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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ocean in a Teacup ch 37 pp 361-367

Chapter 37 pp 361

The Saraswati Puja (the annual celebration for the Goddess ofLearning) took placeon Thursday, January 23rd in 1969. A small group of us, Andre Louis, a recent French disciple, Spence, recently returned after a few years of touring India. Mahadev Poddar and myself decided late wednessday night to visit Deoghar for a day before continuing the program of meetings that would enable us to get those unnecessary cars we thought were so important.

We reached Deoghar Thursday morning. After explaining our progress, Spence gave Thakur a bottle of honey he had received from Kasyap Pal Choudhury. “Give it to Ray,” he said. I took it. “What’ll I do with it?” “Feed me” was Thakur’s cryptic reply.

“We’ll leave this afternoon, Thakur” I began. “--- Why” Thakur interrupted “--- there’s a big meeting in Murshidabad where we may get five thousand rupees for a car.”

“Why?” thakur insisted. “For the car, Thakur!” I raised my voice thinking he hadn’t heard, “Why?” Thakur repeated. “You wanted cars, thakur,” I reminded him.

“When will you come back? I have some talks.”

“Sunday or Monday,” I offered,

Thakur’s demeanor suddenly changed. His eyes gripped mine. He became more insistent. “Will you fix everything up?” “The car issue is in high gear, Thakur,” I reassured him.

“Will you fix everything u?” Thakur’s eyes were more piercing, his voice more demanding. “Thakur, everything is alright!” My voice was tense.

“Say; you’ll fix everything up!”

Like a schoolboy, I repeated rote: “I’ll fix everything up.”

“Say it again louder.” I’d never seen Thakur so insistent.

I’ll fix everything up!” I shouted. Thakur leaned back on his pillows but his eyes held mine remorsely. After a few moments of silence, I left his room. A few hours later I returned to say good-bye as we left for the meeting.

“Thik kore phelbe, to?” (You’ll really fix everything upP. Again he caught my eyes as if in a vice, I nodded, pulled my eyes away and left. Little did I suspect how badly – so very badly --- I had missed! That awareness and the resulting anguish were to come later. However, true to my promise, I left Calcutta three day later on Sunday evening by the Delhi Express.

Sunday morning. January 26th, 1969 in Deoghar was crisp and clear. Bor’da came to Thakur Bari very early for the prayer. Kazal arrived at almost the same time from his room near Thakur. Finally, at 7:00 A.M. the attendants pulled the curtains aside, opened the siding windows and a group of about 300 looked in at their Thakur, 81 years old, all wrapped in a soft white quit and looking more radiant that he had for long long time. All bowed and began that prayer-hymn in Hindi that had been handed down generation after generation for more than a century from the original Satsang in Agra. As the prayer ended it seemed that Thakur looked happier than he had for many months. Even the doctors’ reports supported this. His heart, his pulse, blood pressure, even his chronic pharyngitis seemed to have become normal.

Thakur called to each person as he hadn’t done for a long time: “How are you? When did you come?” and then began asking almost everyone for rashagollas, sandesh, jilipis and other Bengal sweets. Instead of sending them to the kitchen when they were brought as had always been the custom, Thakur would ask each person, “Feed me.” To the joy of each, who seldom if ever had this opportunity to feed Thakur with their won hand, he would take their offering and eat it with great relish. There was such obvious joy, so much apparent physical strength, that everyone, particularly those who had been under constant tension twenty-four hours a day for the past many months, they felt perhaps… perhaps … he was going to get better.

The evening prayer was as calm and hopeful as the day had been. A few people came and went quietly and his evening meal with Chotto Ma and Bor’da present as usual, and which by now consisted only of liquid protein, passed uneventfully…. In fact, all was so serene and Thakur so happy, each went to their respective room or house with a renewed sense of security. Things were so restful, by mid-night the usual attendants began to leave one by one --- Bishu, Bankim-da, Durgesh – until there was only Satish Das outside the net and two women attendants inside, one of whom was sleeping while the other massaged Thakur’s legs.

In the dim glow of the electric heaters, the outline of that bulky body could barely be seen. At 3:00 A.M. he coughed. The lights were turned on. Kazal came, gave Thakur some pethindine and left for his room and then to the bathroom. Satish brought Thakur his hookah which he smoked without coughing, lay down and immediately fell in a sound sleep, Satish, certain that Thakur would not awaken before morning, went to bed.

At 3:30, thakur sat up, pointed to something behind Sudapani Ma and again went to sleep.

