The Patient (A Krishna-conscious short story)

The Patient (A Krishna-conscious short story)

The Patient

The attractive woman in her mid-thirties knocked on the door of the consulting room. Her usual pleasant face was clouded with worry and the picturesque journey from Mumbai to the hill-station Mahabaleshwar had done little to cheer her up.

“Yes?” asked a voice from inside the room.

She entered and said, “Dr. Sathe?”

The portly man with the ruddy complexion looked up from his desk and smiled. “Yes, that would be me. Good afternoon, please take a seat. How may I help you?”

She settled uneasily into an armchair and said, “Good afternoon. I’m Mrs. Madhavi Kothare, Sunil Pradhan's sister.”

Dr. Sathe’s eyes lit up with recognition. “Yes, we were expecting you. I hope you had a pleasant trip. Were you able to get the photographs and documents I requested?”

Madhavi nodded. She took out a large, thick envelope from her handbag and kept it on his desk.

“Thank you, this information will be very helpful,” said Dr. Sathe. He poured a glass of water and placed it in front of her.

Madhavi took a sip and said, “I’m sorry for not getting here earlier. It took me a while to make arrangements at home, fly down to Mumbai and get these documents.”

Dr. Sathe nodded understandingly and began going through the documents. Now and then, he referred to a thick file on his table. Madhavi bit her lip. Hope it isn’t anything serious…

Twenty minutes passed before he finally looked up and said, “Come, let us meet him. You can leave your bag here. I will ask someone to take it to your room.”

They exited the building into the beautiful garden outside. The well-tended property overlooked a lush green valley and offered an excellent view of the Sahyadri mountain range.

“Until a few days ago, we were deluged by rain,” said Dr. Sathe.

Madhavi nodded. Mahabaleshwar usually got the highest rainfall in Maharashtra. Now, however, the sun shone warmly through the remaining clouds lingering in the bright blue sky.

Then she noticed the tall, dignified gentleman standing at the far end of the garden and her heart leaped.

In his late-forties, Sunil Pradhan was dressed in an un-ironed salwar-kurta. He stood still with his arms folded, his gaze fixed at a point in the distant mountains. He had a serene smile on his face.

“Thank God, Doctor,” said Madhavi, as they walked towards him, “I had imagined his condition to be much worse.”

Dr. Sathe didn’t reply. Instead, he called out, “Sunil, look who’s here to meet you.”

Sunil turned around and his eyes widened in joy. “Madhu! Young Madhu, I can’t believe it, is it really you?”

He rushed forward and embraced his sister, his eyes moist. Madhavi returned his embrace with equal fervor and whispered, “Dada, I flew down as soon as I heard…”

For a moment, no words were spoken between them. Then Sunil released Madhavi and turned to Dr. Sathe. “Doctor, this dear girl here is my darling kid-sister, the apple of my eye. When she was a child, she loved me like she loved our own father.”

“I still do, Dada,” said Madhavi, delicately wiping her eye.

Dr. Sathe smiled and pulled up a few chairs. “Come, let us sit and talk.”

They sat down and Dr. Sathe gestured to an attendant nearby. The man left for a couple of minutes and returned with a tray with tea, sandwiches and samosas. He set the tray down on the table between them and withdrew.

Sunil said, “Eat to your heart’s content, Madhu, you must be hungry after your long journey. And the samosas here are excellent. You won’t find such samosas anywhere in your San Francisco.”

Madhavi laughed and picked up one. Sunil threw her a fond look and said, “Do you know, Dr. Sathe, Madhu loves samosas. When she was a child, she would make me sneak out and buy her one every evening, because our mother would refuse her.” Sunil burst into laughter, and the others joined him.

“In fact, Madhu,” he continued, “I was reminded of that just last month, on my trip to Vrindavan. I was helping out with making samosas for the Janmashtami celebrations and I said to…” he trailed off on noticing the shocked, pained expression on his sister’s face. “What’s the matter?” he asked, his eyes filled with concern, “are the samosas too spicy?”

Madhavi looked awkwardly at Dr. Sathe.

