After returning at about 10:30 PM, I told Mahesh that it was my job now to put all the material of the book together and he could retire for the night. But Mahesh insisted that he would sit with me: in his movie-making work he was used to things breaking down in the middle of the night and to sitting with people working with him late into the night. I started working.
Around 2 AM, UG suddenly walked in from his bedroom and declared, “I still sense a block here. These two chapters (whatever they were) should not be separate. They should be merged together.” I told him that then the resulting chapter would be too long; some material would have to be cut. I think the material that could be cut was mostly about Mahesh’s relationship with Parveen Babi. Mahesh said that he couldn’t do it because the material was too close to him. So, I said I would do it and in about 10 minutes time the chapters were merged and cut down to size. This was another of the many instances where being with UG meant things could change instantly, at any time; one could not hesitate or ponder, but had to move quickly.
The book was ready to be printed by 6 AM. I sat down with UG to design the cover page and was wondering if UG had a picture of himself to put on the cover page. He went into his bedroom and returned with a very nice picture (not the one on the published book). It seemed to fit the cover perfectly. As the book had to be finished immediately, I called my work and excused myself for the day, and set about printing the biography using double-strike printing on a dot-matrix printer. The two hundred pages took about five and-a-half hours. By 11:30 AM the manuscript was ready to be taken to the printers to be copied and bound. I was exhausted; so I rested for a couple of hours in the middle of the day.
The next morning, Mahesh and UG left the house in Carmel, dropping by our house for breakfast on their way to Corte Madera. I told UG that the work had been hard, but I loved every minute of it. I also said that my work was my “guru dakshina” (gift to the guru). UG replied that if there was anybody like a guru, he wouldn’t call himself that, or something to that effect. Anyway, the writing of the biography was a memorable experience.
Yercaud, Mysore, Bangalore and Madras, 1994
While I was visiting UG in San Rafael some months earlier, UG invited me to go to India that winter of 1994 and he even provided me with a ticket. I was to spend a month in India, about three weeks with him and a week with all my extended family in Hyderabad.
My brother had died the year before (in November 1993) from a heart attack in Hyderabad. I hadn’t gone to his funeral, so I thought it would be a great idea to visit my sister-in-law, his widow, after a year of his death to offer my condolences.
After one night in Madras, I first spent about two weeks in Yercaud with UG, a night at Bramachari’s ashram in Mysore, a few days in Bangalore at Chandrasekar’s, then a week with family in Hyderabad, and then went back to Madras to spend another week with UG before I left the country.
I flew from L.A., I think, on Malaysian, directly to Madras. UG not only had sent me the ticket, but also arranged for Chandrasekhar to meet me at the airport and for us to go to Mr. Malladi Krishnamurti’s house. I was quite impressed by the cordiality with which the Malladi’s received me. They had supper ready for me. I slept, took a bath in the morning and had some coffee. I learned that Mr. Krishnamurti was the roommate of my childhood friend Parthasaradhi when they both studied at the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta. (I later told Parthasaradhi, who, like me, has lived in the U.S. for many years, about him and I was able to connect the two.)
Well rested, the next morning, Chandrasekhar and I took a train to go to Salem. We traveled in an air-conditioned compartment where seats were already reserved for us. We ate some idli sold by vendors on the train for breakfast and talked to our hearts’ content.
When we arrived in Salem after about 4-6 hours of travel, UG and the Major (Dakshinamurti) were waiting at the station to receive us. We went into a nearby restaurant for lunch. UG chided the major for the measly tip he gave to the waiter.
Later we arrived at the Radha Estate, in Yercaud. Yercaud is a resort town located on a hill near Salem. Driving there involved quite an uphill curving road with sharp hairpin turns which the Major negotiated well. The house had a West Wing and an East Wing; UG, I and the Major were in the East Wing. In my room, as I opened my suitcase to pull out some small gifts (like almond rocca), I heard UG talking about them as “junk”. Of course, I was hurt a little. Yet he appropriated the whole box of the almond rocca, only part of which I had intended to give to Chandrasekhar and Suguna (and the rest to my family), and never even mentioned a thing about it. UG gave me some rupees in exchange for dollars (with his usual “commission” – as this was his usual practice and how he made some money, the exchange rates varying, depending on the customer!).
Nartaki, an old friend from my days with Chalam and Souris, who also knew UG and Chandrasekar, and who was partly responsible for my meeting UG, also came to see me (I had written to her before), and, of course, UG. She was also put up in the West Wing.
I think it was during that trip that Brahmachari showed a sudden interest in me which he never had before, perhaps because he had read my paper on non-duality by that time. He showed some respect for what I had to say. One afternoon we went out for a walk and he told me stories from his past about UG.
