Arvind Panagariya blames the socialist educated elites, from leading Indian Institutions of higher learning, sprung up during the previous regime, for India’s current shrunken GDP. He cites “the government attempts to privatise a large number of public sector enterprises, which have remained stalled despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push, to get cabinet approval for the list of companies drawn up by the NITI Aayog”. He goes on to further state that,
“Remarkably, in India even business leaders have played an insignificant role in pushing for market-friendly reforms. In most countries, businesses try to use an economic crisis as an opportunity to seek removal of regulations that impede their progress. But in India, they use a crisis as the opportunity to seek subsidies and protection from imports,” he says.
Why do we have so many different Ministries in a nation of good governance. The list is alarmingly long, so I won’t print its entirety, but suffice to say that a huge 80% reduction, would not hurt as you could still effectively lead as in Germany. There should be fewer ministries, but effective ministries. The Indian Government needs to Dis-invest on a large scale, from current Investments in such sub Ministries which prevent them from being privatized. The clear answer is to reduce the Government, and to let private industry develop, to fill the gap. It is time to finally step away from the ‘Nationalist” era of Indira Gandhi, which followed Nehru’s Socialist and Non-Aligned Era.
Huge land and other resources from these closed enterprises, can then be re purposed to build the new cities, airports, transportation hubs, Universities, Hospitals of tomorrow. The money from the spin off, of majors like LIC, IOC, SBI, or the top 50, would make a sensible approach, to build India’s tomorrow. Banks, Insurance, Healthcare, Education should be largely dis-invested to form large Private service industries. The focus should be to provide the most jobs, on a massive scale, to let the Indian entrepreneurship, and native intelligence, combine with modern markets, and interfaces, to develop. The people will find their own way of life, as this is India after all that we are talking about, once they are provided the tools. We can enjoy all the bonus, of India’s young and growing population, for the coming decades, Will have to take the right steps now and change direction, to a more direct approach.
Our Government has no business being in Business.,and should free itself from this burden with the right precautions. For too long has the Indian Bureaucracy caused a pause, in India’s growth story. They hold on to it’s colonial and socialist past, while the nation needs to move ahead; into modern markets and modern industrial\service areas. The left often gets in the way of the right’s implementation, causing good recommendations, to flounder in red tape. It is time to cut this red tape once and for all. Mr Modi should allow the Indian people, to decide their own economic future, and not ministers, enclosed near him on Raisaina Hill.
It is time indeed for a new Era, for the young and newly educated Indian youth; to become the service providers, to the modern world of the future. We need to fund them with all the States resources at its command, to make the future digital India. This only means massive dis-investment from the old businesses of yesteryear’s. Now we have to make the most important investment for our future, into the youth of this nation. All our public enterprises, rightfully belong to them, and should be used for their greatest good. Get rid of Syssypuse’s burden of running large economic enterprises, and rise to build the superhighway of the future, with energy and hope. I hope, with a slight change in direction; our path ahead, becomes clearer, and brighter!
I am surprised, to read that in the US, “ Research and
development have been cut so much that the US is now in second place and
high-quality higher education is becoming unaffordable for most middle-class
students. Yet every time someone proposes new investments in our future, they
are told that the nation is broke, massively in debt, and cannot afford new
The Jouirnal Blog continued, “The United States had plenty of
money half a century ago. In the 1950s and 1960s, we paid down the huge World
War II debt at a time when we maintained a much larger military than today and
fought wars in Korea and Vietnam. We built the Interstate Highway System and
much of the other physical infrastructure we use today. We funded vigorous
research and development, including the fabulously expensive Apollo program. We
supported higher education well enough that middle-class students could
graduate from elite universities without crippling debt.”
I am surprised, as I always believed that the best years are
ahead of us. Yet the article sounded as if our wild economy, and can-do
attitude, is a setting Western sun. We have become a nation that refuses to invest
in itself, it allows private business to thrive, at the cost of public
expenditure. Who will build the future modes of transportation, or the new fuel
cells and batteries? Future cities will house, millions in a new tech world. Future
farms will be climate controlled. Flora and Fauna will be preserved in video,
and reserves. Humans will use artificial companions, for living, and transportation.
Entertainment will be through focused sensory stimulation experiences, including
physical, chemical and mental stimulants.
Traditionally we have been a nation of Innovators and Free Thinkers as part of the American Way. Unfortunately, the cost of fostering human social conditions, for this innovation and education, has been going up. Over the past 5 decades, cost of social justice and security, has largely drawn from the pocketbook of employees, instead of the pockets of the corporations. Even before Reagan the cry to lower taxes, on the corporate and Wall Street big wigs, had a quaint resonance, in the elected house and Senate. Lobbyist swarmed and payroll taxes doubled many times, since initiation. Corporate taxes continued to slide, even hailed today by current President Trump, as one of his proudest moment, in this White House.
It is time now, to once again invest in the American Spirit and our people. Ever since the revolution, we have always risen from the ashes of past wars, and failures, with even more strength and determination. We are on the cusp of another revolution, where we tax more, and invest more, into American roots. The roots will grow green shoots which will create the forests of tomorrow. These schools and, universities are incubators, of our future world. What we teach them today, as basic human values, will take our place; in the universe, of tomorrow May they live long and prosper, on our blue planet!
Sam looked at me, with those large innocent eyes of hers, blinked her larger eye lashes twice, smiled, and said to me, “You have always had a way with words, Ashok. I can never imagine, what you will think of, next. I wouldn’t even last five minutes, in that crazy head of yours?” She became lost in her own thoughts as we waited, I squeezed Sam’s hand and she looked at me and I smiled back, as these moments were rare. I looked at my watch as I had to leave. The Producer came into the recording studio, and gave us a thumbs up sign, and Sam yelled with delight. He was followed by the sound engineer, and our agent Suresh.
“I am tired, and have an early train, to catch,” I said.
“Ashok, that last track you laid today, is just amazing, how do you come up with these rhythms, and beats.” Suresh gushed, giving me a hasty hug. Suresh is my agent and childhood friend. “Why do you have to go on this discovery trip, I cannot understand?”
“Like I told you Suresh, something is calling out to me, from out there. I am going to the rock, where Swami Vivekananda sat, where Lord Ram sat, and prayed to Lord Shiva. Something is telling me to go there, and find the truth, of what is India? I can’t explain it.”
“You can’t do this to me,” Suresh, “to us”, he continued
I replied. “I have given all I have, for this album, for over a year, now I need some time for myself. Suresh my dear friend, this is not about you or us, this is a strange hollow feeling, inside of me. All my mathematical rigor and training is lost, within this, self-doubt. I do not even know myself or what is my purpose. I have made up my mind, to just go out there, and travel our land. I hope to find what is missing, in my current life?”
Sam went off with the sound engineer, to listen to the last tracks, we had played. She had a better ear for music, I just knew instinctively, when my drum notes flowed in rhythms, like mathematical equations. I just followed my instincts, and strict composition steps, and made my notes, follow my mathematical patterns, which only I could see. We had realized early in our partnership, that it is Sam, who just made the melody flow, with her singing. She played the guitar and harmonica and had an amazingly versatile voice. Somehow mine and Sam’s singing, worked well together, and this was tour second album together. We co wrote the lyrics of most of our songs.
“My work is done here.” and I handed my drum sticks to our producer, and walked out.
The next day I had started my journey, just like Mahatma Gandhi had started his journey, on his arrival from South Africa. I had my sleeping bag and my laptop, and phone and books for the way. I wanted to see India, from the ground, and hear the names, of the familiar stations. I wanted to hear the languages, and the dialects, of the people, from the millions, who had passed before us. They too must have traveled on these same rails, on their way south. I wondered how many of them had sought the meaning of their lives, in the clackity-clack of these trains wheels, rolling down these rails.
Delhi was left far behind and I heard the clackety-clack of the railroad tracks, as the electric trains did not huff and puff, anymore. The countryside passed, as I gazed out the window, and he went from State to State. I had a sleeper and slept in my sleeping bag, on the foam-covered bed. Late in the night, I heard the now familiar calls, of the tea hawkers, and the food vendors. The PM had helped his father, at a tea stall, I thought to himself, as another day passed, on the tracks. I loved the smell and color of the passing countryside. The sun broke out and the fields are green, and I am away from the dry cold land, of my air polluted city. The green Ghats beckoned my soul, and I thought I saw, a waterfall with a rainbow, flash by from my window, and then it was gone.
An year has passed, and I have become a Math teacher, in an all-girls school, in the town of Gangtok, in Sikkim. I had come there to study, in the Buddhist Monastery, almost nine months ago, with a companion I found, in Ma’s ashram, in Pondicherry. It had been a long journey by train and Bus, to cross into the mountains, of the Eastern Himalayas. We had then hired a jeep, to take us, across some very remote areas, to the monastery, at the top of a cliff face. We had to climb on foot up the narrow path, along the cliff face, to get to the Monastery. There we finally come to a rest. We were admitted by the Abbot, and we studied with the monks.
