This letter to you is a love note to me. I take comfort in knowing that you might chance upon it. And even if you don’t, you still know me from earlier, now, and beyond. I try to feel your presence in the Puja room. I wait for the fortunate day when I will get to be in your benign presence.
Growing up, Guru Purnima used to be a day of blessings. It was sacred; I had seen my mother fret about it. She would wake up early, spend time near the altar, make prasad, sing bhajans, and spend the day on a happy high. Even though I had witnessed fervent celebrations, somehow, I had failed to carry the ritual into my adult life.
When I was a baby, maybe a few months old, my mother had taken me to get darshan of her spiritual Guru (Pandit Mihilal Sharma). “I had swaddled you in a small red blanket and placed you in Pandit Ji’s feet,” she would tell me.
It was probably wintertime. Moved on seeing a child on the cold floor, Pandit ji told my mother to pick me up immediately and then blessed me. This story was narrated to me often. I felt privileged to have been seen and blessed by the genial old man whom I could not meet again. His ever-graceful visage graced our altar. I also loved reading his biography: stories of his kindness and his experiments with truth. So even though long dead, Pandit Ji remained the Guru I ran to whenever I was in trouble, needed faith, or a shoulder to cry on. Yes, I have been selfish.
I remained a non-religious believer, but my relationship with Pandit Ji was like that with one’s grandfather. I talked to him and felt that he listened. I also had a doting grandfather; a very spiritual man—another beacon of light and love in my life.
I am jumping many years ahead. My pregnancy was tough and birthing, even tougher. What had seemed like an easy delivery suddenly became complicated, putting both my and my unborn son’s life at risk. I remember shrieking with all my might and pleading for anesthesia when I was being rushed to the operation theatre. After I was administered general anesthesia, the next thing I remember is drifting into space all white, all quiet. I saw Pandit Ji in his white kurta dhoti. He did not speak to me, but he was there. His presence had filled up the room. Probably tired of the long-drawn pain I had been through, I told him “This is so tranquil. If this is how death feels, let me die now.” After some time, I opened my eyes. It took time to recall that I was in an operation theatre and had gone through birthing.
The next six days were a long wait to receive our baby boy who had been put on life support in the ICCU. I and Akshay would often take turns to peek at him through the chinks in the ICCU door. The first time I was allowed to meet him, he was lying with his eyes closed in the incubator, numerous wires crisscrossing his tiny frame, sucking on a gauze that had been soaked in formula food by a nurse. It was heartbreaking; he should have been next to me: suckling. What ordeal the child had gone through! I almost forgot my pain. We were blessed to have friends, family, relatives, and even hospital staff praying for us. I remember Akshay going and praying in a monastery nearby. He even received a ribbon in blessing from a visiting teacher. After six or seven days, we received baby Satyam. With loving people and divine grace, life’s been a song. Even though I have failed to appreciate all its notes.
While Akshay always looked out for a Guru, I remained a bit hesitant in placing my faith. Sometimes, I would get jealous of how he was able to trust so easily while I remained unmoved and ever questioning. He was hungry and frantic in his search. I continued being complacent; happy with the photo of Pandit ji in Puja. In some rare moments, I would entreat him to help me find a Guru. I waited not knowing if ever that prayer would be answered. Then one day you came into our lives, Swami. In Akshay’s life first, I must admit. Like a fool, I failed to see what was right there in front of me.
I did not realise how I began to find love and faith. It was a steadily growing affection, so smooth and seamless that I don’t even know how and when it washed over me. I wonder if it was any different from falling in love! It was as if Pandit Ji was finally letting go of my hand asking me to hold yours. Truly, it’s just been, your grace. Seeing you in my dreams and then questioning stubbornly if it was really you. I think you found me Swami—a lost soul which would have continued to meander in the dreary desert sand of dead habit. I still do. I am a hopeless romantic, like Mr. daydream from the Mr. Men Series. But then your soothing voice tells me “What am I doing right now?” “What should I be doing right now?” I am a slow learner, petulant, rigid, and would test your patience. Please don’t lose hope in me. Don’t let go. I feel so blessed this Guru Poornima that I couldn’t help sharing my thoughts. I deliberated a lot if I should be writing and posting this. Here it is now.
Dear Swami, a lifetime will not be enough to thank you for your presence in our lives. Here’s a bhajan that Pandit Ji wrote. I want to dedicate it to you. Please accept my obeisance.