One day I’ll Arrive …

My heart’s doors closed at the dusk of revelation,

As flowers petals shut when the sun goes off the horizon.

Truth weighs down on me once again.

Tears of suffering shouldn’t go in vain.

Light within me dims like the oil lamp

Burning alone in the corner of that dark room.

Not until the mirror of my heart becomes spotless.

He’ll scratch the dust off my heart so what if it bleeds till eternity.

Then I’ll look at the face of my soul

In the clean mirror of my heart.

Sifting through the piles of memories

I’ll breath a thought in the universe

That it was worth it.

I wouldn’t have reached Home

without becoming lost in the labyrinth of Your Maya.

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Madhava prabhu’s Hare Krishna Kirtan

I have always wondered how it feels to be replete with bliss, energy, love, and joy, all at the same time. What gives such an experience? What do I need to be able to have an experience that brings me closer to Krishna without going through suffering. Why Chaitanya Mahaprabhu used to cry rivers of tears in ecstasy when he would chant Krishna’s name? Why would he dance a dance that no one has been able to replicate? Why did Meera act like a mad woman by singing Krishna’s names and dancing on streets? What was behind the divine madness of Tukaram?

Madhava prabhu, if you wouldn't do the blissful Hare Krishna sankirtan today at ISKCON Dwarka, we would never know what it means to taste the nectar. If you wouldn't make us chant louder, we would not know what crying for Krishna means. If you wouldn't chant as if you were going to die the next moment, we would not experience what it means to live for Hare Krishna. I thought Mahaprabhu was dancing in your kirtan. He was jumping so high that he would touch the sky. Deities were dancing, Madhava prabhu. Srila Prabhupada was dancing. Who are you Madhava prabhu? You made me feel indebted to a Srila Prabhupada. You made me miss Mahaprabhu. You made me wonder how earth would dance under the lotus feet of Krishna Chaitanya when he would do kirtan of Hare Krishna in ecstasy. Madhava prabhu, you stirred our souls this evening. You made us jump in the air as if we were as light as feathers; as if we were beyond physical fatigue. I hated my mind when it wandered away to trivia in the kirtan. I wanted to beat it with a broom.

You have made us taste the divine nectar today. But why did you have to stop the kirtan. Why could the time not stop? Did you see the young man who danced as if no one was watching him. Did you see how we were swaying right to left, left to right and how we were going deeper into the holy name. Perhaps you didn't, because you were with Krishna every moment. Madhava prabhu, if you do kirtan outside pubs, the drunkards would dance to your kirtan and the pubs would close down. Who would need alcohol then. Your kirtan has the power to melt stoned hearts.

Thank you for purifying our hearts and giving us a rare experience of bliss today. Being there in your kirtan has purified me of many sins. Please come back to us sooner than we deserve your divine company.

Mother

Stroke of Pain, Love, and Hope

A night before she suffered paralysis, my mother cooked dinner for us. Irritation was pounding my head that night. I asked my mom to apply balm on my forehead. We were awake till 11pm.
We must have been asleep for hardly 6 hours when my father woke me up to help him figure out what was wrong with mummy. My mother used to be sick often so at first I shrugged it as just another low BP thing. I went to my parents’ room to see her. She looked semi-conscious. She was trying to speak with muffled words. She would try to get up to go to the bathroom but fall on the bed each time. I remained next to her, rubbing her feet. My father asked me to go back to sleep. How could I? Soon enough my father was on phone with a doctor who he had recently met. This cardiologist lived not far away from us. He had met my parents in Fortis and offered them to help whenever he could. The phone call must have lasted 2-3 minutes. But what happened during this time lasted forever.
In the hospital bed, she looked frail. She had started looking three decades older than her age.

 One the first day in ICU, I stood next to her for a couple of hours, supporting her delicate neck. Nobody cared when her neck fell out of the bed like a broken branch. I couldn't leave her like this. I cried to her how I was sorry about what had done. I repeatedly told her that I loved her. she didn't respond, but in her heart lived the same supersoul that lives in mine. That super soul must have heard me. In her heart she herself lived too. She must have heard me too.

