Madonna and child

Mother and child bonding have been depicted in stories, sculpture, art, and this special bond is studied and even glorified. While the father remains an elusive figure, as protector and provider, it is the mother who signifies, eternal love and compassion. Human children are dependent on their mother for survival, for far longer, than other species. This bond is eternal as without it, we would not survive, in this universe. Please treasure your mother above all else, as she is the one who made you, in more ways than you can imagine. History speaks of great male leaders and their magnificent achievements. Our ambitions and conquests are nothing, when compared to the sacrifices of our mothers, who helped us survive all the bloodshed and ruin. Our hearts should be ever grateful and not try to understand, the reason for our mother’s love. It’s depth is unknowable, and it is the single most powerful reason, that we are alive today.

Old memories from FB:

The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of. -Blaise Pascal, philosopher and mathematician (1623-1662) Each mother and daughter has a relationship that reason does not define, only the heart knows; when skin touches skin that a special bond exists. The eyes communicate fathoms of depth and just an inflection in the voice strikes a cord, that no one else can play. Madonna and the child are age old ties, that define our very existence and defy the age of reason… Form Aug 2 2012 posting.

Cave of my heart

When I was young, I remember my mother playing,

A game of fun and companionship, for my entertaining.

If we learnt all the rules, and played by the book,

We would have thrills and delights and may even find a crook.

On such occasions I would rejoice, and join her,

With her delight would arise my own, and we would be together.

Then one day an old bearded man came, and we all went to hear him,

She listened and something changed, as she abandoned our plaything.

Mother said that the man spoke about, opening the cave in our hearts,

Me I also tried at a tender age, to find this cave inside me and all its parts.

The times passed and I moved on with my life, and grew distant, from my mother,

My wife and children took up my time, and I worked for my living, for another.

Life had its sweet moments and its sorrows, and we would visit on celebrations,

My father passed away and my mother was aging, and we talked of separations.

One day she reminded me of the old man, and how she had filled the cave in her heart,

She felt she had done all her life needed, and the time was coming soon for us to part.

Now when I walk in the woods, and come upon a cave,

Oftentimes I feel my mother’s heart beating there, bidding me to be brave.

Rajiv July 2020

Our universe will go on


When humanoids first walked the earth, they must have looked up at spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Our universe will go in all its glory, long after; all of us humanoids, are gone. As we looked up into the heavens through the millennia, what did our minds seek? We must have wondered at the stars and the Milky Way and the celestial sightings. At the same time, we must have sought the understanding of our life, on Mother Earth. Our ancestors must have sought to grasp the meaning of this existence and what it means for our future. There is no single purpose, that a God bestows on our foreheads, when we are born. We are left to our own devices; we have free choice, withing our limited circumstances. It remains up to us to choose wisely, now that we have accumulated the knowledge, of a million years of evolution. Knowledge is just the sum of our past experiences, stored in our Human brain. Here we must dwell, now we must create, to make our life meaningful. I look up at my heavens and see this celestial sight, created just for me at this moment. My purpose is to remain fully conscious of this moment, and stay focused on this event.  My mind stops its chatter, and I live as the part of the universe all around me. Life and I walk hand in hand, with no conflict, at peace with each other, till death Our universe will go on, so what is there to fear?

Came upon this old memory in my FB page from many years ago:

Its chilling breath sent shudders down to my bones, and its dark shadow seemed to cover all the horizons and stifle my very soul. Yet he is an old companion and I no longer fear him, or am swayed by his power. He has made many attempts before to tempt me to accept his embrace; from my piddling birth, to a great fall as a child, horrific auto accidents, burning towers, and now the descent into a darkness, that only he can induce.

