Saturday, August 9, 2014

the grand old man

What a way to spend an evening. Sandeep has always been a remarkably dramatic storyteller with that flair for showmanship; And when that is coupled with his ability to improvise on the spot and wiggle out of any situation his audience throws at him, it makes for a very formidable combination. I had been hearing about 'Gurugaru' and 'GDKmal' since our conversations in Chennai and when an opportunity to meet the man himself cropped him, it was too tempting to let go. And though divine providence tested my passion and perseverance with traffic jams, empty petrol tanks and wrong direction instructions, the fated meeting had to happen when it had to happen. Like the man himself pointed out, "మీరిక్కడికొచ్చింది నెనేదొ చెప్పేది వినడానికొ, విని enlightenment పొందడానికో కాదు. మీరు రావాల్సొచ్చింది, నేను చెప్పాల్సొచ్చింది. అంతె. "

Kasturi Venkata Durga Prasad, which I later found out his name was, is that old man you hear about who's seen life up-close, faced all the hardships firsthand, went through recurring catharsis and is still on his feet, telling his stories to people who are willing to listen. And what wonderful stories they are. The reason I was interested in meeting the man was because of my innumerable questions in myriad areas like religion, philosophy, Vedic tradition and existential burden among other things. But the propelling reason for our meeting was Astrology, జ్యోతిష్యం to be precise, in this case Abhishek's, my skepticism about the whole exercise and a very basic question about incompatibility between Karma సిద్దాంతం and శాంతి పూజలు that are done to placate the impending catastrophe. I didn't even get a chance to pose the question.

As soon as we entered the house, Sandeep told him that I played the guitar a bit, and his idea of a bit is much larger than my abilities by any stretch of imagination, and so after I had explained to him that I couldn't even be termed a novice with my capabilities, the conversation moved into him telling us how he was a self-taught Violinist, Tabla player and a Guitarist. Then he started talking about ప్రణవ నాదం, సామ వేదం, Adi Sankaracharya's ability to heal himself with sound till somehow the conversation traversed into the idea of enlightenment, కృష్ణ తత్వం, an image of Draupadi eating the corpses of Kauravas after the Kurukshetra War, the story of the 3 Gitas ( Yoga Vasistha, Ashtavakra Gita, Bhagvad Gita ), a reinterpretation of the Ramayana in which Ayodhya is the body of a human and all the major characters are symbolic attributes of various Gunas till he paused at trying to figure out how Bhishma was alive for 900 years and still could have missed Krishna killing Kamsa. If that sounds impossibly convoluted, consider that I have forgotten more than half of what he said because of the information overload and that there were still more detours and commentaries on UG Krishnamurti, Swami Vivekananda, the limitations of analytical/logical thought, Tarka Sastra, the origin and the built-in curtailment of  the science of astrology, the fallacies of Software working culture, the genius of Yogis among a host of other things.

It has been a long time since I've had access to ideas so diverse and deep, and probably the first time that they've come in such a concentrated capsule of time. It was so fast, so much, so incisive and narrated with such raconteur skill that everything felt strange, sublime, surreal, like I was high. His knowledge is intimidating but the ease with which he treads it is also endearing. His monologues are a collection of wonderful anecdotes, apocryphal stories and deep insights. There is so much to learn from him, so much to think over, so much to discuss and assimilate that makes me want to go back to his house and listen to him talk all over again. Like he said, "All this might be real or it might not be. That is beyond the point. The point is that there is truth out there waiting to be discovered and that is enough to pursue a life in search of knowledge." I went in with a whole lot of questions and walked out with my head buzzing with more questions. Now, isn't that proof enough to show how extraordinary an evening it was? 

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