Kamal and U.G. Krishnamurti in early 1990s
Kamal with U.G. Krishnamurti in 1991

2-1-16

New York

On his recent visit to New York, I sit down with Capt. Kamal, the Air India pilot, for a one-on-one interview about his long association with U.G. Krishnamurti as well as Guha. For Kamal, meeting U.G. was a pivotal and a life-changing event and for him U.G. became god, guru, guide, mentor and friend all rolled into one. His intense relationship with U.G. lasted for nearly two decades till the latter’s death in 2007. Kamal also developed close friendship with Guha whom he used to meet whenever he visited U.G. After U.G.’s death Kamal has found a deep spiritual connection with Guha:

 

Nandini: How and when did you first meet U.G.?

Kamal: I first met U.G. in 1989 when I was 23 years old. At that time I was in Tiruvannamalai, spending a lot of time in Ramanasram, meeting old devotees of Bhagwan and meditating and practicing self-enquiry. One day I was reading in the ashram library, when a friend and a fellow devotee threw a book at me and said, “Read this!” It was U.G. Krishnamurti’s The Mystique of Enlightenment. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting. That night when I went to bed, I was shivering and literally felt as if U.G. was trying to choke me! Next morning I left for Chennai and once there, the very first thing I did was to go to a phone booth and call U.G. who was in Bangalore at that time. He asked me to come immediately. That same night I hopped on to a train for Bangalore.

Capt Kamal - Photo by Kishor Chopda
Capt Kamal – Photo by Kishor Chopda

I set my eyes on U.G. for the first time in Poorna Kuti and approached him with trepidation and hope. Hope that he was going to enlighten me the minute he set his eyes on me. I thought I had practiced enough self-enquiry and was at the threshold of self-realization so I would be enlightened instantaneously when encountering a real sage. I also felt trepidation at the same time because I was entering unchartered territory and didn’t know which way I would go from that point onwards. At that time I thought just as Ramana had left home after his “death” experience, maybe it would be the same for me too. In fact, before going to meet U.G., I even told my father, “Be prepared. I may not return home as a son to you.”

From the word go, U.G. began to debunk self-enquiry and said if there was anything to it, I would not be here. I felt what he said was correct as I was practicing self-enquiry with an objective that had to be accomplished. As this realization sank in, I felt despair and sort of directionless but could not doubt his words. When I questioned him that there must be a way to achieving self-realization, U.G. told me to “give up!” From the minute he told me to give up I knew in my heart that he was my guru. And once I took him as my guru, I wanted to touch his feet because the concept of Indian guru-shishya (disciple) tradition was very dominant in me. So, on the pretext of picking up coins which had fallen on the ground from my pocket, I quickly bent down and touched his feet as a mark of reverence. He didn’t even have time to react. After that I left immediately for Mysore.

I met him again after a couple of days on my return from Mysore. When I was approaching Poorna Kuti I saw U.G. standing at the door; he was wearing kurta-pajama and looked as though he was waiting for someone. By the time I entered the main gate, he had already gone inside. It is my imagination that makes me believe that he was waiting for someone (may be me) to arrive.

In our second meeting U.G. cleared my doubts regarding my career switch. I was serving in the Army at that time but wanted to quit and become a commercial pilot. U.G. was aware of my dilemma and cleared the path for me in his own inimitable way. While we were discussing this issue Major Dakshinamurti, a die-hard Army-man (retired), a traditionalist and an avid U.G. follower, was also present. He was very enthusiastic about me continuing in the Army. He told me, “This is such a noble profession which gives you the opportunity to defend your motherland, Bharat Varsham.” Before I could say anything, U.G. (looking at me) retorted, “No, sir! Please quit the Army. This country is not worth defending!” I took U.G’s words as an endorsement in my aim to become a commercial pilot. The very next year I was discharged from the Army. (Later, when I went to meet U.G. who was in California at that time, and I was there too undergoing training for a commercial pilot’s license, as soon as I entered the room, he exclaimed, “Here comes the Air India pilot!” I laughed and told him, “Sir, I have barely begun my training to acquire a pilot’s license.” He merely smiled. I have been with Air India now for over 22 years.)

After my second meeting with U.G. when I went back to Ramanasram, the feeling that Ramana was my guru was totally absent in me, although I still revered him. My visits to the ashram completely stopped which hitherto had been a trend over the past decade.

U.G., my guru, guide, friend, guardian, mentor and philosopher

Hereafter U.G. for me was not just a guru towards whom I had the utmost reverence but also a friend, guardian, philosopher, mentor and guide. I would discuss anything and everything with him but spiritual matters. That was because I had no more spiritual questions or aspirations – they had all been put to rest. I felt that he enjoyed meeting me as much as I enjoyed meeting him. Over the next 17 years I would meet U.G. wherever he called me. I met him in Switzerland, London, Australia, New York, California and of course, India. Till the day he died I considered him the only man known to me with whom I could relate with such ease, even without much verbal communication. Once I told him, “U.G., you are the ultimate guru! There is no one like you.” U.G. replied, “Is that so? Wait till I cheat you then you’ll see what kind of guru I am!” I immediately retorted, “Try it, U.G.!” Such was my relationship with him. I could joke with him as with a friend.

