By Pradeep Darooka
In the twilight zone of life and death, a mother and son experience the profound attunement of unity.
I woke up engulfed in bright white light, my pyjamas soaked. There was a strange glow all around, unlike anything I had ever experienced before. A smile crossed my face and I went back to sleep. My sister Sunila knocked and said, ‘We have to go’.
The lump below my navel near the groin was no longer there. I scanned the hara. It was glowing purple! Maa had finally passed on, in Brahma muhurat on Kartik ekadashi, the most opportune time… or was it some one else who chose it for her? My sankalp was for that Sunday, the 24th of October, but I had no idea that it was for Kartik ekadashi and had definitely not asked for Brahma muhurat.
October 24, 2004
We reached her bedside in the hospital in two hours. Driving from Pune to Mumbai, I was on the cell phone, gathering my reiki circle together and performing the closing circle. We completed it before sunrise.
At her bedside now, she was calm as a frozen lake. I touched her forehead, it was warm. Her skin, soft and supple as a newborn’s, not a wrinkle on her face. She was glowing. The sahasrara chakra had already closed. I touched her feet putting my forehead to them. She blessed me. I experienced the divine.
The connection was established in August of 1999. In London, I received a call from my nephew in Mumbai asking me to come immediately as Maa was in a coma. Arriving late at night, I rushed to the hospital next morning. Dr. Suhas Shah had already forewarned the family about the inevitable happening any day. I took an instant dislike to him as I do with most doctors. I desperately wanted to reach out to Maa. She was calling me. I pleaded with the doctors and nurses to allow me to be with her for an hour. I told them about reiki, explained that I would just place my hands on her body without talking or disturbing her, all to no avail. Finally that evening, after much pleading, Dr. Shah agreed. Tears arose and I thanked him profusely.
Once I gained admission to her bedside, the nurses became friendlier. In a daze with my eyes shut, hands placed on Maa’s body, the only thing I remember is a surge of fire in the form of a ball. There was a strange sensation in the anahaat chakra that I had never experienced before. On the second day, I remember Maa opening her eyes and locking them with mine. My ajna chakra was on fire.
Two days later, Maa came back home. It was a homecoming for me too.
When I met Dr. Shah to settle his fees, he was a changed person. Or perhaps, I had changed? I took an instant liking to him and we talked about Maa’s condition and recovery, which he perceived as a ‘miracle’. I was touched by his warmth and sincerity, so rare in the medical profession. A connection had been established.
1999 to 2004
The next five years were an intense period of spiritual and personal awakening. A whirl of yoga, meditation, healing, scriptures, satsangs, naturopathy, ayurveda, martial arts, shamanism, crystals, aroma, sound, chakras, auras, astrology, nadi shastra… all building on the foundation laid by Sheryl Benson, my reiki teacher who initiated me in 1996 in Boston. My curiosity took me to Dharamsala, Rishikesh, Kumbh Mela, Bodh Gaya, Ganeshpuri, Pondicherry, Pune, Osho, Kerala, Himalayan Institute, Kripalu Center, Sivananda Ashram, shaman healers, various monasteries in South East Asia and in the US, a journey I wished would never end. Each sojourn brought me in and out of Mumbai, to Maa, living alone since my father passed away in 1986 and all three sons left for greener pastures aboard.
Maa, matriarch of the family she raised amidst adversity, transported from the sleepy town of Akola to the bustle of Karachi after marriage, then uprooted from Karachi to Kolkata and to Mumbai after the Partition. As my interaction with Maa increased, a certain quietude crept in our relationship. Words became redundant. Expectations, emotions, responsibilities, duties, started fading. As the youngest of her eight children, I had always been close to her. We had a certain understanding, a bond typical of the youngest child and his doting Indian mother. Yet, it felt different now. Maa and I transcended barriers inherent between two individuals.
I had started living her life.
Her pains and discomfort become mine. She did not need to express or ask, I knew. She did not need to reach out. She had already become enshrined within me. As her heart kept shrinking, I started breathing for her. As her kidneys started failing, my incontinence increased. Her digestion became weaker, and my appetite for her favorite items increased. I finally learnt to say no to her. There was no guilt, she understood. She knew it was not me, but she herself, saying no.
It did not matter any more.
My interest in astrology reached a crescendo. I had readings done under Indian astrology, Western astrology and nadi shastra and was amazed at the confluence of the readings; besides touching upon myriad aspects of my life, each mentioned 2004 and one of them, October 2004.
My reiki intuition took over.
