Cochin, 6.30 am

The whole team is already assembled in our living room despite a long and tiring but a fun-filled day yesterday. On our way back from Kovalam we stopped for lunch at a sprawling backwater resort in Kumarakom on the banks of Vembanad Lake. The approach to the main reception area was through an unpaved, dirt road, quite treacherous with marshy ditches on both sides. However, once inside we were in the midst of sylvan surroundings. Walking under the shade of tall trees I saw arched miniature bridges and, scenic trails leading to guest cottages; some of these bungalows were perched on stilts overlooking the peaceful backwaters while some had lake views. The pathways were decorated with brightly colored flowerbeds on both sides and rustic wooden benches every few yards. Looking at families with small children strolling in the gardens I am sure that the picturesque hotel is providing its guests with a much-needed respite from the daily grind. But my mind is on a different track – surely resorts like these must be harming the fragile eco-system here? Guha has asserted time and again that man wants to control, manipulate everything in Nature for his own selfish gains and wish fulfillment.

img_2758After a satisfying lunch we decided to take a stroll in the gardens. Kamal, Bubu, Sanjiv, Sanjay and Kishor were in front of us walking briskly singing romantic Hindi songs with carefree abandon while Julie, Guha, Manoj, Vidya and I followed them at a leisurely pace enjoying the tranquil surroundings. As we came upon a shaded area I spotted a big, sturdy “jhoola” (swing) with its own wooden stand. This canopied swing had ornate metal rails and could easily seat three at a time. It looked very inviting and I immediately made a beeline for it. Soon everyone gathered around and more photo ops followed. Then, on the spur of the moment Guha decided that we all would go for a spin in a kettuvallam (houseboat) on Vembanad Lake, touted as India’s longest lake. After some quick negotiations between Guha and a boat owner we were on board our fine-looking kettuvalam. The literal meaning of kettuvallam is “a stitched boat”, a country boat made with wooden planks, stitched together with coir ropes (no nails) and steered with a punting pole. These floating structures, traditionally used for transporting people and cargo, have been remodeled as motorized tourist houseboats. Indeed no trip to Kerala would be complete without an enchanting backwater tour on these exotic barges.

img_2772As our boat picked up speed, the resorts and the lush green landscape of palm trees, other palm-like shrubs, trees, as well as a variety of leafy plants and bushes growing alongside the backwaters were left behind. Everybody was in a happy mood with lively chatter and laughter echoing all around. Kamal and Sanjay were reclining like kings on two royal-looking cane chairs in the middle facing the bow while the rest of us were sitting around them like their subjects! Kamal seemed to be in high spirits, cracking jokes, sparring good naturedly with Manoj and narrating amusing anecdotes.

img_2783Suddenly, without warning an ominous black cloud covered the sky and it started raining heavily. Siting alone, with the wind blowing in my face, my mood turned sinister too. Staring pensively at the raindrops glittering like diamonds on the heaving lake, I felt intensely and fearfully alone, even amidst all this camaraderie and revelry. I’m sure Guha noticed my downcast expression but thankfully didn’t say anything. He understands that at times it is best to allow people to come to grips with themselves by themselves. However, later he did inquire if I was feeling okay. To protect us from the lashing rain and wind our well-trained boatmen quickly unfurled a huge canvas sheet in the forward part of the boat. The old, crinkled canvas as it swayed and flapped in the wind looked kind of artsy and Julie couldn’t resist taking photos; after all she is an avid photographer. Indeed the photos came out awesome. The rain stopped as abruptly as it had started and the sun was again peeking from behind the clouds. After the boat ride we stopped briefly at another resort for tea before heading home. Another action-packed day with Guha gone by.

You can’t love another person

Now early morning we are like bees buzzing around the honeycomb Guha:

* You have to live within your conceptual freedom. Somebody is going to tell you what is good for you. Humans are the only species on the planet who do not know what to eat. Mein kya khaoon? Kya khaane se mera tabiyat theek rahega? (What should I eat? Which foods should I eat to keep good health?)

 * You cannot accept the unknowability of life so you give solidity to what you believe is real and try to comfort yourself; that creates huge conflicts.