My room was comfortable enough, and there was a bathroom where I could get hot water and wash my underwear and hang them up to dry. I remember one morning I came out after my bath, not quite fully dressed, and UG was sitting in the living room on a sofa or a bench, clad in white clothes. I was standing in front of him watching him in reverence. Earlier, when I was taking my bath, I had been having plenty of negative thoughts going in my head, but now when I stood there, my mind was swept clean of all those negative thoughts, and I could feel a nice clean energy running through me. UG looked like a freshly blossomed flower.
One evening, after dinner, UG was asking all the foreigners (it must have included me) to go to the West Wing, I teasingly said something to the effect, “We all belong over there!” UG took it as if I was feeling hurt. The next afternoon, he himself made some coffee with cream and brought over to me. I knew he was making up for his remark the previous night. The coffee was absolutely delicious.
I saw him also catering to a drunkard over his drinking habit by giving him money each time he came by or UG passed him on the street.
One evening, UG again started his tirade against Chandrasekhar for gathering of so many personal letters of people to UG, along with photographs of UG, and videos and audios of UG talking with people. UG’s claim was that others might access those letters, gleaning personal information the authors or involved parties wouldn’t want seen. Also, he maintained that the photographs and videos were the general property of people (of everyone) and Chandrasekhar had no business keeping them for himself. Another claim I heard was that people who keep these videos etc., might eventually use them to make money. That night things came to a head with a movement to destroy the photographs. UG started throwing pictures (if I remember right, he only did that to a few) into the fire. I said I would help him and threw one of them into the fire myself. Everyone was aghast at what I did. Later, on several occasions, I would brag about how I had committed UG’s picture to flames.
Early in my visit there was a talk about taking me to a Nadi astrologer somewhere in Salem. Godfried and Bodil had already consulted that Nadi. The Nadi reader had told them about their previous lives, including their past names, and everyone had been duly impressed. Arrangements were made for us all to go in a hired van. I was mildly interested. On the morning of the reading, I was taking a bath, getting ready to go, and UG shouted from the living room addressing me, “You‘re not really interested in going, are you?” I said, “No, not really.” Then he cancelled the trip, on that pretext! That’s UG’s style. He can throw surprises at you at any turn!
One cold night, the fireplace was lit. UG’s room was right next door. There was a lot of smoke coming out of the fireplace, and quite a bit of it was being drawn through a small window into UG’s room. UG, however, continued to sleep in his room with his door closed and did not come out for hours. Later, he bragged about this and would say, “’Fresh air is only a psychological necessity!” “Right” I would say to myself sarcastically. In fact, I remember in Palm Springs and in the Crow’s Nest in Mill Valley, people practically choking and rushing out of the room gasping for a breath of fresh air. Suffocation is not a psychological problem!
One evening Brahmachari went for a walk with me into the village and we sat on top of some rocks. The views from there were magnificent. We exchanged notes about our experiences with UG. I did go for several other walks. I remember walking around a church, and I saw a huge resort development under construction.
It was while I was there that one afternoon, Chandrasekhar asked me if I would look into the translation he had made of Mahesh Bhatt’s biography of UG into Telugu. I said I would and asked him whose idea it was, his or UG’s. It was UG’s, he said. UG remembered that I had some experience in translating when I worked for the Telugu Encyclopedia many years ago, and probably thought that it would do some good to the translation if I looked into it.
There was this lawyer of the Supreme Court of India, Sushil Kumar visiting from Delhi. He wore a Rajnishi’s style sannyasi ochre robe. Obviously he was a sannyasin before. One morning there was a big meeting in the living room with several people around. Sushil Kumar was quite brilliant. A big repartee session went on between him, Brahmachari and UG. Mahesh was also present. I think someone even filmed it. It was simply hilarious. People roared with laughter.
That same day or the next day, Sushil Kumar and UG were standing in the porch involved in some discussion. I was present. At some point UG for some reason turned the discussion over to me. I answered to the best of my ability, I think, to the point.
On the New Year’s Eve, Dakshinamurti, Chandrasekhar, Suguna and I watched the TV while UG was resting in his room. The celebration was quite interesting. Among other entertainment items, there was a woman from Malaysia singing in Tamil who was quite good. It was quite amazing to me how many channels (including Western channels like CNN and BBC) you could get on the TV in India.
After the New Year’s, it was time for us to leave Yercaud. Brahmachari had left before us. We were going to visit him in Mysore at his Ashram (which is really a house where he taught Vedanta or what not to a few Brahmacharis (bachelors). They cooked food and ate there. There were several rooms there; the house was his family house and probably his share of the family property. His brothers, according to UG, were king makers. They were noted for corruption and taking bribes for getting favors done. Bramachari had connections with liquor dealers and could get you illicit liquor!
