One of the earliest memories I have is when I was around 4-5 years old. My great grandfather from my mother’s side had just passed away in Vrindavan. That’s where he had spent the last years of his life.
After setting up an empire of cinema halls and film distribution in Assam, he had come to settle in the land of Krishna, whom he considered to be the cause and also ultimately the fruit of his success. My mom says that he used to say, that ultimately its only how much you remember Him, the indweller within all our hearts, that will go with you.
His passing was very peaceful, he went in his sleep and as we got the news, we rushed from Jaipur to reach for the last rites. I was the only kid who was there, and I remember the scene from the evening when he was laid in the courtyard of the large house for people to come and pay their last respects to him. I remember the ladies of the house wailing, but somehow I was untouched by the grief.
Since he was a patron for a lot of spiritual work around that area, including the Hare Krishna movement, that evening a group of their Sanyasis had come for bhajan and kirtan. Even as I write this, I can feel the goosebumps… I was completely mesmerized by their performance. It was a surreal experience actually.
On the one hand, a great patriarch of the family had just passed away and there were people crying and on the other hand the atmosphere was charged with the intense Bhakti of the Hare Krishna chants which had me completely in their thrall. In my innocent vision of the time, I felt as if they are calling on God with such fervour to bring Bade Nanaji back to life. It was the first time that I recall experiencing such bliss. They did not bring him back to life, but they did awaken something within me, which I now understand held tremendous importance for me. For it gave me an anchor within myself that I could always fall back on.
I would also like to confess that while growing up in a household with 5 brothers (I know what you are thinking, but 4 of them were cousins) and no sisters, in a patriarchal setup, I felt that I had to man up and not show my emotions. While it led me to take up sports like cricket and boxing that I truly enjoyed, it also led me to suppress my devotional side, for isn’t that supposed to be only for women and unlettered fools?
Such was the belief that I formed somehow through my perception of my environment and I have always felt embarrassed to openly embrace and express my emotions. I have written scores of poems to the Life, to Devi, to the one pervading the all, the process of which in itself feels sacred to me. This deep feeling is like the string that keeps the pearls together. It is what gives meaning and purpose to all of the diverse, myriad activities, motivations and achievements. I pray that we all experience this deep feeling on this sacred 9th day of Navratri.