Friday, July 24, 2009
Back at Guru's memorial, Saraswati said something else to me that stuck with me.
Remember that over the memorial weekend, Saraswati had been trying to enlist my help in getting her nephew, Pinak -- my sister's then-boyfriend -- to come to New York to see Guru one last time.
At some point that weekend, Saraswati had brought the situation to Ranjana's attention. Apparently, there had been some discussion between them about my family: me, my brother Jeevan, and my sister Nirbachita.
In what I then took as a friendly effort to butter me up, Saraswati told me about a part of that discussion. "Ranjana said," Saraswati recounted, "that Guru had told her that there was a strong connection between you and your family and her."
While Saraswati and I didn't dwell on the subject, it did remind me of the fact that I hadn't yet seen Ranjana at the memorial. As it turned out, I never would.
I must have greeted and hugged a dozen or more of my sister disciples over the course of that weekend, including Lavanya, who had been out of the Center for some time by that point, but who nevertheless looked as beautiful as ever dressed in a sari for that somber occasion.
But I never so much as saw Ranjana during the relatively brief periods of time at which former disciples like me were permitted at the tennis court. In my narcissistic way, I wondered to myself whether she was avoiding me.
In any event -- Saraswati's anecdote aside -- I had always felt a connection with Ranjana. As I've already recounted, from my earliest days in the Center, she seemed to have my back.
Later, once I had ensconced myself as a local disciple in New York, I remember being amused at how intimidated most disciples seemed of her. Not surprised, mind you -- she did really have that beautifully severe look of Anjelica Huston in this picture and she had Guru's ear like very few others.
So, I wasn't surprised that disciples -- men and women -- snapped to it when she asked for something to be done. I was amused, though. I would never obey a command from another disciple, and with Ranjana, I had the distinct impression that I wouldn't be expected to.
One of my favorite runs back in the day was the Forrest Park course. Sundar had taught me the seven-mile route that took us from Jamaica to Forrest Hills and then through the park along wooded trails (which woods sometimes revealed the remains of Santeria sacrifices and other times the occasional illicit rendezvous).
The turnaround point was at the intersection of Forrest Park Drive and Woodhaven Boulevard, but just before reaching it -- on the right -- was an all-weather track. And, sometimes, in the summer afternoons, I'd catch Ranjana and Guru alone there working out.
In truth, it was Ranjana who was working out, while Guru -- with stopwatch in hand -- put her through her paces. She was training for Sports Day. It was always fun to unexpectedly run into Guru like that and I got a real kick seeing them.
I remember seeing Guru's back to me one time as he spoke some unheard instructions to Ranjana as I jogged past along Forrest Park Drive. Ranjana, facing in my direction, but still some 50 yards away, recognized me at once and gave me a big wave hello, causing Guru to turn and look, too.
On the night before I left the Center for good, I carried a large, professionally framed portrait of Guru over to Ranjana's apartment and left it on her doorstep.
I'm sorry I never got to embrace Ranjana at the memorial and tell her how very sorry I was for her loss. Not that she necessarily needed the consolation from me, but it would have been a nice acknowledgement of the natural fondness that I think we both share for each other.
Perhaps that is a moment I can still look forward to.
The classic shot above of Guru and Ranjana at Sports Day was taken by Shraddha Howard. His other fine pictures can be seen here.