I rewarded the servants well for their work before we left the house in Yercaud for Mysore. The Major drove UG, Nartaki and me. We dropped Nartaki off at the bus stop to take a bus to Tiruvannamalai where she worked in the Ramanashram. It was in the morning around 8 a.m. We then drove for quite some time through a National Forest, up in the hills. The forest was like a jungle, but had wide enough dirt roads to go on and lots of trees, but it wasn’t a dense forest. We might have driven through the forest for about an hour. We played several tapes of Balamuralikrishna in the car.
We arrived at Brahmachari’s Ashram at about lunch time. Brahmachari made me wear a dhoti, and we sat on the floor for lunch. The food was cooked by Brahmachari. It was quite tasty. There were cots with mosquito nets in the neighboring rooms. After lunch, some astrologer came by and a hilarious conversation followed. UG and Brahmachari were talking to each other through that astrologer, joking, of course. I interrupted saying, “Why are guys talking to each other through him, instead of directly?” That added more to the hilarity. I think we slept there that night and the next morning we left for Bangalore, which, if I remember right, was about a six-hour drive. Brahmachari came by to send us off after blessing me and receiving UG’s blessings.
I stayed in Bangalore at Chandrasekhar’s place, in Purnakutee. There I saw Gottfried and Bodil again as well as Frank Naronha. That was the first time I met Naronha. He was trying to touch UG’s feet and UG was preventing him by trying to touch Narona’s feet in turn. So you could see both of them ended up pushing each other’s arms away from themselves. It was funny. When he was making some appeals to UG (about his job or something), I said to Naronha: “You don’t have to ask him, whatever is good for you, UG will do it.” UG looked at me and echoed questioningly, repeating, “Without asking?”
Chandrasekhar brought out his translation of Mahesh’s book, and I started making corrections with my limited abilities. UG and I discussed the correct translation for “Calamity” and we finally settled on “vipattu”. I spent several days making the corrections. In the process, Chandrasekhar also brought out his notebooks of handwritten journals of his encounters with UG. I looked at them and told him that they deserve to be published in English, as many Westerners wouldn’t know about most of the things that had happened around UG in India in the early years.
One evening, Brahmachari brought a poem of his (dandakam, it was called, I think) which he wrote in Kannada and wanted us to translate it into English. He, Chandrasekhar and I sat together for about two hours and did the translation and got it typed up (Julie might have been there and typed it up, I can’t remember.) It is now included (“Who is this UG?”) in Chandrasekhar’s book, Stopped in Our Tracks, Series I.
My next stop was Hyderabad, where I visited my sister-in-law and other family relatives and friends for a week, out of UG’s sphere, and then went on to Madras where UG was waiting in the airport, along with Chandrasekhar and Major. We again were put up at the Malladi’s, where I had a grand time.
Chandrasekhar played a tape of Jnanachakravarti’s astrology readings and some music. We were invited for breakfast at Madurai Mani’s place. The idlis were great and on top of it Mr. Mani sang. The Manis are a domiciled Telugu family. Obviously, the man is well known. His music was good, except it wasn’t my favorite.
After three nights, Chandrasekhar, Suguna, the Major, UG and I went out scouting for a place to spend the next three nights. After looking at a resort place one day and not being satisfied with it, we returned to Madras. The next day, we decided to go to Pondicherry; we went to the Ashram Hotel there and found there were no vacancies. So we headed out of Pondicherry. About 15 kilometers away, UG spotted a hotel from a distance and declared that that was it. We went there, and found it was the Government-run Ashoka hotel. It was pretty clean and was standing on an immaculate beach with a fantastic view from the back where you could sit on chairs and watch the ocean, the beach and the lone boat parked on the beach. Major and I occupied one room, Chandrasekhar and Suguna another and UG a third. The food wasn’t great, but we tipped well anyway. Once, UG asked how much I tipped and I mentioned 10% or something and he made no comment. Chandrasekhar was going to pay for the hotel, but I insisted on paying for it.
On the second day, I arranged for a ride back to Pondicherry to meet with my French friend, Paul Albert, at the hotel where he was staying. Albert was living in Pondicherry at that time trying to do some field work in linguistics with a local tribe. The Major drove and Chandrasekhar and Suguna went with us. UG opted to stay back at the hotel. I caught Albert in the restaurant of the hotel. Looking at the picture on one of the books, Paul remarked that UG looked like a movie star. I introduced Chandrasekhar and the Major to him. They were to come back in the late afternoon and pick me up after I had spent the day with Albert. I drank some beer with him and then we went into the local native tavern with food stalls lined up and local wine served. There were hordes of flies on the foodstuff. Paul said that if it weren’t for the flies, he would have loved to eat the food. We walked a little. We went up to his room which was clean. He made a tape copy of a couple of 45 rpm albums of Sita and Anusuya’s folk songs and gave it to me as a gift. Alas, I lost the tape and I don’t know how. Then we went for a short walk along the street.
Late afternoon, my three friends came to pick me up. Paul said namaskaram to Suguna and we all left.
