Friday, July 24, 2009

Ranjana


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.

Happy memories.

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.

5 comments:

AM Europe said...

Ranjana came to the memorial. I only remember her bowing in pranam and encircling the burial place 3 times after the casket was lowered into the ground.
I am sure she would have appreciated a hug. Rumor had it she was suffering quite a bit.
Another man who hugged her quite a bit back in 2000-2001 was Abhad from Canada. They even ran away together in 2001 on a romantic trip. This is of cause a centre secret. The romance was handled badly by the centre. Another romance handled even worse was the before mentioned Bipin and L. L was packing her car to go away with Bipin, but she was grabbed by 3 or 4 centre members and pulled into her house. A police officer was at the door responding to a 911 call, while she was held and gaged by the boys in the back of the house. This is called kidnapping I believe. So there are secrets and issues to be dealt with in the centre, that's for sure.

Y. said...

First, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I DO appreciate it.

That said ... this comment gives me pause and here's why.

One of my principles in writing this memoir is not to make negative comments about anyone other than myself or Guru. I don't see that there's anything to be gained by pointing out the flaws of others, even if they are true.

Perhaps Ranjana will write her own memoir someday. If so, I think this story is for her to write, not us. If anything, as I've tried to point out throughout this blog, such stories make the subject all the more attractive and accessible for being human. But I'd rather hear it, for lack of a better word, as a confessional from her, rather than as a story passed around by the rest of us.

It's also important to remember just how quickly facts are compromised simply in a single re-telling of a story by people not actually involved. Not through malice, just through our imperfect mode of communication.

My thoughts are the same about your reference to my old friend Bipin and "L", which is a reference to Durga's pre-Center christian name.

What happened to them I think is their story -- not mine or anybody elses -- to tell. Durga, I know, has been active online. I would, therefore, defer to her about the details.

I will note that I was working at the Smile of the Beyond at the time, knew the parties involved, and had some awareness of what was happening (i.e., that there was some attraction between the two). The assertion of police involvement and Durga being "held and gagged" by boy disciples is a new one to me.

If you have some citation for that assertion, let me know.

Y. said...

AM Europe has responded with the following accounts by Durga herself:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sri_Chinmoy_Information/message/8167

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sri_Chinmoy_Information/message/8375

Thanks for that AM Europe. I stand corrected. Also, if you'd like to email me directly (see my profile for email address), please do so and we can dialogue further.

Anonymous said...

Looking back, it never seemed quite right to me, on a symbolic level, that Guru coached Ranjana and not her competitors for sports day. Ranjana was already given the last name "Ghose", but it seems so unfairly partial. This impression is further amplified by the claims that even when Ranjana didn't win an event, as was the case with her major competitor, Karabi, the spotters called it for Karabi, but Guru nixed their call and declared Ranjana the winner. This has been testified to in detail.

Karabi must have been a saint to have gone along with it without protest.

It seems to epitomize much of the caste system inherent in Sri Chinmoy's path. I think many who were pretty much ignored yet retained a belief in Sri Chinmoy's Avatarhood must have lived with a subtle sense of inferiority and hopelessness.

I pray that they break out of that belief system.

AM said...

Let me correct the year for the alleged R/A affair. According to A's former lover S, it happened in 1993-94, not 2000/2001 as I said above. So like you said, the truth easily gets twisted, my mix up with the years, is one fresh example.
You said the path needs a Vivekananda. Perhaps we all can be little Vivekanandas, and contribute in our small ways. I think you are doing just that with your blogg.