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by Asit Chandmal
I SEE him now, stepping out of the portals of Vasant Vihar in Madras, walking with his
nephew Narayan, two proud Brahmins, one 90 the other 60, looking deades younger,
dressed in the lothes of anient India striding towards the platform under the lit tree,
awaited !y thousands"
#e lim!s slowly onto the loth$o%ered platform, and sits in meditation, alone& as if on the
lonely high mountain where a small stream is perpetually !eing !orn as the 'anga"
(hen he speaks"
)Something entered me,* he tells me later that e%ening" )Something happened to me)"
#e speaks of the !irth and !eginning of all energy, the pereption of the path into the soure
of all reation" +t the end of an hour, he sits in silene" + hild walks up with a flower" #e
turns and smiles and takes the white hampak flower"
(he hild smiles" (he sermon ends with the silene and the smile" #e has said it is the last
+M,N' (#E lasting images is that of my aunts and ousins weeping silently in the seond
row of hairs, while my niees and daughters sit upon the ground, the sad stories of the
death of kings on their faes"
It is the e%ening of the -th day of .anuary, /906" (he !ody has si1 more weeks to die"
,N (#E e%ening !efore the last talk on impulse, my /0$year old daughter, 2lea flew from
Singapore to see him" She has not met him sine she was /3 years old, a student at 4ishi
Valley" 5e go to see him in the morning" +s he enters the room he sits up in !ed to talk to
her" 5e talk a!out moleular !iology, and genetis, and what will happen if the omputer
and all these other tehnologies meet and om!ine and grow" 5hat will happen to the
+nd he turns to her and says, 78ou are going to 2am!ridge" (he professors there are %ery
le%er, No!el 9rie winners, all knowing a great deal" (hey know muh more than you do"
(hey are the authorities" (hey will say: ;5e will speak, we will teah, you will listen"< 5hat
will you do6 #ow will you study with men who ditate to you their findings, and tell you to
learn what they teah6 5ith what =uality of mind will you meet suh minds6*
+n e1traordinary energy emanates from him"
.ust then 9arameshwar, the ook, enters with !reakfast" #e puts the tray of idli and ghee on
the !ed" >rishna?i offers us some of the food, and asks if we want tea or offee"
5hen 9arameshwar lea%es I repeat the =uestion to him" #e does not seem to understand"
My daughter tells me not to press it" @ater she said, 7#e is two different people, the teaher
and the man"* She felt he had no memory of the on%ersation we had ?ust prior to
9arameshwar entering the room"
But that e%ening, halfway during the talk, he smiles at her sitting on the ground in front of
him, and talks a!out genetis and the omputer oming together, and its impat on the
human !rain" *5hat will happen to you then6* he asks the audiene"
,N (#E days that follow he meets his friends and assoiates from the >rishnamurti
Aoundation in India, sometimes alone, sometimes in a group"
#e speaks to us of many things, of shools and study entres and silene" (owards the end
of the last gathering he says, )Be a!solutely alert, and make no effort")
I ask if these are his last words to us and he smiles"
(#,B'# #E is weak and losing weight and has his meals in !ed, he goes for a walk e%ery
e%ening" E%ery e%ening it is the same walk" #e dri%es from Vasant Vihar to +dyar, through
the grounds of the (heosophial Soiety, until he reahes 4adha BurnierCs house on the sea"
She is the president of the soiety, an offie she won in eletion against her aunt 4ukmini
#e walks on the !eah where he was 7diso%ered), found and adopted and initiated !y the
sea at +dyar, EF years ago, when #alleyCs omet last entered the or!it whih would arry it
towards the sun"
5#EN #E was 3-, he had walked out of the (heosophial Soiety, and re?eted e%erything
that had !een !uilt for him, renouned e%erything that had !een gi%en to him, with the
words *(ruth is a pathless land"""if you follow someone you ease to follow truth") #e had
renouned more than any man sine the Buddha G)4enuniation is into1iation)H and yet
4adha was a friend, and perhaps something at the end drew him to his !eginning"
,n one of those last e%enings he stopped !y at 4ukmini De%i +rundaleCs house, and they
spoke together" She was a great (heosophist like her hus!and, and >rishna?i had ome to a
parting of ways with them, so when they met it was after half a entury" 4ukmini too had si1
