10 July 1995 ... DAY ONE
Zurich is hot, very hot. Europe is going through the worst heat wave in years. U.G. receives me at the airport with Sushma (the French ex-Rajneeshi who was once a pharmacist). We drive to the hotel which is situated in a seedy area. Our hotel is sandwiched between two sex shops. We have lunch in a vegetarian restaurant. Food there is sold by weight. Late in the evening, Mario arrives with 'Gorgeous' (Lisa). Mario and Lisa, too, were Rajneeshis not very long ago. 'I could not sell the images of the goddess Lakshmi, nor could I sell the Buddhas at the fair in Munich,' says Mario on arrival. U.G. laughs.
We're leaving for Gstaad early in the morning. 'Mahesh is a workaholic,' says U.G., 'He's lost without his work. How will he survive for a month in Gstaad?' 'I must write an article on workaholism,' I say to myself. Late in the evening, as I hear the church bells ring, I wonder what time it must be back in India. As I wander in the streets of Zurich, I find that I am looking more at kids and babies in their prams than at the so-called sexy chicks. I wonder if I am going through my mid-life crisis. What else do you expect at 46?
Sounds of prostitutes fighting in the streets mingle with the alarm of a car. I toss and turn all night. Finally, as I pass out, the words of U.G. echo: 'If you don't tell yourself where you are, how do you know that you are in Zurich?' And if I don't tell myself this is me who is sleeping in the bed, how would I know it is me?
I'm struck with fear.
11 July ... DAY TWO
At dawn as we check out of the hotel, we find that there is no one to close our account. At last, a bulky looking drunk porter helps us out. 'For a porter he did a good job as a receptionist,' says U.G. as we step out into a cool dawn making our way through the deserted but not so clean streets of Zurich. The city's tower clock shows ten minutes to six. Zurich is waking up to a new day. The blue trams in the city square remind me of the red trams of my childhood in Bombay.
We are driving along in Sushma's car. 'There's nothing that money can't buy,' says U.G., reacting to the old Beatles' number 'Can't Buy Me Love' which is playing on Sushma's tape recorder. 'Look at their own lives. The Beatles could not love one another and ultimately had to split up. Singing songs of love to make money was their only creed...' True. Without the word 'love' the entire music industry would collapse. Can you imagine the world without love songs? All of us in the movie and music industries would be unemployed.
I'm reminded of what my wife, Soni, told me yesterday over the phone: 'I can't make these long calls every day to you, Mahesh. They're too expensive. You call me!' I am hurt. 'I understand,' I say, trying to appear very mature. Just before hanging up she says, 'Don't lose all the money you have as you did before.' And then mumbling a hurried, 'I love you,' she hangs up.
We are thirty-nine kilometers away from Bern. The sensuous voice of a woman emanates from the tape deck. 'Do you like music, U.G.?' I ask, pushing my head in between the two front seats of the car. 'I prefer the barking of a dog, the grunting of a pig, and the neighing of a horse. There is life in them, some vitality. Listening to music is a sensual activity...'
'Even bhajans and hymns?' I ask. 'Yes, everything. In fact, your God is the ultimate pleasure your mind has created...' Out there in the fields the orange glow of the morning sun makes every blade of grass sparkle.
At 7 in the morning, as we enter Bern, we hit a traffic jam. U.G. says, 'Human beings are the same all over the world. That Swiss guy ahead of us who is cursing the traffic is no different from the guy in Bombay or the guy in Madras.'
'The relationship you have with money says it all. When Valentine died, I asked Chandrasekhar to take the gold out of her teeth before cremating her. Do you know that the Catholic church paid 20 million dollars to those young boys sodomized by the priests?'
'You are individually, solely, and wholly responsible for the slum situation in Bombay. Seventy-five percent of Bombayites live in the slums because of people like you and me.'
Something tells me that this summer with U.G. is going to be hot. Don't they say the light burns brightest before it goes out?
At dinner. U.G. and I discuss with Marisa, the Italian sculptress, Bodil, the Swedish painter, and Professor Gottfried Meyer, the German painter, the theme of my new film about an aging actress.
'Rekha is the right choice for the role, Mahesh. She is herself battling with the problem right now. The movie will have the pulse and the beat of the now,' says U.G.
The relationship between feminine beauty and power, estrogen therapy, and man's quest for permanence are the themes at the dining table. 'Man's war against aging will never be won,' says U.G. summing up a long, drawn-out conversation.
'Art is born out of frustration. Everything is born out of frustration.' The jet lag is beginning to hit me now.
12 July ... DAY THREE
They have a tennis competition going on in the valley, down below. This place is crowded. Many people from all over the world have come to watch the matches. There are no rooms available for rent in Gstaad. Yehudi Menuhin is holding a series of musical concerts in the Saanen church.
This morning, after fixing me my second cup of coffee, U.G. narrated this funny incident that took place in his childhood on a railway platform. The incident: as U.G. stepped out from a comfortable first class compartment onto the railway platform in Madras, he ran into his grandfather, who had just gotten down from a crowded third-class compartment of the same train. The sight of his grandson alighting from a first class compartment made the old man furious. 'How can you do this?' the old man said. 'We sweat day and night to see that you have a comfortable future, and here you are, blowing it all up!' Guess what U.G.'s reply was. He said, 'Why wait for the future? You have seen with your own eyes how comfortable I am already with your hard-earned money. Isn't that what you wanted?'
I walk towards a hotel in Saanen to meet Ajay Devgan who is shooting a film here in Switzerland. On the way I run into a pretty looking young girl whom at first sight I don't recognize. She's Twinkle, Dimple's daughter. She's hurrying to finish her last-minute shopping in Gstaad. The movie production unit of which she is a member is leaving for India in the evening. My meeting with Ajay is good. I like this guy; he has a charm of his own. On my way back, I run into Saroj Khan, the famous choreographer from Bollywood. She begins to complain to me, as always, about her son, Raju, who is my favorite choreographer. 'Why do you only work with my son? Why not with me? Am I not good? Give me at least some films to do,' she says. Well, here's the real-life story of a mother trying to grab a 'morsel of food' from her son. That's show business.
I'm reading the screen play of 'Tender Mercies', the film for which Robert Duvall got his first Academy Award. This film also won an award for the best screen play. There's a line in the movie which I loved: 'I distrust happiness.' The life-affirming climax of this movie, though low-keyed by popular Indian movie standards, is rather effective. At times, less is more.
13 July ... DAY FOUR
'A flower does not preach,' said U.G. earlier this morning.
'Your Rekha story about the aging actress will certainly work. Your story mirrors what everyone wants. She'll be remembered for this role. But she must not make a big thing about turning her back on the show business. She must gracefully pull the lifeline out and quit.'
Ideas for 'Aging Actress':
In the last scene, the heroine must walk up to the hero and thank him for showing her the mirror. In the climax scene, she must go out into the world without her makeup which has been her armor. As the dawn reveals her face, the audience must discover her ageless beauty. We should freeze the last image in an extreme close-up, with the voice of the hero saying, 'You're beautiful...'
At supper time, after the crowd leaves, Gottfried, Bodil, Marisa, and I talk about U.G. and death. The conversation soon gravitates toward the subject of aging. Marisa mentions her friend who, having made all the efforts to stay eternally young, one day quit making up her face and walked into a beauty parlor and, watching all her friends who were still struggling with their make-ups, announced, 'Hey folks, how do you like the new me?' I think this will make an interesting scene.
Bodil, the Swedish painter, suggests that in the movie the heroine must drop all her make-up materials one by one and walk into the sunset.
I like the guts and sense of humor of Marisa. I must put a character like her in my movie. It will work as a good counterpoint to the heroine's character.
Gottfried points out that here in the West it is not only the living who make themselves up, but even the dead are made up. This obsession with youthful looks has reached absurd proportions. Marisa says it's absurd that it is considered okay to put oneself after death into a deep-freeze, hoping that one day the cure to the ailment one dies of will be found and one will be resurrected, but one is considered a criminal when he disconnects oneself from the life-support devices and ends his own life to escape from pain.
Today is full moon day. Lightning and thunder fill the room with dramatic light and sound effects. U.G. is sleeping. Just before he retired into his room he said, 'See you, if I'm still alive tomorrow morning.' As the night deepens and all the guests leave, I discover the place is too quiet for my comfort.
14 July ... DAY FIVE
U.G. suggests that the actress should discover the beauty that is there in those faces out there in the streets and slums of India. It has never been told to the world that the last scene of my film 'Arth', in which the heroine turns her back on her husband and her lover and walks away alone, was in fact suggested and insisted upon by U.G. U.G. did this despite the fierce opposition he faced from the film experts who prophesied that such an ending would destroy the box office prospects of the movie. Well, what happened is history. The film worked only because of the end.
'The cosmetic industry, the beauticians, the fashion designers, the garment manufacturers, and the fashion magazines—all will be up in arms against you if you paint them as villains in your movie,' says U.G. I am beginning to see the point he's trying to make to me. If you give up your struggle to stay eternally young and don't seek the help of all these people who cater to that need, what hold would they have over you? They would be out of business.
Late in the evening, as U.G. is giving his usual talk, a worn-out, haggard man walks in. He is Scotty-Scott, my friend from Ojai. I'm meeting him after years. He looks sad. After Scott leaves, I sit down with U.G. and ask him what he thinks could be bothering Scott. Why was he looking so sick? 'These Americans are paranoid people. This fellow stopped having salt with his meals and is supposedly suffering from the chronic fatigue syndrome. Salt is very important for the human body. These doctors and dieticians are taking you all for a big ride. One day they say that cholesterol is bad for the body, and then a few years later they reverse their opinion and say that cholesterol is necessary for the body. You see me every morning, don't you? How much cream do I pour into my coffee? I'm seventy-seven years old. What's wrong with me? All those doctors who suggested that I should not touch cream are dead and gone. I'm still here, alive and kicking!'
I sense there is something strange about U.G. this summer. He is tearing down every citadel of our culture, no matter how lofty it is.
Late at night, U.G. talks about the three call girls he met in Tokyo. One was a Rajneesh freak, the second, a J. Krishnamurti freak, and the third, a Bubba Free John freak. 'These girls charge $600 for spending a night with the customers. When I asked them how come they got so much, they explained that before and after the sex act they discussed religion, divinity, and mysticism with their customers. That is why they were so expensive.' 'Sex combined with religion always works at the box office,' said the great American Director, Cecil B. DeMille.
15 July ... DAY SIX
'Sorrow is the glue. Art, religion, and that political zeal to improve the lives of the human lot, spring from the frustration and impossibility of making any sense out of life,' says U.G. Talking to him this morning is like taking off into a clear sky on a clear day. The vast expanse of the sky is less intimidating today.
I ask Gottfried Meyer, the retired German Professor who once taught painting, etching, and sculpture at a university in South Germany: if he had to reduce all his teachings about painting and sculpture to one word, what would that word be? Gottfried unhesitatingly says, 'Observing... Observing life, observing nature...' Just then U.G. intervenes. 'You only observe through a veil of ideas put into you by your culture. A real artist knows that what you see out there does not tally, does not match with those precious artistic ideas that you are so proud of. But I know you guys won't listen to what I am saying. You will only be satisfied when you hear what you want to hear,' said U.G. and looked away leaving us to our discussion.