We meditated for three months, and then went herd gathering, in the mountains. I helped to bring the animals back, from their summer, alpine forage lands. The rhythms of the seasons, and the might of the towering mountains, moved me. We would begin by rising at early morning, before dawn and start our trek. We had to climb a thousand meters up, around the hills, to get to the grazing grounds. My mind and body were fully engaged in these long walks. away from civilization. They made me face the last of my inner demons. As I gathered the Goats and the cattle, I made a new life, for myself. The cows and the goats helped me gain the realization, of what I am.
My meditation is progressing well, with my guide, and I feel a healthy glow of joy, for all creatures, I am now comfortable with myself. I sat on the side of some running water, taking a break. I had my bare feet, in the cold, clear, water, of this mountain tributary, of the Teesta river. My mind is as clear, as the flowing water, and only time is still. As I watch, a fish nibbles, on my big toe, and then swims on, as if, uninterested. But at that time, I was fully present in this moment. I have peered into the eye of this fish, who peered back, and there was a deep connection. I felt a sudden belonging to this eye, this fish, this stream, this land, this India, this universe. I looked up, and the sun was rising, over the evergreens, its rays lit up the rushing water, and my being, and this creation, is complete. Tears of joy, ran down my cheeks, at the realization; that the sun’s eye, and the fish’s eye, and the light reflecting off the waters, are part of my being.
I bade farewell to the Abbott and on his assistant’s advice I started teaching Math’s again, at the High School for Girls. They were desperate for a good math’s teacher in Gangtok. The girls loved his no-nonsense style and fell into his fevered pace, of teaching math’s. Their minds were fresh as the mountain air, and they seemed to grasp everything Ashok taught, with the rapidity of sponges. Their marks began to show steady progress, and the laggards were helped, by his open teaching methods. Tough concepts and theorems, where explained by examples, they could understand and use. He had taught far advanced students before, but the girls of this new generation, had access to so much more information. He challenged them individually, and in small competitive groups, and his students grew.
The music teacher was the one, who encouraged Ashok to help (when he found out that Ashok was a drummer), with the group, who had won the State Championship, in group singing, last year. The area had some very bright musicians and the girls in the school, had especially great voices. It wasn’t every year but for the past few years, they had some outstanding talent. He loved this work and he threw himself into the music and the girls loved him for his strange rhythms and sounds. He tried to teach some of them the mathematical patterns behind them and some of the brighter ones understood. Their voices began to rise and fall with the rhythms he adopted from them, making a strangely uniquely sound of the mountains of Sikkim. You could almost feel, as if the music was carrying you there. The beat one was hearing is the beat of the hunters and gatherers, who had done this in these beautiful mountains, from time immemorial. Everyone is saying that this time, the group may win the National championship.
When he got home late, he checked his email and noticed a message from his old friend Sam. He had not heard from her for a few months, so was intrigued, and opened the message. She wrote, “Dear Ashok, Just had dinner with the producer in Mumbai. We have got ourselves, a multi crore deal, for two albums (including “Dunia” our new album). We open this Christmas at the Goa Christmas Festival, with Dunia, doing a National rollout. You are the drummer, and cocreator, singer, and the new corporate producer is dying, to finally meet you. He is a mathematician also, and was mumbling your kind of lingo, on algorithms and geometrical patters, in the music. More when we meet, your’s, Sam”
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” -E.M. Forster, novelist (1 Jan 1879-1970)
The day had started on a bright note, as I left my flat in
Gurgaon and headed off to my office. It was not far in distance, a mere 7 miles,
in a nearby glass and steel office tower. It was the traffic cacophony, I was
trying to beat, which had always bothered me. Soon as I crawled in my car to
the end of our lane, I beheld the same daily mayhem; at the merge point, with
the feeder road. The sound of all variety of honking, of truck and car horns,
was constantly blaring I quickly put up my window and turned on my AC, even
though it was a relatively cooler day. When I had moved to my apartment, it had
been a deceptively serene lane, with minimal traffic about 7 years ago. I had
just graduated from my college, got my current job, at the multinational IT
firm, as software security trainee.
Since then Gurgaon had exploded in traffic as more and more
people, moved in. The empty plots started to fill along with the new towers
that were only tall cranes, when I moved in. Now I am surrounded, by huge
residential towers, which had led to the explosion in traffic, at all the
crossroads, during rush hour. I found nothing on the morning news on the radio,
as I waited. I switched to the disc player. The music that Sudha loves so much,
filled my car, and I closed my eyes, thinking of her, as I waited for the light
to change. Ours had been an arranged marriage, which had blossomed into love.
She has introduced me to the classical Indian music gharana, that she had been
tutored at, as a young girl, growing up in Lucknow in UP.
We were of the same caste but our upbringing could not have
been more different. She had been brought up, in an orthodox Hindu household.
Her father was a professor at the University, and her mother a teacher at the
local school. They celebrated all the festivals with regularity and she was
encouraged to study music and the arts. Her mother would tie her saree around
her waist; she would tuck it tightly into her petticoat to avoid any flames.
She would then proceed to show her daughter, the fundamentals of vegetarian
cooking. Being the girl in the family,
she had to provide steady help to her mother in the kitchen, to learn the
traditional dishes for family meals. It was her Guru Ji, who mesmerized me, as
his rendering of the traditional Ragas while playing a Harmonium, accompanied
by his table players and ensemble, was truly uplifting.
Despite my lack of knowledge of this ancient tradition, I
also soon also discovered, that I had no ear for music. I could not follow the
nuances of the tones, or the flow and beats of the melodies. I missed all the
changes in tempos and beats, and could just hum the most basic of melodies, in
the shower. I had listened more to western bands and foreign artists, singing
in English, in School and Engineering College. I had led an isolated life from
general society, as the hostel and the college, was an intense place. We worked
very hard just to stay up with the courses we are attending, each year. Each
year the courses became more intense and I escaped into Western modern music
and listened with my headphones and cheap device for endless hours, sometimes
even while I studied. I completed my Masters from IIT Delhi and had started
working right away.
Sudha came into my life after I had settled into my job and
saved some money, to rent my own two-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms.
Somebody from my family was always visiting and one room was for my parents or
other visitors. More and more young professionals had moved in, and there was a
lot of gossip on where to eat, and where to hang out after work. New
restaurants had opened catering to a wide variety of Indian food, and some
Italian and Chinese and Thai. Sometimes when we could get away, we would even
meet for lunch, in the various cafes and new gourmet chef’s offerings.
When my father decided that I had a steady job and
sufficient savings, he had my mother show me the picture of Sudha amongst other
girls, which my Mom liked. She was the daughter of his best friend from his college
days and of our caste also. I had gone through the photos on a whim, not
expecting to find anyone I would find attractive. Suddenly the picture of Sudha
passed before the front of my face, and my eyes seemed to catch a glimpse of
“This is the one,
your father likes.” Said in my mother’s usual stern tone, when she did not
approve of something, her husband wanted. I stared at a lovely young woman,
clad in a traditional Indian Saree, in bright Red color. The traditional
Banarsi Sari had a gold embroidered border that framed her face and was draped
smartly, across her body. She sat erect, strumming at her Veena with one hand
and singing intensely. Her hand had henna and her long fingers extended out in
the gesture of a mudra, which seemed very mysterious to me. I was intrigued, as
she seemed to be lost in her performance. She probably had no idea, that this
photograph, was even taken. She reminded me of the Goddess Sarasvati, I had
seen in Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s painting, which my great grandfather had framed,
from a calendar in our old home. It had always intrigued me and I couldn’t
believe my eyes, that a real women could exist like her, as I thought she was
just a fable.
I looked up inquiringly at my mother, who was already
pulling the photo of another more suitable girl, having fulfilled her marital
“Who is she Maa Ji?” I asked pointing at the disappearing
Sudha, knowing she didn’t like the formal title, but preferred, the modern mummy.
“It is Sudha” said Mom flipping the photo over and checking
some details, “she is the daughter of his friend Bipin in Lucknow.”
“Tell me more,” I said reaching out, and taking the phot
from her retreating hand. I looked closely and started admiring her thin lips,
angular nose and wide fair forehead. Large eyes gazed away, looking at the
mudra that her long fingers were making. A small gold ornament ran along the
parted flat dark hair, peeking out from under her Sari’s Pallu. Around her neck
above her young breasts, peeking above her silk blouse was a Sarasvati goddess
pendant. My head spun, at the sight, of my thoughts personified. I was even
more attracted to this strange mythical creature, my father wanted to become my
“Oh nothing he is Professor Sahib’s college friend. They
were very close even though Bipin was from Lucknow. We have seen Shobha grow up
from our visits between our homes, over the years.” as she would refer to my
father. “She is too traditional for you and from a small town. You need a
vibrant and modern young girl, to suite your multinational lifestyle.” My
She handed me the photo of another girl and said, “This one
is more suited to being your wife. She graduated from Ladies Sri Ram College here
in Delhi, and is becoming a lawyer. You should marry a professional working
women, as now both of you have to work, to live a good lifestyle.” Mom advised
me with a smile.
I vaguely remembered a large home in Lucknow from my
childhood visits, listening to a girl learning singing, in the home somewhere.