Two weeks had passed, but she didn’t regain strength to eat or to move. She was taking semi-liquid food through a nasal tube. My father and I had been worried about taking her home in this condition. How were we going to take care of her? The nasal tube was long enough to reach her throat and wound it. At nights she would scream in pain. It was hard to see her so helpless. Her doctor tried to calm us down by saying how her brain was exaggerating this pain. Four days before her discharge from the hospital, anxiety took over me. I left her room to take some deep breaths in the cafeteria. Krishna, who is the paramatma in every heart, reminded me to pray to Him. I always take liberty with him. I told Him if my mother didn’t start eating through mouth within three days, I would never talk to Him.
My wait began. Her condition remained the same the next day. Nothing changed the day after. What was happening? On the third day, she began to scream with pain. It was a Sunday, so her doctor wasn’t available. A general physician was on rounds. My father called her to see my mother. The physician said, we had no choice but to remove the tube. What if she couldn’t eat still? A new tube would be fixed, but it would cause more pain as it would irritate the wound. But we had to take a chance. Doctor removed the nasal food pipe. Mummy didn’t eat or sip until the evening. I begged to Krishna. The intensity of my prayer increased. On the evening, we tried once more. Krishna did His magic. She sipped half cup of tea and ate half chapatti. We brought her home, and her eating improved.
Dimples on my mother’s cheeks no longer existed. Her face became expressionless. When she smiled, her upper lip moved to show her teeth–to assure us that she was indeed smiling. Her smiles were the savior of our hopes. With each smile my faith renewed and I saw her recovering. I believed that her willingness to recover would overpower the weakness of her physical body. And every time I saw her smiling, I would say my heartfelt prayer to Krishna to heal her of all emotional and physical troubles. I would pray to Krishna to give us some good time together so that no guilt remained in my heart, so that she could receive the love she wanted from me.
Never before in my life had I imagined that my mother’s existence could affect my peace and joy—my own existence. She couldn’t be the mother I wanted, and I couldn’t be the daughter she needed. The scars and wounds in our relationship always made me believe that I was detached from her. Although I have always loved her, I thought my love for her was devoid of usual mother-daughter emotions. In the first 3-4 months of the stroke, I saw a drastic change in both of us. I became a lot gentle with her, and she expressed her love for me so often—almost every day. Her kisses on my forehead and my hands, her sweet words that she stammered sometimes, the warm look in her eyes made up for all the love that I missed during 34 years of my life. I understood that she always loved me, but she failed at expressing it, or maybe I was incapable of receiving it. Her paralytic attack had changed everything—from our routines to our hearts–everything!
I prayed to Krishna to give us some more years together. I hoped for her to recover fully and feel better than ever. I began to feel her illness was a “stroke” of providence to bring us together and fix our relationship–at what cost? I couldn’t stop wondering, though, why had Krishna designed us to learn only through difficulties, miseries, accidents, and illnesses?

One Lifetime wasn’t Enough to Learn and Let go?

Stroke was not enough to bring lasting transformation. Our relationship started to deteriorate when I joined the office after a gap of two months. One time when I returned from the office, as soon as I entered my room, she called for me. The old annoyance came over me as a fit. That was the beginning of hell. For the first few times, I would apologize to her, and she would forgive me. These incidents became frequent, my apologies weren’t sincere, and her forgiveness lost its warmth, too.

On her last few days with us, I used to ask her if she loved me. She would turn her head away and no a No. sometimes I would keep my head on her chest and call her with deep love "mummy". She would respond from semiconscious state "Haan" and then fall back into her world.

Once I shared with Archana, my devotee friend, how my mom said no to me when I asked her if she loved me. Archana asked me why didn't I tell my mom that I loved her! Why didn't I think about it?!