Sunil turned to Dr. Sathe. “What’s the matter, Doctor?”

Dr. Sathe leaned forward, placed a hand on his arm and gently shook his head. “No, Sunil, last month you were not in Vrindavan. You were in Mumbai and you never left the city.”

“But that is not possible, Doctor,” said Sunil, “in the third and fourth week of August, I was in Vrindavan. It was Gokulashtami, Krishna’s birthday, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I had such a magnificent time and—”

“Do you remember how you traveled to Vrindavan?” Dr. Sathe interrupted, “or how you returned home?”

“Huh? Yes, of course. I... I…” Sunil stared at him, then at Madhavi, confusion written on his face. Then he squeezed his eyes and strained to remember.

“You don’t recall these details, Sunil,” Dr. Sathe said, “because you never went there.”

“No,” said Sunil, shaking his head, “I definitely went to—why don’t you people believe me?”

Dr. Sathe removed a few photographs from the envelope that Madhavi had given him. “Take a look at these, Sunil. These photos were taken during the four-day celebrations of your niece Asavari’s wedding. The event took place in Mumbai in the third week of August. Check the dates on the photographs. You are present in all of them.”

Sunil slowly took the photographs and stared at them.

“And during the last week of August, you were attending a trade conference at the Taj Mahal Hotel, again in Mumbai. In fact, you even gave a speech on behalf of your company. Here are dated photographs and documents proving the same. And these are photographs of you with your office colleagues, taken at meetings and other functions held during that period.”

Sunil went through them. Then he looked up and sighed. “I know what this looks like, Doctor, but please believe me, I am not lying to you.”

“I believe you, Sunil,” said Dr. Sathe. He leaned over and patted Sunil on the arm. “I have no doubt that you are speaking the truth.”

“Then how is it that I experienced—’

“What you imagine you experienced, Sunil. That’s what I’m trying to prove to you,” said Dr. Sathe, “what you ‘experienced’ during those periods was not real. They are all exquisitely detailed scenarios, created and played out by your mind. So exquisitely detailed, that you believe them to be true.”

Sunil's face was impassive for a few seconds. Then he said, “You mean my mind is playing tricks on me.”

Dr. Sathe smiled and nodded. “Our mind is a magical thing, Sunil. It can create reality out of unreality—things that don’t exist at all. In your case, your mind conjures up days, no, entire weeks of unreal scenes, with you in them.

“And then there are periods when you ‘wake up’, that is, you return to the present, the reality. You swing alternately between these episodes of reality and unreality.

“These unreal scenes cover your real memories, of the actual events that took place during those periods. That is why you don’t remember attending your niece’s wedding or your trade conference. Because you falsely believe that you were in Vrindavan at that time.”

Sunil gave a deep sigh but said nothing.

Dr. Sathe continued, “My job as a psychiatrist is to try and enable you to recognize what is real and what is unreal. It may take some time, but with medication, some effort on your part and my help, you should be able to differentiate between what is true and what is false. Finally, one day, you will be able to identify these imaginary events as false and then choose to ignore them.”

“And my ‘real’ memories?” asked Sunil, “the ones that you say have been replaced?”

Dr. Sathe smiled and answered, “We feel that once you are able to reject your mind’s concocted unreal events, it will uncover the real memories hidden beneath them.

“And now, I must leave you two to catch up; I have a few telephone calls to make. I’ll be back later.” Dr. Sathe patted Sunil on his shoulder, picked up his mobile phone and left.

A few minutes passed in silence. Madhavi stared at the ground while Sunil gazed into the distance.

Then he gave a short laugh and said, “They think I’m mad, don’t they, Madhu? They think I’ve gone delusional and started hearing and seeing things that don’t exist.”

Madhavi said nothing.

He looked at her and said softly, “Do you also think I’ve gone mad?”

She jerked up her head at him. “Of course not, Dada, but…” she bit her lip and then looked away, trying to avoid his gaze.

“But you don’t believe me, do you?’ asked Sunil.

