The funeral procession had started out from the house. There were some quiet tears and stifled sobs that accompanied the procession but otherwise the throng was wrapped in an air of serene peace. Just when the deceased was being placed in the van, one of the pall bearers, a grandson, remembered Abe’s words… “He says he is ready to go now but you must not forget what I’m about to tell you… He says that when you are taking him away to be cremated, you must remember to take a picture of his wife’s that he keeps under his bed and burn it with his body. This is important for him… And he wants you all, especially his youngest daughter, to let him go and be at peace for he’ll always be with you, love you and protect you… but he has to go… wants to go, because someone’s been waiting for him for long… almost too long.” The grandson went up to the bedstead and lift ed the mattress, where smiling back at him was the photograph of his grandmother… Could this really be true? Did his comatose grandfather actually tell Abe about this photograph? Maybe he did… after all, no one knew he kept this photograph here… least of all Abe.. And is his long-dead grandmother actually waiting for nanaji? Is all this for real…? His thoughts were cut short… he was being called… he took the photograph and ran outside…
Elegant and well spoken, Abe, when I first met her, looked like your regular upper class soccer mom. Disarmingly friendly and candid, she’s nothing like what I’d pictured a spiritual medium to be, and yet, when she starts recounting her experiences, I could feel goose bumps popping like corn at the theatres. Abe’s story is a strange one… her aunt, Nan Umrigar, is the author of a book called “Sounds of Silence – A Bridge Across Two Worlds”. It is an account of the author’s conversations with her dead son Karl. Karl died years ago in a tragic horse riding accident on the Bombay race course. After the accident, Nan and her husband were devastated. Karl, their younger son and a champion jockey had been the darling of the household and his death had snuff ed out all joy from the Umrigar household. Six years after Karl’s death, Nan read in the newspaper about a mother who would speak to her dead sons through a method she calls ‘automatic writing’. She met this lady, and through her, established ‘contact’ with Karl. Since then, Karl has ‘communicated’ to her through automatic writing and those conversations are the foundation of her book which I’m told is a best seller of sorts. Abe was introduced to the idea of automatic writing through her aunt.
Now if you’re wondering what automatic writing exactly might be, I’m afraid the little I know isn’t enough to fully understand the concept, but here goes… Apparently, Nan Umrigar was encouraged by the lady who communicated with her dead sons to try automatic writing because “…that is what Karl had asked for”. So one day Nan sat down with a pen and paper and tried to reach out to him in the spirit world. Desperately, she pleaded with Karl, asking him if he was present and that he should speak through her pen. Suddenly the pen moved, apparently of its own volition… first in sweeping arcs, then illegible scribbles and finally, after a whole month, whole words… From there started Nan’s journey into the spirit world, led by the spirit of her dead son. “Sounds of Silence” is an account of that journey.
When Abe visited her aunt, Karl communicated with her too and told her that she too was meant to be a spiritual medium and that her guide was going to be her great-grandfather… Abe didn’t know what to believe but being a pranic healer she’d always had a spiritual leaning and therefore didn’t take long to start communicating with a long dead ancestor whom she’d never met. And through her great-grandfather she has gotten in touch with other spirits… to heal gaping emotional wounds of those who’ve lost their loved ones. And if you’re thinking it’s a scam to fleece grieving relatives who’d clutch at straws, well she, and her ilk, never charge a penny. So, is she for real, or is she just plain nutty? Well I wish I knew, but here’s how I first got to know of her… Recently, I bumped into a friend of mine – someone I played cricket with in college. He had lost his father and the whole family had struggled through the loss and later moved to Delhi, seeking greener pastures. Incidentally, they took up residence in Abe’s neighbourhood. There, his brother heard about Abe from the neighbours and went to meet her. Abe agreed to try and connect with his father and did… At the end of the session, she handed the message she had written down. Amongst a host of things, at the bottom of the page, the message from his father said “Why don’t you wear your hair short like you used to? It’s grown too long. You’ll look better, beta.” His brother was stunned, for just before he was leaving, his mother had said the same thing to him. No one else knew about this. He went back and recounted his experience and so my friend too went to visit Abe. And his letter began with “Kitni der hogayi hai, beta… ghar kab jayenge, hai na?” So… I asked… My friend told me that his father would always pick him up from school and take him to his clinic, and there, whenever he’d get a little late with work, my friend would say, “Kitni der hogayi hai papa… ghar kab jayenge?” Nothing very dramatic, and yet, significant if true, wouldn’t you think? Abe had no way of knowing this. She says, “It is the spirit’s way of letting us know that it is here… it is for real… there’s always a sign.”
After meeting Abe, I picked up “Sounds of Silence”. It’s a riveting read, but is it convincing? Honestly, I would love to believe what it says… Death, in many ways is an unconquered fi nal frontier for the human mind. It is the inevitable, inexplicable truth that still holds our civilisation to ransom. But just look at us evolve… every human fantasy, whether it be to soar like a bird or dive like a whale, whether it be to communicate across continents or touch the moon, today we have lived it. So it is natural to believe that death too is a fortress that shall one day fall. We might understand it tomorrow and conquer it day after but this too is as inevitable as death is today.
Many witches have been burnt on the stakes of time. Some were misunderstood soothsayers like Galileo (who escaped by a hair’s breadth) who saw the truth before we did, but there have been real witches too, like the smallpox virus. Eventually, our curiosity has always overcome our fears. People like Nan and Abe too are oft en ridiculed for their claims but they are not alone. Best selling authors like Dr. Brian Weiss and Dr. Bruce Goldberg foretold the same in their books. And while it might be tempting buy into their belief because it comforts and cushions us, or take the opposite extreme and shun it because we fear it, here’s what I suggest… The world of automatic writing and communing with the spirit world has remained an ‘underground’ practice, bobbing up every now and then like a new island on the horizon. So let’s give in to the spirit that has fashioned our civilisation… let’s give in to our innate human curiosity and our spirit of exploration without judgment. In the next few weeks, I’ll try and visit and revisit these pioneers who claim to have established contact with the spirit world and experience the secrets it promises to unravel, and I’ll take you along with me… Perhaps we’ll finally know what we’ve always believed… or not…
DIDN’T TAKE ABE AS LONG HER OWN LIFE.. CAN’T SHARE BUT I BELIEVE EARNEST… NUTTY SEEING THINGS, I DON’T KNOW BUT HONEY’S HAIR, MAN’S PAPA STATEMENT… ARCHEOLOGY, MOTHER DAUGHTER Death, I’ve oft en felt, is in many ways a final frontier… I DON’T KNOW BUT A WORLD WORTH EXPLORING