One night, while we were there was a beautiful full-moon night and all four of us went to the beach. Suguna was complaining about the personal things in her life, particularly about how she didn’t want see or hear about Kaka whom Chandrasekhar once married and divorced on UG’s prompting.
We returned to Madras. I called Satchidananda Murty, my former philosophy professor at Andhra University, on the phone. I had called him once earlier from Yercaud. He had already met UG once in Albuquerque, so he asked if UG would come to his village and receive his hospitality. Of course, UG politely declined. Instead, I made an appointment to see Murty there in Madras at the hotel where he was staying. He was in Madras on some official business.
I asked Mr. Krishanmurti (Malladi) if he could spare a couple of copies of the organizers he had gotten made for his company, which he graciously gave me. I took one of those and a copy of one of UG’s books as gifts for Murty. UG was getting his hair cut at the Taj Mahal Hotel. UG, Major, Chandrasekhar, Suguna and I had some coffee there after the haircut and then drove by Murty’s hotel, where they dropped me off. I went and knocked at Murty’s door. He opened but looked pretty annoyed as I was there a bit earlier than the appointed time (I was supposed to see him at 12 Noon, and it was about 11:50 AM). He let me in anyway. Other teachers came, and I spent the afternoon in their company, taking an auto rickshaw back to the Malladi’s after also attending a lunch and a meeting.
At the Malladi’s, the food was delicious. UG, the Major and I were all put upstairs. Mahesh was visiting UG at that time. And also a lady from Sri Lanka, called Sylvia, I think.
Parvati Kumar, a wealthy retired chartered accountant, once came with his wife and probably about fifty foreigners he was taking on a tour going somewhere in the South to one of the Masters’ places. Malladi’s house had a collection of the pictures of the Masters. I once heard the whole family doing some chanting in Sanskrit at the shrine downstairs. The sound of it sent shivers up my spine. Parvati Kumar prostrated before UG, and, of course, UG, withdrew his feet, saying they were dirty. Kumar is into some occult Vedic thinking and has published in poor English plenty of literature concerning it. UG is considered a Master in the lineage of Masters by Kumar’s group to which the Mallad’s also belong.
That night, the whole group Kumar had brought was asked for dinner. UG and the rest of us were invited too. UG was made to sit on an elevated seat. He introduced Mahesh Bhatt as “Public Enemy No. 1,” and Chandrasekhar as “Public Enemy number 2,” and I added that I was the Public Enemy Number 3. Anyway, we ate dinner. UG gave a small speech, and not saying very much, got up and mingled nicely with the people around and pretty soon we all left to go upstairs, leaving the group to their own devices.
The last night I was there, I was leaving in the middle of the night to fly back to the U.S. from Madras. UG was supposed to leave the next night. I asked him where he was going. He said he had four plane tickets in his pocket—one to go to Australia, a second to go to the U.S., a third to go to China and Japan and the last one to go to Europe. He said he would first go to Singapore, and then decide where he would go from there. I am sure he made his decision tossing a coin. That’s some traveler!
UG was debating whether he should go with me to the airport to see me off. I told him, why he should put himself to driving in the car at such a late hour in the night. Around 10 PM, he decided to go. At the airport I got everything taken care of and was about to go to board the plane. As usual, I shook UG’s hand and saluted him. He tapped me on my shoulder and made some kind of blessing sign with his arm as he was leaving. It had to be a blessing!
That was the end of my trip to India in 1994.
Hemet, California, and Gstaad Switzerland -- 1995
At the end of 1994, UG and gang visited us in Seaside for a couple of days, staying through the New Year. As usual, he stayed in the modest Magic Carpet Lodge (a Best Western motel) down the street that UG liked to stay in when he visited us. During that time, UG insisted that I go travel with them in Southern California right after the New Year. There was no specific destination. Rather, he wanted to make good on his threats to find a new “base” in California: he was “finished” with the Bay area.
So, soon after, I flew to LA and was received by UG at the airport. My daughter Shyamala was also there to meet me at the airport and spend a little time with me. We all got into a van driven by Julie. While Julie was driving out of the parking lot she ran into competition with another lady for space on the driveway and neither of them would budge. UG kept yelling at Julie, “Don’t let her in, the bitch!” and so on and Julie was egged on further. Finally, after both women took considerable risks, Julie prevailed. This scene certainly fazed out Shyamala.
We drove to a nearby hotel where the Malladi’s were waiting for us with idlis and other goodies. We had our lunch with them. Shyamala was introduced to Krishnmurti and his wife Prasanna. I believe Larry was with us on the trip too. But I can’t distinctly remember. Shyamala left us to return home.
We spent the night in a hotel, UG, Larry and I, I think, occupying the same suite. In the morning we set out on our trip with nothing but a cup of coffee or tea and some peanuts from the plane. And, looking for places to stay, we drove toward San Diego, via a valley where we didn’t find anything suitable. We had lunch in an Indian restaurant in San Diego. Then we were driving again when UG asked us to stop and picked up one of those papers where hotels, apartments and other accommodations were advertised. He found a Best Western motel posting a price of $19 a night in a place called Hemet. He couldn’t have been happier!