How do I believe you, Dada? All this sounds so fantastic. I mean, Lord Krishna, Vrindavan, the gopis—”

“But it’s all real, Madhu, please believe me,” he said, “all exactly like in the stories our mother told us in our childhood. Only, on a scale and magnificence that you cannot even imagine.”

Madhavi seized his hand. “Describe it to me, Dada,” she said, looking searchingly at him, “tell me, what do you see? What do you hear?”

Sunil gazed back at her and sighed. “What do I describe, Madhu? How can I describe it to you?

“How can I describe the jangling of the cowbells, when those cows run delightedly towards their beloved Krishna? Or His mother Yashoda's sighs of love, when she clasps Him to her breast. Or the shrieks of joy by His friends, when standing atop their shoulders, Krishna breaks open the earthen pot tied to the ceiling and cascades curds and butter onto them.

“How can I describe the sheen of the sweat-laced bodies and blissful faces of the gopis, when they dance with Him? Or the intensity of adoration in the eyes of that ravishing Radhika, when she gazes at her eternal lover, Krishna?

“And Krishna Himself? He is beyond description, Madhu. His eyes, His lips, the flute that seems to come alive in His hands. That lilting music from it that leaves me speechless. And the…” his voice trailed off on noticing her expression. “You still don’t believe me, do you?”

Madhavi sighed and shook her head. “I don’t know what to say.”

Sunil nodded, smiled faintly and looked away.


“Come on, Sunil, It’s time for dinner now.”

The cheerful voice of a nurse made them turn towards her. Sunil chuckled and got up to go. “They treat us like children over here. Madhu, I’ll see you in the morning. You are staying here for a while, aren’t you? They have guest rooms for visitors.”

She nodded and hugged him. “I’m here till tomorrow morning. Good night, Dada, sleep well.”

He kissed her forehead and left with the nurse. Madhavi gazed at them till they disappeared into the building, then wiped a tear that had stolen into her eye.

“Are you feeling alright?” a kindly voice asked.

Madhavi turned to Dr. Sathe, who had just arrived. “It’s 𝘴𝘰 hard to believe this could have happened to him, “she said, “my Dada is the most intelligent person in our entire family,”

Dr. Sathe smiled ruefully. “Intelligence is rarely a factor when such conditions develop, Mrs. Kothare. It can happen to the best of us.”

“Tell me your honest opinion, Doctor,” she said, her voice trembling, “do you think my brother can be healed?”

Dr. Sathe did not answer for a while. Then he sighed and said, “Well, it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before. In fact, I’ve had to consult a few of my colleagues about his case. You see, his symptoms are very unusual.

“One thing is for sure; he is not malingering. That is, he is not faking it. His descriptions of the events are too elaborate and detailed. He actually lives out those events in his mind.”

A flash of light lit up the garden, followed by the deep rumble of thunder. Unnoticed by them, dark clouds had slowly gathered overhead, blotting out the evening sun. Dr. Sathe glanced up and said, “Let us talk inside. It’s going to start raining again.”

They walked back to the building. As they settled into the comfortable chairs in his consulting room, Madhavi asked, “Doctor, why must this be happening to him?”

Dr. Sathe shrugged. “Perhaps, his mind is using these imaginary events, either voluntarily or involuntarily, to escape some pain or unhappiness. But then there is nothing to suggest that.”

“Could it be because of loneliness, Doctor? After all, I live with my family in the US. Dada is single and lives alone in Mumbai. Also, he has always been a bit of an introvert so—” it suddenly struck her, “could it be because of some…an unsuccessful romantic relationship?”

Dr. Sathe shook his head. “Despite my considerable probing, he didn’t mention anything. In fact, his history suggests that he is very content being single. Of course, he may be concealing some data from me…”

Madhavi looked down and fiddled with her ring. “Doctor, I-I don’t mean to offend you. I have the fullest confidence in your expertise. In fact, it is because of your excellent reputation that my cousins in Mumbai decided to bring my brother here. But…”

Dr. Sathe raised an eyebrow. “But?” he smiled at her, “please speak freely, Mrs. Kothare.”

