|9th August, 2012 Link|
I have a long-lost first cousin (40 years+?) who was quite close in my childhood, greatly admired, a few years older. Being an only child, I looked up to him as a big brother, who once even loaned me his Jaguar for a week during high school. I dragged him to see the Jazz Crusaders, the original Staple Singers, flamenco and other groups in the 60s. Then we drifted off into separate worlds, as usually happens. He was of the only side of my 'family' that didn't disown me in those days. Still, we lost touch, both of us traveling internationally and around the US, living life in different universes.
He caught up with me last year via another cousin, and sent an email. Finally, this summer he and his girlfriend are working as rangers and guides at an Anasazi site in the southwest, and he took a few days off to come see me. He had been writing me that he had a box of 'stuff' from my mother who passed in '82, and he had kept it for me for 30 years! So I've just started reading my own letters from India in the 60s, and a whole bunch of other fascinating material, including photos.
|Me at age 6|
But, what's bizarre is that he came with his lady-friend whom he had mentioned had spent some time in India in the 60s too. My cousin knows practically nothing of my travels and studies, just a few anecdotes over the years. So we meet in the plaza in town, he introduces her, we talk for a bit, and I asked her where she went in India. She says "Ayodhya". I say, "oh really? I went there once for a couple weeks". She says "oh really, why?". I answer that "I went to visit a drum master/swami who was teaching some American students". Her jaw dropped to the floor and she replied "Swami Pagaldas was my teacher/guru for 6 years!!" She said my name, I said her name, and we both looked at each other dumbstruck.
She was the ONLY female non-Indian who seriously studied my instrument - pakhawaj/mridang - ever. I had stayed in her house in Ayodhya, learned from her teacher for a couple weeks, had tried to search her out for 40 years, and gave up hope of ever finding out what became of her. And she's my long-lost cousin's girlfriend! We're talkin 7 billion to one odds here...ok, 3.5 billion. We had practiced together, ate together, drank 'bhang' made by Swamiji and sat all night in the Shiva temple on Shivaratri (my first). All her guru-bhais (from Pagaldas) died prematurely in the mid-80s except for one (who I re-found 3 years ago - by running into his sister, whom I'd never met, in the woods on Maui!!!).
|Pagaldas (L) & ZM Dagar (R)|
Mridangacharya Swami Pagaldas ('servant of the craziness'') was the greatest living repository of the ancient Sanskrit drum poetry tradition. He may have been the greatest who ever lived, as far as we know. The drum poetry consists of thousands of invocations, descriptions, celebrations, etc. of all the deities and mythologies of India in the form of both spoken and played rhythmic compositions. These have been handed down for centuries, nay millenia. I only possess a few, and they are only given to the very advanced students, and are the most difficult to execute correctly. One Hanuman composition actually took me 5 years to master, so you get the idea.
So, some kind of crazy grace and serendipity has brought me together with a guru-bahin (sister) who I had no idea was even alive. Makes me wonder if this is part of the timewave or something that happens to people very late in life or, hell, just beats the shit outta me...?? Another thing is that, reading my own letters, I see that I was saying exactly the same things 40 years ago that I write about now. Same words, same shit, different decade; war on the environment, war on culture. And I'm still talkin' "crazy talk". It could be depressing, but with this over-the-top synchronicity it feels like something else is blowing in the wind, something unknown, undefinable, unimaginable. Maybe something wondrous?