My father was happy there, and I had enjoyed the visits, though my mother had
kept me close. I looked at an innocent face staring of the stranger, my mother
handed to me. The girl was smiling, but it did not do anything for me, and I
handed it back to mummy, and continued to stare at Shobha’s photo. There was
something in her intensity of expression, which seemed to say, that she truly
loved her life.
Much to my mother’s disappointment and my father’s delight,
I was married off to Sudha within six months. It was a regular middle class
marriage with all the ceremonies and Sudha and her friends entertained us one
evening, at the Sangeet, to my father’s joy. I was mesmerized at her rendering
and my mother was still getting over the shock, but was warming up to their kind
hospitality. Our barat had gone to Lucknow and their arrangements were well
suited, to our caste’s expectations, of food and places to stay. My father and
Bipin my new Father in law got along fabulously, and catered to all the demands
of our various relatives and friends, who attended the functions. After the
marriage, we came back from the gracious city of Lucknow, and my parents held a
reception to welcome the new bride in Gurgaon.
Sudha and I set off to Nanital for our honeymoon and over
the next week I discovered, that she was full of life and a joy to be with. We
took walks, sat by the lake, and talked about our friends and our families. She
was much more interesting and I soon ran out of the tales of my hostel life,
and college pranks. She seemed uninterested in the world of cyber security, to
which I had devoted my life, since leaving college. I started to enjoy her
telling of life from a very human perspective, while I seemed tied up, in my
digital world. She was beautiful, and I became enchanted with her common sense
and quick responses. She always seemed ready to explore, new ideas and experiences,
and I felt faded in my experiences.
A completely new world seemed to open up for me, which I had
lost in my insular life. Our nights were fun and she showed me how to laugh again.
I slowly lost my seriousness, with which I had approached every endeavor, in my
young life, so far. We settled into a routine, as I would set off for work
early, and she would pull out her harmonium and get ready to do her music riaz
and Alap in the mornings. Sometimes I would even sneak back at lunch, if I
could get away from work, to enjoy her company. Evenings I usually worked late
at work, and would return to a fresh and enthusiastic Sudha, who would tell me
about the new friends she had made, or the places and stores she had visited. I
enjoyed the delicious dinner she would make and on weekends, I would take her
out and hang out with my coworkers at the local hangouts. Sudha enthralled them
all as she brought a completely new world of experience into our lives, from
her traditional but cultured upbringing.
In a years’ time Sudha bought our first 3-bedroom apartment,
in a close by residential tower. We were helped by my Father and Father-in-Law,
to put down the deposit, and I used up my savings and started to pay the
monthly payments, from my rising salary. Sudha did not mind the frugality we
had to live with now, as I had also bought a better car. She went about making
our new apartment, into our home, by decorating it with the artistic collection
of paintings of the artists she liked. Each piece of furniture and decoration
were chosen for their esthetic value, and I was delighted at her sense of
tradition and knowledge of historical and cultural refinement. Our apartment
became the gathering place for our new friends that she had cultivated. We
enjoyed long evenings of discussions and music becoming the norm on our weekends,
along with Sudha’s delicious food.
Sudha the homemaker was ordained in her nature. Unlike me
who often got caught up, in the latest fashion sneakers and other nice to have
things, she planned ahead. She knew what she wanted in her carpets, curtains,
sofas, beds and even chairs (old wooden carved designs, with comfortable
cushions, straight back). She waited patiently for our savings to grow, until
she could buy each item. Over the years, I saw her dream home take shape. Her
one constant was her music space, where she continued her morning practice on
weekdays, when I was in the office. She became socially popular with her
outgoing easy personality. She got invitations to sing at various social
gatherings, and became very popular singing our folk songs, with great gusto,
at weddings. Aunts invited her for other suitable occasions, with other women
and her popularity increased. Even Mummy would beam lovingly, at her beautiful
and accomplished daughter in law, in front of her friends and relatives.
We would take a trip each year to a hill station, or down
south, to places; we had not visited in India. Sudha was always interested in
the local musicians, and looked for other musician’s performances, wherever we
went. I attended more music concerts and festivals, than I could follow, but
oftentimes we just visited the local sights, and returned with many
photos. She was invited to sing in some
of these concerts, as a proponent of her Guru Ji’s, Lucknow Gharana. She would
get carried away in her live performances, always performing with a deep
understanding of the music, she was singing devotionally. Her love for her Guru
Ji, and his style, flowed in her melodious voice, filling the hall. Along with
the raga, her voice’s tempo, kept rising and falling, as people listened swaying,
in pin drop silence. She had a way with her fans and they loved her natural
rhythms, coming down from ancient times. It was a primordial sound, coming down
in a vocal tradition, since humanity’s existence started.
I rose in my MNC and started travelling abroad on
assignments. Sudha didn’t mind my travels, as she loved her home and her music.
Then I got an extended assignment in USA and I was ecstatic. It was a great
opportunity and my boss told me, I should leave immediately. Sudha helped me
pack two suitcases and with quick basic cooking lessons to survive, in a
non-vegetarian country. Half a suitcase was packed with beans and daals with
instructions on how long to cook them. They came with recipes, and suggested
spices, for various dishes. It all came along with a small pressure cooker.
Packed in plastic bags was a small masala box with coriander, garam masala,
haldi, kali mirch and many oher spices and dried leaves and seeds, in various
compartments, with see through lids. It was meticulously planned as I had
learned was the norm, with my beautiful and gifted wife.
So began my two-year stint in Huston, looking after the
cyber security of a major Oil and Gas Conglomerate. It was followed by a
two-year stint, in a Bank in the Carolinas. Then came a 3-year stint, at a
Health Care company, in Indianapolis. Sudha would visit over the summer months
and we would travel across America, to the usual places; like the trip to the
Niagara Falls and New York City. We loved the night in Niagara with the falls lit
up at night, and the rainbows in the daytime. It was a magical evening, as we
walked along the sound of the falls in the mist, rising around us. We had never
been more in love, than when we walked in our hooded parkas, holding hands; and
Sudha hummed a song, from the monsoon season. We found protection in a covered Octangular
shaped space, and she sat down on the wooden floor, and started to sing. I sat mesmerized,
as the sound of the falls seemed to rise and fall with her music, or she had
become, one with the falls. When she finished we realized that many couples has
joined us and they clapped softly in appreciation.
We were used to our separate lives, and we never thought of
having kids, despite the social pressures; from both, our families. We were
both busy with our careers and life was giving us; whatever we could desire,
from it. She now had her own songs, on All India Radio. Sudha had produced an
album, which had been well received, in critical music circles. Now she was
busy, on her second album, where she was trying to fuse the ancient ragas; into
a more modern interpretation. She wanted to add her extensive touring
experiences, and add her current experiences, from the cultural bylines’ of a
resurgent New Delhi
She was touring with another famous singer from Delhi, who
specialized in Sufi music. It was a strange mixture of Hindustani Classical,
with Sufi mystic, but the combination seemed to work for their eclectic fans. They
became very popular, as the word spread of their wonderful live performances.
The producers had released a live album last year, and their popularity grew. I
would watch her performances on You Tube, and we would talk on skype, for
hours. Most days we were too busy, so time became a river, and we met on the
islands in the Caribbean, or in the Maldives, or Indonesia, as her tastes
became more exotic. She took me to the Greek islands and we danced the night
away, with the local musicians, in a town center. She had become very good at
finding exotic locations, and somehow I started to feel that I was just was
along for the ride. I loved every moment with my exotic wife, who was as
comfortable in a bikini, or in a sari, or a sarong.
Sudha had purchased a 2 acre plot of land in a “farmhouse”
in New Delhi. She went about hiring a famous architect, to make her future
home. I had got my Green Card for living permanently in the US and had moved to
another better position in San Francisco, with one of the FANGS. I started funneling my excess income, to help
Sudha, with our new future home. I trusted Sudha, as she now moved in some of
the most exclusive circles in India, as many of the rich and famous were not only
her fans; but had become friends. During my visits I saw Sudha blossom into a
woman of stature, due to her social standing in the music world. She had taken
up the cause of girl’s education, and become very active in an NGO, and was its
new spokesperson. I saw her on You Tube performing in fundraisers, for catering
to the needs, of the underprivileged and poor families.
My parents came and visited me in my new apartment in San
Francisco and my mother lamented the absence of her grandchildren. She argued
with my father, that if I had just selected the lawyer she liked, for my
marriage (as she now had 2 boys, and 2 older girls, and we had none). Luckily,
Sudha was not there but I was sure, that she had heard my mother’s demands in
India, when they met. My father was
fascinated by the city, and we took long walks along its busy streets, or the
beaches, and talked about life. His friend Bipin had passed away, and Sudha had
got a full time maid to live with her mother. I was unable to go for the
funeral and my father had represented me.
Another 5 years passed and Sudha’s new Farmhouse was now
complete and she named it Alap in memory of her music training, with her Guru.
The home itself was not large and had barely 3 bedrooms like our old apartment.
Yet it had its own unique style, which was reminiscent of the ancient pleasure
homes of the Maharaja’s and blended in, with its surroundings. The large music
room with its excellent acoustics, with large glass rising to the ceilings,
seemed to blend in with the greenery and the old trees that she had
preserved. The rooms, kitchen and
bathrooms were huge and luxurious to my mind, but she had apparently spent a
lot of time, in imagining what an Indian home, should be. She had acquired two
German Shepard’s and they were her constant companions now. I had become a footnote it seemed in her life,
as all her friends seemed to absorb all her attention.