more weeks to li%e"
#E #+S !een talking a!out his death openly and freely" #e tells me one e%ening, )Dr"
Deutsh will e1amine me a week after I reah 2alifornia" If he says no more tra%el, no more
talks, then itCs all o%er" (he !ody will die in four weeks")
(hen he asks, )5hat are you going to do with your life, sir6 If you ha%e touhed the other,
and are not anhored in it, you will go to piees")
+( F"30 in the e%ening of the /0th day of .anuary he goes for his last walk" #e is to lea%e
for 2alifornia at midnight"
+s usual, he walks through the garden of 4adhaCs house, through the walled gate, opening
and losing it arefully, and turns right along the !eah" (here are !oats and !oys on the
!eah, darkened !y the sea and sky" +s he strides along the shore he is silent"
#e holds 4adhaCs hand as he walks, reahes out and touhes Nandini Mehta on the shoulder,
resting his hand on her as he walks, then turns around, and walks past 4adhaCs house to the
other end of the !eah, where the !roken !ridge ends, and the +dyar ri%er !eomes the Bay
of Bengal Gless than two months later, his ashes are to !e sattered hereH" #e stands silently,
looking at sea and sky" #e is ompletely alone" (hen he turns and faes eah diretion, and
!eomes the silene, the sea and the sky"
#e turns and starts walking towards 4adhaCs house" #e lets e%eryone preede him" #is hair
streams !ehind him, like a ometCs trail" 5e reah the house and he lets e%eryone pass
through the gate" #e stands aside" 5hen he is alone he one again faes eah diretion for a
few moments" #e sees the sand, the sea, and the sky, and that is his farewell"
(#+( NI'#(, at midnight, he omes down the irular stairs from his room on the first
floor, and his old assoiates are standing in a half irle to say good!ye" #e greets eah one
of them, and at the last, 9upul .ayakar, whom he asks ?auntily, )#ow do I look 9upul6) and
she replies, )Very young")
I meet him on the plane" #e is wearing a grey #untsman ?aket, dark gray trousers, and a
maroon sarf" (he plane takes off ?ust after midnight, and >rishna?i lea%es India for the last
time, not far from the plae where he was !orn, ?ust after midnight, 90 years ago"
+( - +M on .anuary I-, I phoned Dr" 9arhure from Singapore" #e had ?ust returned from
the hospital, and told me that >rishna?i was in intensi%e are" (hough >rishna?i had always
said that he did not want to go to hospital when he was dying, they had had no hoie"
>rishna?i was in great pain" (he dotor said the he ould not treat him without knowing the
ause, and the tests ould only !e done in hospital" #e was admitted to Santa 9aula
Memorial #ospital on .anuary II" I read later in the dotorCs report that an ultrasound test
had earlier re%ealed a 3 m mass in the right lo!e of the li%er and within a week it had
grown to 0 m" + needle !iopsy was unsuessfully attempted, and then serolgies Gin%ol%ing
the appliation of monolonal anti!odiesH re%ealed aner of the panreas whih had spread
to the li%er" +fter onsultation with a top onologist it was felt that no further diagnosti
tests were neessary" >rishna?i was told that there was no hane of reo%ery" #e asked for
and was gi%en all the fats" #e was disharged on .anuary 30, sine he wanted to lea%e the
hospital and return to 9ine 2ottage at ,?ai"
M8 +BN( 9upul .ayakar, her daughter 4adhika #erJ!erger, the Diretor of 4ishi Valley
Shool, and I tra%el together from Delhi %ia +msterdam to @os +ngeles, reahing ,?ai on
the e%ening of .anuary 3/" 9rofessor >rishna, the head of the 4a?ghat eduational
institutions has left a day earlier, and Mahesh Sa1ena, the seretary of the Aoundation in
India is to ome as soon as he gets a passport and %isa"
9upul is tra%elling Business 2lass, while we are on e1ursion tikets" 4adhi and I arry a
sil%er urn with us" (here is a %aant seat ne1t to us, and the urn rests on it" 5e !uy the
+msterdam$@+$+msterdam tikets at Shipol airport" Sine it is an e1ursion fare, we ha%e
to speify the return date" 4adhi and I look at eah other, knowing fully the impliations of
gi%ing a date" Ainally" we deide on Ae!ruary /6"
,n this flight to @os +ngeles too there is a %aant seat ne1t to us and 4adhi looks after the
empty urn while I sleep" (he ne1t morning, on Ae!ruary /, 9upul, 4adhi and I go to see
>rishna?i at 9ine 2ottage" #e is lying in !ed, and though he greets eah one of us
indi%idually for a few moments, he hardly reogniJes us" #is attention span is a few
