Monday, July 23, 2018

142. The story of my marriage

Thousand Full Moon: Shri. Ranade (81+)
Contributed By: Dr. Raghunath Boradkar

Narrating the story of my marriage is like reliving those moments again. Even as I think of it, the drama associated with it and the thrills and tensions come alive in my mind.  As she is no more, I am quite emotional and sentimental about her memories that have been deeply engraved in my mind.
My father's sister was married to a Khare. Khares were a well to do family in Mumbai. But prosperity is notoriously fickle and it so happened that one of the Khares took to gambling and lost everything. So the Khares came to Khadki to one of their relatives for shelter. Later my father's sister shifted with her husband and children to our house, which was big enough to accommodate all.

The house had now two families living under the same roof. The children mixed freely and there was a lot of fun playing and growing together. Meera was my father's sister's daughter a very close cousin. She was as we call in Marathi my, 'Atebahin'. We liked each other. Soon enough this liking grew into fondness and then inevitably as it happens always, in to love. We started being together more and more and our house had enough places to hide us from others. It was not that, our families did not notice this but we paid little attention to those subtle warnings. Neither Khares nor Rondes liked what was going on. We spent a lot of time together resulting in my neglecting my studies and I failed in my examination. It was then that my father called me and explained everything and I was advised to concentrate on my studies first. I followed his advise and in due course I completed my B.E. [Electrical]. I remember I built a radio for my father then.

I had a job in Delhi so for some time I was in Delhi and later shifted to Mumbai. In Mumbai, I stayed in Parsi Colony. I was happier in Mumbai because of its proximity to Pune. It was now easier to meet and be together. While in Mumbai, I got a scholarship for further studies in England. I decided to go. Before my departure I met Meera and we went to a temple. I told her that I was keen on her and would wait for her for any length of time but as I will be gone for some time, I would like to set her free to choose someone else if she feels like and finds someone to her liking.  She disliked the idea and we decided to wait for each other.

 I duly completed my studies in England and rather than coming back immediately accepted a job that was offered to me and stayed on. I collected enough money for a passage to England and then wrote a letter to my father. I wrote to him that I wanted to marry Meera and I would not return to India if he and others objected to it on any ground and in that case, I would bring her here and marry her since in England nobody would say that it was not permissible.

Soon I got a letter from my father telling me that I should return and that he would find out a way. I returned to India and he was happy to see me back.

I was waiting and one day we three came to Mumbai. I had no idea what he was to do.  We just had to follow him. What he did was he took us to a Kazi whom he probably knew. The kazi then converted us to Islam and we were given new names. Then The Nikah was performed and we were married and pronounced as husband and wife. After completing the procedure, we left and he took us straight to Shri Masurkar Maharaj ashram where we converted back to Hinduism and regained our original names. As we were husband and wife as Muslims, we were converted as Hindu husband and wife.
We returned to Pune expecting a lot of trouble but to our surprise, we were welcomed home as if nothing unusual had happened.

In today's world no one would bother about such a thing but when I think of those times when orthodoxy ruled the minds of most I  am amazed by the courage shown by my father  and his foresight. It is something unforgettable.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

141. A unifying thread in the physical, biological and psychological fields

Thousand Full Moon: Mr. Sunder Hattangadi (80+)
Contributed by: Sunder Hattangadi

Born May 1935, in Bhatkal, Karnataka, in a Chitrapur Sarasvat Brahmin family, the youngest of 3 siblings (2 elder sisters). Mother tongue Konkani, influenced somewhat by Kannada and Marathi.
Father was a physician in government service. Paternal grandparents lived with us. Mother had matriculated from Huzurpaga Girls’ School in Pune.
1936-1940 –Family moved to Mumbai when father was transferred. Grandmother passed away in 1938. We lived in the hospital quarters.

1941-1948 – Family moved to Revdanda, about 60 miles south of Mumbai, upon another transfer.
I could not have imagined a more idyllic and ideal environment to grow up. The house we lived in was next the out-patient clinic (‘dispensary’). There was a small garden in front and back. Spacious grounds accommodated 3 other families: the pharmacy technician (‘compounder’) who dispensed the medicines my father prescribed; a man-Friday who functioned as an office manager and also assisted with minor surgeries, dressing wounds, etc,; and the sweeper, who kept the grounds and outdoor latrines clean. The sweeper was the only one with an only son my age. There was a well on the grounds from which water was drawn for household use. (The sweeper had a separate well next to his quarters.) There was no electricity, all the roads were dirt roads. The beach and the Arabian sea were just a mile to the west, farms covered the northern 2 miles, and coconut palm groves surrounded us on the east and south sides.

We walked to school about 2 miles south, in the center of the village. Boys and girls attended school in different buildings. If you have seen or heard Pu. La. Deshpande’s skit (kathA kathan)“bigari te matric” you will get the exact flavor of my schooling! Summer and Christmas vacations were always fun, as uncles, aunts, cousins would always give us company and escape from city life.

