Monday, 18 July 2016



hallucination  (n.) :- Perception of visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or gustatory experiences without an external stimulus and with a compelling sense of their reality, usually resulting from a mental disorder or as a response to a drug.

I am not a dreamer. I am not a daydreamer. I do not hallucinate. I do not do drugs. I am not an alcoholic.

If anything, I am a person who lives by his head and not by his heart. Simply put, I am not a romantic. My wife was an out-and-out romantic, not that she was not a realist, not that she did not abide by the worldly restrictions, but that she was a romantic at heart; she always saw life in all its splendorous colours. I lived, am living, and will live by the head, always assessing the risk, the odds before leaping into action. Well, that might have scraped away some colour off my life but my adventurous wife amply compensated for that aspect.

Why am I talking about myself?

There is a reason.

The surgeries, the aftermath, and the ultimate demise of my wife are devastation for my family and me. Trying to understand and cope with the calamity, we realised that several inexplicable events and coincidences occurred over the fateful period…

…and one event occurred personally to my deceased wife and me much earlier, without our realising its significance.

I shall come to that later.


Swarna, my wife, was very fond of devotional songs, especially those rendered by the unique (Late) M. S. Subbulakshmi (MS). I downloaded links to some of them – Shri Venkateshwara Suprabhatam, Vishnu Sahasranamam, Bhavayami Raghuramam, et al – on her iPad, gifted by our daughter during the surgery days. I used to play them one-by-one (for God’s sake, reduce the volume, Shyam) and she used to relax in the balcony of our elder daughter’s home or in the hospital bed, both at Hyderabad. Midway through her stay at the hospital for second surgery, the YouTube links stopped functioning, abruptly. I tried innumerable times in innumerable ways to “revitalise” them but to no avail; I even erased and reloaded the links several times. I said sorry to Swarna and things were left hanging there.

Much later, after she was discharged and admitted to hospital for the third time, things worsened and she did not return home alive. On the fifth day after her cremation, I immersed her bones and ashes in a river. That marked the cessation of the physical entity called Rajeswari Swarnalatha on Mother Earth. The next day, I was narrating to my second daughter, who was in an adjacent room, how the links to MS’s devotional songs were non-functional notwithstanding innumerable attempts by me. She was responding, ‘hmmm…hmmm…’ While I was talking to her, I tried once again to play one of the links, Shri Venkateshwara Suprabhatam. Lo and behold!

“Kausalya supraja rama purva sandhya pravartate.”
“कौसल्या सुप्रजा रामा पुरवा संध्या प्रवर्तते”

The rich voice of MS floated around the room as if it never fell silent! My second daughter came running out of her room exclaiming, “Oh my God...Oh my God!”

Was the silence an indication that my wife’s time was up? Was the resurrection, only and just after the immersion of her last remains in the river, an indication that the life of the physical entity called Rajeswari Swarnalatha ended? Why did those links conk and how did they start functioning again?



Another one…

To say that my health took a beating during those four months of Swarna’s hospitalisation would be an understatement but it was, is, and will always be immaterial, given the priorities of the crtical circumstances. I was not getting more than two or three hours’ sleep and my food intake more than halved. My chronic problems of MVP (mitral valve prolapse), spondylitis (both cervical and lumbar), and arthritic pain in the wrists and knees started playing up seriously. I used to catnap for a couple of hours (kind of sit-sleep) in the lone sofa provided in the room.

Swarna had been in the ICU for the previous fortnight and the chance of her coming out alive were become slimmer day by day.

It was just after 04.00 A.M. two nights before the disaster.

Our two daughters somehow adjusted on the lone, narrow guest cot and were having fitful sleep. As usual, I was trying to sit-sleep stretched out on the sofa. I could not sleep a wink the whole night. I was watching some English movie on the TV. Did I doze away for a few seconds? I will never know.

Then it happened.

Swarna slowly walked into the room swinging her hands in her typical style. She was in her hospital greys. She halted and stood beside her hospital bed, turned her neck, and looked around the room. She looked completely normal. Missing were the central line and the stomach discharge collection bags!

I screamed.

My daughters were jolted out of their slumber by my scream and they inquired what happened. Between hiccups and gulps of water offered by my daughters, I described the scene to them. They were stunned, too. I asked them what the scene meant.

Then we started guessing and interpreting the scene.

The first question that arose was whether it was a dream. I am, till date, not convinced that it was a dream. Agreed, I could have dozed away but just for a few moments, literally, a few seconds at best. I concluded thus due to the continuity of the TV movie.