Early in the evening, Scott comes and takes me down into the valley. He has a cup of coffee and I have a cup of Darjeeling tea. Scott opens his heart to me. He tells me about the affair his wife is having with a younger man. He tells me how her sleeping with that man tormented him for eight long years. But now he claims that he has succeeded in transcending that pain. He says that he is one guy out of a billion who allows his wife to do that without making things more difficult for her. He talks at length about the arrangement that the ménage à trois has struck, and also discusses at length about how erotic the whole thing is. As I listen to him, I'm reminded of the flames of jealousy that engulfed every pore of my body when a man made a pass at my woman. God, what a messy thing our relationships are.
At night, U.G. talks about another ménage à trois—J. Krishnamurti, Rosalind Rajagopal, and Rajagopal. 'Rajagopal put up with J.K.'s affair with his wife, and looked the other way because of the money and real estate that were involved. He was a willing participant in that sordid drama. Don't exonerate these people. They may claim that they are different from us ordinary mortals, but they are exactly the same, perhaps worse...'
16 July ... DAY SEVEN
'There's nothing like joint-proprietorship in the area of human relationships,' says U.G., summing up the triangular drama that is playing havoc with Scott's personal life. That's the real cause of his sickness. 'Will his wife agree to a similar arrangement of sharing him with another woman? If not, why should he share her with another man? And why is Scott putting up with the discomfort and pain of her sleeping with another guy?' 'Why?' I ask. 'You want to hear the blunt fact? It is because he unconsciously wants to hold onto her because of his failing physical health, and also because of the financial support he gets from her.' That made sense, but then I ask him, 'But why should his wife still hold onto him when she has a boyfriend?' He says, 'She holds onto him because she feels her boyfriend will dump her one day.'
'Die Broke—Forget About Inheritance—Make the most of your money in the here and now'—screams the cover page of an American magazine called Worth. It's a magazine on financial intelligence. The article states that the more eager people are to leave an estate behind for their offspring, the more likely they are of choosing a quality of death over a quality of life.
As the day wears on, I'm savaged by U.G., 'Do you know why you want me to keep on giving that money to your children after you're dead and gone? It means that you don't want to let go of that money even after you're dead and gone. You want to continue living through your kids after you die. You say you don't believe in reincarnation, you do not believe in afterlife, you don't want to leave any footprints behind. All that is bogus. Like everybody else, you want continuity. That's all that you are interested in. You want to continue through your work, your writings, your books, your movies, or your so-called humanitarian acts.'
Today is the seventh day and it's a bad day. U.G.'s talks are getting to me. It's getting difficult to hide. I take a long walk towards the train station. I envy all those people who are unaware of their own dishonesty. 'Stop the world,' I say to myself. 'I want to get off.' When you're with U.G., you never know which wave will hit you, nor from which direction it will come. I feel like a leaf being blown by a storm.
The Swiss Tennis Open is being played in the valley below. Sounds of people cheering the winner nudge me back to my school days. I'm reminded of my cricket matches. Perhaps the evening light is making me nostalgic.
Silence engulfs the valley. As the evening deepens, I bury myself in the newspaper. It's a kind of bunker in which one feels safe. I'm wrong. U.G. turns towards me and suddenly assaults me. He is raging about his favorite topic, money. I shudder and shiver as he strips me publicly. I wonder what he's trying to drive home, and I don't understand him. After a very long time I get the feeling that I'm going to break down and cry. Why am I putting up with all this? What is it that I seek at the end of the road? Why am I here? Who is this man? What do I want from him? Nothing makes sense, nothing.
17 July ... DAY EIGHT
Woke up today a little before six. A discomforting feeling of dread shadows me. The loudest sound in the room is the ticking of the wall-clock. There, from behind the cream curtains, a new day is beginning to peep in. Everything around me is unusually still. Living with U.G. is like living with the wind. All through the night, right up to this moment, I feel as if there is nobody living in that room next to me.
A hot shower in a warm tub is one hell of an experience. Now that one has been forced to slow down, one can take notice and enjoy these simple acts of life. U.G. once said, 'Having a bath is a sensual activity. The religious man makes a big thing about the importance of a bath. He turns the simple act of pouring water over one's body into a ritual. Don't you see how all you guys in your soap commercials endlessly flaunt and highlight the pleasures of a good bath?' I think of my mother. Childhood images of her locking herself for hours in a small bathroom in our tiny middle class flat in Shivaji Park, Bombay, surface. Having a bath was my mother's only reprieve from the hell that she lived in.
'Good Morning,' says U.G., moving toward the kitchen. He has had a late start this morning. It's almost 7 o'clock now. The usual time for him to fix his breakfast and my coffee is around 6:15 a.m. Sounds of cups and spoons, cupboards opening and shutting, mingle with the hiss of the kettle. A voice within me asks, 'Are you ready for the take? Are you ready for the Executioner's Song?' 'Yes, I'm ready,' I say to myself, 'Today I shall stand up and get shot down.' At the sound of the gong, U.G. devours J. Krishnamurti. Within seconds he cuts him down and puts him into the slot of a philosopher. Then he unhesitatingly begins to praise Bertrand Russell. 'I have nothing against Bertrand Russell having his multiple affairs or sleeping with his best friend's wife. He had no pretensions. But what J.K. did was disgusting. Why did he take a moral posture on the platform against sex? Why did he tell the little boys who met him in the United States, 'Why do you want to have sex, Sirs? Why not just hold a girl's hand?' Probably that phoney used to have premature ejaculations.'
'Trying to overtake your shadow is the problem. The tree does not try to overtake its shadow, does it? As long as you stand in the sun, there's going to be a shadow. The only way of getting rid of your shadow is to get rid of yourself. Misery goes when 'you' go. As long as you are there, that misery will be there.'
'I torture you to take the torture out of me,' says Bob, acting out a scene from a 1936 Hollywood film titled, 'The Raven'. The line says it all.
Later in the evening, Scott and I go into Gstaad to have our daily coffee and tea. I give him William Styron's latest book, A Tidewater Morning. Styron is a great writer. I just love his writing. Today the streets of Gstaad look deserted. The Swiss Open tennis mach has ended. Scott mentions seeing some American actor here in this very restaurant earlier this morning. 'Which American actor?' I ask. He struggles, but cannot remember his name. He looks pathetic. 'God, this is what chronic fatigue syndrome does to your brain. The name is there in my head, but I can't bring it out,' says Scott, giving up.
The night is unusual.
18 July ... DAY NINE
'You're depending on the wrong man. I have no powers, psychic or spiritual. The critical phase of your life has lasted too long... Bye,' said U.G., and then putting down the phone, headed for the kitchen to attend to his pre-dawn chores of fixing his breakfast and my coffee. In the dark living room the hands of the clock read 6:20 A.M. The ninth day of my stay in Switzerland has begun. Inside me things are unusually quiet. 'That was a Ph.D. from Canada, Dr. Raghunath. He has completed his dissertation on Aurobindo. I once helped him stay away from India. Now he wants to go back. He wanted to know what kind of a future he has there,' said U.G. responding to my unspoken question.
'Why doesn't religion change people? Doing more and more of the same changes things for the better only in the fields of working and business, but not in the so-called moral world.'
There's a fly on my table. It is feeling its way around and is obviously looking for food. I notice that whenever I make a conspicuous movement, instantly it responds by flying away. Then, sizing up the situation, it flies back and goes ahead with its unfinished business. 'That's instinct. Your so-called protective instinct is not a natural thing. Don't you see, it's wearing you out by its constant demand for permanence? Your thinking mechanism which demands permanence is a dead thing. It cannot touch anything living... Frustration produces results. Your whole world of art is built on frustration. You know the age-old analogy of the dog and his bone. The hungry dog chews on a lean, dry bone; and doing so hurts his gums and they bleed. The poor dog imagines that the blood that he's savoring comes from the bone and not from himself... Whatever you experience is created by you; and these experiences, however intense and great they may be, do not last.'
The fly on my table taught me more about instinct than all the books that I had read. 'But,' says U.G. 'trying to look at a fly every day and replay that experience on and on would be absurd...'
But how can I throw away my precious experiences into the whirlpool of time? Isn't this act of writing my attempt to cage the living moment? Stringing together such moments in some sort of a pattern seems like a good thing to do. But what will all this achieve?
'If you put old clichés and traditional stuff into something that is contemporary and new, it dies,' says Professor Moorty. His words teach me what not to do with the script I am working on.
'Do you know who that actor was, Mahesh?' asked Scott, putting his mountain bicycle to rest against the wall. 'George C. Scott! Gosh, I couldn't think of his last name yesterday. I think I'll go up there on the snow-capped mountains today and write some poetry... See you later.'
Today is Mario's thirty-first birthday. 'What is the meaning of life?' he jokingly asked, as we get into his car to go to the Palace Hotel in Montreux for lunch. 'To kill and get killed, and to justify that in ten different ways is the purpose and meaning of your life,' answered U.G., butting in and occupying the front seat.
19 July ... DAY TEN
Making the bed one sleeps on is a tough job. It's tougher than writing.
Someone has been trying to reach me since last night. The telephone bell has been constantly ringing and disconnecting just before I get to the phone.
'Fresh does not exist for me. The idea of fresh vegetables, fresh cream is bogus. You sell frozen vegetables and fruits and give it the label of 'fresh' and fool people. How man has been conned! That is why I say that if you believe in the Virgin Mary, you will believe in anything. Your obsession for the 'fresh' comes out of the fear of losing what you call 'good health'. The father of macrobiotic diet died at the dining table while giving his listeners a speech on eternal good health which he claimed could be achieved through his diet food. It is the most well-known secret that the mother of the global fad, aerobics, Jane Fonda, has had secret by-pass heart surgery. J. Krishnamurti used to have an oil bath every day to keep his body supple and fit. Do you know that the oil came all the way from Kerala. Despite that, he died a miserable death. One eats to prolong life; one also fasts or eats less to prolong life. In short, delaying death is all that you are interested in. That is your agony. The body is not interested in this immortality game. Health itself is a definition.
'Yoga and all the exercises that you guys do reverse the flow of energy. The only exercise that animals do is to run around for food, or run away from danger. Our whole existence revolves around selling and buying, and that includes our spiritual ideas.... To confer everlasting fame on a person is to immortalize him. 'Immortal' means deathless; and 'soul' means an entity which is endless and everlasting,' says U.G., reading from the dictionary.
'Talking to you is like having a dialogue with Death,' I say to him. U.G. responded, 'How can you have a dialogue with Death. That 'you' has to go before death occurs. It's okay to go on talking endlessly about death and dying to your yesterdays.'
'What's your message, U.G.?' I ask in exasperation.
'Drop dead!' he says, staring straight at my face.
'You cannot experience the death of anybody, not even the death of your near and dear ones. What you experience is the void created by the death of someone you love.'
Parting is painful. I guess in death it is far more painful because of its finality. I fill the void within me by making calls to my children in India. 'Do you know that Shaheen sleeps with your shirt on every night?' said Soni, 'She says she loves your smell. She's missing you very much.'
20 July ... DAY ELEVEN
Sanjay Dutt and I are walking together hand in hand on the crowded streets of Bombay. But nobody seems to take any notice of us. Why? 'Because you're dreaming,' says a voice in my head. I wake up. It's rather early. I had forgotten to draw the curtain before sleeping. The room is bright. I open the diary which U.G. has presented to me and cross out the date July 20. Today is my 11th day in 'Paradise'. Whew!