I turn around and laugh in his harrowing face; and bid him to be gone, and pick on some other purposeless soul. I wave him away with a dismissal thought; as I have no time for his histrionics, and a life of wonder to live. My purpose is greater than his; and he gazes long into my eyes trying to drag me into his darkness. Then he sees my smile, for as old friends we can read each other’s minds. “Death be gone,” I order for I have things to do, and deeds yet to accomplish. My happiness; dissipates his darkness, and light reemerges. I still have the power of the life force, that needs to bring the message of enlightenment to those around me. We are not thrown here or leave by chance; and each one of us has a greater purpose, which we must strive to achieve. Let my life sing and show the path to the glory of this creation, and bring joy to all around me. I have to walk bravely into the night; bearing this beacon of hope, and not be cowed down into submission by fear or despair. Live true to our vision of compassion for all beings; and that alone will be our eternal achievement. I truly believe that even my old friend death, will welcome me with open arms, when I am done with this idealistic life.

The Arc over the path

A lovely spring evening, and today’s work is done. It is the end of the week in fact, and I get up from my desk and stretch. I venture out hopefully, to take a walk, and refresh myself, from being tied to a computer, all day. Not many people are about, as I start to get into my stride. I adjust the volume on my headphones, to the music playing from my iPhone. It is the Beatles, playing ‘Elanor Rigby,’ and I pick up pace, while reminiscing about my school days. The printed paper, the Jesuit Father passed to me, with the words of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, for us to study for Moral Science Class. It was one of the 3 songs we studied, over 3 weeks. I knew the words well and the music brought pleasant memories, of old friends, and companions. What an education it was, and what great bonds we formed.

 The walkways lead me past some of the other people, who are up and about, taking their evening walk. I pass some couples with their dogs. We all kept a safe social distance from each other. I would often step on to the road, to let a couple pass on the walkway, as there is little traffic these days. Silently etiquette is maintained between us as we pass, avoiding coughing or coming close. By now the Rolling Stones are playing ‘Brown Sugar,’ and I am bent down, slowly climbing the slight incline. The nearby wooded path beckoned me, and I crossed the road from the walkway, to head into the trees.

Within a few steps on the by now familiar path, it went into a steep incline. I knew the path well, and stepped on familiar flat rocks, avoiding the slippery slope. It was a zig zag pattern I followed of my own choosing, and anyone watching; would have been baffled, at my approach. It was to make the climb easier, and gave me better views of my surroundings, instead of just gazing down and concentrating, on the soil and the roots. This wood and I had become old friends, and we knew each other well. Now in the spring evening except for the occasional blossoms, most of the lofty Oaks and Maples, were still bare. The wind did not whisper, as it did in the summer, through the thick leaf cover. Now it was more the sighing sound, of the open sky, as the wind swept freely about.

There along the way were fallen trees, whicht I had to cross, as I followed the path higher. Then it started to level off and I saw, the Arch of the Spring Blossoms, strung across the path. It was like a gate, made specially for me to enter, as if I imagined it to be a gateway, to a different land. I stopped to take a photograph of the path which beckoned, my very soul. What was so special, that it drew me back again and again, to walk only this path, and no other? I have the whole universe to explore, and still I stand here and admire the blossoms, and love this sight.

As I walked on and passed under the Arch of the Spring Blossoms, I passed into a different realm. The old laws did not hold, for now. I found myself in a strange land, of quite and beauty. Life was reduced to its elemental form, of man and nature, as one. There was no me walking on the path anymore. In fact, it was not a path distinct and different, or an extension, outside me. We are one, and so is the forest around us. The birds that fly across the branches above,  and the deer who stand below and stare up at me, with their white tails raised, ready for flight. We are all one in this moment, and time becomes a wave, and space is flowing. I look up to see and an eagle flies high above, in the clear blue sky, with white puffy clouds, floating in space.