Back in the USA I felt at a dead end. My sojourns lessened. Maa became weaker and lonelier, but I could not be with her. And then I got a six-week consulting assignment in Mumbai. The stars had lined up and something called 9/11 happened. Nothing was going to come in the way. I landed in Mumbai and surprised Maa who was having a havan performed on my father’s shraadh.
Her joy was muted. Not really. I was elated. She knew I had come home, even though I was staying in a hotel in the distant suburbs.
The six-week assignment became a two-year project. I barely visited her once or twice a week. Each time, she cooked her favorite items without asking me. She knew I would eat and she would relish. Her appetite had diminished considerably. How did it matter? I was eating. We hardly spoke of anything consequential. She knew I would take care of everything. I knew what she wanted.
I decided to move back to India and bought an apartment in Pune. I could not imagine living in Mumbai, leave alone with Maa. She knew; she understood. Never once did she ask that I move in with her. She was so overjoyed, how could she ask for anything. I felt her unexpressed desire. I was helpless as all I could do was watch and be a witness. I started getting the apartment ready to move in. I was running against time. ‘October 2004′ would not fade away.
It will go away only after it has come. Not a day before.
I finally met Ramesh Balsekar in Mumbai at his morning discourse, after having heard about him from a friend four years earlier, and a year after I started reading his books. I had tears in my eyes that first day when I touched his feet. I knew my search was over.
As I was practicing my morning asanas, I felt a twitch in my chest on the left side. It persisted. As I gave myself reiki, I felt the lump gradually moving towards the anaahat chakra. I did some visualization and saw something dark brown, almost black and dirty. Over the next few weeks, I felt it increasing in size and shifting downwards.
It was time for me to go back to the US and pack up to come back for good. Maa had fallen in the balcony. She complained of pain in the chest, but was otherwise quiet. The x-ray did not show any broken bones. I gave her reiki that evening. Her chest was ablaze. The anaahat chakra was all dark and ominous. I did the visualization and saw a lump the size of a golf ball on the left side. It was dark brown, almost black and dirty. I went back to my bed, and sought it out. It had moved further down, just above my navel. There was no pain, just a soft sensation.
I felt divine.
I was getting anxious. Maa had now lost almost all appetite. I was eating like a pig. Her kidneys had almost failed. My incontinence became more intense.
She was gasping for breath every so often. My pranayams became more intense.
She could no longer stand erect, leave alone walk. Dr. Shah was back in charge. I spoke with him for the first time since August 1999. His advice was simple; hospitalize her. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to care for her at home. But being a doctor, he was not sensitive enough to the nuances and the dynamic forces at play. He did not understand Maa, he did not understand me. Maa was resolute. She wanted to be at home, under the care of Archana and Sarita and Lalloo who had all so lovingly cared for her all these years. She still wanted to know what was cooking in the kitchen, who was at the door, and whether Lalloo was short changing her while buying groceries.
I had drafted the obit. I also had the handwritten piece of paper where, many years ago, Maa had scribbled her wishes upon her passing away. I was leaving on the 15th of the month for the US. We all agreed that under no circumstances would we hospitalize Maa. We discussed and agreed on the funeral and post-funeral plans.
I could not have been less emotional.
August 15, 2004
I bid Maa farewell, telling her I would be back soon. She patted and blessed me. As I went to sleep on the flight, I felt the lump. It was in the hara, the manipura chakra.
September 1, 2004
I called Maa from Boston. She could barely speak or hear. She asked when I was coming back. My reservation was for October 1, I told her. She could not hear and kept asking ‘You are coming on the 25th, are you not’? I finally said yes. She seemed happy. I called the airlines and changed my reservation for the 24th.
September 5, 2004
My sister Mridula called from Mumbai. She said Maa was in a lot of agony and discomfort but was not ‘letting go’, waiting for me. She suggested I come back at the earliest and help relieve Maa of her misery. I checked my hara. The lump had not moved much. There was still no pain.
September 22, 2004
I spoke with Pramila, my sister from California who had already reached Mumbai. She informed me that the doctor had found a lump in Maa’s chest and wanted to test it for malignancy. They had finally figured what was causing her the pain all along!
I scanned my hara. The lump had moved into the swadisthana chakra.
Dr. Shah was adamant that Maa be hospitalized immediately, but Maa refused to listen to any one until I returned.
I told my sister not to bother putting Maa through the biopsy test. It was not relevant.