We immediately drove and found ourselves in a small non-descript town some distance southeast of Los Angeles. The rent at the motel was actually somewhat higher, probably around $29 and the apartment suites were even higher. Julie rented an apartment, Mario and Lisa one and the Guhas another. And Larry too I suppose. I was to crash in UG’s suite, sleeping on the living room sofa bed which would be folded back into a sofa in the daytime for people to sit on. The arrangement was that I would pay the suite rent for one month (that was the scheduled duration of our stay) and in his turn UG would cook for me.
Sometime while there I coined a nickname for Hemet: “Hemet Damn it!” which UG liked.
In India, Mahesh was going to write a press release on pornography and censorship and he sought UG’s help. To help in the matter, although I didn’t have a computer with me, UG dictated his pronouncement on the subject to me, and I wrote it down by hand. It was entitled, “The Role of Godmen in the Next Millennium.” I edited it and then fair-copied it in all capitals, and Julie faxed it to Mahesh in Bombay. It was an indictment of censorship, showing how it never works. A key sentence in the piece reads: “If we admit that our interest in spirituality is not essentially different from our interest in varieties of food, varieties of girls, and every other form of pleasure, then everything falls into its natural rhythm of life.”
While we were in Hemet we made several trips to various places. One time we went to a billionaire’s place (I can’t recall his name.) The man had once been a professor of mathematics or economics at the University of Chicago. Once, Julie took UG to visit him in Chicago. He had quit his job there, saying that the income provided by his job kept him poor. Instead he became a high-level investment broker and made 4 billion and was on the way to making his fifth billion. His place in one of the valleys in the Los Angeles area was hidden away. We had to drive down a long driveway which had several signs warning, “Armed Response!” He had two ferocious dogs and lived alone with a whole lot of booze and vitamins and huge TV screen with almost 1000 channels. He looked like a lonely man.
We later went to another place of his where he was having a huge house built with big lawns and bronze sculptures on the lawns worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. There was a separate annex being built which he was offering to UG to live in. But UG wasn’t too enthusiastic about it as the place was located in a remote area and it would be difficult for people who want to visit him to have access to.
While I was in Hemet, Wendy mailed a copy of Vemana, the book of Vemana’s verses translated by me into English which had just been published in India. UG immediately got a hold of it in the car and started reading from it as we set out to go on one of our “malling” trips.
At one point, UG was making arrangements to go with Mario to the airport in Los Angeles for Mario’s departure back to Europe. Mario was to drive there, I was to go with them and then drive UG back to Hemet. UG suggested that we visit my daughter Shyamala after dropping off Mario, as she lived nearby. We called her, offering to take her out to lunch. She asked if she could invite a few of her friends to meet UG. That was fine with UG, so it was arranged.
When we arrived the next morning at the airport, I had to get help from Mario even to start the car – needless to say I was nervous to drive in that busy city. But I did anyway, and drove UG and myself carefully to Shyamala’s apartment. Kash, her boyfriend then (now her husband) was there. As Shyamala didn’t have any coffee or cream with her, so she had to send Kash to get some, and then we had some coffee. Meanwhile, about ten to fifteen of their friends, mostly interns from medical fields, ophthalmologists, psychiatrists, and others gathered there (Kash was in medical school at the time). One of them offered to go to a nearby South Indian restaurant and bring us all lunch. By about noon, the table was filled with a feast with all kinds of goodies and we had a great communal lunch, instead of merely taking Shyamala out! And UG, in his usual fashion, charmed all of them with his answers to their questions and with his one-liners, anecdotes and jokes. UG’s magic at work again! After a couple of hours, UG and I drove back to Hemet.
On his next visit to the US, UG did change his base to Palm Springs.
In 1995 I and my family all visited UG in Gstaad. On this trip our family also went to Heidelberg on our friend Rima Holland’s invitation to spend a few days there. One event I remember particularly is the following:
UG asked Julie and Mario to take our whole family on a trip to Italy. They did. We stopped in a border village after passing through the big tunnel going to Italy and had a six-course elaborate lunch, (and we weren’t allowed to pay – Julie paid for everything) including aperitifs, digestives, wine, portabella mushrooms and what not. It was so fancy. I realized that the Italians (exemplified by Mario) were just as picky as the French (and the Brahmins) about eating.
We took the freeways (which are toll ways in Italy) and went to Milan. We went into some stores and shops, had coffee in a shop that also sold ice cream, and went into a big cathedral where there was a dress code (you had to wear shoes and a shirt and whatnot). There was a big water fountain in the huge plaza in front with lots of pigeons and people. We took some pictures there and headed back to Switzerland.