It rained last night. The smell of wet grass reminds me of Shivaji Park in Bombay. Are you anything else but a bundle of sounds, smells, sights, and tastes? U.G. is up. He steps out into the morning light, barefoot, and heads to the clothesline to hang three pieces of freshly washed underwear. 'I go to the Master, not to hear him speak, but to watch him tie his shoelaces,' said a Zen pupil. Today I will do exactly what that monk had said.
The simple act of hanging his clothes is for U.G. the be-all and end-all of his existence. He's completely in it. All there, totally there. His face shows a sense of wonder as he clips his vest to the line, straightening out the tiniest fold. Living from moment to moment is a physical fact for this man, not a superimposed philosophical concept.
Opening the curtains, U.G. lets the morning into the living room. Then he gracefully glides in between the sofa and the cupboard, smoothes the cover on his chair, and sets the pillow right. Putting things in order is so easy for him. He's now looking for something which he is unable to find. His eyes scan the room. 'There was a pencil near the phone,' he says. Suddenly I realize: I who use the phone the most had also felt that the pencil was missing, but did nothing about it; while here was a guy who seldom uses the phone and has no use for the pencil, but who is doing something about it. 'I'm sure Julie must have taken it,' he says with certainty. Then finding a new pen for the corner, he settles down in the living room. Everything is still now. The ending of his movement is like the ending of a musical phrase.
An overpowering silence descends into the room. 'As long as there is recognition, there is no silence. That recognition is you. That is Mahesh. That noise of that train passing which you hear now is the one that is silencing you, putting you to an end. You cannot take it, so you run away. Just as you cannot stare at the sun long without going blind, you cannot listen to the sounds around you.'
Bob and Paul, the American friends from California, come down and sit and talk about their friend Connie. Connie was a seeker who, having gone through the spiritual bazaar, took to alcohol. Connie is missing in Thailand. Bob says that the American Embassy in Bern had tried to contact them. They sense trouble. 'He is probably dead,' says Bob, looking absolutely in control.
'Human frailties and foibles are not accepted by me. They are okay for a religious man because they become a source of living for him. Don't you see, these gurus, psychiatrists, and therapists live off your frailties and foibles,' declares U.G.
Tonight's movie is 'Ed Wood'. It's a black-and-white comedy based on the life of a film director who at the very end of his life got the award of World's Worst Director. I loved the film. The relationship between a has-been actor and a failed young director was heart-wrenching to watch. Later, after the show, I watched Julie and Moorty playing with the Internet and the World Wide Web. U.G. is now available to the forty to seventy million people around the world who have access to the Internet. 'Gosh, look what technology has done, U.G.,' I say, fascinated. 'But don't forget that the same technology is being used to kill and destroy life,' says U.G., not looking impressed.
21 July ... DAY TWELVE
Film business just chews you up and spits you out on the sidewalk. To survive in the show business you need guts and the ability to constantly resurrect and reinvent yourself. One's character is determined by one's response to a situation. You are what you do, not what you say you want to do. 'You think when you don't want to do anything. Thinking is a poor alternative to acting. Your thinking is consuming all your energy. Act, don't think!' says U.G., turning his fire in my direction. When U.G. goes for you, he does not pause, not even for a minute. 'I'm like an animal,' he says. 'I either fight till I kill you, or I just run away.'
I'm a workaholic. I am suffering from work withdrawals. I am no different from a junkie who misses his drug. Problems and tensions make me feel alive. Problems crystallize me, define me. You're right, U.G. We love problems. 'You have to pay for your attachments. You cannot have it both ways,' says U.G. to Mario. They are discussing the problems of his house and his woman. 'Harsh fact is the greatest teacher. It is that which will spur you into action.' I interrupt him, saying 'U.G., every time you state a fact, I withdraw from you, why?' He smiles and, looking straight into my eyes, says, 'You not only withdraw from me, but also from the harsh reality of the world. Why was Julie condemning the bullfight that she saw on the television last night? She said she couldn't stand it, but then why did she watch it? The torturing of the bull was unacceptable to her, but what happens then when her American Government which she supports kills thousands and thousands of innocent people in the name of liberty.'
In the evening U.G. narrates a revealing incident: a woman once went to J. Krishnamurti and raved about the creative experience which she had had the previous day while listening to the music of Yehudi Menuhin. Krishnamurti said, 'What's so creative about horse's hair rubbing against cat's guts, Madame?' During my stay here in Gstaad, I was told by an insider who once belonged to the J. Krishnamurti 's camp that Krishnamurti himself used to love music. Very often he used to listen to the 'Ninth Symphony'.
Late in the night, Bob, Paul, Narayana Moorty, and I sit with U.G. under the starry sky. Suddenly, U.G. mauls me: 'Mahesh, even you don't understand a word of what I am saying. Don't think you're superior to all those guys you're trying to look down upon...' This feels like a hand-to-hand combat. I struggle to match him. I fail. After the attack I feel empty but calm. I look up into the sky and find that the stars for some reason seem brighter. It feels as if a veil within me has been lifted.
At night, I toss and turn, waiting for sleep.
22 July ... DAY THIRTEEN
Isn't this thing called the 'I' nothing but a treasured wound from the past?
I woke up very early this morning, reeling under the after shocks of last night's attack. Yesterday my self-importance took a battering.
We go to a travel agent in Gstaad. U.G. is personally making the reservations for me to go back home. The date of my departure has been fixed. I'm leaving for London on the 8th. Only fifteen more days here in Painland! I begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or maybe the tunnel at the end of the light. Please put out the light. I want my darkness back!
U.G. says, 'Good Morning,' and moves toward the kitchen. He glances at the clock on the wall and announces the time. It's 6:15. Once again, those familiar sounds of pots and pans emanate from the kitchen. 'Your coffee is ready, Sir,' he says. I will not talk to him today at the dining table. This morning I'll only work on my script.
Enter Scott, and suddenly there is action in the room. 'I'm very much a part of this world. What do you want me to do? Go and live in a cave? You are in conflict with this society. That is why you keep running away from it to search for peace. Why the hell do you keep running away to the top of those mountains? The world cannot be anything else but this,' says U.G. with unimaginable emphasis.
I think I now know what my problem is: wanting to be like him is my problem, my tragedy. But he does not want me to be like him. He wants me to be myself. But I don't want to be myself. I want to be like him. And I know I can never be like him. I can only pretend to be like him. The whole cultural game is an exercise in perfecting your pretensions. Can I ever gracefully accept my limitations and stop pretending? I guess never.
I'm reminded of a quote from Nietzsche: 'Show me a great man and I will show you a monkey of his own ideals.' How true. No wonder the poor fellow went mad.
Bob, Paul, and I stay up and talk about this man called U.G. Paul says you must have to be born with an inclination towards this kind of stuff that U.G. talks about. Otherwise, why would you put up with the pain and discomfort it causes. Just then, Mario calls out to me, 'Mahesh, your master wants you down for lunch.' My heart skips a beat. Now what, I say to myself, and run down like an obedient child.
Harry, whose mother calls him an intellectual midget, every year gives a gift of $100 to U.G. for his birthday. Today, he has once again given him some money. U.G. says, 'Of all the guys who have given me gifts, yours is the most treasured, Harry. You know why? Because you clean toilets, wash windows, and sweep floors. My, you worked so hard to earn this money. That's why.' U.G.'s statement surprises everyone in the room. Sweet Harry is embarrassed, but very pleased, to receive this compliment from U.G.
Late in the evening, Gottfried talks about his near-death experiences during the Second World War. 'When you go through such intense experiences, you begin to see the truth that nothing belongs to you—not your wife, not your dog, not your child—nothing.'
The topic of death somehow keeps reappearing in all our conversations. My, it's hot!
Just then the phone rings. I run towards it, thinking it's a call for me from India. 'Can I speak to Bob Carr? This is the U.S. Embassy, calling from Thailand.' 'Just a moment, please. I'll call him. Bob has been expecting your call for quite some time,' I say, signaling to Moorty's son, Kiran, to go and fetch Bob.
'I tried to call earlier, but here in Thailand all the phone lines have been badly hit by a fierce storm,' says the calm, professional voice over the phone. Moments later, as I watch lots of people in the living room laugh as they chat with U.G., I couldn't help noticing the usually pleasant and self-contained Bob sitting in the corner like a helpless child listening intensely to the voice on the phone. I notice that he is getting progressively shaky. I can see that the finality of his friend's death is hitting him now. I learn from his conversation that Connie's body is not yet cremated. They have been waiting for Bob's go-ahead. He gives it. This call has done the job of the proverbial last straw. As Bob puts down the phone, he breaks down and begins to cry. U.G. is surprised to see Bob cry. Endings are tough.
23 July ... DAY FOURTEEN
There are still 270 'waking hours' to go. I'm half way through my stay here in Gstaad. I've been walking a lot here. The phone calls to India have kept me busy. Talking to my folks down in Bombay is my only link with sanity. People say I have lost weight. 'Food is the number one enemy of man. We eat too much and we eat for pleasure. The body does not require so much food. Less food will not harm you, but more will certainly kill you faster,' says U.G. over breakfast.
'U.G., you are harsh on marriage,' says Julie, daring to walk into the kitchen. 'What else is that piece of paper for, except for property and security, tell me?' he asks. She is speechless.
Snatches from U.G.'s Conversations:
... The world's problems are nothing but extensions of our personal problems.
... Insights mean nothing. In a living situation, the man with insight behaves just like anybody else. Has the psychologist solved for himself the problem that he's trying to analyze?
... Death is a release for the person who is suffering. But even here, you would rather maintain your permanent relationship with the suffering man and keep him going with the help of all those life-support systems, rather than face the void created by his death. Do you see how selfish you are?
... In most situations you want two things at the same time. That's your tragedy.
... All your feminist talk isn't worth anything. I know a woman who says she cannot bear to live with her husband. She says she finds him disgusting, but she shamelessly is still hanging on. Why? Simple, because of money, because of security.
... You cry when your best friend dies, but you're petrified of having to pay for his funeral. Now do you see what money means to you?
... You say, 'I love you, I miss you,' but you think twice before you make a long- distance call. That's why, folks, I always talk about money. That's the thing that reveals where you are really at.
... By giving money they control you, and by not giving money they control you.... As long as you want something from someone, there will always be someone out there to control you.
For U.G., anything that is left is not a saving. On the first day of every New Year U.G. gives everything away. This he learned from Annie Besant who in turn picked this trait from King Ashoka. He used to give away everything every five years.
The heat wave is over.
24 July ... DAY FIFTEEN
My bed says it all. The manner in which the edges of the bed cover have been tucked in reveals the half-hearted attitude with which the job was done. You are what you do. You cannot separate yourself from your actions. The actions reveal you, I say to myself, looking at my clumsy bed.
'Your actions are very graceful, U.G. I love to watch you eat your oatmeal every morning,' I say to him across the dining table. 'All my actions are mechanical, just like the movements of a machine,' says U.G., untouched by my compliment. 'But a machine is not graceful,' I argue. 'Of course, there is tremendous grace in a machine. Have you looked at the hands of a clock? By calling it a machine, you are preventing yourself from seeing the grace that is present there.' I see what he is saying. There is tremendous grace in the hands of a clock. One's conclusions about things prevent one from looking at things as they really are. 'But U.G., look! Now I am looking at machines with this new concept which you have just dished out that says, 'Machines too are graceful,' am I not?' U.G. nods , 'Yes, you are.'