Then, the sixty-four thousand dollar question. What did it mean? Call it wishful thinking, unrealistic optimism, whatever you will, the absence of all the tubing and the near-normal appearance of my wife meant that she would come out of the ICU completely cured!

Early on the second morning after that, my wife breathed her last in the ICU.

In the aftermath, we tried to dissect that scene (A dream or hallucination? I am still not convinced). We thought it to be a visitation of my wife’s spirit but not a dream and she was trying to tell us that everything would be all right. It turned out to be entirely wrong.

On further catechism, I remembered that in that scene I did not find my daughters or me anywhere in the room, only my wife in an empty room.

Why so? 

Another interpretation floated around that her astral body visited to take stock whether she had left anything not fulfilled before departing from this world. That was the reason why the room was empty! This explanation seemed to fit well.

Whatever the interpretation was, I am, we all are, sure that it was not my dream or hallucination but a visitation by my wife’s spirit to convey the message, which we, mere mortals, could not comprehend.


Ever since my wife passed away I am in a mental turmoil, unable to assimilate fully the fact of her demise, unable to adjust to her absence beside me (physically as well as figuratively), unable to garner even an iota of strength (physical and mental) to live, to look forward; there is no tomorrow for me. I pray to God to take me away. I pray to Swarna for another visitation, another indication that she may be around me; to place her palm on my chest once more so that my palpitations would abate; to caress my thinning silver hair once more so that the agony of my chaotic mind would vanish. It did not happen…

…for over eight months.

…but recently, one night…

Presently, I am staying with my second daughter and family at Sterling in Virginia, USA. My first daughter and family have moved from Hyderabad to Ohio state recently.

My restlessness, sleeplessness, and lack of hunger continue to plague me. So do my prayers.

Last week, as usual I woke up in the wee hours, 04:00 A.M. to be precise. I used the washroom and resumed - tried to anyway - my broken sleep. Within a few minutes of my lying down, I felt a cold, gentle touch on the fleshy part of my left elbow! (Let me remind you that I was fully awake.) I sat up with a jolt. There was no one else in the room! I was not afraid, for I knew who and what it was.

The time was 04:10 A.M. just like the time of visitation by my wife months earlier.

Later, I narrated the incident to my daughters. They were not surprised, for they feel the presence of their mother’s spirit around them, too.


…and one event occurred personally to my deceased wife and me much earlier than … she … you know …

I shall come to that now.

It is probably the most significant one…

It is perhaps the most controversial one…

It is perchance the least understood one…

It was three to six months prior to my wife’s surgery. Whereas the treatment had been underway for a long time, surgery was not discussed or decided upon.

It was around 06:30 P.M. Swarna was in our small kitchen preparing dinner. I stood in the doorway discussing something mundane (I do not remember what it was) with her.

Suddenly, in my peripheral vision, I saw something that startled me and made me scream. The figure of a young girl floated through the kitchen, beside me and disappeared. It was finished in all but five seconds. My scream, in turn, startled my wife into a frightened scream (she was mortally afraid of cockroaches).

I narrated what I saw.

She was a young girl of fair complexion, with long black tresses let down to surround her face like dark clouds surrounding a bright moon. She was clad in light sky-blue lehanga and choli that Indian girls, who have not attained puberty, usually wear. The choli sleeves dropped down to below the elbows and waist o the hips. The lehanga and choli had borders of silver zari. I could not see any facial features, though. This was what it looked like.

My wife chided me and said that she had screamed thinking it was a cockroach. I regained a semblance of calm and composure, and implored her to explain to me what it was that I had just seen. She brushed aside the entire episode as a figment of fertile imagination of the writer in me. That is that. We forgot about the episode completely…until after the calamity of my wife’s demise struck us. I narrated the entire incident to my daughters, sons-in-law, and a couple of close relations.

Many theories and interpretations were bandied. A couple of them:

One theory goes like this. Her whole life, my wife was a devout devotee of Maa Durga and her younger incarnation, Bala Tripura Sundari, among other deities. This being the case, some said, it could not have been anyone other than Bala Tripura Sundari.

According to another theory, we all carry two angels on our shoulders. The girl was one of them.

That evening I was fully awake and conscious. That evening I was not hallucinating. That evening I was not dreaming.

I am still not convinced by any of the theories bandied. I am still not convinced what I actually saw. I am still not convinced. I cannot even offer a plausible explanation to what I saw.


These were but three of the inexplicable incidents that occurred in the recent past or the immediate aftermath of my wife’s demise. There is one long series of coincidences starting from my father’s demise some sixty years ago, but that is topic for another time, another thought sharing, and another blog.

One question stares in my face. “What is the purpose, divine or mundane, of it all?”


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