Our trips together have come down and I missed her laughter and companionship. We have drifted apart now and seldom meet. On my drive to my office in my Tesla, it remembers the songs I like. The recording of Sudha singing the songs of our early days, come on. Sometimes a tear slips down my cheek and I become melancholic. I shake off my melancholy, and re-immerse myself, in my current and hectically busy, American life.
A new American friend asked me once, as we were driving to a
Lady Gaga concert, “What is this beautiful music?” as the car played Sudha’s
songs again, out of my favorites.
I replied haltingly, as so many memories, came flooding back,
“It is from a past era, from someone I knew, in India.”
She replied, “Wow, you are lucky to know someone, who is
such an accomplished music singer.”
I turned and looked at her honey brown eyes, red hair, and intelligent and inquisitive look, but it did nothing for me. Lost in my thoughts, she felt my mood change, and patted my hand, in reassurance and compassion. I pulled into the parking lot, and mumbled, “Yes I also feel lucky, to have known her, as she taught me, how real music, and wisdom coexist. She was my goddess of wisdom, and she loved her music, more than anything, in our life. Somehow I lost her, and now all I have are her memories…”
The view from the bus on
the helix, of the approach into the Lincoln Tunnel from New Jersey excited me,
no matter how many times I saw it. Empire State Building and the Chrysler tower
rose to a great height in Mid-Town, while downtown had the spectacular World
Trade Centre Towers, with the other tall buildings in the Financial District.
In the early morning the sun would be rising from the East casting strange
shadows and light on the city. Most of my fellow commuters slept or read, and
did not even look out of their windows. My fascination with the great city of
New York continued and my friend Eddie, showed me the romantic side of its
The walk from Port
Authority down from the third floor to the bustling streets of Mid-Town
Manhattan, was a hurried affair. Everyone wanted to get out in the streets to
avoid the occasional bum, or pan handler, or drunk, who had slunk in to the
crowds. The streets were flowing with traffic, as one walked pass the peep
shows, and the XXX theaters that surrounded Times Square. From the Garment
District, I would walk down a few blocks, and then cut across East on the
Streets, after Macy’s. My office was on the third floor of an old brick
building, which served as our back office and production center.
Wendy was always there
before me heading her shift with her girls. They would laugh and joke amongst
themselves, as while she was a hard taskmaster, she was still a good boss. We had become friends as she was half Indian,
from the West Indies. They also ate whole wheat rotis as bread, but their
dishes were spiced differently. She would surprise me sometimes with a homemade
lunch, and I would eat the food at my desk, enjoying the strange flavors. She
would talk about her Grandfather, who had come from a town in Bihar, India, to
work in the sugar plantations. Her mother had brought her up and her siblings,
as a school teacher and a husband, who was also a farmer.
Wendy now lived in Queens,
and so did most of her girls. They would ride the Subway into Manhattan, and it
was an easy commute with a short walk on both ends. She kind of looked down on
me, because I had to travel into her city, from NJ. She admired our owner
however, with her Apartment in Manhattan, and the week-end home in the
Hamptons. Wendy and her husband, who worked in a Bodega near their home, had
scraped up enough money, to put a down payment, on a 3 bedroom apartment. With
their two kids, and a dog, and color TV, they were living the American Dream.
Her two girls went to the Public School, and were becoming more American every
year, in the way they dressed, and talked, and what they watched.
David was the one who
would arrive next and would head into the room to gather his orders and papers,
and then head of to his belt makers. Eddie would saunter in when he felt like
it and you could hear the giggles of the girls, as he joked with them, even
from my desk. My two junior accountants were very punctual and would become
busy in their work upon their Arrival. Ralphi was from Cebu in the Philippines,
and extremely intelligent and diligent, and carried a lot of the routine load,
of following up on the accounts receivables. Sam the other one was married to a
nurse, and he was quieter, and kept mostly to himself. Ralphi had recommended
him, when we were extremely stressed, and the owner had finally agreed to add
another person, on Lou’s recommendation. We were an efficient team, as we
managed to keep the business back office going.
Towards mid-morning I
would take a break and walk around to stretch my legs. If Eddie was around he
too would see me walking and he too would take a break. We would go into his
and David’s office and take a coffee break. Eddie would have collected the
latest Fashion Trade Rags that the mailman dropped off, and would skim through
them, while we drank. He would read aloud anything interesting, or share an
article or picture for me to look at. His knowledge of people and events was incredible
and he would tell me outlandish stories of his capers from the past night,
after a particularly interesting show. He did not linger long as he was a
workaholic, when it came to his ladies hair accessory creations.
Eddie had extended his
range to other accessories, like fabric belts, and some I called jewelry, and
he referred to as his dear baubles, for his darlings. He would painstakingly
make the samples, using newer materials, and exotic imports. The girls would
cry at him, when he made them too complex, and he learnt to bring simplicity,
and elegance into his pieces, over time. He realized that not everyone was as
he gifted with their fingers, as he was, or had the eye, he had for detail.
Plus the rush of orders demanded speedy execution, and he was always rushing
from work table, to work table, correcting and improving his creations. Then in
the late afternoon he would rush off to the showroom, or his suppliers
depending on our needs. The owner loved him and David was upset, that Eddie was
now making even more money, than even him.
The fall from being the
head Designer of the company, to second fiddle, did not really go down well
with David, but even he was overawed by Eddie’s creativity, and
resourcefulness. The man just had a natural tendency, to pick up on the latest
trends, which would sell in the next season. His color selections were seldom
off, for the Spring, or Holiday Season. His prints were vibrant, or very
delicate, depending on the style, or age group, he was going after. The Junior Store
buyers loved him, and he would flirt with them, and entertain them, at the
latest happening places, in the city. He was loads of fun, and the young women
would find him exotic, and ‘just marvelous dear,’ as he called it. The big
black muscled man, with often a couple of young things, hanging from either arm,
was a common sight at events. The women felt safer in numbers with him, and he
was quite capable, of having fun with all of them.
Sometimes when I got off from work, and he
would drag me off, when it wasn’t Fashion Night, or he had some other
appointment. His current boyfriend would often join up with us, at the latest
haunt and he would transform himself into his night creature mode. He would
transform from being the Giant ladies hair accessory designer, into a lover
with no restraints. Then the true talk would start of the Jazz bars, and comedy
shows, or the next major music band, which was playing in Madison Square
Gardens. He would hang out with famous actors from Broadway, and once even a
Ballet Dancer from the Met. Each one seemed more creative and talented than the
last, and it was a merry go round, that I could not keep count of. Yet each
creature was even more exotic, and no wonder Eddie loved them so much.
Then one day Eddie
retched all over the bushes, on the side of Bryant Park, in the back of the NY
Public Library, after an event. I was there with him, and looked around at the
old Baroque, and Gothic buildings, and then stared at the sleekly flowing glass
tower, that surrounded the park. I had never seen Eddie throw up, no matter how
much he drank, or inhaled substances. His friend gathered him up in his arms,
as Eddie felt he was suddenly dizzy, and he guided him, to a nearby bench. He
sat him down carefully and put his arms around his broad shoulders, and sat
there, waiting for him, to catch his breath. He then went and got a water
bottle for Eddie. I sat there holding Eddie’s hand not knowing what to do, as I
stared down, at his long artistic fingers against mine. When his friend returned
he drank some water slowly. He then gargled and spat some out, as if his mouth
tasted foul and then dry heaved, but nothing came out.
Eventually he got his
bearings again and looked around, and his lover smiled at him hopefully. Eddie
gave a twisted smile back, and passed his hand over his head, as if he was
still dizzy, and not really sure of what was going on. I looked at my watch and
noticed I was running late, and would have to rush off for my bus down 41st
Street soon. Luckily Bryant Park was not far from Port Authority, and I stayed
for another ten minutes, as Eddies friend softly spoke to him. They looked so
much in love. The light from the Street lights and the shadows of the Park,
made their silhouette look like two lovers, out for the evening, enjoying
companionship, on a Park Bench. It was the quintessential city scene, which
must be enacted out everywhere, that people were free. Seeing everything returning
to normal, I took my leave of Eddie, and he blew me his usual kiss, and I heard
him joke, as I walked away “Beware those peep shows darling, and those
beautiful whores, on the corner of Eighth.”
He thought he was
suffering from the flu when he had thrown up, as he had a fever and headache
for a few days and did not come into work and the work tables seemed empty
without him. Months passed without incident, but Eddie seemed to be losing his
bulk and getting gaunt. Summer came and
the owner went off to the Hamptons, and Eddie was not as busy and I saw less of
him. He would come in occasionally to ensure the girls, did not need his help,
and work on the pieces, for the next season. David told me that he thought
Eddie was not his usual self, some months later. He said that they were not
hanging out as much later into night, when the cooler fall nights came along. The
fashion season started and this used to be Eddie’s favorite time, to hang out,
and he would be the life of the party wherever he went. Now he would often
leave early on some nights, claiming he had things to do, but David knew he just
appeared very tired and exhausted.