She continued after a moment, “If you feel that he would benefit from treatment abroad, I would be most delighted to take him with me to San Francisco,” she sighed and continued, “in any case, after his retirement, I was going to convince him to move in with us, instead of living alone like this.”

Dr. Sathe beamed at her. “I deeply appreciate your love and concern for your brother.”

She gave a watery smile. “Doctor, my Dada is—” her voice choked up and she paused to compose herself, “my Dada is everything to me and I would do anything to see him happy.”

Dr. Sathe smiled and patted her on the arm. “Please don’t worry, Mrs. Kothare, we will do our very best for him. I feel he may improve in a couple of weeks so let us give him some time. However, I will definitely keep your suggestion in mind and inform you accordingly.”

Madhavi nodded. “Thank you.”

Dr. Sathe continued, “My professional interest aside, I too have found myself drawn towards him. Sunil’s cheerful, helpful and endearing nature has won the hearts of everyone in the campus. Nothing would make me happier than to see him get well.

“And as for his illness, I am convinced that he does not and will never pose a threat to anyone. So, if the need arises for you to take him to the US, I’m sure he will not require admission to an institution. He can stay at home and continue taking his treatment.”

Madhavi sighed with relief. “Thank you, Dr. Sathe, I am truly indebted to you. And please spare no effort for his sake, whatever the cost.”

He smiled and said, “Yes, I promise you, we will do whatever it takes. Come, let us have dinner. Then our receptionist will take you to your room at our guest house.”


“Oh, there you are,” the nurse told the man standing in the passage, “I had gone to your room with your medication. Here,” she handed him the tablets and glass of water.

“Thank you. I had come out for a quick stroll,” he said, and swallowed his pills.

The nurse left and the man turned back to the glass door of the dining hall. He stood there for a few minutes, watching his doctor and sister deep in conversation at a table at the other end of the room.

Then he gave a faint smile and returned to his room.


The next morning, Madhavi went to Sunil’s room. A sweet-faced nurse met her outside. “You can go in now,” the nurse told Madhavi, “he’s breakfasted, bathed and ready for the day.”

Madhavi spoke to the nurse for a few minutes and entered the room.

It was a simple but comfortable room with a single bed, a writing desk and couple of armchairs. A large window offered a view of the garden. Almost as a final defiant act before it departed for a year, the rain was pelting down, obscuring the visibility of anything beyond ten feet.

Sunil was standing at the window, looking out at the rain, and wiping his head with a bath towel.

Madhavi knocked on the door. “Good morning, Dada, how are you today?”

“Drenched, and more than a little indignant!” Sunil said, turning towards her. His face was flushed with annoyance, but with a paradoxical smile of mirth.

Madhavi settled in an armchair and smiled at him. “What happened, Dada?”

“That incorrigible Gopala!” Sunil shook his head and laughed, as if speaking about a naughty but beloved child.

He continued with fervor, “And it is not that I didn’t warn Him! The sky was practically black with clouds. But does He ever listen to anyone?! Must keep my word, said He. Something about a promise made by Him to Radha about exchanging gifts this very day.

“I pleaded with Him, ‘We’ll get stuck in a thunderstorm. Can’t we meet her tomorrow?’ But He merely pleaded right back at me with one of His bewitching smiles. And you know, Madhu, who can resist His smile?

“So off we went, He and I, hunting for a specific mogara tree. We ran deeper and deeper into the forest and I shouted to Him, ‘Won’t any mogara tree do?’

“‘No,’ He yelled back, ‘the flowers from that particular tree are very dear to Radha. And they possess a fragrance that is as enchanting as Radha herself! Make haste Sunil, we mustn’t be late.’

“So we made haste and finally found that tree. Gopala wasted no time in plucking the choicest, most beautiful flowers from it. 108 flowers, He said, Radha likes that number. I helped Him thread them into a lovely hair-garland.

“Then He made one more, identical to the first. ‘For any of My other beloved girlfriends, if required. To convince her not to get upset and worry about anything. Because My devotees are always with Me and I am always with them. And I shall always be with her as well,’ He said with a mischievous smile. I nodded understandingly.