seonds" #is eyes lose after eah greeting" I stand aside in a state of deep shok" 5as this
the man I had walked with at +dyar three weeks earlier6
(#E NEK( day he is muh !etter and is a!le to talk for a few minutes at a time to many of
his lose assoiates" Mary @utyens, the daughter of the arhitet of New Delhi, and other
mem!ers of the English (rust ha%e also flown in, and all of us lunh together e%eryday at
+rya Vihar, a few hundred yards from 9ine 2ottage"
+nd so the days pass" Some see him, some donCt" Some lea%e, some remain" #e speaks to
some, he is silent with others" #e asks me" )5hat are you anhored in, sir6*
+fter a momentCs hesitation, I answer, 7In you, sir")
)ICm gone,) he replies"
(#E D,2(,4S are una!le to say how long the !ody will li%e, it is unpredita!le, it ould
!e a matter of a few weeks or a few days" Not a few months"
,ne afternoon he asks to !e taken outside the ottage" #e is arried out and sits silently
under the pepper tree where he had his first e1periene of enlightenment in /9II" #e asks to
!e left alone" (hen he says: 7(ake me a little further so that I an see the hills") (his is done"
#e again asks to !e left alone" (here are gro%es of orange trees around him" with many
oranges and the fragrane of their white !lossoms"
#e !ows his head slowly to the sky and to the hills"
,N 5EDNESD+8, Ae!ruary /I, #alleyCs omet has irled the sun, and is on its ?ourney
away from the sun" 9upul phones that >rishna?i has !een haemorhaging" + %iolent storm
omes from the 9aifi ,ean" (he ,?ai Valley and the roads leading up to it are lashed with
unpreedented rain for two days" Mudslides !lok the roads leading to the a %alley, there is
danger of total isolation at the far end of the %alley where 9ine 2ottage is situated, some
homes are e%auated, and tele%ision rews are seen in ,?ai filming the deluge"
(he storm passes on Ariday, Ae!ruary /-" I speak to >rishna?i that day" I say, )+ll your life
you ha%e helped others, you ha%e !een onerned a!out others" 8ou ha%e helped me all my
life" May I ask you, if it is at all possi!le, an I help you6 I am not talking a!out the !ody,
that is !eing looked after, I am asking how an I, how an we, help you6)
#e listens with his eyes losed" #e opens them, smiles and says %ery seriously, )DonCt let
anyone spoil the teahing")
(hen he loses his eyes again" #e later alls to see me and asks a!out my %isit to Silion
Valley" 5hat is the latest in omputers6 +re the 4ussians spying6 +re the .apanese athing
up6 #e listens %ery intently and I am Gand perhaps heCs tooH momentarily !ak in 4ishi
Valley, and he is the >rishna?i I know, engaging in dialogue and disussion"
,N AEB4B+48 /6, he is in great pain" I hear his pain when I go to 9ine 2ottage at // in
the morning" 5hen there is a respite from the pain I go into his room and stand at the foot of
his !ed" #e reogniJes me and holds out his right land, and !ekons me to ome nearer" #e
holds my hand and his grip is strong, he asks, )+re 8ou all right6 +re 8ou omforta!le6 +re
you all right6) I say, 78es") and he loses his eyes"
I lea%e the room"
(#+( NI'#( I annot sleep though I<m e1hausted" +t ele%en oClok the atmosphere
!eomes frightening in my room" (he fear persists" I want to !e with someone" I fore
myself to sleep" +n hour later I am woken up !y my hostess" )>rishna?i has ?ust died") I am
disoriented and for a moment do not know where I am and what she is saying" She repeats
)>rishna?i has died")
I .BM9 out of !ed, dress =uikly, and ?ust then Mark @ee omes to pik me up" Mark, a
%ery lose assoiate, had speifially !een entrusted !y >rishna?i to !athe his !ody after
death G)I ha%e always !een a %ery lean man, wrap it in a loth, I ha%e no nationality)H and
to remate his !ody without any ritual, rite or eremony whatsoe%er"
Mark asks me for a dark tie" I gi%e him a !lak silk 2har%et tie whih >rishna?i had gi%en
me years earlier" I gra! a pair of soks and see the initials .> on them" #e has always gi%en
his material possessions Gmainly lothesH to others" In the few weeks !efore his death he had
%irtually gi%en away all his lothes, !oth Indian and 5estern, to some mem!ers of the three
5hen we arri%e /F minutes later at 9ine 2ottage, >rishna?i is already !athed and wrapped
in a simple white loth, with a pink and gray !lanket up to his hest" #is fae is unlined,
peaeful, !eautiful, with a faint smile"
Dr Deutsh had !een with him when he died at /0 minutes past the midnight of the /6th Gor