We came to Stressa, a resort town on the Italian-Swiss border, where UG had spent a couple of months with Valentine many years ago. Obviously, UG had asked Julie and Mario to show us that place. It was on the Lago Majore, a big and beautiful lake. The place was very touristy. We walked around on the cobbled lanes and went into shops, stopped in place for a delicious pizza and an ice cream place across the street for a fancy ice cream.
It was after dark when we left to head back to Gstaad. We drove through another long tunnel. When we stopped to pee, we got out of the tunnel and saw the full moon. And it was beautiful. It was so fantastic driving through the magnificent high mountains on a moonlit night with Mario driving effortlessly and perfectly all the way. It was around 2 AM when we got home.
Palm Springs: December 1998 -- January 1999
The final event I would like to write about here is my ill-fated visit to UG in Palm Springs at the end of 1998 and beginning of 1999. That December-January, I had a falling out with UG in Palm Springs. That was the same winter when he gave $10,050 to Kiran for both his grand piano and drum set.
I traveled to Palm Springs first and then about a couple of weeks later Wendy and Kiran joined me.
At first, UG fixed a place for me in a condominium (in a fancy gated compound called Whitewater) with Mahesh. I was doing the cooking there for Mahesh and myself. Once UG asked me to feed Bob and Paul as well, and then when they came along with him into the condo, UG started his talk about how he didn’t like the stink and stench of an ashram. I just about pounced on him for his contradictory messages.
A week or so later after we had moved to another apartment, UG asked me if I could feed Mahesh for the next ten days. I said fine. But I wasn’t just cooking for him; occasionally the whole gang would come in for lunch. And I had to make something special for UG. I was making mashed canned garbanzo beans or something for him. I would take about an hour or so to prepare the lunch. UG was watching over all this. He didn’t like my getting so involved with cooking. I should have seen it coming.
Ten days later, Mahesh left, and Wendy and Kiran came and we were all put up in one room in the main house next to the cottage where UG lived. Chandrasekhar and his wife Suguna were also there, as were Lisa, who lived there, the Guha’s, who were also visiting, and Julie.
I was supposedly to share the kitchen with Chandrasekhar and Suguna. I quickly made some garbanzo beans with a few spices and lemon for Kiran. I didn’t take more than about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, UG was sitting there outside the kitchen watching and at one point he said, “Get out of there, they have to do their cooking.” By that time I finished and said I was just getting out. Then a minute or so later, he said again to get out of there. I got furious. I was already out of the kitchen. I said, “UG, I am out of there! I’m done.” He realized that I was really done and he couldn’t say anything more.
I continued on, “I won’t get into the kitchen! The three of us will eat outside from now on.” UG replied, “You’re guests here. I don’t like your eating outside.” I said, “Why are you sentimental about it? This is a decision I came to after thinking about the practicalities. After all, I am earning my own living. It’s not a problem for me.” His speech faltered and became weak. It was clear that he was disturbed.
Here is a quote from Chandrasekhar’s notebooks (Stopped in Our Tracks – Series III, published on UG’s website) about UG’s reaction:
"UG faltered in his speech and his voice was weakened, reflecting the disturbance in him. “You haven’t eaten anything? Why is your voice like that?” asked Moorty. UG had already cooked his oats and eaten them.
"I then went to UG’s room. “Why should Guha and their family eat here? Why should Julie eat here?” he said. But it was he who wanted them to stay.
"I can’t wait to see how far this saga of eating will go on today. “I am not going to have any more meetings or talks from now on. I never invited the Germans. They can do what they please,” UG said. He turned to Larry and said, “America is finished. This is also the end of the Palm Springs chapter. I am not even going to India.” Then he turned to Lisa and said, “Why do we have this big chair here? It’s a waste. Return it to the owner. I must vacate this place by the end of January. I’ll tell Lynn. There won’t be any more meetings. There won’t be any talking.”
"He talked like that, rather incoherently, for a while. This incident is proof that he too reacts to situations by being sorry for what happened and being hurt. Although he says “I never question my actions,” it’s clear that he is affected by what happens in such contexts. The principal actor of the drama, Moorty, however, sat quietly like a cool cucumber. The three of them ate after we finished."
Then I stopped using the kitchen. I told Wendy to take care of the cooking. I got my food and ate in the living room for a couple of times, and then I figured it would be better if I ate in the Lucky store at the end of the street. This went on for about three days (just before New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Eve, Dr. Lynn, Lisa, Wendy and I had a celebration with expensive champagne).
In one of the gatherings in the house, I said to UG, “I know when I am not wanted.” He replied, “You are very much wanted. If it comes to that, all these people, Chandrasekhar and all, can go.” Although surprised by the reply, I wasn’t too convinced by it. The fourth day morning, I was telling myself in the bed that I had to leave the place. I was finishing up putting Chandrasekhar’s Stopped in Our Tracks in a book form in Word Perfect. I was still struggling with the headers and footers. As UG entered the main house, I declared that I was leaving that afternoon (Wendy and Kiran were leaving that day to go to San Diego). UG looked very surprised, turned to me and said, “Why?” I said, “I don’t feel very happy here.” And that was it; there was no further conversation.