Months later in January
only David was in his office, and Eddie’s desk was empty. I presumed he was
also away on a much needed break. I got into my routine and was swamped with
the work that was waiting for me to catch up on. It was a week later and I
heard Eddie’s voice and the girls giggling at work one afternoon. I was busy in
something for our Bank, and silently smiled to myself, and decided to go and
meet him once I finished. In an hour I finished my report and headed off and
found that Eddie was not with the girls anymore, and they were busy on their
routine. I went to David’s office and thought I saw the back of a stranger
sitting at Eddie’s desk, and thought it may be one of his friends waiting for
him to return.
He was smaller than
Eddie, although he seemed to have a similar build and hairstyle. Then he turned
around, and I realized that it was no one other than Eddie himself. He had lost
a lot of weight, and was looking very gaunt. He smiled when he saw me and the
same old booming voice spoke up “Darling, where have you been? I have been
missing you terribly, and am so happy to see you. David is no fun anymore and
it is good to see you and is that a new tan that you have got? You are looking
great so the time off was good for you.”
I walked in and took his
proffered hand, and felt the familiar artistic fingers, but the handshake, was
not as firm as before. His bulk seemed to have shrunk much more than the last
time I had seen him. He had on a long sleeve shirt and it looked strange on him
as he normally wore tight fitting fashion Ts, to show off his great body and
arms. I looked into the eyes of my friend and they were the same, all full of
life and mischief. Then he turned away and pointed to the article he was
reading, “Look at my darling wearing my latest creation, in Aspen, at the ski
slopes.” He said pointing to a famous model, photographed on the snow white
slopes looking very glamorous in the latest colors, of Eddie’s design.
Even to my untrained eye
the piece looked beautiful and intricately made. Eddie spoke up again, “My new
line is doing fabulously, and the beautiful people just love it. Wendy says the
girls can’t keep up with the demand, and she has started farming work out for
her girls, to work at home, with additional help.” We had started the piece
work last year, as we were losing too much business, with our constrained
capacity. Eddie had ranted and raved that the quality of work will go down,
without his direct input, and supervision. Our owner had agreed with me, that
we had to do this to increase volumes. I also found it easier to control costs,
as I could reduce the per piece cost, for the new contractors. Plus we had run
out of space and the owner was not ready to sign another long time lease which
could prove to be expensive fixed cost, if trends changed and our business went
We chatted for some time
catching up on the recent shows, which Eddie had attended while I was away. I
tried not to stare as he looked so strange, as I was used to his overpowering
presence and now he seemed to have lost, some of his mojo. Besides the
gauntness he seemed to have slumped as he did not appear as big as he used to
be. As I left to get back to my desk, I saw Eddie out of the side of my eye,
pull his sleeve up and rub a purple bruise on his left arm. Even his
extraordinarily muscular arms, seemed to have lost bulk. I quickly looked away
and walked off to my desk, deeply troubled about the changes, I saw in my
The next day I caught
David before he went off on his rounds. Eddie was still not in as was usual and
I wanted to talk to David about what was happening to Eddie. David hung out
with Eddie much more than me, and I thought he could explain the changes I was
seeing. David explained that Eddie was seeing doctors for the past few months,
as he continued to lose weight, and nobody could really explain what was wrong
with him. He had been admitted to a Hospital for further checks and
investigation and the specialists were stumped. All they would say was that
something seemed to be wrong with his auto immune system as his body seemed to
be suffering symptoms that normally would go away with anti-biotics, or other
medicine. In Eddie’s case nothing seemed to work, and his condition continued
David further informed me
that at first Eddie had withdrawn to himself, and just stayed in bed and
relaxed, hoping that all his troubles, would go away with time. He ate healthy,
gave up smoking and his other vices and tried to get back in shape. Then one
day another friend had visited with David and shared a motivational book and
music tapes with Eddie. It appeared to make a difference, as a gaunt Eddie had shown
up at work the following week. The girls were shocked to see him looking so
gaunt, but had soon realized that he was still the same person, who joked with
them, and showed them amazing things. They learnt to ignore his physical
appearance, and just treat him like before.
David and I, visited
Eddie in the hospital. He lay there on the white sheets, with flowers from his
friends, spread around him. In his military gown, he lay on the bed with an IV
sticking out of his arm to the medicine’s being dispensed into him. David had
told me that they had diagnosed Eddie with an Auto Immune disease and there was
no cure for it. The decrease had come from Sub-Saharan Africa and was spreading
fast all over the world, especially in urban areas or transit points. India and
USA were reporting sporadic incidents of the disease also, and the numbers were
spreading. Nobody knew what was causing it and it may be viral, but it was
becoming associated with Gay, or Bi-Sexual men. Poor Eddie could have caught
the disease from any one of his beautiful partners. The exotic life also led to
a great exposure to many different partners and Eddie had no idea as to who
gave it to him. The tragic part that Eddie told us from his bead as lively in
his head as ever. It was strange to hear the same voice and mannerisms come
from his bed. It looked like life had taken everything from him that he had
physically built of himself.
This great towering large
muscled man who had been my friend, looked so frail and shrunken. The nurses
had a hard time inserting an IV to find a vein, from what had been beautifully
muscled arms and legs. He beckoned to me and joked, “What darling you did not bring
any flowers? Look what Freddy sent me – what a fabulous bouquet.” Referring to Freddy
Mercury and I looked carefully, and there was a short poem, on a personal note,
on his side table. It was from Freddy, lying on his side table, along with many
other letters, and cards. He sadly informed us, that a lot of his fabulous
friends, had died, or also had the same disease. It was the scourge of his
artistic friends, he told me.
David was more regular
than me, in visiting Eddie, as he was far stronger, than me and was a true
Eddie friend. Their friendship was as deep, as it came; even though they had
nothing in common, in their backgrounds. Life and human tragedy, had made them,
soul mates, in NYC. I had nothing more to say to Eddie, as his life source, had
been my main source of life also, it seemed. The talk of my family, and my
economic concerns, on how well my peers with similar backgrounds from elite
Indian Universities, were doing, meant nothing to Eddie. He would listen to me
talk, about my children, and cousins, but beyond that, I had nothing to say. All
my thoughts had also shrunk with Eddie and all my educations, could not share
another joke, with Eddie. How could this fantastic man, in the prime of his
life, the ultimate ladies’ hair accessory designer become this man, lying in a
hospital gown? How do you talk about the future, to your friend who has none?
Farrokh Bulsara was born in Sep 1946, in Stone Town, Zanzibar; to Indian Parsee, parents. For some time he studied in Indian boarding schools, modelled after the British system, led to an interest, in the writing and performance of music. . The revolution in Zanzibar, which later became part of Tanzania, drove the family out, to England. There he transformed himself into the lead singer of Queen, due to his love of music. Freddy Mercury became one of the best performers in modern music and their concerts were legendary. His creations and his songs topped the charts for many years, and he spent the last part of his life collaborating with some of the other greats of the age. He died in Nov 1991 aged just 45, at the height of his career. He admitted to a friend on the day before he died, that he had AIDS. That was the first time I learnt, about this dreaded new disease to which we went on to lose, some of the brightest people, in our generation.
As luck would have it I landed my dream job as the Controller of a small woman’s owned company, called Two Blondes, in NYC. It was largely with the help of Mr. Louis Rappaport, CPA. He was the man you went to for advice, when you wanted to build some wealth. His practice was extraordinary, for the Jewish family of means, in NY. I had become part of his network, when I worked in Burlington, NJ, on another enterprise of my uncle’s, importing handbags. I came with some knowledge of the ladies fashion’s accessories business, in NY, and was a natural fit for the job, given my MBA and accounting background.
There is unique financing system in the garment and fashion trade peculiar to Mid-Town Manhattan called “Factoring”. Basically the Banks in NYC will lend against your accounts receivables and other assets. It was an easy way to get financing to increase revenues. For increasing revenues of his clients, Mr Rappaport would get them offices in the buildings where the store buyers came, for their purchases. In those NYC showrooms a buyer from Macy’s or Lord & Taylor or Bloomingdales, could find the latest fashion creations. Even a lot of Mom and Pop Stores and small chains in States across America, would come in, and pick up the latest trends, to spice up their store sales.
There was however a
cachet, to being in the fashion business, and it barely paid my expenses. It
was a long commute on a bus, to get to and from Port authority and NJ. I had
little choice in any case, as a bird in the hand, is better than the one in the
bush at that time, with my young family depending on me. The problem was that
in reality, the work was boring. Our Fashion Designer was David, and he was a
wizard with belts. We would go together to his regular haunts, along the broad
Avenues, and side streets, of the city, He would take me to the leather workers,
where he would buy his hides, for his precious leather belts. Then it was off
to the Dyers and Finishers, to see the results of the ongoing orders. Finally
it was up to the factory for studding, and engravings, to give each belt its
Time passed and I got
over my initial hesitations, as I was brought up in New Delhi in a vegetarian
Punjabi Khatri Arya Samaj clan. While we are not idol worshipers, and are not
superstitious in any way I had a subconscious feeling of guilt. I feel this has
something to do with cows and Hinduism. If we had not developed the gene, to
absorb milk the history of humans in the Indian sub-continent would have been
very different. We had a deep affinity to our cows right from the Indus Bull on
our seals. I was not inherently comfortable with living off a business, which
dealt in dead cows.
