In the early morning hours before my final flight back to California and out of the Center for good, Tejiyan (pictured below) and I sat at a booth in Lucille's (the all night diner of choice) and chatted about life and the Center.
Tejiyan hadn't received word about the "last supper," so the fact that he went out of his way to call me up and invite me out so late at night meant the world to me. Tejiyan -- and his older brother Bhima (pictured above) -- had always felt like long lost kin to me.
From my earliest days in New York, Bhima and Tejiyan welcomed and encouraged me. Irish-Catholics born and raised in Connecticut, the brothers are highly competitive by nature and are built like college football players, which, in fact, they were. On a recent trip to New York, an old friend told me that Bhima and Tejiyan were so competitive that when some of the New York-area disciples got together for soccer games, Bhima and Tejiyan had to be put on the same team so as to avoid an otherwise unavoidable clash of titans.
During my New York years, I saw more of Tejiyan than I did of Bhima, because for most of his adult life, Bhima worked at the United Nations in Manhattan. In many ways, though, I think I'm more like Bhima (while my brother Jeevan is in some ways more like Tejiyan).
Tejiyan, however, worked for himself as a contractor. For that reason, Tejiyan came into the Smile -- where I worked -- for breakfast or lunch (or both) on most days.
One afternoon, Tejiyan came into the Smile for lunch on the day after I had run a 50-mile race. Surprisingly -- considering my effort of the day before -- I felt pretty chipper at work. When Tejiyan tried to shoot a crumpled napkin past me and into the garbage bin, I kicked out my foot to block the shot. Unfortunately, I banged my kneecap onto the edge of a metal sink in the process.
I knew it was going to hurt, but before I felt a thing, I passed out. The next thing I saw was Tejiyan's shocked face looking down at me on the floor as he cupped his hand under my head.
Later in my discipleship, when it became clear to others in the Center that I was having spiritual difficulties, Tejiyan was one of the first (and one of the only) disciples to show me concern and offer me concrete advice. For that, I'll always be grateful.
After our long goodbye at Lucille's, Tejiyan drove me back to my place. He'd be the last disciple I'd speak to before flying to California later that day and leaving the Center behind for good.
Bhima and Tejiyan -- perhaps the two best men I met in the Center.
I hope the guys don't mind me using these great pictures taken by Unmesh, which I think capture a spark of each of these truly unique and noble men. See Unmesh's other fine photos here.