The Beginning of the End

We relocated near my sister’s place to get some help from her. My mother never wanted to live so far from her brothers and sisters. Her condition worsened, both physically and mentally. Some neighbors concluded that she was mentally-challenged. She had been suffering from the lack of love. Now she suffered more because we ignored her desire to stay back. I insisted on moving to Delhi. My father liked the idea, too. But the one for whom we thought we’re doing all this didn’t want it in the first place. Our relationship worsened.
She remained restless, depressed, and waited for her life to come to an end until it really did. What all must have been gone on within her. Her head would keep swinging from left to right, from right to left. She would repeat her demands no matter how we reacted. I used to scold her for not thinking about us when I, myself, repeatedly failed to be tolerant to her suffering. I would scold her; shout at her. Sometimes I would just take out all my frustrations on her by cursing her brothers who, I thought, got more love from my mother than I did. I was in my teens when envy sprouted in my heart. She tried to be a good daughter and sister, but ended up being a mother who couldn’t love her own daughter.
My mother and I would hardly talk but when we did our relationship became worse. She would reveal her worries over her brothers’ condition and wouldn’t talk about my struggles within and without. My want for her love took a grotesque form. I became a bully.
I used to remain irritated with her even when I was 4 or 5 years old, but with time that childish irritation turned into strong anger. We must have been enemies in our past lives. When enemies are reborn as close family members, their capacity to hurt each other expands. They suffer more because of close bonding. Their past samskaras and vows as enemies make them compulsive in their actions in the current life. In calm moments, these past enemies and present relatives (parent-child, husband-wife) realize the need to forgive and let go, but their past impressions trigger old behavior whenever circumstances become fertile. That’s what happened between my mother and me as long as she was alive.
During her last months with us, I had this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh on my closet’s wall:

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That's the message he is sending.”

I tried to internalize the teaching of this saint. I tried and tried and tried. At last, I failed.
I took care of my mother’s body as much as I could, but I killed her soul. A couple of years after her demise, a homeopath told me how repeated disrespect by a family member may paralyze the left-side of the body of the person who is on the receiving end. Ground beneath my feet trembled when I heard this.  I left his place as soon as I could and walked toward home. Once I was on the footpath, and there was no one around me, I let the cries out. All I could do was ask for my mother’s forgiveness and scream Krishna Krishna! Krishna, please protect that soul no matter wherever she is and in whichever body. Please give her all the love she needs. Please heal her psychic wounds. Krishna, please liberate her and give her shelter at your Lotus Feet.

I’ll Observe Fast after You’ve Passed Away

These were my words to my mother on the second Ekadeshi of January 2013. Hardly a month would have passed since I started observing Ekadeshi fast. I was struggling with my hunger; with the idea of remaining empty-stomach until noon. My stomach’s hungry rumblings make me angry, and I end up saying things that I wouldn’t want to say.
That morning, my mother was like her usual post-illness self, and I screamed those words in my own helplessness. God knows what came over me and I blurted out “I won’t fast anymore. What’s the point if I scream at you like this? I’ll fast only after you are gone!” The arrow of my words pierced my own heart as soon it left the bow of my tongue. I came back to my desk and looked at Krishna’s brass statue in helplessness and anger. Tears making way out of my eyes, I asked Him why couldn’t He help me control my anger? Why couldn’t He find some help for my mother so we could spend the remaining time—few months–of mother’s life peacefully?
Krishna is devoted to His devotees no matter how imperfect they are. Before my next Ekadeshi fast, a caring lady (Shiela) offered to take care of my mother’s daily rituals till 4/4.30 pm every evening. This lady used to work with my sister a couple of years ago. My sister had been trying to contact her for a long time but Shiela’s number must have changed. One day, when my sister was thinking about Shiela’s availability, her doorbell rang and there Shiela was!
My mother’s health had been deteriorating fast since the last quarter of 2012, which always made me think if 2013 would be the last year of her life. 2013 was also the 66th year of her life. Was the number 66 that I had been seeing indicating her departure from this world in the 66th year (