0"/0 am on Ae!ruary /EH" #e had not !een in any pain sine a!out 0"30 pm when he had
fallen into a deep sleep" I annot help kneeling at his feet when I see his !ody GI ha%e ne%er
in my life !een a!le to prostrate myself !efore anything or any!ody, !ut this time it is an
ine%ita!le and natural mo%ementH" (here are two or three others alternately keeping %igil in
the room" @awrene DurrellCs (he +le1andria Luartet is !y his !edside, and
9algra%eCs'olden (reasury, the ,1ford Book of English Verse, ltalo 2al%inoCs stories, (he
BerlitJ Ditionary of Italian, +lphonse DaudetCs stories and 'usta%e Dore" Books in
English, Italian and Arenh" #is 9atek 9hillipe timepiee with an anient 'reek oin on a
hain on the ta!le" I make alls to India to !reak the news"
(#E BNDE4(+>E4S are to take the !ody at eight in the morning" + few minutes !efore
that I pluk a white amellia from a !ush in the porh outside the room where >rishna?iCs
!ody lies" I also pik up a amellia whih lay on the floor, !eause he had one asked me
while walking, 30 years ago, )#a%e you e%er piked up a fallen flower from a dark lane6)
and had shown me the flower he had ?ust piked up"
I put the fresh flower at his feet" I do not think it is a rite or ritual" (he flower is from all of
us" I go out to put the flower in a glass of water and keep it on a ta!le in the room"
I return to find the fae wrapped" (he fae that has taken enturies to refine, and who knows
what otherness to make di%ine, that fae would not !e seen again"
(#E BNDE4(+>E4S ome" (he !ody is put in a !rown ard!oard !o1 whih is then
losed" It is 0"/0 am" (he !ody is arried through the porh on a trolley to the waiting
station wagon under the pepper tree" It is a sunless sky"
5e wath in silene" + great flok of hundreds of grey geese fly East in a perfet V
formation o%er the !ody in the station wagon under the pepper tree" (here are three ars
whih follow the station wagon for almost an hour to the I%y @awn 2emetery at Ventura"
(he rematorium is !esides the 9aifi ,ean"
(he !lue steel door of the remation o%en is raised" 5e e1amine it to see that it is lean, that
there are no other ashes in it" (hen the !o1 with the !ody is slid into the o%en, the door
loses and the flames are started" It is 9"/0 am"
+t //"/0 am the attendant fills the sil%er urn we had !rought from India with the ashes"
2arrying the urn we step outside" +t that %ery instant, the sun omes out and floods the urn
and the lawns of the emetery"
M+4> D4IVES Mahesh and me !ak to ,?ai" I am arrying the urn in my lap" It is warm,
almost ali%e, like an animal" It is like that for an hour, !efore the warmth slowly gi%es out&
as we reah ,?ai"
(he ashes are di%ided into three urns $one for +meria, one for England, and one for India"
)Satter the ashes" @et no one tread on them" 'row trees o%er them" @et it !e anonymous")
,?ai Valley awoke to the news that morning, and the news spreads gently" (here are no
rowds, not e%en groups of people, only the silent separate mourning of deeply affeted
M+#ES# +ND I fly from @+ to Delhi on the e%ening of the /9th" 5e hange planes at
+msterdam reahing Delhi on the I/st morning" ,n !oth flights, there is a seat %aant ne1t
to Mahesh where he keeps the urn"
9upul reei%es the ashes at the foot of the plane" She plaes a rose on the urn, takes it from
us gently, and dri%es straight to her house at // Safdar?ung 4oad, where >rishna?i stayed
when in New Delhi" 5hen she steps out of the ar there is a sudden and une1peted down$
pour, a hailstorm whih drenhes my aunts and ousins as they arry the urn to the foot of a
great tree on the lawn, where >rishna?i one ga%e a disourse" (he urn is surrounded !y
flowers" (he lawn is white with the hail stones for a moment" .ust then the sun also rises"
Standing there I feel the sared" )If there are only fi%e people who will listen, who will li%e,
who ha%e their faes turned to eternity, it will !e suffiient)"
I 2+NN,( write anymore" I ha%e !een writing sine fi%e in the morning for si1 hours,
writing on the dining ta!le in Sterling +partments, where he used to sit and eat $ there was
so muh laughter" I sit on the hair opposite his" #e one told me, when a great friend of his
had died" )5hen someone dies, there are one or two persons he or she may want to see"
(hey will only ome !ak to a house where there is no %iolene, where there is lo%e")
(ime does not pass, only you and I do"
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