September 25, 2004
I reached Mumbai early morning. After her morning rituals, I finally saw her. She hugged me and started sobbing. I told her I had come back home. I had finally redeemed my promise made to my father 22 years ago. I asked her whether she would like to go to the hospital. She just looked at me and kept sobbing. All day long, there was a lot of pressure from my sisters, doctors and others to take her to the hospital. I refused. At 7.30 pm she moved her bowels, and then called me urgently. ‘I cannot breathe’, she gasped. I scanned her anaahat chakra. It was very dark. I panicked. She was admitted into the ICU within half an hour. I slept like a log.
I had never been happier.
She stayed in the ICU for a week. Both my brothers from the US had arrived. All her eight offspring were with her. The medical diagnosis was clear. The kidneys had failed, the heart was barely pumping, and she refused all intake. It was a matter of time now, according to Dr. Shah. But I knew she was not ready yet. I scanned her sahasrara. It was closed. I scanned myself. The lump had barely moved. Access to her in the ICU was very restricted, so we decided to bring her out to a private room. I slept in the room most of the nights.
My sister Urmila, sensing something, asked me a few times about the date. I kept quiet. Mridula, my other sister, insisted that I was ‘holding Maa back’ and should ‘let her go’. How could I? I was only a witness, not the doer. Advaita was no longer just a concept; it had become real for me. What better teaching could I ask for? Osho said I could only be a witness. Balsekar says I am not the doer. It was all ringing true, each day, each moment.
October 10, 2004
It was Maa’s birthday. She was barely able to open her eyes. I asked her if she would like to come to Pune to the new home. She nodded, and said yes. Her eyes were moist. I scanned her. My hands froze on the back of her head. There was an unmistakable glow and heat. My heart jumped a beat.
The sahasrara chakra was open.
I felt a tightness in my groin. The lump had moved all the way down. It seemed to have shrunk a bit, but ominously dark as always.
The next few days I was with her as much as possible. I stayed with her in the room almost every night. She had become Brahmaleen, one with the Creator. I wanted to be as close to this lila as possible; absorb and bask in as much of the divinity as possible. There was no thought, no emotion, no sensation. Her aura got brighter each day. The colors had started to fade. She was encircled in white light that became more intense with each passing day. Maa, reiki, me… the distinctions had faded. There was no healer or healing, just pure white light.
Dr. Shah continued his visits, amazed at her resilience. We no longer talked about reiki or miracles or healing. All that mattered now was his warmth and caring attitude as if his own mother was lying there. Ironically, he said, ‘We can only watch’. I wished Balsekar was there to hear it!
October 20, 2004, 8.35 pm
Every one had left. Maa was in deep sleep. I sat beside her, and placed my right hand on her head and left hand on her anaahat. The sahasrara chakra was still open. I closed my eyes. I saw a red glow and felt a twitch in my right hand. I opened my eyes. Maa was looking at me with eyes wide open, like a baby who had just woken up from a long peaceful sleep. I immediately called my sisters to tell them what was happening. I placed my hand on Maa’s forehead. She looked into my eyes and nodded. A tear slipped from my right eye and I nodded back. She closed her eyes. I needed to let go. She was ready.
She had become Brahmaleen, one with the Creator. I wanted to be as close to this lila as possible.
I stayed awake all night in meditation. The sankalpa came at about five in the morning. It was accompanied by a vision of a long highway leading away from a bright light into the forests yonder. I came out of my stupor.
Maa was in deep asleep.
October 21, 2004, 12.30 pm
I informed Dr. Shah that I was leaving tomorrow for Pune for a couple of days. He examined Maa and asked me not to go out of town. I reluctantly agreed and closed my eyes. How could I explain my sankalpa to him? How could I tell him that Maa would not leave unless I left first?
October 23, 2004, 7 am
I scanned Maa for the last time. The sahasrara chakra was still open. I touched and kissed her forehead, touched her feet and left immediately for Pune. Dr. Shah did not need to know.
October 23, 2004, 10 pm
I went to the bathroom before going to bed. As I was emptying my bladder, there was a sharp, excruciating pain in the groin. I almost screamed. I went to sleep like a toddler.
October 24, 2004
My pyjama was bleeding red during the entire funeral. I was emptying my bladder profusely.
The healing was complete.
October 31, 2004
I went to settle Dr. Shah’s fees in his consulting room. We spent almost an hour together. He had become part of the family. I wanted to give him a reiki hug. But I hesitated, he would not understand. We talked about Maa mainly. From August 1999 to the present. We touched upon my journey briefly. Then he simply said, ‘After a point, even the doctor can only watch.’ I said to myself, but I would want you to be my doctor until that point.
I went home, to Maa.
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