The setting sun sends its rays, at angles, through the bare branches, to my foot steps. I walk on and the light and shadows, play with my eyes, in delight. What is inside, is outside, and what is outside, is inside; in a strange feeling, as the boundaries of my body blur. The unity of everything into one moment, can only be experienced, or so this path, led me to believe. I am no longer a walker, who walks his solitary path. Now there is only one universe, and the path itself is gone. There is no longer a goal for the future, or a fear of the past. There is only this one forgotten raindrop, sheltered on a fallen leaf, glistening in the rays of the dying sun, as if alive with joy. I meditate on the light, and here is no goal to strive for; as desire falls on the path, left behind.

The weight of existence is lifted; from my shoulders, and I walk erect. Each step is now an effortless move; as nothing binds it down, anymore. The Earth Mother, on this Earth Day; binds me to her bosom, and I am content. The vines hang down from the tall Oaks and I can almost feel; the budding leaves, about to sprout. Nature is no longer a mystery, as I have become nature. A Robin calls and a sparrow answers, and now I listen only to the music, of my fellow creatures. A feeling arises, from the soil; beneath my feet, that now I have become the path. Who was the walker, and who watched him in the woods?

Bergen County now stands at 15,830 positive test results for coronavirus

Hudson County now stands at 15,148 positive test results for coronavirus

Essex County now stands at 13,994 positive test results for coronavirus

Passaic County now stands at 12,814 positive test results for coronavirus

May Day 2020, NJ – ‘ Ah, look at all the lonely people ‘

Pandemic times thinking

In this time, some of us are reevaluating our values, and our pursuits, in our life. It has taken a Pandemic to cloister people into their homes, to isolate, and hopefully become human again. As we examine our actions and our lifestyle, I wonder what have our possessions given us, in our time of need? As time passes, those of us who are wise, simplify our needs and aspirations. We realize how little we need to survive, on a day to day basis. We start to question the continued accumulation of more material objects. We realize a lot of humanity, has none of our comforts, or our security, of home and food. We also realize that a virus attacks anyone, and no religion, or class, is immune from its effects. We are all in this together, as simple, plain, human beings. A universal income is within our reach; as no person should starve, in our modern world. Instead we will see million’s livelihood ruined and will see them struggling for food and survival, if this pandemic spreads further.

A more equitable society with law and order, is a must, for human development. Hopefully we will all come out of our introspection, stronger, and more willing to make the sacrifices needed; for all of us, to prosper together. Great economic and social change is coming, and may it be for the better for everyone, after this health crisis has passed. We should not allow this to develop into a mass killing of innocents, due to lack of food and other essential commodities. We must learn from past famines and other natural disasters in human history. For the strongest to survive, we must also provide for the weakest; as in a chain the weakest link, causes the whole chain to break. We must do better and learn to take care of ourselves, and not get distracted, by fake news, or poor political and social actions. Humanity is about loving and caring for all creatures, in the worst of times. May we all rise to this challenge together to raise our thinking, and do the right actions within reason!

Dis-Invest our past

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!

Future incubators

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 investments.”

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!

The future is not ours

Image result for himalayas

Thankful am I, for the beauty, of our future,

It started, in the beauty of the Himalayas,

At an early age, the magical folk tales, conjured,

A realm of icy mountains shrouded in Monsoon clouds.

To be passed on, to posterity, untouched.

Let me fill my heart, with the soulful music, of our ancestors,

Of our centuries old generations, articulating and composing,

A spoken language, of wisdom, and karmic consequences,

The drum, the melody, the freeing of the voice, and the rhythm,

All combine to fill our hearts, with compassion and universal love.

Hear the song of the wind in the hill’s pines, and the patter of rain,

The sun will rise in the East again, and the mountains will shine,

Will our children catch this eastern glow, and dance our joy of existence?

Hear the songbird, just when our music has died,

Look up and seek the stars, and wonder about this life, and our passing?

“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.” -Ansel Adams, photographer (20 Feb 1902-1984)

An early train to catch

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 music singer

Goddess of knowledge Saraswati, loved music!

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 something.

 “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 duty.

“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 life companion.

“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 mother continued.

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…”