David was at the top of
his game, as a leading belt designer, for the beautiful people. His belts were
being bought, by the thousands, in some of the largest Department Stores, in
NYC. They could be often seen, around the waist of many a socialite, as our
owner would so proudly circle, in the local fashion rags. Women’s Wear Daily
was a particularly favorite, of the in NYC crowd. There would be fashion galas
in the most exotic places like the NY Library or the N Y Met, or other mansions
in the city. Paparazzi’s were everywhere, shooting black and white pictures and
later in Kodak color, of the who’s who, in provincial New York. I found very
little diversity in those days, and it was difficult to embrace this new world
of glamor and fashion,
My boss would leave cuttings, with beautiful
young things, belts circled, in whatever was handy like pens, lipsticks or
other quills. Similar expense receipts,
from various establishments, would also show up in piles of paper dumped
unceremoniously for me to process. I would find them on my desk, along with a
breakfast treat of Donut and Coffee, as she walked to work in 20 minutes. She
would often leave and be off to her showroom, to gossip about, which buyer was
sleeping with whom? It became my main job to be a company expense tabulator,
for the fashion industry, when most of the expenses, were not business related.
There was a giant sucking machine, moving the wealth steadily every year, into
real estate. Besides the apartment in the Burroughs, palmed off as buyer’s
entertainment in the accounts, there were many bills from the Hamptons, and
other locales that found various accounts in the General Ledger, as the Revenue
After some months it
became a routine and I longed for a change. I could not bear one more visit to
the tannery, and hear them joke about cow hides thickness and size. The escape
to the studding place, was my small savior. The young guy who owned it, had
wealth, and this work was his passion. He was educated in elite schools and
colleges and we often rambled on about other topics. He had all the machines
needed for his work and was able to work on them himself and I would chat while
he made sample after sample following the Designer’s sketch. We would move from
machine to machine as he worked with various studs of myriad color and quality.
The most popular were of course the steel metal studded belts. We would talk
about our lives and my family burdens seemed so strange, when compared against
his vagabond single’s life, in the varied bars and bedrooms of this city.
My boring life was
suddenly shaken by the arrival of Eddy into our life one day. As usual Wendy
our supervisor from West Indies, was instructing her girls on how to pack and
finish the belts, and be more productive. David was off on his usual haunts.
Our owner arrived with Eddy and he walked in, as if he was already a part of
our life. It was difficult, not to notice Eddy. He was a tall, well-built,
black man; with a handsome face whose very presences, could overpower any
boudoir. Our owner gushed over the introductions to Wendy and she pulled out
some exotic head accessories from her large hand bag.
Eddy pulled up a stool
and rolled up his sleeves revealing exquisitely sculptured muscled arms, as he sat
down at one of the work tables. Eddie opened his large sachet, and spread the materials
across the work table. He had long fingers and very expressive hand gestures.
Wendy and her lead girls gathered around the table with us and watched Eddie,
mesmerized by his way of talking, and his mannerisms. He had grown up in Upper
Manhattan, but spoke with a college educated accent, with a Harlem Drawl and a
true artists vocal cadence and rise and fall, making his magical fingers appear
Eddy proceeded to pick up
each of the pieces of cloth or plastic or bead or other native South American
materials and make the samples that our owner had just sold to a buyer. The
pieces were brilliant in their colors and feel. Beautiful flowers and creepers
appeared. The colors were bright and the patterns uniquely Aztec\Inca inspired,
even to my uninitiated brain. Each piece must have been the result of laborious
hand work, done in the towns of Guatemala, or other Latin nations, was glued or
shaped and transformed, into a fashion hair accessory. Our owner announced that
Eddy will be our new Fashion Designer, for Hair Accessories, and by then David
had also joined. They were to share David’s room and I would continue with my
own desk and would eventually hire two young Philipino accountants, to do the
additional work that Eddie’s division, created for us.
We rode to success on
Eddy’s work into the next Holiday Season, with orders pending for far more,
than we could handle. Wendy had done a herculean effort in hiring more girls
and running multiple shifts. I was hard pressed to control over time and
expenses as Eddy was flamboyant and did not seem to care about costs. He would
discard perfect good pieces from production into the rubbish bin and rave and
rant at the newcomers, working on them. When it got down to his creations he
was a perfectionist and never forgot a special piece he had created for a
client. He could redo them on demand as if a giant computer, with a photographic
memory, was imbedded in his brain.
We ended up putting the
stores on rations for the next three seasons, as the buyers were ready to pay
Eddie’s ridiculous deliveries and prices, as his stuff sold. The season was
short and he worked hard on the Back to School season for the younger crowd. He
would love doing newer stuff for the teenagers and college crowds. When it came
to the women however he was spectacular. He seemed to know what a woman needed,
to stand out amongst all the other women in the room, in a room of strangers.
His exotic creations, made all my nieces smile, when I took them to India.
The world was so rich and
my life had found a foothold in a unique opportunity in New York, the city I
had set off for, so many year’s ago seeking an MBA. Cocaine and drugs were
everywhere in the fashion world. I remember making a wrong turn in one of the
buildings and entering the wrong showroom. In a cubicle I saw a young women and
an older man sniffing coke and the white stuff stuck, under their nostril. I
quietly exited but it was never the same seeing them together in the elevator
or at a restaurant or social gathering, as they had fallen in my eyes. Eddie
and David forced me to stay and just hang with them after work. Eddy took us to
clubs which really came alive hours later, where he was often the life of the
David told me how much
fun it was to hang out with Eddie. He had opened a whole new world of Jazz
Bars, underground plays and musicals, live shows performed by the current
artists. They had a strange nocturnal life and lived in the shadows of the
great City. Nothing was out of bounds for these exotic creatures. Sex and drugs
were rampant and music and culture was created nightly. It was exciting times
with Andy Warhol and other personalities taking the city, to the cutting edge
of world culture. Eddie hung out with the best of them, as he was a free
spirit, having lost a wife, when he was young. He worked out with them, hung out
with them, and loved with them. His current boyfriend, joined us, and they took
us from place to place, and we tried the special cocktail of each place. Eddie
had his own favorite drink and the bar tenders knew him well and he was on a first
name basis, with most of them.
They were a strange trio
with David being an outsider in his own city. Eddie and his partners over time,
showed David so many new happenings in their world. I sat on a bar stool
nursing my drink and keeping my eye on my watch, not to miss the last bus from
Port Authority to go back to my family. Eddie had me laughing at the girl on
the news, shown at the Lincoln Center Opera’s Opening night of the Season,
wearing his creation in her hair, and a matching belt, he had designed. He had
me laughing as he exaggerated her curves and ass, saying who would even look at
his belt with so much boody, on display. He pursed his lips and blew her kisses
of love. He soon turned, and kissed his current lover, deeply, passionately and
wantonly. I had to make myself not stare at this beautiful exhibition, of human
love, for each other, in our species. I turned away and finished my drink in
one gulp, to hide my nervousness, and then felt even more incomplete, somehow.
My world was a very
constrained world of a middle class family, with conservative values. When I
compared it to Eddie’s hedonistic lifestyle I could see the possibilities of a
new world and way of life. I have been an urban dweller all my life and thought
myself cultured, refined and liberally educated. Yet all my learning and work
could not match even one creation of Eddie’s magic fingers and enterprise. I
felt I had met the future of living in our urban society on meeting this new
ladies fashion hair accessory designer. He opened my eyes to a whole new world
of people, living free and uninhibited. Art had always drawn me as I have no
creative aspirations and I felt I was in the presence of a master craftsman. I
felt honored to be introduced by Eddie as his friend to the young and famous
designers, of the fashion insiders in New York. Somehow I felt I had arrived in
America afresh, and a new life had opened up. Eddie was breaking down doors, to
introduce me to a new way of life. He instructing me by his example on how to
live life, to get a fulfilling appreciation, of our true being.
John was only semi-conscious,
as he felt the swaying of the ‘Palaki’ as four men carried him on their
shoulders up the mountain. The late summer heat of the Gangetic plain, had
fallen as the train and bus journey, had brought him higher into the Himalayas.
Steve had stayed with him and made all the arrangements. When John had become
severely dehydrated, from his stomach virus, Steve had decided to move him to
his Baba’s Ashram, away from the squalor and filth of New Delhi. Delhi had been
a stepping stone, for their larger travels across India, Nepal and Bhutan.
Steve had been studying Hinduism and Buddhism in the sub-continent for a decade. He had been brought up by two Peace Corps Workers, in rural Wisconsin in a small town in suburban Madison. His parents were both teachers in the High School and had gone and worked in Guatemala, and later South Africa, as part of their work, on improving productivity in farming. Coming from hardy Swedish and Irish farming families, who fell in love in School, it had been a very good life. They were eternally grateful, to President Kennedy for allowing them to see the world, outside their secure existence.