the number 66 synchronicity

).
April 22, 2013 was Kamada Ekadeshi, both, my sister and I fasted. My sister fasted for my mother. In the two weeks before this Ekadeshi my mother would spend most of her time sleeping. We got all the prescribed health tests done; her reports were perfect. So perfect that she could actually stop taking the medicines she had been on since her paralysis on  October 9, 2009.
On April 21, 2013, she opened her eyes and talked to us briefly in her broken voice of which we could understand only a few words. She had lost the ability to speak a couple of months ago. Her words would never come out clearly, and after two or three words her voice would become inaudible.
It was around 8.30-9pm when I returned from the Love Feast program that would take place every Sunday on the ISKCON temple’s land. I had brought with me garland prasad. Everyone including my mother smelled the garlands to take in the fragrance prasad. While I was placing the garlands on her pillow, a thought struck me…what if it’s her last night. Everyone was relieved to see her awake. I asked her casually where she had been all these days in her dreams. After a short silence, she mumbled “Krishna Bhagavan”. I became curious and asked her to tell me more. Her words were inaudible after she spoke the Lord’s name. I asked repeatedly what about Krishna Bhagavan, but my father intervened and asked me to help my mother finish her dinner first. So I nipped my curiosity in the bud.
On the morning of April 22,  when Shiela was helping mummy with wheat porridge, I asked again about mummy’s last night’s …”Krishna Bhagvan”…. I asked her if He appeared in her dream. She nodded “yes”. “Did He say something”?, I asked. She nodded yes. “What did He say?” I asked. To this she said “Worship Me.” I asked her if Krishna Bhagavan asked her to worship Him. She nodded “Yes”. “Did you see His face?” I asked. “No”, she said. “Then?” She said that she heard His voice.
On the afternoon of April 22, when Shiela was feeding her lunch, my mother’s breath became heavy with phlegm. She tried to say a long sentence but it remained stuck in her throat; sunk in phlegm. Gurgling was what we could hear. I looked at her face and chanted the Hare Krishna mahamantra quietly. “Try to throw the phlegm out, mummy.” I said. She couldn’t. Papa and I waited for a few minutes but nothing happened. Sheila again started feeding her lunch. Papa went back to his room and me to my desk. I didn’t resume work and instead started chanting the Hare Krishna mahamantra on my Tulsi beads. I must have chanted only for a minute or two and when Shiela called me to give tissues to her as my mom was throwing up phlegm finally.

 Another Beginning

Instead of taking out the tissues from the kitchen drawer, I went to the other side of the dining table and tried to tear off the newspaper while watching mom throwing up lots of phlegm. With my beads in my right hand, it became hard for me to tear the paper…why the hell was I trying to tear it off? Why couldn’t I just use the whole of it? It was just a newspaper! Shiela panicked and asked me to bring it fast. I gave her the whole piece while beads still in my right hand. Mom’s face was down. Shiela put her hand on mom’s forehead to raise it and there her neck fell back. All I could say was “Mommy? Mommy?” I checked her heart beat. There was none. I put my finger below her nose to check if there was any sign of breath. None. Her soul left through the mouth; one of the nine gates in the body.
My sister, brother-in-law, and father took her body to the hospital. Doctors confirmed she was gone. On the day of Ekadeshi the soul who was playing the role of my mother left the body. Vedic scriptures reveal that when a soul leaves its body on this day, it finds a home in a Vaikuntha planet and all her karmas are burned. It seemed to me that Lord Krishna had turned my anger-filled statement into a boon.
Shiela, who was helping us take care of my mother, reminded us how a few weeks before my mother’s death, mummy was saying something like

today is Ekadeshi and both my daughters are fasting

. It was not Ekadeshi that day and my sister never fasted on Ekasdeshi so we ignored her comment. But on her last day on earth, on Ekadeshi, my sister WAS fasting! My mother knew when she would leave us …
Devotees say when we take one step toward Krishna; He takes thousand steps toward us. My mother’s divine departure is Krishna’s gift to us.
I have firm faith that although I did nothing right, Krishna has burned karmas between me and my mother. If it wasn’t so, why would she pass away on Ekadeshi, looking at a picture of Radha Krishna, in the atmosphere of chanting?

