Written by an artist and photographer settled in New York, this book is a compelling account of her mother who remained an enigma throughout her life. Was she a mystic, or a doting mother, a mad woman or a devoted wife, an angel or a guru? Who was she? By narrating the story of her mother'slife when she frequently entered into a trance, the author tries to unravel and understand the life of a mysterious woman who pursues her inner calling to build a lasting bond with God.
The author'srefrain is that her mother'sdeath ?always remained a bit of a mystery to me.? Mother Sudha belonged to a privileged family, studied in a convent school, learnt to play the violin and Western classical music and got married at 18 before giving birth to a brain-damaged son. This put a great strain on her relationship with her husband whom she leaves soon afterwards. Then enters a young man into her life and she marries him, after divorcing her first husband. This second husband, a widely travelled artist, had spent his life mingling with all kinds of artists and craftsmen and possessed a significant collection of Tantra art in which he later became an expert.
The sudden death of her father following the loss of her son from her first marriage leaves an indelible impact on Sudha'smind. The painful events become the propelling force that pushes her towards her spiritual path. Perhaps she realised the frail, transient nature of life around her and turned inward for solace and comfort where she would not be touched by anyone, ?thus internalising her pain to the point of numbness,? says the author. This leads to Sudha'shusband drifting away from her, perhaps realising that his wife was ?too much of an individual to follow any expectations, or any rigid norms.? Slowly she starts slipping into spiritual trances where she would remain in a sate of suspended animation for long periods, with all normal reactions and functions of the body coming to a stop. Describing her mother'sstate, the author says, ?A power greater than herself was pulling her away from us and everything else she loved into unknown depths, which she felt compelled to follow.?
She becomes a woman whose intense love of God consumes her to such a degree that she abandons her traditional role as wife and mother. She is beautiful, talented and highly creative; a gifted artist and an extraordinary voice; but has no interest whatsoever in household chores or a career. Her entire life is a personal struggle between her quest for God and the demands of family life. She is mysterious and mystical, unconventional and detached; at the same time, there is something deeply moving about her and her complete submission to the ?Divine madness?.
The author then describes her mother'sjourney with her to USA where she often sees her mother drawing further and further from the mortal world. When Sudha and her husband return to India, the author finds herself getting drawn away from the world as if ?I did not belong anywhere, with no clarity or meaning to where I was headed.?
On learning of her father'sdeath, when the author visits India, her mother explains to her, ?Non-attachment is the key, Priya. You should never think of that as being indifferent and uncaring; in fact, it is quite the opposite. To truly love someone is to get less clinging, less conditional, less demanding, more giving and more caring but less possessive. We don'tbelong to anyone and no one belongs to us because ultimately we belong only to God.?
The author again returns to USA only to return to India after hearing of her mother getting burned and battling with life in a hospital. The author on seeing the imminent end of her most loved one, realises that though she and her mother followed different paths which were at times divergent, they had struck a relationship in uniquely compelling ways.
The book is a moving account of a relationship which abounds in all its joys and conflicts and shows the author the invaluable path towards ?discovering myself and leading me to my own light, for as long as l live in this body, I will miss your voice and your touch, both in the joy of your presence, and now, in the silence of your departure,? to quote the author.
(Wisdom Tree, 4779/23, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002.)