EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK
…….. After publishing five books in five different genres, I turned around to take upon a new writing challenge on a biography. In writing about a legend, one has to be honest – say, when including a specific story associated with the life of that person; its authenticity, full understanding by the biographer, and the interest of the readers have to be ensured. This balancing act is not easy, but I have tried to measure up to it in every piece included in the book……
…..The writing of a biography is driven by many factors. Generally, a life examined is either very famous or notorious. In the US, there are professional biographers making their livings by writing on such lives. In the academe, a professor in a discipline of humanities can earn sabbatical leave, merit, tenure and promotion. In my case, it is a combination of debt to my ancient Indian heritage that Mama Ji symbolized, personal gratitude towards him, and a literary challenge to be a well-rounded non-fiction writer.
There is something more to it. The Hindus, of my generation in particular, were drilled by their elders to play down or even undermine their achievements in the name of misplaced humility. Its one corollary was that they downgraded their leaders too. Inversely, they over lauded the outsiders and their works. This mindset comes from their subjugated Hindu mentality over the centuries. On the contrary, in the US, ‘the land of the free’, one sees floods of biographies on the lives hardly lived long enough or fully blossomed out.
The book has ended up with four sections, though started with only one section in mind. The book truly evolved. Section I has 9 introductory types of write-ups on biographies. Section II has my 33 typical reflections and articles written during 2003 - 2013. Section III has oral and verbal reminiscences from 12 persons associated with Mama Ji. Section IV has 90+ pages of letters exchanged between me and Mama Ji during a span of 40 years; 1962- 2002.
A common feature of all my books is that each one of them can be read from anywhere, as all reflections are nearly independent in contents and topics in general. It is good as in today’s fast life styles, no one has the time to start a book from its Page Number 1 and then wade it through to the very end. As a consequence, abbreviations are explained and certain references repeated in the reflections as encountered. ……
In conclusion, incredible memory of Deekshanand does connect him literally with an elephant – that is known to forget nothing. Perhaps, for that reason, the two are never seen in hurry in their physical movements. I witnessed this memorable memory sight on Dec 28, 2002 - less than five months before he Checked Out from Planet Earth. He was the chief guest at a 3-day annual celebration of a gurukul in Jaura, a village 50 KM from Nanded (MS). Due to train delays, he arrived one day late – stopped right at the pandal (makeshift conference hall) in a rented car driven for 8 hours on unpaved rural paths. …
…A biography on the life of Swami Deekshanand was not all visualized, though I had written a dozen of Reflections after his death in 2003. It was a kind period of my wilderness years in book writing. During my sabbatical leave in India - in Fall-2007, I was presented a book on the life of Swami Deekshanand Saraswati, written by Prem Lata Bhatnagar, my first cousin from mother’s side. It is a beautiful book. It is written out her absolute and dripping devotion, regards, love, and faith in Mama Ji. Still, I did not jump at the sight of this book, and say that I was going to write one too, or a better one. I read it completely in 2007 and called to compliment her. In fact, I just gave it another reading to make sure that our books stand out altogether on different platforms. …..
…. I have always enjoyed reading autobiographies, as relatively speaking there is a stronger element of truth and factuality about them. Also, there is a correlation between age and biographies – the younger you are, the greater is the desire to read, be inspired and feel motivated by the lives of great minds. When I look back at my peak of reading period, in the 1950s and 1960s, it seems that I read far more about the lives of the non-Indians than of Indians.
After centuries of political subjugation, even great Hindu minds had never thought of sharing the inspiring stories of their lives for their people. Autobiographies and memoirs are important to individuals, as are official chronicles to the kings and despots. During high school days, we were constantly reminded to follow the footsteps of great men and women. But there were no Indian footsteps! The only footsteps were of the British in politics, literature and public life! No wonder then, even moderately educated Hindus would become not only the admirers of the British way of life, but would suffer from Hindu complex for the rest of their lives.
…..Generally, a life is measured in two ways: one, by person’s life-time achievements, which may or may not be understood or appreciated by a whole lot of other people; two, the lives that are inspired by it. Yes, I have also been motivated and touched by the lives of two other uncles - one did a physics PhD in the 1940s – long before India’s independence, and the other became an elite IAS officer. For some years, I worked hard to be like them. Now it seems that in my march of life, I have carved out my own path – in some ways, far different and beyond theirs.
Entering into my age years of the 50s, as my sense of history deepened, I started feeling ashamed that most of my forefathers had sided with the British in their struggles with Indians who were awakening to the rule of self-governance. Gandhi’s launching of the non-cooperation movement in 1920 was simply meant to exhort the Indians to stop working for the British and boycott British goods. Eventually, this non-violent approach won freedom for India…..
…..MamaJi never married. He was not cutout for it from the very beginning, though he must have remained the handsomest eligible bachelor in his adult life. Looking at pervasiveness of sexuality in the US and even India today; more so, since the former President, Bill Clinton redefined intercourse; one does wonder how MamaJi lived through his sexually turbulent years.
By the age of 17 and 18 years, the male hormones really burst out violently - so much so, that any time of mental concentration away from sex is short lived. At times, the penile reaction is so strong and long that it seems to smash any object. It reminds me of a warning as part of recent ads on Viagra/Cialis capsules that if erection lasts for more than four hours, then see a doctor. Prolonged erections and successive ejaculations would kill an old man in many ways. In my teen years, I had fun calling night discharges as gods doing blow-up jobs on the penis! There was no other recourse or release of sexual tension except masturbation in puritanical India of the1950s……
The second approach that Mama Ji used was a psychological weapon to keep his carnal desires in check from his end. He always addressed any woman as his daughter or mother; never a sister. At times, noting women around his age, he still addressed them as Mata Ji (for mother) or Beti (for daughter). I know it must be weirdly disarming for a beautiful woman whose mission is to floor down any man to her knees. He probably never hurt the advances of such women. During school and college days in Bathinda, I remember boys calling girl friends as their cousins, but envisioning all kinds of romantic and sexual ties with them. Also, his totally white attire before sanyas and red orange afterwards must have worked as a shield from the eyes of diehard enchantresses.
Do I have any proof of MamaJi sexual chastity or virginity? No; but who can actually lay such a claim on it? Early on, I never even dreamed of questioning it.