“You know, Madhu, many of Krishna’s gopi girlfriends are jealous about His affection for Radha, fearing He might spurn their friendship for her. So if He met one of them on the way, He would have to placate her with a similar gift, wouldn’t He?”

Madhavi stared at her brother, an expression of mixed fascination and sorrow on her face.

Sunil continued, unperturbed, “We sped towards the clearing in the forest where Radha was to meet Gopala. She was already waiting for him.

“They must have met a thousand times before, Madhu, but Radha rushed over and embraced Him as if she was never going to see Him again.

“Then Gopala asked her to turn around and close her big innocent eyes. He fastened the flower-garland to her hair. Oh Madhu! How can I describe the look of longing and devotion in her eyes when He did that? For several minutes, her gaze would lovingly alternate between the flowers that now adorned her long, flowing braid, and the smiling face of Krishna.

“Then Radha suddenly remembered and said, ‘Look, Kanha, look what I’ve got for you!’ She gave him a beautiful peacock feather, which He promptly stuck into His headband.

“It was then that she noticed me standing some distance away. She beckoned me to come closer, her expression overflowing with tenderness and warmth. My legs literally turned to jelly, Madhu…

“‘I’ve got something to eat for both of you,’ said Radha, and opened a small lunch-box that she had brought with her.

“As if to suit our convenience, the clouds parted and allowed the moon to shine through, bathing us and our surroundings with ethereal silver light. We huddled under a big banyan tree, lest it started raining. Radha opened her lunchbox. It contained pohe and curds. She fed me and Gopala with her own hand, Madhu. I was so overcome with emotion!

“We finished and complimented Radha on the excellent meal. Then she said that she had to leave because it was already quite late. We watched her go till she was out of sight. Gopala put His arm around my shoulder, and we turned to head back home.

“Suddenly, a wave of thunder and lightning crashed all around us. Everything turned pitch black and the rain began hammering down. We started running in the direction of our homes. Every now and then, a flash of lightning lit up the dense trees and bushes—silvery, eerie ghost-like figures, spreading out their limbs and claws!

“Gopala held my hand tight as we ran though the darkness. ‘Don’t worry, I know the way,’ He yelled above the deafening sound of the rain. I sped on with Him, ignoring the ice-cold rivulets pouring down my head over my eyes, ears, mouth and drenching my rain-soaked body—’

“And then you suddenly found yourself in your room, wiping your head with a bath-towel…”

Madhavi’s voice abruptly brought Sunil out of his reverie and he whipped his head towards her. For a long minute, he blinked repeatedly, trying to comprehend what had happened. Then he sighed and sat down on his bed.

Madhavi went and sat next to him. She said quietly, “Dada, the meal of pohe and curds is what you, and everyone in this building had for breakfast this morning. And the rivulets of water that streamed down your face were from your bathroom shower, not from the rain. The nurse told me that you were bathing for almost twenty minutes. In fact, she had to check on you to see if everything was all right.”

Sunil sighed once more and gazed out of the window.

Madhavi took his hands in hers, her voice quavering, “Dada, my only fear is that one day, you will forget me as well!” She began to sob uncontrollably.

Sunil turned towards her and pulled her close to him. “Silly girl, what an abominable idea! How can you say something like that?”

He lifted her chin and smiled, “How can I ever forget you, Madhu? Do you know, Krishna and I have talked so often about you and—"

“Enough, Dada, enough!” Madhavi wrenched herself away from him, sobbing. “Please…why don’t you understand? I can’t see you like this. Why can’t you come back to the real world?”

She stopped and closed her eyes. It isn’t his fault… She took a deep breath and struggled to regain her composure. Then she opened her eyes and forced a smile. “Dada, I’m sorry,” she said quietly, “I just want to see you happy.”

“But I am happy, Madhu, believe me. More than you could imagine.” Sunil squeezed her arm and smiled back.

Madhavi held his hand and continued earnestly, “But even then, Dada, I want you to know that I have already talked to Dr. Sathe. In future, if he feels that you need…um…to come and stay with us, promise me that you will do so. I will be very angry with you if you refuse.”