An Adventurous Trip to His Homeland

It was an evening of July 2002. A business analyst and I were structuring and cleaning up a product definition document at our office. We were working after standard office hours on the day. It was past 8pm when my cell phone rang. It was Shallu who called to ask me if I would like to visit Vrindavana. “When do you plan to leave” I asked. She said, “We leave in an hour or so.”  By the time I would reach home, it would be 9. I needed time to fresh up. “Why so late?” I asked. “We’ll drive to Vrindavana. We don’t have to travel in public transport.” “We …?” I inquired. “You and I” “I don’t think it’s safe to drive to UP at this hour, or anywhere in India for that matter.” Shallu is an adventuress, and I’m unusually timid about taking plunges. Shallu’s life, so far, has been one adventure after another. For her this was just another drive. One time she drove down to Rishikesh alone. She likes to take risks. She has seen many countries, dealt with a variety of people, managed several businesses.  I hope and pray that someday she risks everything for Krishna’s love.

“What would I tell my parents?” I wondered. I told her what I had thought of telling my parents so they would let me go. I went home and announced my sudden trip to Vrindavana with Shallu and her mom. We started our journey on a Haryana Roadways bus. Shallu called for a friend’s Tata Indica. I was still quite apprehensive about what we were doing. She said, “Why would Krishna let anything happen to us when we’re risking our safety to visit his holy land?” It made sense. Her words assured me enough to remain seated in the car–though I was quite stiff and not comfortable at all. We would have covered  1/3rd of the distance when she asked me if I could change a flat tire just in case we ended up driving over nails that are sometimes thrown across the road. Tubeless tires were designed much later as far as I remember. My fear changed gears, and my heart began to sink at the thought of being stranded on the road. Fear has its own odor. Animals have a knack for sensing fear. They attack when they smell that odor. Shallu sensed my fear by my facial expressions. She asked me to play some music and relax and not spoil the joyride. I don’t recall what we played. But we were getting closer to Vrindavana.

We must have driven halfway when Shallu proposed to have a cup of tea at a dhaba on our side of the road. Shallu expertly parked her friend’s Tata Indica and sounded thrilled about adhrak cutting chai. We found a table and waited for two cups of cutting chai. It would have been a few minutes when we saw a gang of men getting out of a car in the dhaba parking. They were 5 or 6 of them.  As I dreaded, they grabbed a table pretty close to ours. Their body language was making me uncomfortable. I vaguely remember them laughing loud, wanting attention. Shallu looked relax; not worried at all.

I looked at Shallu, fear oozing out of my facial expression. The lines of worries on my forehead and between eyebrows must have become pronounced. She was still bubbly and bold. We were still talking about the gang of men on the next table and power went off. I freaked out! This was the last thing I expected on a pilgrimage (or joyride?) that we started in a casual spirit. What Shallu said shocked me to my bones “when rape is inevitable then might as well.” A waiter lighted a candle on our table. We sipped our tea, paid for it, and left swiftly toward our car.

We would have driven a couple of kilometers when we saw the gang following us in a Santro. Shallu sped up. The gang sped up. We were being chased. I must have prayed to Krishna. I must have emotionally blackmailed Him, too. How could He let us get into this dangerous situation? After a few kilometers, the gang took a U turn and left us alone. What accompanied us on the Mathura road were trucks, one after another.

We reached Vrindavana around 1am. The Parikrama marg was silent and dark. Roads were muddy. She parked the car outside what looked like a guest house. It was right on the main road. I don’t recall its name. I should ask Shallu if she still remembers it. We went inside to ask for a room to stay over. The guesthouse keeper said all rooms were occupied. Shallu felt thrilled. “We could sleep in the car. It has an AC. What’s the problem?” She chuckled. “I can’t sleep in the car!” I was tensed. It was too much for me. First the lone trip in the middle of the night, then the gang at the dhaba, and now the prospect of sleeping on wheels. The guesthouse keeper said there was a kitchen which no one used. We could use it for the night.

Beggers can’t be choosers! We saw the kitchen and agreed. We slept on the floor or on the slabs, I don’t recall. But the cooler made the atmosphere more humid than it was outside. For someone who had moderate sleeping disorders, sleeping in the kitchen with a water cooler was nothing less of a test. I couldn’t sleep even for a minute. Shallu gave me a heads-up about waking up at 4am to attend the morning aarti in gauron ka mandir (ISKCON). She said the aarti was quite amazing. She had attended it many times before.