Then taking a split second pause, I ask, 'How is this different from my previous conclusion that machines are not graceful?' He laughs and says, 'Not different.' Once again I've hit a dead end. 'So U.G., doesn't it mean that no matter what one does, one only looks at the world through one's ideas and concepts?' 'Yes, Sir!' he says and walks into the kitchen to wash his plastic bowl. Breakfast ends.
U.G. attacks your pretensions. At first you feel stripped, naked, but later, when that armor has collapsed, you feel light.
My walk on the streets of Gstaad with Scotty Scott uplifts my spirits. His life is simply stunning. The story of this carpenter from Ojai is more inspiring than all those inspirational books. It affirms life. Scott Eckersley was the sole survivor of the eleven hikers and campers who were swept off by the raging current and drowned in the Sespe downpour.
Paul Sempé, Mario, U.G., and I drive into Bern. I sit in the back seat of the car and work on the script of my new movie, 'Tamanna'. During my stay here, the script is getting a dimension it could never have gotten in Bombay. We have lunch in a vegetarian restaurant. 'Look at what's happening in India, the country which was so proud of Gandhi and his philosophy of non-violence. It's killing hundreds of people every day in Kashmir to protect the idea of an united India,' says U.G. looking towards Paul Sempé‚ who is a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi.
On the way back we pass through Fribourg. The first university in Europe was founded here. U.G. dismisses all universities calling them concentration camps. 'Knowledge is power. There is nothing like knowledge for the sake of knowledge. The quest for knowledge is to dominate your neighbor. This organism doesn't want to learn anything!' And then suddenly, once again, U.G. begins to talk about his favorite topic, money. 'Money has nothing to do with happiness. But it is better to be miserable with money than to be miserable without it. People who do not have money often say, 'Look at all those guys with money, are they happy?' They say this because they are jealous. It is comforting for them to justify the lack of money with such statements,' he says.
As we drive into Saanen, I think to myself that statements like, 'You need money to get rich, but you need people to be happy,' which I used to find impressive, are nothing but creations of a jealous mind.
25 JULY ... DAY SIXTEEN
Wow! My bed looks well-done today. The results of putting oneself totally into what one does is far superior to those which come from one's half-present mind, and half-hearted, self-preoccupied deeds. One should work just like one makes love.
That carpenter from Ojai, Scotty-Scott, who came ten days ago looking like a man who was going to drop dead any moment, left yesterday lusting for life. (He's got a pretty girl for himself now. They're spending the night together in Bern before he takes off for the U.S.) I think I will certainly make a movie one day based on Scott's life.
'Wanting and not wanting are both you. That movement of wanting can never stop. Through the use of all those meditation techniques prescribed by therapists and holy men in the marketplace, your wants only slow down, run down a little. But they are still very much there in the background. Wanting not to want is also a want, you see. The ending of want is death. Do you want death? Continuity is all that you are interested in,' says U.G. to a large gathering of ex-Rajneeshis who have come all the way from Cologne, Germany, to listen to him.
Mahesh: U.G., does it ever cross your mind that I should become like you, or at least something better than what I am right now?
Mahesh: But that is what I want all the time. I want to be you. Why do I want to be like you? Tell me. I do not understand.
U.G.: You cannot understand. That is your tragedy. The stranglehold of culture prevents your uniqueness from blooming. You always want to become someone other than what you are. That is happening in every area of human activity. That is why I repeat that all universities, all education, all schools, all colleges, all institutes that are trying to change you into a better person, are like concentration camps. But you have to learn the language of this world if you want to survive in this man-made jungle. If you try to protect your children from these schools and institutions and put them into some alternative fancy educational system which talks against competition, that would certainly destroy them. Don't teach them anything against competition. Rivalry and competition are facts of life. Your children have to live here, fight here. If you say you love them, help them get a tool to make a living, and then get out of their way... That structure is only interested in wanting everyone to fit into itself. The stranglehold of structure prevents your uniqueness from blooming.
At noon I call Bombay and speak to Mukhesh. His voice gives him away. I sense he has been drinking. I wonder how I quit drinking. He is sounding happy. 'Criminal', our latest movie about to be released, has made a lot of money even before it's out in the theaters. Lucky fellow.
On my way back from the telephone booth, I run into Bob and Paul. We sit outside of a candy shop and have a mad conversation about what is going on in Chalet Sunbeam. We all agree that nothing of what U.G. is saying is making any sense. A feeling of apprehension and dread is beginning to shadow me.
Later in Bob's room I read aloud a line from J. Krishnamurti's Commentaries on Living which states how this greedy thing called the 'I' wants to somehow persist and perpetuate itself by presiding over its own dissolution. U.G. storms into the room, and, pulling the book out of my hands, says, 'Whatever this guy said did not operate in his life. A guy without this thing called the 'I' cannot fuck his best friend's wife, like this crook did.'
I speak to Justin Lazard, the American actor (Julie's son) over the phone. His new television series, 'Central Park West', is going on air on September 13, 1995. Justin talks to me about his dream. He dreamt that his series was a total failure. 'Listen, Justin, you're not alone. That's the nightmare of every entertainer in the world. Take it easy!' I tell him. He laughs, relieved. Show business is the same everywhere.
We are at Mario's place having Italian food cooked by him. CNN announces that there's been a bomb explosion in a Paris subway. Marisa and Paul Sempé‚ are upset. U.G. is totally unmoved by this tragedy. He says, 'Why are you people pretending to be concerned about human life? What happens when you guys kill? What did you do in Iraq? Why don't those leaders who are teaching you patriotism go and fight those wars? During the Gulf War I told Julie, 'I want to see your two sons and daughter sent home in a body bag. Then you will understand what dying for a cause means.' The human species is the filthiest species on this planet. It is going to wipe itself out. No power can reverse that course.' There's a pin-drop silence in the room. Nobody says a word.
I'm being robbed by the public telephone at Gstaad railway station. I put five francs in the meter. It shows I have used two francs, but when I disconnect, the telephone doesn't return my three francs change. As I walk up the hill heading towards Chalet Sunbeam, I say to myself, 'Well, Mr. Bhatt, be honest. Losing three francs hurts, doesn't it? Now just imagine losing everything that you have. That's what dying means. Are you ready to die?' My entire being turns away from the question.
There's a room full of people, mostly ex-Rajneeshi sannyasis, watching a video recording which was taken by Bob and Paul. A hot discussion on the tape between U.G. and a small group of people is keeping us all riveted. It's evening and it's raining outside. I'm reminded of those days when I used to shop around for ecstasy and bliss in the spiritual supermarket. Just then I notice U.G. standing in a dark corner, quietly watching his own taped discussion. He looks like a stranger in the room. He does not seem to recognize his own image on the TV screen. Watching the simplicity of this man called U.G. is heart-breaking. I can't help remembering the pomp and grandeur of Rajneesh and J. Krishnamurti. How aware these guys were of their own greatness!
26 July ... DAY SEVENTEEN
'Attachment becomes a problem because of our wanting to be detached. What is wrong with attachment? Permanence: we cannot hold onto attachments forever. Knowing that, one gets onto the merry-go-round of detachment. All this looks very attractive to you because you feel that you now have the mantra which will help you cope with the aches and pains attachment brings you. Then you get attached to the concept of detachment and spend a lifetime trying to make the goal of being detached into a reality,' says U.G., as I smell my early morning coffee.
Flies, too many flies. The Swiss flies are fat, unlike the skinny ones we have back in India. 'The Swiss spray the grass with cow dung. They don't use chemical fertilizers. That's why you have so many flies buzzing all around you,' says U.G., 'They have more right to be here than you do.' 'Good morning, U.G., and thank you very much,' I replied. This conversation takes place in the first half hour of the morning. The clock shows two minutes past seven.
Later, as we make our way down the winding path to the main street, U.G., making sure we don't step on the garden slugs, and heading in the direction of Gstaad post office, narrates this incident from his childhood: 'As a child when I saw my grandfather storm out of his meditation room and thrash his own great grandchild for crying because it disturbed his meditation, I asked myself, 'What is this meditation all about?' I never condemned his beating of the child. I could see how frustrated he was, and how full of rage—he couldn't help it. I questioned the whole idea of meditation and the so-called blissful, peaceful state it is supposed to put you into. So, since I wanted to find out for myself, I began to meditate. Soon I discovered for myself that whatever I experienced during meditation was my own creation. I also found out that the teachers who marketed these techniques to people like me were not in possession of that state themselves. So, having meditated for years, I dropped it. I said to myself that the idea of a blissful state was falsifying me. It was that idea which was creating the opposite here, which was me.'
'First Communication, Global Reunion in Mexico, ONLY MASTERS, Hermetic Societies, 24 June, 1996 (San Juan Day), ego sum qui sum.' reads an E-mail message to U.G. from the Internet on Julie's computer. 'This is the beginning,' says U.G., 'of the crazy things that are still to come.'
U.G., Paul Sempé, Gottfried, and I are driving to Thun for lunch. The day is bright, clear and warm.
'Picasso had the guts to break away from the artistic stranglehold of his times. That is why his work has a distinct feel of its own. But unfortunately he has become an obstacle and a barrier for the painters of today. They just can't break out of his influence. You have to reject the model in order to come into your own,' said U.G. with great animation, driving home his point.
Thun is an attractive town. We cross a bridge on foot. The bridge is paved with multi-colored flowers. Under it gushes a blue, sparkling river inches away from one's feet. It's a rare, uplifting experience for a city boy like me.
'Bio-pic' is a vegetarian restaurant in Thun, a town in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. One usually finds more vegetarian restaurants in the German-speaking part of Switzerland than in the French-speaking part. The restaurant has a deserted look. Gottfried, Paul, and I help ourselves from the salad bar, and U.G. orders rosti. His eyes fall on the paper table mat the waitress has laid before him. It has a picture of a pretty girl leaning against a bottle of sparkling water and lifting her skirt. It's an advertisement for 'Henniez', A Swiss mineral water. 'Do you see how absurd it is? Yesterday on CNN you saw all those people in America protesting against pornography which is invading homes through the Internet. Now, look here, how these guys are using sex to market water. Everybody makes money out of sex, but then at the same time condemns it. Why?' asks U.G. 'True, even the man who condemns sex makes money out of it, doesn't he?' I say, agreeing with him.
U.G. is getting kinky in his old age. As we finish our lunch, he makes this bizarre remark: 'Thank you, Gottfried, for paying the bill; thank you, Paul, for driving us here; and thank you, Mr. Bhatt, for the pleasure of your company.' And then he comes dangerously close to me and naughtily whispers in my ear, 'And thank you, dear waitress, for the free view of your tits.' This is the last thing you expect to hear from a guy who has put seventy-seven years behind him and is now pushing seventy-eight.
Minutes later, when we spiral down the staircase, U.G. says, 'The movement of those tits drew my complete and total attention. Only when I ask myself what is it that is moving there does the knowledge that I have about it come into operation and say: 'tits'. That's it. It stops there. There's no build-up beyond that point. No pleasure movement is possible for me. The moment I look away, the whole thing is wiped out.' I can't figure out what he is talking about. I ask him, 'You mean to say you can't recall the image of those tits now?' 'No, I can't,' says U.G. 'Well I can!' I said. 'That's your tragedy, buddy. If that image-making mechanism goes, you go. You will drop dead physically right here, at this very moment.'