 * You can’t love another person because the one who loves is loving themselves. If you transcend that – if the need for you to love someone or to be loved by someone is gone, then you don’t need love. In that condition you will never hurt anyone. When you are truly, deeply concerned about another, there IS no you!

 * You can struggle to get out of the pressure; the conflict is stifling you but you cannot fix it. The minute you try to fix it, you make it worse. Volition is another way of creating another reality.

 * The fact that I’m here is the only reality and (looking at Manoj) not because I accepted your invitation! Wanting to know how things happen is the mischief of the myth-making machine.

 * Thinking cannot produce the seamless universe which is in front of you.

 * Every liquid expands when you heat it, except water which shrinks when heated (from 0 to 4 degree Celsius). That’s why there’s always an exception to the rule.

Guha and Radhika
Guha and Radhika

It is 11 am now. After a leisurely breakfast we are all gathered in Manoj’s house. The “boys’ club” is in a boisterous mood and amidst loud laughter and joviality Guha is narrating hilarious anecdotes about a long-time friend who has gone to Australia for a few months. Then on Guha’s request Sanjiv began to sing a devotional song to Lord Krishna. The song went something like why is Radha jealous when all are dear to Krishna and Krishna is dear to all? As he was singing Guha got a call from Radhika in New Jersey. Listening to Guha bantering with her, it struck me that just like Krishna’s Radha, our Radhika is also deeply affected by her Kanha (Guha). Just for fun they’re planning to send Sanjiv’s recording to Radhika. All just a good time pass. What else is there anyway?


After the morning walk I get a chance to talk to Guha alone. Again I ask the same old questions: Why is there so much pain and suffering in life? What does my future look like? How long will I remain jobless? How long can I sustain myself? Should I sell my house? Will Parting Shot take off, which Julie and I are so keen to turn into a flourishing publishing house? Why do relationships have to be so painful? I don’t want to get hurt again, yada, yada, yada…

I am overcome with emotions and tears start rolling down my cheeks (is it Full Moon today?). Guha is very sweet and listens closely to my ranting. He says the pain is caused because of our inability to control life. He so wants to make me understand that life does not work according to the will of the myth-making structure – our sense of self which is trying to capture life and use it the way it wants it to be. Again he patiently reiterates that the sense of self in me called Nandini is illusory. The identifier is also illusory. She is a conditioned organism which has been programmed to respond or react in the social context according to whatever has been systematically put into her since childhood. “They (people) put on a façade to run away from the pain. To capture life through words and images is impossible. That impossibility if it hits home will collapse the illusory structure on which Nandini is maintaining the status quo. That’s an exercise in total futility.”

He says Nandini is feeling uneasy because given the parameters there is no way of predicting the course her life will take in the future. In that sense, future is continually created to control life. And to her that absence of hope for a happy future, i.e. the happiness she seeks according to her samskaras and conditioning, or the unknowability of what’s going to happen in future makes her feel insecure and full of fear. “Right now you are sitting here with me but you are ignoring these precious moments by worrying about a future that only exists in your imagination.” This was delivered very matter-of-factly and sadly I realize how true that is.

All relationships are fraught with pain


This morning again finding me despondent, Guha is more forceful as he tells me I haven’t got an iota of satisfaction being with him. He adds with a wicked smile that I am like a fish out of water writhing from pangs of separation, that I look and act like a love-lorn chick. “All relationships are fraught with pain and only fleeting pleasure,” he adds for good measure. I am contrite and struggle to defend the charges. But he’s not in the mood to hear any of my tame excuses and walks out. I feel helpless and rudderless; where am I headed? As I try to compose myself, this realization arises from the depths of my consciousness, instantly lifting up my spirits: There is no future, there is no relationship, there is no love. Therefore, there can be no sorrow. Life beats at its own rhythm and at every moment it knows exactly what it wants or needs.