While I was in the Army, I was sent to the Himalayas – in the Almora region. I called U.G. from there and told him, “U.G., I am going to build a hut and live here.” U.G. retorted, “No, sir! I’d rather you live in New York than in the Himalayas!” At that time I was so determined to live for the rest of my life in the mountains that I had decided to buy a plot of land and build a hut for myself. As soon as I heard U.G.’s words, all thoughts of living in the Himalayas vanished. His words were like gospel to me.

Once I was visiting him in Bangalore and Larry Morris (who was very devoted to U.G. and was in India at that time at U.G.’s invitation) was with him. I was sitting next to U.G. and listening to him passionately denouncing India, Indian values, traditions, etc. Larry heard him out and then told U.G., “What about this guy (pointing at me)? He’s Indian, isn’t he? Do you hate him too?” U.G. brushed off Larry’s remark, saying, “Oh, him! He’s international, he doesn’t count!”

On another occasion, I went to meet U.G. when he was in Bangalore. As soon as I entered the room, he gestured to me to sit next to him on the sofa. At that time, a lady was singing with utmost devotion Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu…. While the recitation was going on, U.G. put his hand over mine which was on the sofa and I turned my hand in such a way that we were holding hands. I found the devotee’s heartfelt rendition and U.G.’s compassion so moving that I felt choked and tears started flowing from my eyes. Just then the recitation ended and someone suggested I should sing Rhinestone Cowboy. This is my signature song which I’m always asked to sing. But today I just shook my head in a daze and U.G. came to my rescue saying, “He will not be able to sing today.”

I remember in 2005, about two years before U.G. passed away, I got up in the middle of the night with a distinct thud in my heart and felt that U.G. was no more! I was overcome with grief and called him first thing in the morning. To my utter joy, he answered the phone and said, “I am alive and kicking! How’re you?” I was so relieved to hear his voice.

U.G. died on March 22, 2007 and I think he knew that I would not be able to see him again. It happened like this. On Julie’s birthday on September 18, 2006 when I called to wish her, U.G. who was also there, asked me, “So, mister, when is your training going to start?” He was referring to my captain’s upgrade training which was due to have started earlier but kept getting postponed. The training lasts for about a year and nobody is allowed a leave of absence under any circumstances. When I told U.G. that it may be delayed again, he exclaimed, “Oh my god!” When I heard U.G.’s reaction, I was alarmed; I had an ominous feeling and my heart sank. By this time U.G. was already in Vallecrosia, Italy, and his health was rapidly deteriorating.

My training finally began in February 2007 in Mumbai so there was no question of me traveling anywhere for the coming months. Alas, I felt like a bird trapped in a cage not being able to fly to Italy to pay my last respects to U.G. I knew I would not see him ever again. My friend Suresh, who was also an avid U.G. follower for decades, and I went to meet Chandrasekhar Babu and Suguna from Bangalore, as well as Mahesh Bhatt who were leaving for Vallecrosia. I handed over a CD to Mahesh to be given to U.G. on my behalf. My last words to U.G. when I called him were, “U.G., I will always remember your words and I feel privileged to have known you and will always cherish this association.” Later, Babu told me that when I called, U.G. had me on speaker phone and while I was talking, he made a gesture with his hands acknowledging my heartfelt words. I was also told that he had listened very intently to the Rudram Namakam Chamakam CD which I had sent for him. I had the CD made especially for him because I had found a beautiful rendering of Namakam Chamakam which I knew he liked listening to. Although I could not visit U.G. on his deathbed, my system was so hardwired with U.G. that I always felt he was a part of me. I still do.

Kamal and Guha
Kamal and Guha

Guha, friend, guide, mentor and elder brother

N: So many years have passed since U.G.’s death. How do you feel now and how do you relate to Guha?

K: I feel even during his lifetime U.G. did not allow me to associate with him as though he was an individual different from you and me. I still feel he is with me and has passed on the baton to Guha who now continues to be my best friend, philosopher, guide and mentor.

Incidentally, whenever I went to meet U.G., Guha, his wife Lakshmi and their two little girls would also be there and slowly, over the years, a close friendship developed between us. I used to play with the girls and fly kites with them in Switzerland. And Lakshmi would always keep herself busy – either she would be cooking for all of us or she would be knitting sweaters for the girls. She is very industrious. I feel very close to Guha and his family. In fact, when Guha came to meet U.G. in New York, U.G. offered him a ride to his home in New Jersey I was in the car with both of them. And Julie drove, of course. This was the first time U.G. and I went to Guha’s house but that day we did not go inside and U.G. had forbade Guha to tell Lakshmi that we were coming.

I have the same intense relationship with Guha as with U.G., so much so that I even find my body resonating perfectly in his proximity; I feel very much at home with him. Spiritually, I feel there is a deep connect with him. I think of him as my big brother whose only concern is my well-being. Most people I know feel the same too in his presence. I feel like I’m in a rudderless boat heading nowhere but happy to be in the company of my best friend, philosopher, guide and elder brother Guhaji.

 

Preface

Part I: A Big Zero

Part II: You Say Just the Way You See

Part IV: A Collection of Nuclei

Part V: There Is No You

Part VI:The Tiger Is Out

Part VII: Thoughts Drain Life’s Energy

Part VIII: Caught In A Web of Love

Part IX: Never In Past And Never In Future

Part X: Butterflies Are Free

Part XI: Sun Breaks Through Nimbus Clouds

Part XII: Love Goes Toward Love

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