Sunil nodded and smiled. “Yes, I promise.”

“Now I must be off. I have to get back to Mumbai and catch the flight back home,” said Madhavi. She hugged him tightly and got up to leave, “but I will return in a few days, okay? Take care, Dada.”

She brushed away the few tears that had suddenly reappeared in her eyes. Then she left, softly closing the door behind her.


Madhavi could not sleep during the entire journey back to San Francisco. Her mind was consumed by what had happened, why it had happened and what could be done about it.

On one hand, she was relieved. It was not as bad as she had expected. Three days ago, she had almost collapsed with fear when her cousin had called her from Mumbai. He had told her that her Dada was suffering from an unknown psychiatric illness, so they had shifted him to a well-reputed psychiatric nursing home in Mahabaleshwar.

Mad with worry, she had rushed to Mumbai on the first available flight. After meeting Dr. Sathe and her Dada, she realized that apart from the occasional imaginary events that Dada got lost in, he seemed relatively okay.

But why? Why had such an illness afflicted him at all?

It must have been loneliness, she thought. In their frequent phone-calls, he had never sounded lonely or depressed. But her brother was the type who never complained about anything. And what else could it be?

The thought arose in her mind once more. Was it a woman who had spurned or betrayed him, that had pushed him over the edge? Pushed him into denying reality and escaping into a world where he felt secure and loved and happy…? A tear rolled down her cheek.

Whatever the case, her Dada needed her now, Madhavi decided. He needed to know she was there for him and that he was not alone in the world.

Wiping her eyes, Madhavi made her plans. She would give Dr. Sathe a few weeks to try his luck. Meanwhile, she would arrange to take her beloved Dada back with her to the US, where he would be treated by the best psychiatrists in the world. Where he would spend the rest of his life in her tender loving care, and the cheerful company of her husband. Where he would play with her young children and tell them stories about Lord Krishna, the way their mother used to tell them.


Madhavi suddenly remembered the rain-in-the-forest story her Dada had told her that morning. She remembered the intensity and vividness with which he had told it. Then she remembered the sheer ecstasy on her Dada’s face whilst narrating his tale. Despite the situation, she could not help smiling at the memory. She had never seen him so happy before.

But then again, how could he go on living in an illusory world like this, however pleasant?

And then of all the people, it had to happen to Dada, when it should have been me instead, Madhavi thought grimly. What a paradox…

As youngsters, her brother was nowhere as devout as her. He would pray and meditate for a few minutes every day, and indulge in some philosophy once in a while. But Madhavi was miles ahead where religiousness and spirituality was concerned, in every aspect. It was a different matter that after moving to the US, her devotional practice had all but diminished. Now she had to try and remember to say her prayers.

Prayer reminded her of that option. I wonder if Lord Krishna will listen to me, thought Madhavi. Why not, she thought. After all, it was Him that her brother constantly imagined being with. Hopefully, that same Lord Krishna would consider him a special case and heal him.

Madhavi closed her eyes and began to pray. She opened her eyes only when the pilot announced their descent at the San Francisco International Airport.


Sunil Pradhan stood at the window of his room. Outside, it continued to rain incessantly. The beautiful garden, now, a collection of vague, ill-formed objects set against a gray-white hazy background.

He gazed at the somber view, trying to voluntarily escape to the place he had been visiting for the past several months.

But it didn’t work that way. No matter how much he tried, he could not do so at will. The invitation had to come from that realm itself. From the Lord Himself.

“When will You allow me into Your world again, Krishna?” Sunil whispered and sighed.

He craved to live in Krishna’s world. And why shouldn’t I, thought Sunil. It was a place without hatred, strife, war, terrorism…devoid of impermanent, pointless joys and sorrows. It was a place of eternal peace, happiness and bliss. In the loving company of Krishna.

Madhavi’s words echoed in his mind: “Why can’t you come back to the real world?”

“Which is the real world, Madhu?” Sunil murmured, “your world, or His?”