Steve had gone on driven
by their thirst for knowledge to excel in his High School and then go to
Harvard, on a basketball\merit scholarship. He excelled in Chemistry and loved
Organic chemistry like his Father, who had a Masters from Yale. It was a chance
encounter with Baba Ram Dass at a summer music festival, where he spoke about
bhakti. He sat there mesmerized by this white clothed simple balding man,
speaking about his life after Harvard, some decades back. Dr. Richard Albert
had transformed his life, and seemed to glow with an inner peace. He spoke
about his experience of the divine and left Steve deeply moved, with more
questions; than he could answer, that night.
After finishing Harvard
at the top of his class, Steve told his parents that he was going to follow in
Ram Dass’ footsteps and go to India. He had taken courses on Indian Philosophy
and Buddhism as minors in Harvard and become even more confused. He decided to
go there and see for himself if bhakti might finally save him, from his inner
demons. His parents were sorry to see him go, but encouraged him to go out and
see the real world. He talked to them about Maya and the shifting reality of
our consciousness. His Karma was
destined for India and Steve was on the search for meaning, in his existence,
from the ancient treatises. He had studied in the old tomes and libraries
available in museums and colleges in America. He became immersed in his
research, as if to fill some strange inner longing for peace.
Steve was enrolled in the
Sanskrit program at The Banaras Hindu University, as he wanted to be able to
learn the basics. He had studied the alphabet and was just starting to read, on
his own. He moved to the ancient city and became fascinated by the temples, the
Ganges Ghats and the university work, kept him very busy. He started to venture
out with his new fiends and listened to many discourses. Slowly the rhymed
shlokas, and the interpretation of the ancient rishis, began to form a new
language, in his head. Six months became a year as he visited all the ancient
schools, and learnt about the varied castes and sub castes of the Hindus, and
their myriad belief’s in the city. He found the Upanishad’s fascinating, and
studies many of them under local scholars, as the name implied.
After a year he went back
home, and found that nothing much had changed. He grew restless in a month of
summer barbeques, and church gatherings. He’d told his parents that he was
going back, to visit the monasteries in Nepal and Bhutan. He needed to
understand the Buddhist book of the dead, and see the true traditions, himself.
The powerful idea of salvation, or Nirvana, and freedom from our karma; pulled
him like a magnet, across time and space. This time he had even less
communications back home, and for three years they only heard from Steve, when
he was not at a remote location, studying ancient scriptures. He continued to
brush up his Sanskrit and now the newly acquired Pali in addition to the
English, Afrikaans and Spanish that his parents had taught him. He found the
Buddha’s original sermons far more compelling, than the many interpretations he
He had bumped into John a
few months back and he was from outside Tacoma in Washington State and they had
become friendly. John had an unsatisfied curiosity about everything in life. He
had a fervor and a passion, to see around the next corner, and most of all, he
had an infectious loud laugh. Steve had not laughed much in the past years, and
John would always find something amusing and could bring humor, even in the
worst situations. He would slap Steve on the back and say, “Come on Steve,
lighten up will ya, this life is much more fun, than what you make of it. Live,
learn, and enjoy, is my motto. All this is made, for us to partake, and be
When Steve mumbled some ancient Shloka, he would just chant the one
mantra I had taught him. He would raise his arms to the heavens and say “Come
Steve my friend, let us become universal spirits, and I promise you that this
universe will be with us. It will provide us all that we need, to enjoy and be
happy! My Grand aunt left me some money, made by our ancestors, in the logging
business, and now I am learning to make amends.” John lived simply and Steve
was helping him in exploring homes of the destitute and dying, and some girls
education organizations, which could use his help. They had also visited
Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai to see the actual work being done by these
The light attracted him at first. It was different from the light he had seen earlier. The first time it was as if he was following a long tunnel, which led to the light. On the other side awaited his final savior, was what he had felt.
This new light he felt
was a different light, it was a light of hope. The light before was taking him
to his final resting place, but some other force had suddenly intervened. In
his weakened state John saw that the more he turned to it, the new light drew
him even closer. The next thing he heard was the soft chant of the Mahamantra
of Bhakthi slowly whispered in his ear. “Hare Rama, Hare Krishna.” The chords
were primordial, whispered by some ancient power, and John was lost, in rapture
as it appeared to fight Kama, or death itself. John felt this new light and
sound saving him from an evil power. Slowly the darkness of the tunnel
disappeared and he emerged into the open light and found the sound was real and
not his imagination.
The light when he opened
his eyes, was that of a lamp over his bedside. Steve looked down beamed a big
smile, to see John’s open eyes. He was hooked up to an IV lying on clean white
sheets. Everything in the room seemed white, as if he was in another world from
what he remembered in India. The mantra changed to a Meera Bhajan where in her
devotional song, she asked Krishna to stop playing hide and seek. She begged
him, to reveal himself, to her. He seemed to feel a feeling of love, grow
around him, as if Meera and Krishna were here, with him. He suddenly felt like
smiling, as if he was reborn.
John looked into two of
the most intense dark brown eyes, he had ever seen, peering steadily at him, as
if into his very soul. He could not look away, and it were the eyes, that were
also making the sound of the Bhajan. He was mesmerized by the vibrations of
sound, and the eyes seemed to be pouring the very life forces, into him. The
warmth of life and hope, seemed to flow back, into his veins and his heart. The
Guru looked up at Steve and smiled. “He will be fine now, the danger is over. I
have to go now there are others waiting.”
Steve bowed low with
folded hands and wished John a speedy recovery. “Jai Hanuman!” he whispered
after his Guru and then gathered his robes and followed him out leaving John to
rest and recover.
John closed his eyes and
the tunnel and lights were gone. In its place now there was a benign darkness. He
felt the kernels of compassion and love rise within him, and his devotion
growing, like Meera’s. All his doubts disappeared. In this stillness, he had
not felt this completeness, before, and he slept.
The Sangha’s leader’s council was growing old,
and needed young men like Satya, to take a more leading role, in the proceedings,
with the external world. Yet there were still some elders, who felt he was not
ready, and still had a lot to learn. They were worried, as he had still not
attained enlightenment. They had groomed him from early childhood, and he had
shown great improvement, in the eight fold path; of the Dhamma. He had trained
over the past 25 years as a monk, but they were not sure, when he would attain
enlightened, like them. Yet dealing with the palace, had never been easy; and
they had listened to all he had to say, with patience and restraint.
“Ananda Pala’s vow of silence, has to be
respected,” stated Satya Dhamma. He was younger than most of the council
gathered, to discuss the latest accusations, from the palace. “This accusation
has been raised, while I am in charge, of this trust. We should leave the
learned Ananda, out of this worldly matter, he has far more important spiritual
matters, to attend to. The King’s trust must be carried out, to educate the
women of his palace, in the truths, taught by our Gautama Buddha.”
“The Great Ananda would have brought an end to
this charade, from the palace. They would never have dared, to raise such base
allegations, against our monks. Satya, with all due respects, you are no
Ananda.” Surya Kiran, one of the leaders of the council spoke up.
“The Princes have accused our monks of
misguiding the concubines, and misusing them,” Satya reminded Surya Kiran.
“This has nothing to do with the past, we have to address the present
situation. I request the council, to trust me, and give me more time; to
respond properly, to these baseless allegations. I have led a majority of those
classes, since Ananda left, over ten years ago. We share responsibility amongst
us monks, teaching the princesses and the concubines, in the ways of truth and
dharma. I still believe that with compassion and love, we will bring out the
truth, behind these made up lies. We have made great progress, and the
princesses and the Queens are with us, in our investigation so far.”
“The council gives you another week, to gather
the facts in this case, and bring before us.” Amrit Daan the head of the
council finally said, and adjourned the day’s proceedings.
A week later Satya was back before Surya Kiran
and the rest of the council. He gathered his robes about him as he waited for
the senior council members to settle down. They had news to catch up on and had
broken up into small groups and were now slowly herded together. Surya Kiran
called the council to order and the week’s proceedings began. First up was the
officer from river’s and irrigation
warning that the river was in danger of being overrun and need of another
10,000 men immediately to shore up the banks or divert the water from the city.
The overflow would flood the fields up river but it was the only way. He was
provided 1,000 workers and told to rush back to his existing team, with the
promise, that more would follow.
Next up Surya Kiran announced the investigation
into the Royal Princes into the misconduct and misuse of their concubines by
the monks teaching them. He turned to Satya and asked, ”You were given a week
to resolve this matter, or at least provide an update, so we can get back to
the demanding Princes at the Royal Court?”
“We have made much progress in this week. I
have to thank the Raj Mata (King’s Mother) for helping us resolve, what was
spinning out of control in the week before,” Satya replied gravely as he
proceed to present his evidence.
“The problem started a month ago, when 50 of
the palace concubines, got so influenced by the teachings of our Lord Buddha,
that they wanted to join the ranks of the Bhikunis and served the poor and
dying.” Satya reported.
“The Princes have asserted that, this is
negligence of duty, on the part of the concubines. They pointed out that there
is no such law, allowing women to become a Bikhuni, in Magadha. They further
objected that the law may apply for the common lay person, but not within the
confines of the Palace. Their royal privilege was reduced, by this influence of
the monks, on the beautiful women in the palace.” Satya continued.