We're driving back to Gstaad. It's hot, now. Paul suddenly accelerates the car at a turn. This wakes U.G. up with a start. He has dozed off for a while. 'Sorry I disturbed you, U.G.,' says Paul with his lovely French accent and a child-like smile. 'No, you didn't disturb me. You see the body just responds to the situation. It wakes up to face the possibility of danger. This organism has far more intelligence than that filthy thing called 'intellect' which is created by culture. This body is only interested in protecting itself and fucking. Unfortunately, you have turned sex into a pleasure movement and messed things up there, too. This body is not interested in your art, music, painting, writing or religion.'
27 July ... DAY EIGHTEEN
Today is my eighteenth morning in Gstaad. 'You are sitting in darkness,' says U.G. stepping out of his room, and moving towards the kitchen to attend to the routine job of fixing his breakfast and my cup of coffee.
I'm sitting here at the dining table sipping my cup of coffee, listening to the sounds of plastic spoons hitting against the bottom of his plastic bowl. He's eating his light breakfast. The sound of the paper napkin rubbing against his lips punctuates the silence. Even listening is a pleasure movement. Especially listening to the sound of silence. U.G. is now in the kitchen washing his bowl and spoon. 'Each action is independent of the others. One's mind gives them continuity,' I hear U.G.'s voice whispering in my head. I begin to see the truth of this statement. He shuts the tap, cutting the flow of water, and then moves. The sound of the water disappearing into the drain pipe of the sink is more invigorating than listening to the music of Ravi Shankar or Beethoven.
'Listening is talking. Even seeing is talking. You're talking inside your head all the time. There's no recognition without naming. Recognizing that movement and calling that 'sound' is you,' says U.G., when I tell him about my morning experience. 'So does it mean that this you which I call the I is nothing but a sound track?' I ask. I am bewildered by what he is saying. 'That's it; and that has been put in there by culture.... You create hierarchies and force them on other poor helpless people. There's no difference between rock music and religious songs. Even through reading what do you do? You create new sounds in your own head. New sounds seem attractive to you people. New grooves on old ones—that's what you want.... Anything you write is a lie.'
Late in the day, U.G. relates an incident that took place between him and J. Krishnamurti: Krishnaji and U.G. go for a walk in Madras. They meet a poor boy who is begging for money. Krishnaji embraces him instead of giving him money. U.G. says, 'Krishnaji, this boy does not need a love hug. He needs money.' Krishnaji says, 'This hug will stop him from begging.' U.G. says, 'You want to bet your bottom dollar? He'll be back tomorrow at the same time, in the same place, doing the same thing.' And that's exactly what happened.
I get my ticket re-routed through London today. My plan to go to Athens hunting for a shooting location has been dropped. On my way back, I find U.G., Bob, Paul, and Lisa standing outside the Credit Suisse Bank. U.G. is reading aloud a letter he has just received from his brother-in-law, Dr. Seshagiri Rao. The letter is full of praise for U.G. Dr. Rao was once a U.G.-hater. For thirty years he just could not forgive U.G. for 'abandoning' his sister, U.G.'s wife. Bob, Paul, and I give U.G. the slip and go and sit on a wooden bench outside Gstaad railway station. Just giving vent to all the stuff that gets stirred up within you while talking to U.G. can be both maddening and comforting. All three of us admit that we often find ourselves staring into the face of total insanity when U.G. is saying whatever he is saying. These small breaks away from Chalet Sunbeam and U.G. do serve a purpose. Continuous exposure to this man is just impossible.
At lunch time U.G. asks Harry Deck, a janitor friend and ex-Meher Baba devotee from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to 'clean up' (eat) the leftover dal. Harry thanks U.G. and praises him for his large-heartedness. 'Ever since your 'heart line' has opened up, U.G., you've become a wonderful man to be with.' U.G. cuts in and says, 'Harry I only want you to eat because I want the pots and pans to be clean. It's better that food goes into this garbage can [pointing to his stomach] rather than that garbage can in the kitchen.'
Then, just like that, he goes for Julie. 'Get out of here. And don't leave all your junk here. I don't want things to accumulate here. I throw away people. I left my wife, children, and everybody else. You think I accumulate these cheap things you keep buying? I don't want this glue and this cream to lie around here. You never leave your money lying around. Do you? When it comes to money, you behave like a bitch....' The room had just been hit by a whirlwind.
Our old friend Gottfried Meyer, the painter, and U.G. were once driving down the streets of Gstaad. 'Look at these cars, so many of them. Look at the pollution they're creating, U.G.,' said Gottfried, shutting his window to save himself from the smog. 'What about your car, Gottfried. What is it doing? Isn't it, too, adding to the pollution?' U.G.'s always calling our bluff, especially when we separate ourselves from others and pretend we are different from them, better than them, or superior to them.
Snatches from a conversation late in the evening: 'You don't have the guts to stand alone regardless of consequences. I maintain that you and you alone are the molder of your destiny and the architect of your own fortune. But when a woman arrives on the scene—or a man, as the case may be—you begin to compromise. That is the beginning of the end...'
'Good day for a hanging,' says Bob, summing up the events of the day. We laugh. His 'gallows humor' doesn't work.
28 JULY ... DAY NINETEEN
Memory is the leftover of bygone days. It clogs you up and prevents you from inhaling the living moment. Am I nothing but the dead refuse of the past, an unending echo of a billion yesterdays of the human race?
Our 'good-mornings' are simultaneous today. U.G. looks towards the window and saying, 'Rainy weather today...,' proceeds to fix my nineteenth cup of coffee. Beeps from his newly-acquired pocket fax machine fills the quiet room. He is trying to learn how to use this gadget. He is taking lessons from the nine-year-old computer 'wizard', Kiran. Kiran is Narayana Moorty's and Wendy's son. 'You have to teach me how to use this,' he says in all earnestness, 'and I'm a bad student.'
One must be empty to receive. The sound of the fly buzzing near my ear invades me. I'm filled with childlike wonder. 'The experience of an empty mind is possible only through the description provided by the so-called religious teachers. What you do not know you cannot experience. Don't you see there is someone there in your so-called empty mind who says you are experiencing an empty mind?' U.G. says.
Savoring the after taste of an empty mind is no different from replaying the images of a good 'screw'.
The tranquil morning is ripped apart by the arrival of Julie. 'Why are you here, Julie?' U.G. asks as soon as she steps in. 'I just wanted to find out if anyone is going with me to Geneva,' knowing well that her lie may not work. 'Don't play those games with me, Julie,' says U.G. flaring up. She hurries into the kitchen to parry his attack. 'I don't want you to bring anything for me,' rages U.G., sensing she is trying to unpack something. 'I brought you some garbage bags...,' she says trying to sound unperturbed. 'That's all you can bring, garbage bags. Money you'll never bring.... Get out of here,' he screams. 'What did I do?' she asks. 'Just get out of here, that's what I want. It's not what you have done, but what you are that is detestable to me. I don't want you to change. But a person who has such an attitude toward money has no place with me,' says U.G. shooing her away. Julie leaves. My empty mind is now reverberating with the after-shocks of this blast.
Working on new film scripts is great fun these days. It all seems so easy. 'Do you know why?' asks Bob Carr, giving me one of his warm, toothless smiles. (Bob was once connected with the entertainment industry in Hollywood. He later became a bit of a guru himself until he ran into U.G. and gave it all up.) 'Why?' I asked. 'Simply because you want to do it,' he answers.
Wanting any pleasure to last forever is pain. All suffering is caused by wanting to prolong life. We should be like the animals—ten, twenty years of life, that's it. 'You'll have a miserable death, Paul,' says U.G. 'All your jogging, all your yoga, all your walking, all your health food will not help to keep things going on forever.' Paul Sempé, the 73-year old retired sea captain from Marseilles, is the self-appointed summer chauffeur of U.G. He is an ardent devotee of Descartes and loves Gandhi. What amazes me about Paul is how he takes the relentless battering from U.G. with a smile. But if you look closely, one can sense something shuddering within him.
'Why do you condemn a junkie and make a big thing out of the pleasure one experiences through those meditation gimmicks. The damage done to the body through the intake of drugs and alcohol can be measured and reversed. But the harm done through meditation is irreparable and irreversible. If you don't like the way I treat people, you can just go away. Julie is not my need, I am her need. All relationships you guys have with me are one way. In your relationships game where the two are involved in the act, the game of one-upmanship and mutual control can go on and on. But not here. You can't have a relationship with me. The relationship game gets even more sordid when sex is involved. You know that...,' said U.G. as the night descended.
29 July - DAY TWENTY
The count down has begun. Nine days more and I will be hopefully out of this place. Smells and sounds from a distant past race through the dark screen of my empty head.
Another day has begun. Why do humans write so much? In fact why do they write at all? Is it because they are lonely and full of regret? Or is it because by writing the mind tries to store and keep forever things it knows it has already lost. Writing is man's quest for permanence.
Buried moments of bygone days climb out from their graves and begin to write themselves. I work relentlessly on my scripts, pouring a lot of myself into each scene.
All the meanings are yours. The act of writing disconnects you from the very world you want to connect to. 'You are mixing colors and creating new colors, but if you reduce it or break your so-called new and original color into its constituent elements, you will find out that you are back to the basic colors which you have stolen from nature. Anyway, these are all concepts we are talking about. The fact is that the physical eye doesn't see any colors. Absence of color is not black or white,' says U.G. 'Then what is it?' I ask, bewildered by his statement. 'That you will never know,' concludes U.G.
Later this morning, as I gaze into the multi-colored valley of Gstaad, U.G.'s voice thunders within me. Am I willing to buy what he says? Obviously not. If I did that, the consequences thereof would annihilate me. This very act of putting my pen on paper would freeze. No white page to write on, no black ink to write with, no light, no darkness. Words prove heartbreakingly clumsy and inadequate. They fail to perform what is after all their primary function—communication.
This journal is a sort of penitential autobiography of a film maker. Perhaps it is a critical and reflective pause at midlife. At forty-six I feel I have got everything hopelessly wrong. Now when I look back at my life, I feel I cannot even read my own years. My stay here in Gstaad has provided me with an opportunity to lick my wounds and begin a process of reinventing myself. In these jottings I have tried to look mercilessly at this organic trap called life in which we humans are forever in jeopardy because of mere chemical accidents of biological insults.
...When I try to look at the phenomenon of U.G. and try to comprehend it, I feel as though I have come with a torchlight to look at the sun.
30 July ... DAY TWENTY-ONE
I'm going through New York Times Book Review. There's a book titled, The Engine of Reason, The Seat of the Soul. This book is a philosophical journey into the brain. The book is written by Paul M. Churchland. It is a philosopher's work in which the author with his scientifically up-to-date argument concludes that all of human mental life, however subjective it feels, is reducible to material activity taking place in the brain. 'This book only proves that the philosophers, having come to the end of their tether, are now seeking the support of science to read something into the activity of the brain. Whatever you see, which separates you from what you're looking at, is a projection of knowledge. This guy is just a metaphysician who is using new terminology to tell himself and the reader that he has a sparkling new insight. But, sorry, I don't buy it. As far as I'm concerned, this new scientifically-backed theory of this guy is just a fad. People buy it just like they buy a new grandfather shirt or a new model car. They do this to tell themselves that they are in sync with the times. Whatever you learn, whatever you teach, is functional. It is only for the purpose of functioning in this world which you have created. And it is this which is preventing you from understanding anything,' says U.G., shooting Churchland's book down.