As he turned to go to bed, Sunil heard a sound at the window. He looked back to see a bright-eyed teenaged boy outside the window, grinning cheekily. His wet hair was plastered across His bluish-complexioned forehead.

“Where did you go off to?” the boy asked, “come outside, it’s absolutely marvelous! C’mon, everyone’s waiting for you.” So saying, He grabbed Sunil’s arm and pulled him out of the window into the rain-drenched world.

A few seconds later, a nurse peeped inside the room to check on Sunil. She found him sitting on his bed, solemnly staring out of the window, unblinking, completely lost in thought. She shook her head sadly and left.

The moment the door closed behind her, Sunil’s lips slowly widened into a cheeky grin.


It was the first night after returning to the US. Madhavi tossed and turned in her bed, sleep eluding her worry-infested mind.

Finally, she got out of bed, careful not to wake up her husband. She pulled on her sweater and stepped out into the garden in front of her palatial villa. Perhaps, its quietude would bring her some balm.

The night was still, except for the occasional chirping of crickets and rustling of leaves in the gentle Pacific breeze. A large moon shone down from a cloudless sky. Madhavi reclined in a garden chair next to her favourite flower beds. The soothing vanilla scent from the evening-primrose nearby wafted across to her. Soon, she began to relax.

No point in worrying, she told herself. In fact, there was nothing to worry about because her Dada’s situation was not all that bad. Once she got him to the US and—Madhavi suddenly sat up, her heart thumping.

She hadn’t considered one possibility. What if the doctors here failed to cure her brother’s illness? After all, Dr. Sathe had discussed his case with several other competent psychiatrists and they all had no clue what was happening to him. What if the same happened in the US? Or anywhere else?

A sickening feeling began to gnaw her insides. What if her brother’s illness was a progressive, untreatable condition? One day, would her Dada deteriorate and completely lose touch with reality?

Frustration and despair welled up inside her like a frothing volcano. Her darling Dada was suffering, and she could do absolutely nothing about it. She wrung her hands and her eyes scoured her surroundings, hoping to find something…anything that would give her some solace.

Then she saw it.

It was delicately balanced on the tip of a tree branch, a short distance away. Earlier, the object had escaped her attention. Now, it swung gently in the breeze, almost beckoning to her.

Madhavi narrowed her eyes, slowly got up and moved towards it. Her eyes grew wide with confusion as she gently took it in her hands. A small, unidentified bell began ringing in the deep recesses of her mind.

She hastened back to her seat and examined the object. The bell began ringing louder and louder as she ran her fingers over each fragrant blossom, shimmering like a diamond in the bluish moonlight.

Suddenly, she gasped. Could it be possible?

With bated breath, she began to count the number of entwined flowers. At the final count of 108, Madhavi gasped again and shut her eyes, unable to breathe, or even move for a while.

Without the most mind-numbing explanation, a hair-garland made of 108 mogara flowers had no business being here, on a tree in her garden in San Francisco.

Out of the blue, the words materialized in her mind:

‘For any of My other beloved girl-friends if required… To convince her not to get upset and worry about anything. Because My devotees are always with Me and I am always with them. And I shall always be with her as well…’

An overwhelming sense of peace flooded her entire being, seeping into every pore. Sublime peace, along with sweetness and joy, like being submerged in warm milk and honey.

She opened her eyes and looked up at the skies. The moon beamed down at her, as if it too had been aware of the secret all along. She smiled back; her despair now completely gone.

Hereon, she would never worry about her Dada. There was no need to; she had His word for it.

Madhavi carefully fastened the flower garland to her hair. Then still smiling, she got up and went back into her house.



The Hindu ‘Bhakti Sampradaya’ or Devotional Tradition explains that there is a material world that we live in, and a spiritual world i.e. God’s realm. After many years or lifetimes of devotion to a deity—or if that deity chooses a person for any reason, like Sunil—one is able to gain access to God’s realm and presence, even participate in the ‘leelas’ or Vedic stories about that deity. They are able to live in both dimensions.