It is afternoon and we are watching a slideshow of pictures taken by Bubu. Too many of them to hold my attention but Kovalam photos are nice. As twilight falls, the fireworks “bombardment” erupts from the nearby temple dedicated to a goddess. These “bombs” go off continually, one after another creating a deafening roar with thick white smoke billowing from where the temple is located. Ever since we have been here, every evening firecrackers are burst in this Devi temple as part of the rituals, creating a tremendous racket for miles around. The thunderous, ear-splitting noise is enough to wake up the dead and I feel our high-rise shake and shudder by the raucous impact. If this continues unchecked, these buildings might suffer untold damage by these explosions. Manoj jokingly points to Kamal and says Capt Kamaal (Kamal means a lotus but kamaal means an extraordinary feat) should take this matter in his hands and stop this ruckus once and for all.


Late morning we hopped into two cars to visit temples – three of them. Out of the three, the two neighborhood temples, one dedicated to Bhagawathy (goddess) and the other to Murugan (Lord Shiva’s son, widely worshipped in south India) were closed. We then took a long drive (long given the poor road conditions in India), about 20 km, to see the famous Chottanikkara Devi temple. This is the only temple I know of where the goddess Chottanikkara Devi is worshipped in three different forms in a day – as Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga. An interesting myth behind this ancient temple is that the goddess has the power to cure “maddies”. Hence, people suffering from mental illnesses have been coming here since ages to get cured. Guha is of course rolling in laughter rattling off names of “maddy” friends who should be brought here. However, the door to this temple is closed as well. I feel a little let down since I was really looking forward to having “darshan” of the deity. Guha, seeing the look of disappointment on my face loudly proclaimed that I was more important than that “bitch”! I pretended to shut my ears. “You are living, throbbing, pulsating with life whereas she is only a figment of somebody’s fertile imagination.” He is right, of course and I nod my head in acquiescence. Like most Hindus I have been visiting temples since the day I was born, so it is just an old habit, nothing more. And we all know old habits die hard. I am beginning to understand that society has created role models to maintain the status quo. Right from childhood I am taught to look up to and venerate them. By doing so, not only am I denying the very power which is in me and in each one of us but I am forced to create a higher self or god and worship that. So if you look at the phenomenon deeply, we are just worshiping ourselves. To put it in a different way, the one who is worshiped is the worshiper himself. How convoluted!

On our way back home I had the opportunity to chat with Chandrasekhar Babu in Bangalore. Manoj knows him well and was talking to him on the phone when Guha indicated that I could talk to him if I wished. I told Babu I had read his journal Stopped In Our Tracks at least five times in which I first heard of Guha, and the physical transformations the latter had undergone. I also conveyed to Babu my appreciation of his diary since it was instrumental in leading me to Guha. Babu must have been taken aback to be suddenly talking to a total stranger but was very gracious and invited us all to Bangalore. It was fascinating to read about his close association with U.G., like that of father and son, for over thirty years till the latter’s death in 2007.

It is nighttime and back in my room I am recollecting my conversation with Guha in New York a few months ago. Here is a summary of that potent talk:


(Ansonia, NYC, Guha & me)

 Guha: You don’t want to be here. If you had anything better to do, you wouldn’t be here.

You don’t have to know the goal. There is an organic necessity; it is not the goal. It’s like a woman needs to get pregnant to give continuity to life – it is an organic necessity. It is doing its job. As a little girl or a boy every cell in your body knows what it needs to keep growing.

 What is the struggle inside? The society, culture taught us what our aspirations should be. We have no choice but to address the social needs. And we have been endowed with talents or capabilities to address these needs.

 The beginning of the solution is recognizing deeply at what the problem is. It is my demand and I’m not sure if that demand is aligning with my needs. In fact, the problems are real but the solutions are fictitious and they never work. Your head can never give solutions. The problem remains because the identification of the problem is wrong. What is my basic/root problem? The answer is creating an apparent identity. It is a continuity which is not approved by the order of the system.

 If you think that the identity of Nandini is the only problem – it will shutter you. Because there IS NO NANDINI at all! There IS NO NANDINI! It is so absurd for you to accept that. What you feel, your demands, everything – they are fictitious, created by your will. These have been systematically introduced into you by social dynamics so that there is a relationship between you and society.



Part I: A Big Zero

Part II: You Say Just the Way You See

Part III: A Pilot’s Tale

Part IV: A Collection of Nuclei

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

Sun XII: Love Goes Toward Love


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