Whatever you feed into this fire called U.G. burns. No wonder that every comment, every insight you bring to him is shot down and reduced to ashes. What else do you expect from fire? You cannot expect to remain unscathed if you walk into a blaze, can you?
Day-long thunderings of U.G.:
'All learning, all teaching is for destructive purposes. You learn about the laws of nature to control and dominate your neighbor. It's a game of one-upmanship. I'm not saying anything against it. I'm just saying that's the way it is. All learning, all teachings are 'war games'. Winning all the time is all that you are interested in. Charity is the filthiest invention of the human mind: first you steal what belongs to everyone; then you use the policeman and the atom bomb to protect it. You give charity to prevent the have-nots from rebelling against you. It also makes you feel less guilty. All do-gooders feel 'high' when they do good. You're still a boy scout and a girl guide.'
This guy, U.G., fixes his morning breakfast the night before he sleeps. And he fixes his lunch right after the morning breakfast.
'Tell Major not to do yoga seriously. It will make his back problem that he's trying to get rid of worse. Exercise and yoga are bad for the body. The only exercise you need is to run around for food and sex, just like the animals,' says U.G. to Chandrasekhar over long-distance phone. 'Has the money I sent reached you yet? No? What's happening, Chandrasekhar? Where is all that money sitting? In which bank? In Switzerland or in India? Someone's making money out of our money. Why should it take so many days when the money was sent by electronic transfer? ...Say hello to Suguna, and ask her to call me back as soon as the money gets there...'
Saying this, he puts down the phone and goes on and on about the crookedness and inefficiency of the banking system all over the world. Back in India, as Suguna is praying to her thirty-three crore gods, goddesses, and godlets to bring U.G. back to Bangalore, U.G. is making plans to leave for the U.S. Wanting to step out of her and Chandrasekhar's lives for good so that they can lead their lives on their own, U.G., while in Europe, finalizes the arrangements for them to have a house of their own so that they can make all their decisions without him in the picture. (The lease of the house the family is living in is about to expire.)
[Note: As is always the case, U.G. later changed his plans to go instead to China, Australia, and New Zealand. End of note.]
Strange, indeed, are the ways of life: just imagine a middle class Indian family getting a boon from the estate of a deceased Swiss lady, enabled by an enigmatic Indian sage.
We're getting set to watch 'Forrest Gump' tonight. Suddenly U.G. lashes out at me with a ferocity that I have never felt, seen or experienced before. 'You cannot have it both ways. You're just like Julie. You get this and get this straight. You cannot have a relationship with me on your terms. The need to have a relationship with me is yours, not mine. You know for certain that if I don't see you for the rest of my life, I wouldn't give a damn...' I feel scorched and silenced. A peculiar hush descends on the room. I can see that that intensity, though directed squarely at me, has ricocheted to everyone else in the room. I stop. And give up.
31 July ... DAY TWENTY-TWO
Seven days more to go. 'It takes courage and patience to be around this guy called U.G.,' said Marisa yesterday, just after dinner. I have no reason to disagree with her.
As I sit here in the hush of the pre-dawn light, waiting for U.G. to emerge from his room, I feel calm. No residue, not even a trace, of last night's storm in the body. I'm reminded of what U.G. once told me when we were very intensely arguing about sorrow and frustration: 'The body handles all your despair, all your frustrations in its own way. It doesn't need any help from your intellect. There is no pain or pleasure that can take permanent root in this body. Your pleasures and pains have a permanent existence only in that thing called the experiencing structure, which is your intellect.'
We are having coffee. I am quiet. After what happened last night, I'm afraid to make any contact with this guy. Then, just like that, for some strange reason, he begins to speak. 'Mahesh, the question is the questioner, and the listener is the word. They are one, huh...? The moment I go into that room, you don't exist for me. Why you, I don't exist for myself. When I lie down there in my bed, I discover there is no body there between the sheets.' I am frightened of what he is saying. Nothing makes sense, and I get the certain feeling that I'm getting nowhere.
We are going to Zurich. U.G. is in the front seat with Paul Sempé, and Bob, Paul, and I are huddled in the back. On the way we stop at a gas station. As we get out and stretch our legs, Bob jokingly asks, 'What have we done to deserve this fate, Mahesh?' U.G. butts in: 'You've done a lot, and you're doing a lot, Bob. All that you do makes you tense and miserable. All your techniques to relax, to feel good, must stop. And only then you'll be just fine.'
Lucern. From 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. we walk through this majestic town. As we cross the old wooden bridge, U.G. points to the water birds which are diving for food in the lake. 'Look at these swans. All their energy is just absorbed in looking for food. Can you see the little one down there? That baby's on his own, independent. That's what you guys should help your children to become.'
Zurich. We all split in different directions, fixing the time and place we will meet again. I go into a book shop. I find myself flipping through the ancient Book of Changes, the I Ching. It predicts good times ahead for me. It also says that all progress that I will make will come through the association with a sage. Some comfort to my aching, burning body. The words of Nataraj echo in my head, 'The moon is going over your birth Saturn...'
Later, Bob, Paul, and I sit on a bench right in the center of Zurich, replaying and reliving the events of the previous day. Bob says, 'He looks fierce. You're in for trouble, deep trouble, Mahesh!'
Bern. We are driving into the city. Suddenly there is a downpour. 'Look with your eyes, don't use your head when you drive, Paul. I don't use my head because I don't have one. All your planning made you lose all the wars that you fought. Just look, don't think,' says U.G. The rain stops and the air begins to clear. I call Bombay. Things on the work front look rather bright for a change.
1 August ... DAY TWENTY-THREE
I wake up with a throbbing head. The image of the swan looking for food with total attention flickers in my head. The single minded quest for food made that swan look so graceful. Later in the morning, as I watch U.G. boil broccoli, I tell him about the after-image of the swan. 'That's all that is there—hunting for a living. That's all that is there. One form of life lives on another. Even your vegetables are a form of life...' That was a direct hit at the subtle sense of superiority of being a vegetarian one feels deep within.
Comments of U.G. on food and pleasure:
'Man eats for pleasure. Your food orgies are not different from your sex orgies. Everything that man does is for pleasure. And for pleasure you have to use thought. This creates problems because you cannot have pleasure without pain. It's physically impossible to make pleasure last forever. So the religious man steps in and says, 'You should be free from thought,' and you imagine that a thoughtless state is a very pleasurable state to be in. That's why you pursue it. You cannot have pleasure without thought. You guys live in a world of ideas, and that's why your ideas are so important to you. You yourself are an idea!'
During my stay here in Switzerland, I think I have discovered the dish for me. It is the most convenient dish, and it is the one that will free me from my dependence for food on my wives and maids: a slice of bread and a glass of water. 'With hot water, the bread melts in your mouth even better,' says U.G. Millions of poor Indians live only on bread and water. They fall sick less often than all the guys who are used to having a twenty-course meal. I'm reminded of my visit to New York in the early eighties. Living for a month without dahl drove me insane. I suffered from dahl withdrawals. U.G. says, 'One gets addicted to spices. Food itself is also an addiction. But to give up spices, to prove to yourself that you're highly evolved, is stupid.'
The one central theme which blazes through his talks nowadays is, 'There's nothing to what the know-it-alls have said. I'm not saying anything either. There's no need to replace what they are saying with what I am saying.'
First of August happens to be Valentine's birthday. In Bangalore, Chandrasekhar and Suguna are having a small function in the school named after her, The Valentine Model School. U.G. says that Valentine, who was the grand-daughter of a clergyman, never entered a church, and she hated schools. Isn't it odd that after her death, there's a school with her name on it?
Mukhesh calls from Bombay saying that a publicity angle for 'Criminal' which I had given an O.K. to has created an uproar in India. All the newspapers in the country which first carried the ads are now shamelessly saying that one must not indulge in cheap gimmicks to make money. 'They do the same thing in the States,' says U.G. 'Time magazine carries long articles condemning smoking. At the same time, they also carry full-page, color ads for cigarettes.'
Today is the Swiss Independence Day. It's an occasion for festivity and celebration. The dead town of Gstaad is stirring with life. 'Blood was shed to build this country. Look down there at the tennis court, how all these people are singing and dancing. Who the hell remembers your sacrifices, once you're dead and gone?'
Suddenly there's a downpour of rain. A wave of disappointment sweeps through the gathering below. Looks like this night of celebration has been squashed by Mama Nature.
'Whenever I open my mouth, I only talk about myself,' says Dr. Leboyer as U.G. leads him into the living room. He is replying to U.G.'s matter-of-fact greeting, 'How are things?' 'Who else is there to talk about? In any case, even when you think you are talking about someone else, you are in fact talking about yourself,' concludes U.G. Dr. Leboyer is the well-known proponent of Natural Childbirth. By the time of his retirement he delivered 13,000 babies in Paris.
Tonight's movie is 'Heaven Help Us'. The movie brings back memories of my childhood in Don Bosco High School in Bombay. One has seen some very good movies here. Of all the movies we have seen, U.G. prefers 'The Last Seduction'. When it comes to movies, U.G.'s tastes are those of a commoner. 'Rape, murder, mayhem, and action are what I like to see, not your love stories and psychological dramas.'
Early this evening, when I told him we had run out of all the good movies and would now have to put up with the bad ones, U.G. said, 'What difference does it make? A bad movie's as good as a good one.' Ever heard a remark like that about movies?
2 August ... DAY TWENTY-FOUR
Calls from Bombay keep me awake all through the night. It's ten minutes past midnight here in Switzerland, which means that the time in Bombay should be around 3:30 a.m. Mukhesh is drunk again. He's unable to cope with the excitement 'Criminal' has created. They are threatening to arrest him. He has taken an anticipatory bail. 'Use every trick in the book to succeed. Fair means if possible, foul means if necessary. But be ready to pay the price for your actions,' U.G. once said to me. The problem, Sir, is we want it both ways. Don't you know we want to have the cake and eat it too?
U.G. sits on the chair in the soft glow of the morning light, looking at his own hands with childlike wonder. The grandfather shirt which Robert has bought for him makes him look good. He has found the right look for himself late in life. 'Can you imagine we two guys, you and I, who are talking all this nonsense every day in the morning, will not be here one day? This body, which is so precious to you, will one day burn and be reduced to ashes. Can you imagine that?' I nod my head in agreement. A part of me screams, 'Run, Mahesh!'
'He's a talented guy going through a rough phase,' said U.G. supporting me when I was down and out without any work fifteen years ago. His words gave me much-needed self-confidence. I narrate this incident to Mario who, like I was, is now going through a turbulent period. Mario's eyes glimmer with hope.
'I'll give you a big bag into which you can fit all your things. But you have to pay for it. Why should a poor Indian give a rich Indian like you things free?' And saying this, U.G. pulled out a good-looking colored bag and handed it over to me. 'A hundred francs on the barrel,' he says, pushing his empty palm towards my face. I swiftly go into my corner, and, pulling out a hundred franc note, conclude the transaction. 'Actually, the bag only cost me sixty and not a hundred francs...' Now U.G. heads back into his room and returns with some money. 'There you are, Sir, here are your forty francs and some extra coins bonus for you to play with.' Robert Hornkohl, the American photographer who has taken the best-looking picture of U.G. to date, watches the entire drama with utter fascination.