I went to his cottage to wind up the computer business and put all the files Chandrasekhar needed on a disk to give to him. Meanwhile, UG walked in, and I said that he didn’t owe me anything for whatever I did for him, I did all the web business because I didn’t make any distinction between his work and mine, and finally that I would look after his web page until he found someone else. UG replied that he wasn’t concerned about that.
I told Wendy I would get a ride with her to the bus station that afternoon; she could drop me off there and move on to San Diego with Kiran. I would take a bus to Los Angeles, then to Salinas and Monterey. I said at the bus station to Wendy, “It’s my life. You have to let me do it this way.” The operator didn’t have change for a hundred dollars. But he let me in and I bought the ticket at the next stop. I paid $70 without knowing there was a cheaper fare; the sales clerk didn’t tell me about it. In the L.A. bus station I had a sandwich for dinner and sat there watching people while I waited for the bus. I was quite impressed by how a black woman treated another homeless person. That was quite moving. She was so compassionate. There were two buses, and I think I took one of them knowing full well that it would arrive in Salinas around four in the morning.
When I landed in the Salinas bus station there was no immediate connecting bus to go to Monterey. I walked with my bag (and pillow) on the streets for at least a mile in that cold weather (It was 30 degrees or 40 I can’t remember—but it was cold) until I found a breakfast place. I ordered some serial with milk and went and washed in the bathroom. I asked the waitress for directions to the Monterey bus station. One of the fellows there advised me where the stop was, but said I should go back to the Greyhound station instead of to the bus stop nearby, as it was dark and not safe to wait there. I walked back to the bus station and waited for another hour or so. Then I took the bus; I was dropped off in Seaside at Fremont and Ord Grove streets.
After eight days of internal turmoil, I did finally break down and call UG in Palm Springs and apologized, saying, “I’m sorry, I made such a mess out of things.” UG said, “No need to apologize,” and quickly started making arrangements for Chandrasekhar and Suguna to spend a couple days in Seaside.
Later, UG and I met many times, but the air between us was never so clear again. I did visit UG again in Gstaad in the summer of 2000. (That’s when I edited Bob Carr’s autobiography). The question did come up in my mind, more than once, what in the world was I doing sitting there, day in and day out.
The next summer, UG extended the same invitation, even offering to send me a ticket for my travel, saying that I didn’t have to spend a penny. But I turned down the invitation. He said that he was terribly disappointed. I said, “For a long time I thought that no one understood me better than you.” He enthusiastically replied, “Yes, that’s true.” I continued, “But I don’t feel that way any more.” He then said, “Come over here, we will thrash out the matter.” When I declined, he said, “Give it some deep, serious thought.” He called me twice in this context.
I didn’t go to Gstaad again until the summer of 2004, although I had been seeing him off and on in the US in various places, including my own. In 2004, I heard that he fell in the bathroom and was hurt. Being concerned, I called him a couple of times. I told him I planned to go to India for one last time to say goodbye to everyone. UG said that if I was going, he will be there too. The second time I called him in Gstaad, he said, “Why don’t you come and spend some time here.” I accepted the invitation and went to Gstaad to spend six weeks with him. That was when I also made arrangements to spend four weeks with him in Bangalore along with Wendy and Kiran at the end of the same year.
He did come to see us in Seaside in the beginning of 2006. But after that, he never visited the US again. My last visit to see him was before his death. The story of that visit of mine is recounted in the following chapter. You will notice that in spite of the air between us not being cleared, there was still that friendship, affection and mutual respect between us, as there always had been.
A Few Other Travel Memories
It was probably on my first visit to UG in Palm Springs. I was to sleep in his living room as usual and UG was saying to me that he would prefer that he slept on the couch and I in his bedroom. Of course, I would have none of that. I told him I would arrange the sofa pillows on the floor and sleep there (as the couch was not even enough or was too soft). He took it upon himself to bring sheets and pillows and arrange my bed himself. I remarked to him smiling, “UG, you are doing everything short of taking me to bed and singing lullabies!” Once Guha told me that UG said only two people could sleep on the couch in his living room (referring to Chalet Sunbeam in Gstaad): Mahesh Bhatt and Narayana Moorty.
One night in Palm Springs, UG slept in his room with his door locked and the heater turned way high (probably around 95 degrees). I couldn’t sleep -- it was so hot plus I had to pee. But I couldn’t get into the bathroom as it was in UG’s room. So, I went outside and peed in the plants. The next morning I told UG, and he said that he hardly ever slept at night and that I could easily have gotten him up.