We woke up in time and ran to the temple to attend the aarti. I remember walking on the veranda that has checkered floor of white and black marbles.  I remember finding a place to sit on steps. A white-bodied priest was reciting Sanskrit verses immaculately and offering aarti to the deities. Thankfully there were not many people, so I could feel the bliss of the place. The entire program took 1.5 hours to complete. I sat on stair steps all along, tears flowing down my eyes. The emotions that had been brewing up rose to my eyes as my heart could no longer hold the grief that I had been carrying for many lives. I cried to my heart’s content. On that morning, during the aarti my connection with Krishna became stronger. I didn’t feel I was visiting the temple for the first time. It felt like home.

We could see the light at 5.30am. I was looking around when my eyes fell upon a wall painting. An aged Indian man was surrounded with firangis (hippies). He must have been their guru, I thought to myself. The more I looked at the painting, the more déjà vu I experienced. I learned that ISKCON had another temple in Kailash Hills, New Delhi. I must go there, I thought to myself. Krishna was gravitating me toward Him. This was not the first time He was doing this to me. This had been going on for lives.

The Lady on EMU Train

In my twenties, EMU train journeys would consume my mornings and evenings. Ladies compartment used to be my home on wheels in those hours. This lady, who I met one morning, had short hair; weird cut that looked unkempt. I vaguely remember her dressing up only in sarees. Absorbed in her world behind her closed eyes, she would sing bhajans. I was not interested in bhajans, but her absorption in her devotional songs was what made me notice her; her hair, too. What was her name? Oh, my memory doesn’t serve me right anymore. It’s been quite undependable as far as I remember.

I sat next to her that day. On local trains no one gets to decide where one would sit. Choice is a binary illusion. You might be lucky to be standing at a spot which is closer to someone who might get down at the next station. You and a couple of more women run to grab the seat. One who gets it becomes the lucky commuter of the day. I got the seat. Next to me I saw the spiritual lady who was singing bhajans. Some conversation must have started. How or what I don’t remember. But she said she would bring her writings for me the next day.

As if it was planned, we found each other next morning easily. She handed over her folder to me and said I didn’t have to return it. Why was she so detached from what she wrote? Creative writing is not pen pushing. Why did she decide to give her treasure to me? I took her folder home with me and made a few feeble attempts to understand her journey through her words. Whom was she addressing through her words? All I could gather was, those were devotional songs. I couldn’t retain my interest. Her songs didn’t appeal me.

I took her folder back with me the next day to give it back to her, to be relived of that which I didn’t need. Those words must have been precious to her. So many lives we pass through to become who we are. Words of a writer are concentrated capsules of her eternal journey to the point where she stands at the moment when she writes something. A smile one wears has millions of stories behind it. We’re not a product of this moment. We have been in the making since forever. We have passed through 84 millions species. We have designed ourselves, a kaleidoscope of hopes, fears, betrayals, anger, lust, greed, illusion, madness. Her words on those sheets of paper were not a product of few hours, but millions of lives she had invested in her words. Her words were her unique code that stored millions of her sufferings, pleasures, realisations, and transformations. Only she could decode her words, or the one she wrote them for could.

I was a foreigner who didn’t understand the language of her heart. We shared the language of words but not their inner meanings. Her thoughts and feelings behind those words were alien to me. I had an underdeveloped heart. Why did she give her treasure to me at all?

This one-way sharing of inner treasure took place 20 years ago on a local train whose doors never closed; whose windows would always remain open to let the wind enter freely, naturally. Mobile phones were a luxury. People would be all ears to what one had to say. You could speak to your friends and acquaintances and simultaneously admire their clothes, hairstyles, and accessories. You could whisper how the other woman standing at the far end looked weird, or was she sad? When men would barge in the ladies compartment, women of valour would get together to push them out at the next station. Boys would impress pretty girls with their heroism which they flaunted by swinging their bodies on the edges of the open doors of the train. Their only support used to be iron handles. Every year a few would lose their lives on railway tracks. Every year some parents mourned the loss of their young children.