Here, I am not referring to ‘dhongi’ godmen and charlatans who put on an act to fool their followers. But genuine Devotee-saints of Lord Krishna like Saint Meerabai, Sant Tukaram, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu etc were able to do that, often ‘getting lost’ in Lord Krishna’s company.

Our modern scientific world considers these people mentally afflicted and their experiences as delusional, because there is no physical or measurable evidence of their experiences (or of God in general). Similarly, Sunil is considered a ‘patient’, a mentally afflicted person. His Krishna’s world experiences are very real, but they occur in a different, scientifically unproven dimension. Consequently, his doctors cannot understand them and therefore believe them to be symptoms of a disease.

Madhavi, too, is unable to comprehend it until the end, when she sees the hair-garland on the tree in her garden in San F’risco. She is not imagining it; it is really there. Its physical presence is a miracle, a message from the Lord Himself to convey the truth to her—that her brother is not mentally afflicted so there is no need to worry about him. And that His devotees can access His realm and be with Him, and of course, vice versa. He also reassures her that He is by her side as well (refer to the message below).

‘𝘍𝘰𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘔𝘺 𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘣𝘦𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘥 𝘨𝘪𝘳𝘭-𝘧𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘪𝘧 𝘳𝘦𝘲𝘶𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘥. 𝘛𝘰 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘦𝘵 𝘶𝘱𝘴𝘦𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘳𝘺 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨. 𝘉𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘔𝘺 𝘥𝘦𝘷𝘰𝘵𝘦𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘔𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘐 𝘢𝘮 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮. 𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘐 𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘣𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘴 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭…’

Krishna conveys Madhavi His message hidden in Sunil’s forest-story experience. When Sunil is narrating it to her, Madhavi doesn’t realize its true meaning. At that time, she thinks that Krishna was offering Sunil an explanation for making another hair-garland in case He meets another gopi-girlfriend on the way.

On seeing the hair-garland, she remembers those words and realizes that the message was actually meant for her (Madhavi)—that the ‘beloved girlfriend’ in the message was, in fact, Madhavi herself.

Miracles happen in our lives as well. Perhaps not as dramatic as with Madhavi (or often so!), but they do occur. It is us who fail to perceive or recognize them.

In the scene where Sunil is standing at his room window and thinking about his and Krishna’s world etc, the last sentence has a deeper layer of meaning: ‘The moment the door closed behind her, his lips slowly widened into a cheeky grin’.

The Advaita school of Hindu philosophy says that after becoming a pure devotee of God, one ‘merges’ or becomes one with Him—the concept of Brahman or universal unity. Meaning, everything seems different but is actually one. So the same cheeky grin on Krishna’s face whilst standing outside the window (three paragraphs earlier) begins to manifest in Sunil as well—because Sunil has realized his ‘oneness’ with Krishna.

In the same paragraph, Sunil asks a question: ‘Which is the real world, Madhu, your world, or His?’ This refers to ‘Madhu’s’ impermanent material world versus the eternal spiritual world.

Finally, I chose this image because I felt it perfectly represents the theme of the story. It depicts the reflection of a scene in puddles of water. Some parts are clearly seen, some are hazy. It leads us to think, what is real and what is unreal? Is this the real world, or is it merely a reflection of it? How will we be able to acquire the ‘vision’ to perceive the truth, to see things as they are?

And as mentioned in the first verse of the Vedanta-Sutra, athato brahma jijnasa meaning, ‘with this, the inquiry into the Absolute begins…’


Photo credit: distel2610@pixabay

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  • RadheRadhe!
  • No matter how much he tried, he could not do so at will. The invitation had to come from that world itself. From Krishna Himself.....most love able thank you 

  • Hare Krishna Prabhuji, this is a very beautifully written story of yours where the characters spring to life with your writing, i enjoyed reading every word of it. The ending was very subtle and sweet, it couldn't have been any better otherwise. Thanks so much for such a nice post. Hare Krishna.

  • Excellent. I was long waiting for a short story from you. How have you been prabhuji. I really do so much want to meet you. I feel you have an excellent talent and now there is a wonderful opportunity to use your talent. there is a very unique preaching opportunity. I will need your help. Pls can you meet me? pls reply.

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