“The women had already been training for over a year and the King’s Mother, had seen them go out daily, in their white robes, to serve the poor and the dying. They worked quietly in pairs in the houses, beyond the palace gates and even outside the boundaries of the city. She had heard from the city dwellers, that their work was becoming better, as they gained more experience. The women had beseeched the King’s Mother for help, when the Princes insisted on their joining their company, and reveling till late in the night. They needed time instead to practise their Vipassana meditation to expand their spirituality and compassion.” Satya explained.
no time for all this wild chatter, tell us Oh wise one, has the matter been
resolved or not?” Surya Kiran rudely interrupted Satya’s carefully prepared
“Well yes the matter has been resolved, and I
took inspiration from the Great Ananda, as you so carefully pointed out, would
have resolved this matter long ago.” Satya turned to address Surya Kiran
“Be careful. Do not drag Lord Ananda into this
worldly matter,” replied Surya Kiran severely.
“Perhaps you have forgotten Surya Kiran, that it was your Lord Ananda who formed the first group of Bikhunis, after the First Council.” Satya responded.
“It was the same argument that me and the
King’s Mother used in the royal court today. I was very afraid that the King
will not allow the formation of a group of women to become Bikhunis in this
great kingdom of Magdha.” Satya continued.
“It was when the King’s Mother approached the
king, and told him that the Great Arhant Anand, had himself set up the first
order of Bhikunis, the King had relented. He was a great admirer of Anand and
wanted to emulate his life and wisdom.” Satya explained.
“Words are not decrees, we need solid evidence
to bring this matter to a close.” Surya Kiran looked at the other council
members for assurance. Amrit Daan the head of the council nodded gravely in
agreement with his old colleague Surya Kiran.
Satya smiled as he had come well prepared. Tucked in his robe, was the edict of the king. It allowed the setting up of a new religious order consisting of women, at Satya’s request. The King after being persuaded by his mother, about the good work, the concubines are doing. She detailed the work for the poor and dying, they performed daily, in their new roles. Slowly she persuaded him to change his mind and allow the women, to do their noble and spiritual work.
He had quickly told the Princes n the court that their appeal was overruled, and the concubines would be allowed to do, as per the King Mother’s directions. If she allowed the deserving women, to be in the service of the Sangha, and the poor and the dying, then they would be allowed to do so. He also told the disappointed Princes that the King’s Mother had assured him, that replacement concubines, even more beautiful than the ones leaving, would be found, as a suitable replacement. She knew it were her son’s weakness and physical love for the concubines, that had led to this crisis. She was not ready to bring her kingdom into disrepute, for what she considered internal palace business.
“Here Lord Surya Kiran, I present the King’s
edict,” Satya said standing erect before the council. He reached into the folds
of his robe and with a carefully researched flourish presented Court Document
in Pali language, with the King’s seal at the bottom, for their examination.
“With this law, I feel that I have fulfilled
our Buddha’s desire to full the kalayanmittala or our spiritual friendship.
This now proves the compassion and love, which I have for these new nuns. We
can now work together like brother and sister, in the greater good of our
“I beseech the council to allow me to work with
the King’s Mother, on making this group of Bhukinis, into a real helping hand
for our work. We can together reach out for all the women out there, who need
their comfort from what we Monks alone, cannot provide. For this honor, I will
devote my whole life, to become worthy of one served in the service of our Lord
Buddha.” Satya entreated the council.
The council members continued to read and
examine the Royal Document. At last Amrit Daan looked up and said this looks
like an authentic Royal decree and everything appears in order.
“Amrit Daan, then in your wisdom, please allow me to shape this future. Allow me to continue the work we have with these young ladies. They have worked so hard to achieve all this so far.” Satya requested. ”We can build a much better order now to serve both men and women, as needed.”
Amrit Daan whispered amongst his council members, and finally stood up and smiled, at the earnest Satya. He raised his right hand in blessing, “You are embarking on a noble journey. May the Buddha himself, light your way with his wisdom. Our Council allows you to carry out this royal edict on behalf of our Sangha and appreciates all the work you are doing for the poorest of the poor. Form the new order of Bikuinis as requested and bring compassion and love, to those who need it the most. We will be here for you Satya, whenever you need us.”
Another well-known passage in which the Buddha taught Ānanda is the passage about spiritual friendship (Pali: kalyāṇamittata). In this passage, Ānanda stated that spiritual friendship is half of the holy life; the Buddha corrected Ānanda, stating that such friendship is the entire holy life. In summary, (Wikipedia) ‘Don’t say that, Ananda. Don’t say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.’
The impending collision of our Milky Way with the LMC (Large Magellanic Cloud) will bring celestial scale events into our neighborhoods. This may not happen for another two billion years from now, but in universal scale that time is not very far away. Initially merger with the Andromeda Galaxy was expected first, but now the race may go to LMC. These events of intergalactic mergers, is quite common in our crowded, and expanding universe. The biggest danger is that this infusion of new gasses and stars, into the near dormant black hole at the center of our galaxy, may provide fuel to it. This will feed it into activity, and it is expected to grow exponentially larger, with the new energy.
Our Black hole will become a
Quasar, and start its own celestial event. The energy expelled at near light
speed, by the resulting Quasar, will change our Milky Way. “Should this happen,
the stars that currently call the Milky Way’s galactic center home will, sadly,
have to yield the neighborhood they know and love, to a new population of
cosmic emigrants from the LCM. According to the researchers, many stars will be
sucked into the growing black hole at the galactic center; other stars,
reacting to all the extra mass pouring into their neighborhood, could be flung headlong into
interstellar space, quadrillions of miles away.” Written by Brandon
Specktor in Live Science.
Unfortunately we will not be
around to see these interstellar events but hopefully our descendants (if human
survive), will experience it. According to another model built by the
astrophysicists at Durham UK, who predicted the 2 billion time frame, our solar
system may not be effected, due to its location. We will not be in direct
harm’s way, and may actually enjoy seeing new events, in the skies. New stars
and gasses, will crowd into our galaxy, changing our skyline.
Please don’t fasten your
seatbelts just yet, to travel and see one of the brightest objects in space,
the Quasar. No psychedelic could ever match, the actual merger of two galaxies,
into a celestial soup; of energy, and light. This soup unlike LSD (psychedelic drug),
will be so thick and strong, that it will produce sights, not possible till
today. The scale of this event, will be truly spectacular, and grander than any
human imagination. Our solar system is far too insignificant and young, to be
included, in this new universal show. We will be left on the sidelines, with
great spectator seats.
There are other galaxies
colliding at random, in our universe today. We have billions of galaxies and
pulsars and quasars out there, and billions of black holes. Their birth and death,
are the celestial events, which no one can predict for certain, and they are
not part of any great master plan. They rise and fall, in their own time and
space. We do not even know if we live in a multiverse existence, as we can only
see and know the existence of our own universe. From a flat earth we are
evolving in our knowledge, and maybe dark matter and dark energy; which are over
90% of our known universe, have other secrets, that we have yet to unravel.
There are many amongst us that
consider themselves, the master of this universe. Others believe in a Supreme
God, shaped in their own beliefs, who controls the destiny of all living and
organic matter. These gods reap vengeance, on those who do not believe in them.
Their blind followers unleash wars, on other non-believers. The scale of their
narrow mindedness, belies the actual reality, of what is all around us. Venus is
not the goddess of love and Mars is no longer the God of war, as our
understanding and times have changed. We look up into the heavens and see our
future, but cannot even understand our own past.
Look inwards and we find
another universe of millions of creatures, who dwell in us and what is their
God? The only answer is energy, of our life forms. Long as the energy is kept
alive, we live, and when it fades; we die, and become fodder, for millions of
other cells. Our greatness lies not in conquering the world, but in conquering ourselves.
The danger of superstition and false beliefs, creates rifts between us and
nature. We end by destroying, that which provides us life, in our ignorance.
True reality is when we realize the meaning of how to live, with compassion and
love. Hate is natural and fear is elemental, to our nature. We have many
leaders who have risen, who fan this hate and bigotry, in the name of clan,
nation but mostly religion.
They are the unrealized and to follow them, is to plunge ourselves into a darkness of spirit and action. Seek the light and you will renounce these shallow beliefs. There is much to learn and we have lived only a spec, of cosmic time. The cosmos is the reality, and we are the pilgrims in search of it. This earth is our witness, and we have proven ourselves wanting, on many counts. Enjoy this randomness of colliding universes, as in this insignificance, is our greatest glory. We are the masters only of our fate, and destiny is only a thought, that should be abandoned. Conquest and pillage is our history, for survival. We must find a better way, if we want to enjoy cosmic time.
Knowledge is limitless and so why limit ourselves to a faith, which limits others, as less than equal? Which colliding Galaxy is stronger or larger, only time will tell; and we, or our man-made God, does not control their destiny. I am, so the universe exists. I learn, and our humanity improves, is the only truth. Our universe blesses us with a celestial dance, to be enjoyed for the ages. Our moral responsibility is to teach our children well, so that we and our gods can survive, to witness this truly cosmic event!