On the train people would sell snacks, cosmetics, and what not. Once we saw a girl changing into a western dress, stacking her Indian wear in her big handbag. Something or the other would shock us each day. An expert beautician was once threading her friend’s eyebrows on moving train. I wonder if she ever made a world record of some sort. Metro rails are lifeless. People on metro rails remain silent but their fingers chat incessantly with those who they meet only over their smart phones. Eating is not allowed on metro. Only commuting is legal. Nothing can replace the charm of local trains.

I kept looking for the lady in the ladies compartment. I went everywhere to find her as soon as crowd lessened. She wasn’t there. I didn’t want to keep her folder with me. I remembered she had mentioned where her office was. She worked for a government department which was located only a few meters from the Indian Express office in Jhandewalan. Before going to work, I walked down to her office. I asked for her. The office peon showed me her desk. I left the folder at her desk and hurried to my office.

She was not on the train the next day either. I never saw her again on the train during my remaining months at the Indian Express. My 6-year relationship with the EMU train ended with my job. A new phase of life began. Her devotional songs didn’t etch a feeling on my stone heart.

In last couple of years I have thought of that lady many times. A faint image comes before my eyes. Her eyes are closed, she is singing, has short hair… I wonder where she is. Has she found what she was looking for? She must have retired or nearing retirement. Who knows she may have left the household life for her eternal lover. I often tell myself that she must have seen my future, so she wanted to share with me the glory of devotion. Maybe she wanted me to walk the path of divine love. The super soul in her heart must have guided her. I wonder if I would ever see her again to let her know that I, too, have resumed my journey back Home.

No matter where she is. No matter what she did to her songs. The one whom she wrote them for cherishes them. Krishna loves His lovers. He sings to them who sing for Him.

I’m stuck.

Between life and death, I struggle with emptiness. It weighs heavy on my heart. This emptiness is not a vacuum; on the contrary it’s replete with loneliness and foreignness that I experience incessantly in this world. The vague memory of love from untraceable time, and the lack of love from time immemorial have put me in this dire situation. These lines from Emily Dickinson’s poem describe my internal expanse so much better that I ever will be capable of:

You left me boundaries of pain
Capacious as the sea,
Between eternity and time,
Your consciousness and me.

I don’t mean to underrate the rare treats of joy and friendships that give me surprise visits and bid goodbye as surprisingly. They fuel my consciousness to play my role, to pay debts of the past, to create new bondages, and to pave way for freedom.

Amidst this cycle of hope and hopelessness, I ponder over the path that alone can raise my consciousness to the infinite realm beyond which no mind can travel, no heart can rejoice. I’ve been limping on this road. I can’t feel its beauty and bliss.

I’m stuck between foreignness and friendliness. This world is foreign to me. On the road to infinite bliss is the air of friendliness. But I can’t breathe that air. Something prevents me from seeking pleasure in this world, and the same something stops me from taking a good run on the road to infinite bliss. This something has been persisting furiously in my nature. It seems to be stalking me life after life. My attempts to fight it are feeble. And, it’s not in me to cajole this unconquerable force.

Surrender unto Me, You say to Me, Krishna. So, I ask You, plead to You, beg of You to infuse me with the force that will make me surrender to You. Because if You don’t, I won’t.

Krishna, it’s painful to be in limbo. It’s lonely here. It scares me every moment. I feel unloved. I feel incapable of loving. What do you know of these feelings? These emotions can’t even touch You. You’ve made them for lost souls like me.
I was about to stop here. But, as if to collect my fallen spirit and to reassure me, this line from Srimad Bhagavatam hummed itself to me, “padaṁ padaṁ yad vipadāṁ na teṣām.”

samāśritā ye pada-pallava-plavaṁ
 mahat-padaṁ puṇya-yaśo murāreḥ
bhavāmbudhir vatsa-padaṁ paraṁ padaṁ
 padaṁ padaṁ yad vipadāṁ na teṣām

For those who have accepted the boat of the lotus feet of the Lord, who is the shelter of the cosmic manifestation and is famous as Murāri, the enemy of the Mura demon, the ocean of the material world is like the water contained in a calf’s hoof-print. Their goal is paraṁ padam, Vaikuṇṭha, the place where there are no material miseries, not the place where there is danger at every step.

A divine reminder!