Meanwhile having arrived at Jasidih at 3:05, taken a rickshaw, crossed the rail line into Rohini road, I stopped in front of our house. It was 3:30 and very cold. Besides thakur would surely be sleeping. I might as well too. I entered our house and without undressing, lay down on my bed exhausted. I heard the bell strike four as I fell asleep.

At 4:50, Sudapani Ma found Thakur sleeping so soundly, she felt secure in leaving him to go to the bathroom. As she left the room, however, she called Thakur’s sister who was sleeping nearby. A few minutes later she arose and drawing closer noticed in the dim light that her brother’s face liked unnaturally pale. She saw no sign of breathing and began to call out frantically. I was too late. Within a few moments, Kazal arrived to give an adrenaline hydrochloride injection direct to the heart. Bor’da arrived. Bankim-da arrived. Quickly the room filled. But there was no pulse, no breathing, no life. At 81, Thakur, the inspiring source of several millions of people had left his body quietly, simply, peacefully, without a soul present.

The word spread rapidly. Weeping people streamed in. Some stood dumb as if in shock. I was awakened at 5:30 A.M. Entering the yard I heard the weeping. A numbness slowly crept over my body. I entered Thakur’s room. My eyes caught Bor’da’s who was sitting at Thakurs feet facing the door. “Father has gone,” he said pathetically. Tears glistened in his eyes. Kazal, seated at Thakur’s head with his back toward the door and his Mother across from him, reached back and I impetuously grabbed his hand in sympathy.

I spent the remainder of the day trying to make some sense out of it at all. I quickly learned the facts about the last hours of Thakur from each of the attendants. At the time, at the height of anguish, the truth came forth spontaneously and unadorned. The more I learned, the more oppressed I became as I realized how delinquent I had been. He had given me so many opportunities to prove in practice my oft repeated declaration that his only desire was to be first in our lives. I missed on the previous Thursday when he wanted me to stay and talk! I’d been stupidly blind early that morning when I decided at 3:45 that he’d be sleeping and went tobed! How innocently he had done it! No accusations. No recriminations. He had left me and so many others to our own set of priorities – whether comfort, prestige or socialprogram. The fact was there that morning blatant and unvarnished There was one who had been able to stick with him all the way. Some had come closer than others, and among the many who presumed a special place amongst the devotees, I was perhaps the most callously delinquent.

As I moved restlessly back and forth, in and out of Thakur’s room looking at his face, so serene as if sleepingand observed the weeping followers casting flowers on his body. Bor’da quickly took over this leaderless shattered family. The immediate consideration was a place for the cremation. Quickly it became apparent how carefully Thakur had pre-arranged it. That one-half acre of land which Thakur had kept intact, now proved the perfect place for his samadhi. It would and has become place of pilgrimage, where people find a peace found not where else.

Hindu tradition demanded that the cremation begin before the sun touched the horizon or it would have to be postponed until the following day. Chor’da, thakur’s second son arrived from Calcutta. So did his second daughter, Santana-di

The, almost twelve hours after Thakur had left his body, that heavy, bulky body was carried out of his room on one of his large bed-steads by many Brahmins. His bereft sons and daughters by birth and by cllture followed it down the driveway of the Thakur Bar he had entered almost a quarter century earlier. As the procession turned south towards the pyre that had been built high with sandal wood, The intolerable anguish could no longer be suppressed. As if by some unseen direction, the crowd began toprpeat: “Ra-dha-soa-mi ! Ra-dha-soa-mi !” It quickly spread from mouth to mouth until seemed the Name was reverberating from te skies, from the road, the trees and even Thakur’s body was floating on that Name wich thousands realized and millions believed he incarnated. Into the gate of that now walled-in area that overlooked the valley the procession moved.

So carefully, so gently, his bodywas lifted on to the pyre. Amidst muffed sobs, Bor’da lit the fire, the sandalwood burstinto flames as hisbody slowly disappeared from sight behind them. The sun begantosink behind Digheria Hill, the sky became red and the fields, the roads, the walls were jammed with people as each succeeding train brought a new group of weeping devotees from Bengal, Bihar, Orissa.

Late in the evening only smoldering ashes remained. One y one, each retraced hs steps towards Thakur’s room. It seemed as if we must hear that familiar voice shout so intimately, so lovingly: “Hey … when did you come?” or “What’s the news?” But there was a strange silence and a sad picture of Thakur sitting on the bedstead propped up by the pillows he had used. People bowed and wept and went home desolate. There were manywho later would swear that the sky never seemed so blue again, nor did the sun ever shine so bright and friendly after January 27th, 1969.

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