Two big festivals were Ganesha Chaturthi (till Ananta Chaturdashi) and Datta Jayanti (5 days). For the former we friends would visit all the homes where puja was done and prasad distributed after chanting the ‘Arati’ hymns.

My parents were very fond of Hindustani classical music and we had quite a collection of albums (78, 45, 33 rpm!) to play on the old HMV gramophone.
Datta temple was on a hill 5 miles away and 700 steps up or on a hiking trail.

In 1947, Konkan Education Society opened a new building for middle and high school, almost next to our house. The inauguration was done by Emperor Haile Selasie from Ethiopia who was then visiting India. The whole history seemed to have come to life! Revdanda Chaul used to be a naval base for Shivaji, besides being a trading post. Nearby communities of Janjira/Murud (with Siddi as ruler), and Portuguese settlements in Korlai and Borlai (‘Firangi’) were also reminders.

We as a family escaped the blight of un-touchability as my father’s profession had to allow him access to any home to treat patients. I used to accompany him whenever I could, riding in a horse-drawn carriage (‘tonga’). Annual visits to the village by Dewal Circus and Drama Groups from Mumbai were other major entertainments!

An event to determine my future career occurred. The wife of the man-Friday had been discharged from a psychiatric hospital (Thane) after some years and returned home. Her withdrawn and aloof nature sparked an interest in me about study of the mind and the meaning of life in general.
My interest in world news was limited to reading the series on the spectacular escape of Subhashchandra Bose and his subsequent travels, in the Marathi newspaper.
The most tragic event in this period was the capsizing of the ferry boat ‘Ramdas’ carrying over 800 passengers from Mumbai to Revas, 25 miles from Revdanda. Nearly 700 of them died and one of them was our history teacher.

1948-1953 – My father retired in 1948 and decided to continue in private practice (until 1961). My sisters and I then moved to Mumbai for further studies. We stayed with our aunt (mother’s youngest sister) and her family. They had one son a year older than myself. She was also a foster mother to 5 other cousins of college age whose mother had passed away when they were quite young.
This period was one of great excitement, with opportunities to explore all kinds of activities – books, sports, cultural events, museums, movies, zoo, etc.

I played cricket for the school and college (pre-medical) for 6 years and 1 year in medical school. My uncle was very fond of cricket also, and took us to all the cricket Test matches between India and visiting countries (England, West Indies, Australia). In medical school I had to switch to tennis due to time constraints. The school I attended was within a stone’s throw! The College was a 10-15min walk opposite the Chowpatty beach! We had a wonderful teaching staff who taught with enthusiasm for their subjects, especially English, Mathematics, History and Sanskrit.

Two books that thrilled me were Sw. Vivekanda’s lectures ‘From Colombo to Almora’ and Will Durant’s Story of Philosophy. The exposure to physics/chemistry, biology, and botany/zoology thrilled me. However, I began to feel a lack of humanities in the curriculum, and I began to explore more literary works but this was limited to English only.

A major event in 1949 was the conversion of the school to a Technical High School. I was in the last batch of the regular curriculum. The inauguration was at the hands of Lord Mountbatten, 1st Governor-General of India!

I was also able to attend many musical concerts, hearing live the leading artistes whose albums I had relished earlier.
My high school final examination was an unusual event – I broke into high fever and pox eruption over my body. The doctors could not definitely say if it was chicken-pox or small-pox! So I was quarantined in the Infectious Diseases Hospital (on Arthur Road), and almost lost a year. Another aunt of mine happened to know one of the top officials in the Education Dept., and persuaded him to have me write the papers in the hospital!! Somehow I managed it and passed the examination. I was discharged a week later. The urge to find a unifying thread in the physical, biological and psychological fields began to intensify.
Vacations continued to be full of adventure, visiting many places of historical interest, Belgaum Dharwar, Bijapur, Mysore, Mount Abu, Jaipur, Delhi, Agra, Dehradun, Calcutta, Darjeeling.

1953-1961 – Medical School – I began to feel keenly the loss of all my earlier friends, to be replaced by newer ones. The medical school was about 4 miles away and I could commute from home in a tram car. I moved to an apartment not too far from my aunt’s. My mother also moved to Mumbai.
Books that began to influence me now were Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Autobiography of a Yogi by Sw. Yogananda, Radhakrishnan, Gita, Dasbodh. In 1958 I came across Gondavalekar Maharaj’s biography. It impelled me to go on a spiritual pilgrimage to Haridvar, Rishikesh and Badrinath. In Badrinath I was most fortunate to attend Parvatikar’s performance on Dattatreya-veena .
I finished medical school in 1959, and worked as a resident doctor for a year, enough to qualify me for a licence to work in U.K. if I wished to. As I had determined to study psychiatry and the opportunities for this were not readily available in India, I decided to apply to the University of London Institute of Psychiatry, on the recommendation of a graduate from there who had just returned.