'Nitie-nite,' U.G. says to me, and once again disappears into his room. The moment he is gone, one feels as if there is nobody home. I toss and turn for a while, and wait for sleep. Just when I'm about to drift off, the telephone ring wakes me up with a start. 'This is Nagarjun... Did I wake you up, Sir?' 'No, not at all,' I say, trying to sound polite. 'How did the premier of 'Criminal' go?' I ask. 'Excellent. I think we're out of the woods. Judging by the opening, we have, one can say, at least a B+ piece at hand.' I'm relieved. As I listen to his voice, I say to myself, 'All success is delayed failure.' I'm reminded of what U.G. repeatedly tells me. 'Mahesh, every prostitute has her day. The life of you entertainers is like the life of a prostitute. Make hay while the sun shines. Put a decent amount of money away to back your arrogance, and then quit while you are still on the top...' I hope I can achieve what he says.
3 August ... DAY TWENTY-FIVE
The life of a writer is excruciating. Facing a blank piece of paper day after day is tough. And then drawing something from deep within oneself and spreading it out on paper for the world to see is worse.
This morning not a word is exchanged between U.G. and me. We have just been sitting facing one another. His eyes are shut. He's looking gorgeous today. Since I have nothing to do, I monkey him and I close my eyes too. I begin to listen to the sounds around me—trains, cars, birds, the creaking of the sofa, the rustling of U.G.'s clothes. Momentarily, I feel calm. Then, suddenly, the buzzing of those damn flies invades my tranquility. Finding me sitting still, they descend on me and are having a field day. They have converted my body into their feeding ground. The moment I lift my hand to shoo them, they fly away, but soon return to finish their job. This goes on and on till finally I give up. They just won't let me sit still. I open my eyes and notice that U.G. is looking and smiling at me. He naughtily says, 'Flies, mhh?' and laughs. I'm reminded of what he said to me the other day at the dining table: 'What makes you feel that your life is more important than the life of that fly sitting there by the plate?' 'Why don't you call this book of yours 'The Fly on the Table?'' suggests Julie. 'Not a bad idea,' I think to myself.
U.G. is sitting in the living room surrounded by a large group of seekers from all over Europe. There are Germans, Italians, and Frenchmen as well as an American. Suddenly U.G. looks away from them and addressing me says, 'You guys in India must stop all these Westerners from entering your country. Throw all these people out when they knock at your doors for a visa. Do you know why they come to your country? They come to your country to stretch their pounds, marks, or dollars. And once they're there, they behave as if they're big shots. In any case, all these guys convert their currency in the black market. The government doesn't make a farthing from such people. You don't need the tourist money. China and Russia have survived for years without tourist money.' His statement unnerves everybody in the room.
U.G. was put off by the recent practice adopted by the European nations of denying visas to most Indians who want to visit their countries. We know that Switzerland denies visas to anybody who comes from South India, or has a South Indian name. The reason for this, they say, is the recent illegal influx of Sri Lankan refugees into their country. U.G.'s brother-in-law, Dr. Seshagiri Rao, who is an eminent medical doctor in India, found it difficult to get a visa to Switzerland this summer while he was in the U.S. He had to abandon his plans of visiting U.G. here in Gstaad. When U.G. had had his say, I felt that as an Indian I should bring this issue into focus when I get home. I don't see any reason why any self-respecting Indian should take lying down this treatment dished out by the Western nations.
'Russia Baffled as Life Loses Death Race' reads the news on the front page of the Herald Tribune. As I go through the column I discover that life expectancy in Russia has plummeted in recent times, and the scientists and public health officials cannot quite figure out why this is happening. What amuses me further is that on the tenth page of this very newspaper there is another article under the section of Health and Science which says: 'Life is a mystery—ineffable, unfathomable. It is the last thing on earth that might seem susceptible to exact description. Yet now, for the first time, a free-living organism has been precisely defined by the chemical identification of its complete genetic blueprint. The creature is just a humble bacterium known as Hemophilus influenzae, but it nonetheless possesses all the tools and tricks required for independent existence. For the first time, biologists can begin to see the entire parts list, as it were, of what a living cell needs to grow, survive, and reproduce itself...' Isn't it absurd that in one part of the world you have scientists unable to find out why the death rate has suddenly accelerated, while on the other side you have people claiming they have finally unraveled the mystery of life?
We have a charming visitor for lunch. His name is Donald Ingram Smith. He's an Australian in his mid-80s who was once J. Krishnamurti's secretary. He is here to give talks in the Krishnamurti camp, which have been going on for the past three weeks. Donald often sees U.G. during the latter's visits to Australia. He is also, according to U.G., an excellent palmist. After lunch, Donald did an up-date of U.G.'s palm reading, sitting under a willow tree. Our New York friend, Ellen Chrystal, who once belonged to the inner circles of the American Guru, Bubba Free John, took notes.
Donald predicts that U.G. will certainly die out of the country of his birth. He says that there is something coming out of that spectacular brain of U.G. 'It flows both ways,' says Donald, 'a door you can come in and out of.' U.G. replies: 'I am a thief. Anybody who comes, I invite him to come and take everything.' He tells the story of his wife misplacing a diamond ring, and his telling her that if the police were called in, she would be out of the house. She was accusing the maid, but found the ring later on. The police are not allowed anywhere near him... U.G. then tells the story of the pickpocket in Times Square, New York, and how he [U.G.] wanted to invite him back to dinner at a four-star restaurant because of the deftness of his work.
Donald also predicts that in U.G.'s life there is going to be another explosion. U.G. answers, 'The next time we meet, we'll see.'
Donald says that U.G. has no ego. U.G. replies: 'If I'm not an egoist, who else is? That's the most egoistic statement, announcing from housetops, that everything that every man, woman, and child has thought, felt, and experienced in the history of mankind has gone out of me...'
Later, U.G. says his mission is to tear apart everything he has ever said up until this meeting.
August 4 ... DAY TWENTY-SIX
I am wearing the new silk shirt U.G. gave me last night. This has been his favorite for quite some time. 'I'm giving this shirt to you because I want to get rid of all the old stuff I have,' he says, chucking the cream-colored garment into my hands. Today, for some inexplicable reason, the day seems to have the feel of a new beginning.
I ask U.G. to comment on the two articles I read yesterday in the Herald Tribune. 'The scientific world today is as muddle-headed and lost as the religious world was yesterday. We are fools to put our faith and confidence in the scientists. We imagine that these guys have a special insight into the meaning and mystery of life. What is the point in bombarding us and trying to dazzle us with all this new scientific jargon? The human organism has survived for centuries without the help of all these so-called new, revolutionary theories and self-proclaimed breakthroughs. All these theories which the scientists call 'new' are not at all new. This new dimension which they claim they are now beginning to read in nature has always existed. So what have they actually achieved? They may get a pat on their backs from the Nobel Academy. Their wonderful, revolutionary theories will be used by the technocrats to enrich technology and themselves. A small percentage of the global population will enjoy the benefits of this technology, but let me assure you that ultimately this technological know-how will be used by man to dominate his neighbor.
'Even the pharmacists, in fact the entire medical world, thrives on your paranoia. And the media, for its own survival, helps them to propagate this paranoia. Just because you give a fancy name to a disease does not mean that you have found a cure for it. You are only adding more and more to the pool of knowledge. Today we have more words in our arsenal than Shakespeare had in his time. But that does not mean that things are any the better, does it? Say what you wish, we will never know what life is.'
Down there in the town of Gstaad they are inflating a huge, blue balloon. Once again, the merry makers are getting ready to fly far away into the sky. Up here in the kitchen, U.G. is pouring cream into his coffee. I ask him why the Krishnamurti Foundation has come up with a book which, in a way, tries to justify Krishnamurti's love affair with Rosalind Rajagopal (in the Statement by the Krishnamurti Foundation of America about the Radha Sloss Book, Lives in the Shadow with J. Krishnamurti). 'They want to separate the teaching from the teacher, otherwise the foundation will collapse. Obviously Radha Sloss's book was affecting them. Or else, where was the need to bring out a book like this now?'
I'm reminded of the day when after my review of Radha's book appeared in the Sunday Times of India, Bombay, Pupul Jayakar, the Czarina of Indian Culture, threatened to take legal action against me for maligning the reputation of the 'Sage Who Walked Alone'. She and the Krishnamurtiites were furious with me and U.G., particularly with U.G., whose harsh quotes I had extensively used in my piece. When I took up her challenge head on, and invited her to wash her dirty linen in public, Pupul backed out. As I suspected even then, Pupul did not carry out her threats because she was frightened of herself being exposed. This booklet released by the Krishnamurti Foundation confirms that suspicion.
Snatches from Conversations:
Pain: 'Words transform themselves into physical pain.... For the body there is no pain. Only when you translate a sensation as pain do you feel pain. Otherwise there is no pain. You guys want to get rid of pain and hold on to pleasure forever. The holy man tells you that this is possible. I know it is not. You can spend your lifetime trying to do this, but I know for certain that you will not succeed. You'll find out eventually.'
Sex: 'Having sex and running for 5,000 meters are the same thing,' says Paul Sempé. U.G. for once, nods his head in agreement and then adds, 'Falling in love and eating chocolate are the same. They both produce the same chemical change in the body.' I jump up and begin to jog in place. U.G. asks, 'What are you doing, Mister?' I mischievously say, 'Having sex! You just agreed with Paul, didn't you, that having sex and jogging are the same. So here I am having sex.' U.G. laughs. He seems to be in a good mood today.
At dusk, we sit under the willow tree, gossiping. Marisa narrates a naughty incident: once a pretty Italian woman sat down right in front of U.G., feeling, to put it mildly, 'turned on' by him. This went on for some time. Then, just when the lady was about to leave, U.G. turned to her, saying, 'Lady, I feel everything that you feel. Sorry, nothing can be done.'
Since I'm on this healthy subject of sex, I might as well relate another incident: once a woman went up to U.G. and looking straight in his face, said, 'What would your response be if I tried to seduce you?' U.G. said, 'Try it, and you'll find out.' The woman apologized, fled from the room, and never returned.
Tonight's movie is 'Thelma and Louise'. This Ridley Scott movie is simple, unlike 'Blade Runner' which had all the visual dazzle. 'Thelma and Louise' was a big hit, much bigger than 'Blade Runner'. 'What good is the art of saying things well to a person who has nothing to say?' U.G. asked me way back in the 80s. This changed my entire perspective on cinema.
5 August ... DAY TWENTY-SEVEN
Two spiders occupy my bathtub. I don't like spiders. I'm frightened of them. So I grab the shower handle and with its spray try to frighten these creepy creatures away. So strong is the flow of the water that instead of scaring these poor creatures, I drown them. As I watch these helpless insects go down the drain, I feel remorse. The message is clear: out of fear you kill your neighbor.
There's something about bathrooms and spiders. Julie just tells me that several years ago, during the summer while she was staying here, she developed an attachment to a spider living in this same bathroom. The spider was missing one leg, but still managed to move about the bathroom. It was sometimes on the tub, sometimes on the ceiling, and sometimes in the sink. Julie liked the spider's company. At the end of the summer, however, Julie found herself in a quandary: should she leave him in the bathroom where he would be vacuumed by the landlord and killed, or to leave him outside, where she feared it would certainly die of cold. She went to U.G. for advice. His response: 'Why don't you knit a sweater for him?'