Later, I started getting picky about where I slept.
On a visit to Lake Havasu, I was to stay in the same hotel suite as UG. There was so much party noise from downstairs that I suggested to UG that maybe we should look for another room for me. And with Larry’s help we did go around looking but didn’t find anything satisfactory. So I ended up in UG’s living room again, with ear plugs this time, loaned by Larry.
I think from then on UG changed his policy. On my further visits to Palm Springs he never asked me to sleep in his studio apartment. I slept in other places.
Once in Gstaad, in 1996, I remember UG noticing that we needed an extra mattress for me to sleep on upstairs. Without my knowing it, UG went downstairs to the storeroom and singlehandedly carried a twin mattress upstairs. I only found out as I saw him coming up the last few stairs. I was so embarrassed to see him doing that. But it was too late!
Children, Movies, and Censorship
It was in Chalet Sunbeam in Gstaad, I believe. We were watching a movie every night to spend time. The movies were either brought in by Julie from the US or rented by her in the nearby town. Sometimes the movies had foul language (the four-letter word said hundreds of times), violence and explicit sex. But UG never disallowed children to watch the movies (the children present at this time were Shilpa and Sumedha, Guha’s daughters, and perhaps also Claire, Susan’s daughter). “They will be exposed to them later in their lives anyway,” was his justification.
A most moving time was when we were watching a movie on Larry Flynt, the “Hustler” maven. The movie was quite painful to watch at moments, as Flynt’s girlfriend was suffering from drug addiction and whatnot. It was dark in the room, except for the light from the movie. Everyone was absorbed in watching the movie. But I looked at UG’s face, and I could see distinctly tears rolling down his cheeks. Who could say that UG never cried?
Memorable Car Rides
I had the most memorable car rides while I was visiting UG. UG always made sure that I sat in the back (he always occupied the front seat by the side of the driver).
In California, the ride to Idyll Wilde was very interesting: The road up the hill was windy and the climb steep. Larry, Susan, Mario, UG and I and some others all went there looking for a house to stay while we were still in Hemet. It had snowed there earlier and was rather cold. We parked the car at the main intersection of the town and got out. Everyone else was shivering, but UG got out with not even his hands in the pockets of his thin jacket. There was sludge on one of the streets. UG was more sure-footed than I was, so he gave me a hand when I stumbled crossing the street. When they looked at a house on the corner of a street, I went with him inside and remarked while he was toying with the idea of renting it, that he and others could stay there, but I would stay outside under the tree, and if I died in the cold, they could drag me out and throw me away! That probably poured cold water on any enthusiasm he might have had.
While in Switzerland, I remember going on such fantastic trips with UG and others that I doubt if I will ever have such experiences again. One was driving through Villars, the place where Krishnamurti lived a long time ago with his brother. I remember stopping there and have coffee with Larry and Susan and whomever.
A second trip was to Lugano and the Italian borders where we saw Lago Majore and (I am not so sure now that they are near each other). The views were phenomenal.
A third trip was when we all went to the Lichtenstein Principality. The small town was bordering on three countries, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. We stopped to have lunch in the local MacDonald’s. I treated everyone to veggie burgers and what not. We circled around the where the ruler of the country lived. On our return trip, I was with UG in a car driven by Vibodha. We drove back on the Upper Alps and the views of the mountains and valleys were so fantastic that I will never forget them. Vibodha was such a perfect driver. Mario, I think, was driving the other car. He too was a great driver, and also (contrary to UG’s denunciations) a great cook.
Even as recently as August 2004, we went in a two-car caravan to Chamonix, France, to see the glacier coming down Mont Blanc. Not only the views there phenomenal, but I never saw water flowing so fast in a river.
Care and Compassion:I had just had a cancer operation. (I consulted with UG before and he advised me to go through with the operation.) After the surgery, I had called him from the hospital room in Stanford to tell him how the operation went. When I returned home a couple of days later, UG and Mahesh took a plane and came and visited me in Seaside. UG made sure that no others visited us (which would normally be the case) at that time. When they came, I went into the living room and sat on a high stool talking to them. After a while, I felt exhausted, still suffering from the after-effects of surgery, and said, “You guys keep talking. I am a little tired. I will go and lie down in the bedroom.” And after I lay in the bed, UG came into the bedroom and sat next to me at the bed for a length of time and chatted with me. I was so touched!
Later, after he returned to Palm Springs, UG wanted me to go to Switzerland to his place and get a good rest there. He cashed his frequent flyer miles and a first-class ticket and got me a business class ticket and Wendy and Kiran tourist class tickets and told Wendy, “You drop this guy off in Gstaad, and then you can return to Seaside.” Of course, Wendy stayed with me the whole time and we spent two months in Gstaad as UG’s guests. I was kept busy translating Chandrasekhar’s notebooks at that time – that’s some kind of rest! But UG’s care and compassion were boundless!