1961-1964 – U.K. Mumbai to London by ship – Chusan – its last voyage! Stopped at Aden, Alexandria, Athens, Marseilles, Gibralter. Some sightseeing in Athens and Gibralter.
Most of the shops in Gibralter were owned by Sindhi merchants!
Spent 2 yrs in London studying at the University hospitals. Lived as a paying guest in different homes listed by the University itself. Absorbed as much of cultural activities as possible – plays, ballet, movies, etc. Visited Wales, Cambridge and Oxford Universities. Spent a week in Paris.
Passed the examination of the Royal College of Physicians.

From 1963-’64 worked in Dundee, Scotland. Visited a family in Helsinki (Finland), who I had met in London. Spent a week touring in Berlin and Venice. I had to escort one Indian merchant seaman from Dundee to Mumbai. He had become seriously depressed and the airline would not carry him without an escort!

1964-1967 – To Canada. Sailed from Glasgow to Montreal. I had secured a research fellowship in a McGill University hospital. I worked there for 2 years, and then joined Federal Govt. hospital staff. A medical school classmate was also working there, and we had a great time. Escorted another psychiatric patient a merchant seaman from Montreal to Mumbai.
Despite the cold winters and heavy snow-fall, the years were most enjoyable. We thought Montreal is the most beautiful city in N. America. Touring the Laurentian mountains in the Fall season was like being in paradise!

In 1964, when I visited Mumbai, I met my future wife, Lina, at a dinner party. I proposed to her and she accepted after a few months. She decide to come to Montreal and we got married there. The Catholic Minister had to officiate at it as per the Napoleonic law in Quebec!
My efforts to return to India remained unsuccessful, and Lina was quite happy to make our home here. Her parents as well as mine were supportive also. Lina had completed her B.A., LL.B., and gave up her job in the legal dept of a company.

In 1966, we drove across US to Los Angeles-Vancouver-Montreal over 3 weeks, a heady journey!

In 1967 our first daughter was born. The year also saw the grand opening of Expo ’67, an unbelievable experience of a virtual tour of the world. President DeGaulle of France also visited and the cry of ‘Quebec Libre’ could be heard everywhere.

1968-1988 – Due to the unfavorable medical licensing laws in Quebec and the anti-English atmosphere, we decided to move to New York state. Lina’s father had retired as Professor of French at Elphinstone College, and a professor friend of his at the University of London, Ontario, offered him an appt. there. They had studied together in Paris in early 50‘s I was able to get a job in Buffalo, N.Y., about 120 miles away, an easy w/e commute to London, ON.

Niagara Falls was only 20 miles from our home, and we hosted streams of visitors for years!
My parents were able to visit us for 18 mos., and celebrated their Golden wedding anniversary in 1969, and arrival of our 2nd daughter in 1970.

In 1970, my best friend from school visited us, and I drove him and my parents across the USA to the west coast on a sightseeing tour.

Every annual vacation was an adventure in driving somewhere! In 1976 we visited the historic places on the east coast to celebrate US bicentennial. From 1984-1988 we visited several university campuses for our daughters to select their choice, the elder one chose University of Virginia in Charlotsville VA, and the younger one chose Michigan State, Lansing, MI.

I also attended many annual conferences of Psychiatric Association in different cities.
I was able to visit Stockholm (Sweden) in 1984 for a conference, and visited HelsinkI again.
In 1973 and 1977 we had taken the children to see India.

1988-2016- Due to some unforeseen circumstances we had to leave Buffalo, and we chose Battle Creek, MI (Kellogg’s ‘Cereal City’) as the in-state tuition of our younger daughter was much less than out-of-state, and I could transfer my job to the hospital there.

1988-2016 – Battle Creek, MI I worked in the hospital until 1996 when I was eligible to retire. We stayed in Battle Creek, where our elder daughter got married. She later moved to Detroit area, where our 1st grandson was born in 1993. She moved back to Battle Creek and we continued to care for him whenever necessary.

Our travels for the Silver wedding anniversary in 1990 included Paris, Rome, Helsinki.

After retirement I volunteered for 3 years at the county mental health clinic escorting
patients to various facilities for medical appointments. Later I helped with the BalVikas classes in the Hindu temple in Kalamazoo, MI.

In 2013 Lina’s father’s youngest brother passed away aged 100 yrs. In Dover, DE.
Then the computer revolution gripped me and it has not yet left me!

Book reading on spiritual themes had kept pace with other professional reading.
In the 60’s, Marathi books on Yoga; in the 70’s Gurudeva Ranade, Kanchi Parama Guru, Carl Jung, and many others. In the 90’s and later Ramana Maharshi’s writings took central place as I found the unifying thread I had been looking for in his works.

2016-present – Our younger daughter was married in 1999 and settled in St. Louis,MO As our grandson had graduated from college and the elder daughter moved to Tennessee working for the same company, we did not feel the need to keep managing a house.
We sold it and moved to a senior citizens community residence near our daughter in St.

Thus ends my ‘sahasra-chandra-darshana’ saga. Study of the Bhagavad-Gita continues to fascinate me as the nuances seem to be infinite like the colors