U.G. is drawing a detailed map of an area in London. This is to help me find the book shops I would like to visit while I'm there. I'm quite amazed by this seventy-seven year old man's memory. It has not faded with time. Not a trace of senility here. 'No images for me. When I draw the H.M.V. Shop on the map, I don't have an image of it inside of me. All I have is just a word. You can't understand what I am saying. If you did, it would put an end to you.' Marisa, who is also listening to what U.G. is saying, turns to me and unhesitantly says, 'We don't have to use all that U.G. says, Mahesh. If we did, that would put an end to our art. No painting for me, buddy, and no movies for you. Can you imagine living a life without being able to recreate images? Who the hell wants this? It would be a terrible life.' And to this U.G. adds, 'Not only would you not be able to paint. You would not be able to have any relationship with anything or anybody.'
The Last Supper:
Lisa is going away tomorrow to the United States. U.G. for a change is cooking for a lot more people tonight than he usually does. He's in a foul mood right now. 'I don't like to cook and feed all these people. I don't even like to cook and feed myself. I am like a dog. I detest your civilized manners of sitting around a table and having food orgies. I'm going to get rid of that table. This is not an ashram. Food is at the bottom of all my needs,' he roars. Everyone sits around and quietly listens to him. Then, when the food is ready to be served, each person happily gets up and eats. The angel hair pasta U.G. has cooked is delicious. U.G. is a great cook. And perhaps the fastest. He cooks a meal, consisting of a single dish, in just five minutes. I love his food.
Tonight's movie is 'Blown Away', starring Tommy Lee Jones and Jeff Bridges. The film has all the visual dazzle and action, but it just doesn't work. There is no internal progression in the screen play. The sub-text just does not work. Gosh, even to make a bad film one has to work hard.
August 6 ... DAY TWENTY-EIGHT
'They talk very lightly of money as if it has no importance for them, when in fact it is one of the most important things in their lives. These holy men are greedy, jealous, and vindictive bastards, just like everybody else. You want to live through your work, and through your children. These people want to live through their religious institutions,' says U.G. early in the morning when I mention to him that Swamiji had called for him from Bangalore while U.G. was having his bath. Bramachari Shivarama Sharma, whom everyone fondly calls 'Swamiji', is a holy man. He was once contending to be the pontiff of a well-known and fabulously rich religious order in South India. 'I have for the past five days been translating your biography on U.G. into Kannada,' he says boastfully, knowing very well that this news would make me immensely happy. It does. Never could I imagine that this biography of U.G. that I wrote would one day be translated into Telugu, Hindi, Kannada, and also Chinese. Later, Swamiji calls again. He is seeking some financial advice from U.G. He wants to invest his money safely so that he has no problems in the future. Swamiji is getting old, and like all normal people, wants to make sure that he has enough to live on in his old age.
U.G. suggests that he should invest all his money in The Valentine Model School, and gives him a personal assurance that he will see that he gets 1,000 rupees every month from that as long as he lives. 'But we will throw your body on the garbage heap when you die. No religious rites will be performed. We will not take care of your corpse. We will just leave it there in the dump for the insects to feast on. They will have a field day on your fat body,' warns U.G. jokingly.
Ellen Chrystal sits inches away from me, reliving her memories spent in the 'Divine Presence' of Da Free John, the self-announced American Avatar. Bizarre tales of food and sex orgies climax with a dull account of her sleeping with her Bhagwan. The charismatic Avatar used to condescend to have Tantric Sex only with a handful of female devotees whom he found highly evolved. This act, said the Avatar, forged an eternal bond between him and the devotee, she said. Scenes from her life serve as a potent magnifying lens through which we get an extreme and close view of the debauchery that goes on in the name of 'divine love' in the holy business.
'The world has not seen, nor will ever see, a pimp of the magnitude of Rajneesh. Pimps at least take the money from the boys and give it to the girls. They make a living out of the cut they get from such a deal. But Rajneesh took money both from the boys and the girls, and kept everything for himself,' says U.G., savaging the Rajneeshis who have assembled to see him today.
'I will destroy Mahesh. Ask him to come to me personally and return my mala. This is a breach of trust. He cannot do this. I worked so hard...,' said Rajneesh to my actor friend, Vinod Khanna, way back in 1978. I was a Rajneeshi sannyasi then. The Bhagwan was unable to cope with the news of me dumping his mala into a toilet, and walking out on him. Why did he keep giving discourses on 'unconditional love', I still wonder. He behaved just like any jilted lover. 'Rajneesh's empty threats to destroy you obviously did not work. You're still here and he's dead and gone,' says U.G. summing up the topic of holy men.
We are lost in Lausanne and looking for a restaurant that sells pizza. It's Sunday and the town is empty. 'Burn all maps. So what if you get lost? You can always turn back. Your anxiety to know whether you are heading in the right direction is making you take all the wrong turns. Look! Don't think!' says U.G., knowing very well that he was failing to get his point across to Paul. This has been an ongoing dialogue between Paul Sempé‚ and U.G. for years. Finally, using U.G.'s 'dog sense', we get to our destination.
People always seem to have felt an urge to record, to make marks that jog memory. Historians believe that the bison drawn on cave walls was Humanity's first diary entry. Just think. We make a few abstract marks on a piece of paper in a certain order and someone a world away and a thousand years from now can know our deepest thoughts. Writing transcends boundaries of time and space and even the limitation of death.
August 7 ... DAY TWENTY-NINE
Ending: time to move. I have packed my bags and I will be leaving for London tomorrow. I toss and turn trying to sleep. I cannot. I step out into the dark night and look at the moonlit sky. A strange question begins to formulate itself inside of me. Who am I now? Am I in any way different from that guy who came here thirty days ago? As I sit here attempting to answer the question, I begin to discover that I am, and will always be, a stranger in the story of my own life. Going back to Bombay, and picking up the threads of my life, feels as if one is returning to a novel one had left off reading many summers ago. It is so easy to lose the thread of our own story. As I scan through the collage of a thousand images of my time spent here in Switzerland with U.G., I feel as if I have taken them apart and put them back together again in a new way. A writer comes to his craft only after he has been shattered by life in some way. Having lived through these thirty days and thirty nights in Gstaad, I know nothing for me will be the same again. People pay good money for a taste of death. Sky diving, bungee jumping, and terrifying amusement-park rides give people a jolt that awakens a fuller appreciation of life. That is why adventure films and stories are always popular, because they offer a less risky way to experience death and rebirth through heroes we can identify with.
U.G. is my hero. My coming to meet U.G. is perhaps my way of having a taste of death, and then springing back into life. Having survived all the ordeals of this summer, and having lived through a kind of 'death', I return home. I have stood on the shoulders of this giant called U.G. and had a glimpse of a world which is awesome. I have known this phenomenon called U.G. for eighteen years now. But never have I felt in his presence what I have felt this summer. U.G. is now effecting people physically. 'Don't mystify it...,' said U.G. one quiet evening, when I spoke to him alone about my experiences. I promise myself not to. But story-telling probably began with people like me who struggle to relate their experiences and adventures to the world outside.
Kids like to bring back souvenirs from summer vacations, partly to remind them of the trip, but also to prove to the other kids that they really visited those exotic locales. A common fairy-tale motif is that proof brought back from the magic world tends to evaporate. A sack full of gold coins won from the fairies will be opened in the 'ordinary world' and found to contain nothing but dead leaves, leading other people to believe that the traveler was just dreaming. Yet the traveler knows the experience was real. All deeply felt emotional experiences are hard to explain to others and often even to oneself.
August 8 ... DAY THIRTY
'India has no future. You people got your freedom on a platter. Indians did not shed any blood. You think that you got your freedom because of the speeches that your leaders had made? No, you must thank Hitler and the Germans for that. Britain was in shambles after the Second World War. Holding on to its colonies became a hassle for the battle-weary English. So they let go of India. Even the U.S.A. should thank Hitler for what it is today. The Second World War gave a major boost to its war industry. But enough is enough. The United States and the industrial nations have ganged up and bullied the rest of the world too long. They have to be stopped in their tracks and this, I'm afraid, will be done only by the Islamic fundamentalists or China,' says U.G.
'I don't know about India but what he is saying about America and the Western nations is true. But I keep my mouth shut. It is too subversive. I would lose my job. If I said all this in my country they would lock me up in a prison...,' says Jim, an American Jew who has lived in Europe for years, at the end of an intense discussion which is triggered by my query to U.G. about the future of India. As the evening deepens, U.G. goes on to spotlight the harsh economic realities which confront the world. It sends me hurtling down into a quagmire of depression.
Robert Towne, the screenplay writer of 'Chinatown' said the process of writing is also a way of discarding. As soon as you get an experience out from inside, it's gone. Once you objectify it, in a sense you have exorcised it. It doesn't belong to you anymore. You have purged it. When the sand gets into the oyster's craw, the oyster's response to protect himself is to spin this thing around. The sand then becomes a beautiful pearl. The oyster's object is not to admire it, but to get rid of something that hurts.
'Are you ready for the parting message?' asks U.G., sinking into the front seat of the car and fastening the seat-belt. 'Yes,' I whisper, and pulling out a small diary get ready to jot down what he is about to say. 'Unless humankind comes to terms with the blunt truth that it is no more important than the mosquito or the field rat, it is doomed. This individual called U.G. is just an animal, nothing more.
'Whatever happened to me cannot be used to promote myself or promote any cause for the welfare of mankind. What I say undermines the very foundation of human thought. How can society be interested in what I say? Nature does not use anything else as a model. I cannot make any definitive statement, but even physically this cannot reproduce another one like itself. It is anybody's guess as to whether the sperm of this individual can impregnate a female or not. I have no interest in becoming a guinea pig for the medical technologists who will, in any case, use all the insights they gain during the course of their experiments to ultimately destroy life. All that they have discovered about the body so far has not been helpful to understand the innate intelligence the body is born with. The natural immunity of the body is destroyed by everything they are doing. When this body drops dead it will be recycled by nature just like a garden slug to enrich the soil. In short, it will just rot.'
So total and complete is his self-demolition that it makes me shudder. As I look away I see the full moon is just beginning its climb into a dark, cold sky.
A sparkling, new dawn is here. We are just fifty kilometers away from Geneva. Suddenly U.G. turns towards us. The golden glow of the morning light makes him look divine. As we drive through a field of sunflowers, U.G. says, 'I invited Bob and Paul to come here to Gstaad. I want them to sort out the course of their lives while they are here. There is a conflict going on there inside of them. I want them to resolve it. I can only extend my help to you guys in the area of your practical lives.' U.G.'s concern for people manifests itself through his actions, not words. Don't believe him when he says, 'I won't lift my little finger to help anyone. You can all rot in hell...' That's a lie. He is the most concerned guy I have ever met in my life.
As I pass through the Immigration, savoring the aftertaste of my experiences with U.G. in Gstaad, U.G.'s voice suddenly erupts within me: 'All experiences, no matter how extraordinary they are, separate you from life. You will never know what life is, never...' As my aircraft takes off from the Geneva Airport, and heads for London, I find myself once again asking the same ageless, childlike questions. 'Who am I? Where did I come from? What happens when I die? What does it mean? Where do I fit in? Where am I going?'—Home, stupid! Home.