Sangeetha's sad whisper fell on my ears like an orange autumn leaf
drifting into a cool puddle.
I was expecting it.
Ramachar was suffering from colon cancer.
He was 93 years old.
Today is Sunday, December 12, 2010.
My flight to Chicago from San Jose got cancelled. It was snowing heavily and fierce winds howled in the wintry city, I was told. I got up 4.00 AM for my 7.30 AM flight, and after a harrowing futile wait in a long winding queue the attendant rescheduled me for an early morning Monday flight. I returned philosophically from the airport, read emails, ate lunch and slept and went for my evening walk.
I was walking fast, winter darkness had set in, the road that skirted around a monastery was deserted. The screeching of crickets hung in the background like a prickly swaying web. Souls confabulated in the burial ground of the musty smelling monastery, behind the high walls that hid in overhanging creepers.
The cold breeze lifted a stray creeper here and there creating an eerie conspiratorial stir in the shadow of faint street lights.
I quickened my steps.
Ramachar died, I whispered to myself.
I loved Ramachar. I adored him. I enjoyed his company.
He was a veritable shrine for me.
Ramachar was a symbol of eternal youth. He embodied immortality. He walked straight, flaunting all his six feet three inches frame. He had a classic chiseled body. Square face, lush mop of hair, bushy eye brows, sharp small eyes, large prominent ears, the edges bristling with hair, long hands and longer legs, his chest wide and strong, he looked an Olympian god.
He was often mischievous, playful, romantic and shy. His was a life dedicated to music and he did nothing else except singing, dancing and falling in love with beautiful things. He was an incorrigible lover. He lived Radha's love for Krishna. He sang Radha's love in the highest octave, his voice drawn deep from the depth of his being and that almost pierced the roof of the sky and reached the highest heaven at the feet of Radha. His whole being throbbed with Radha's love. He was more in love with Radha than with Krishna. In fact he was jealous of Krishna for winning Radha's love.
I often felt that Ramachar was an incarnation of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He imitated the prattling cuddling teeny weeny style of the Bengali Baul singers. And in that lascivious mood he was irresistible.
In his 93 year old body, Ramachar looked growing young. When he opened his mouth wide, singing loud, it was difficult to say whether he had teeth or not. His gums were so strong that they looked like teeth. His cheeks were full and skin shiny. His eyes were misty and dreamy. It seemed that he did not have enough of his youth. He arrested old age on its track and willed youth hood for himself.
When a loved one dies you are sad and inconsolable. You may even feel devastated. But your grief remains private. You keep your dignity and reserve in the public.
But Ramachar's death is a class apart. It is a matter of public grief. It is the end of an era, the extinction of a rare species, and the disappearance of an archetype. Such death becomes a cosmic event, a paradigm shift, a public loss and reason for genuine lament.
I knew Ramachar for the last ten years. I remember him as a singing skylark. He was in his full form when I saw him in February 2010 in my ashram in Doddhaballapura near Bangalore. He sang his soul out. He mimicked famous singers and their idiosyncrasies and body languages. He claimed that he was doing research on humor in music and the humorous ways of musicians. He was the center of attention on that day, as he was always in such gatherings. Then I didn't suspect he was ill, that cancer was slowly clawing into him. Nor, perhaps was he aware of his illness.
I saw Ramachar last in July, this year, in the company of Mr. Chattopadhyay and Prof. Sangeetha Menon. By this time cancer had overpowered him. Old age had started taking vengeance on this tired emaciated lion. But the moment we sat down the lion started roaring, the smile was not that bright, it was just an afterglow of the sun set. Then for a brief moment he became romantic, a mystic lover, and his heart aching for the touch of an unknown unseen beloved.
His cooing echoing back without response.
I cried silently feeling a wrench in the inner chambers of my heart, unable to see this lover dying unfulfilled, his lips trembling with the unsung last line of his love song.
Then I knew Ramachar was dying.
But can death snatch his love for the unknown beloved?
Can death dry up his insatiable thirst for love?
Can death smother the flame of his blazing youth?
Ramachar will live ever as an archetype of mystic love.
San Jose, CA.
12 December, 2010