My Tribute to Venu by Pujari
Years ago, Venu picked me up at the Greyhound Bus Station in San Francisco and took me to his house where he lived with Astika, Nachiketa and my brother. I was coming from Santa Barbara to visit San Francisco to get some spiritual inspiration. It was the summer of 1976 and I was not a disciple yet, but Venu treated me very kindly, and I was impressed with his “jumpy” energized personality. He and Nachiketa spent hours on their homemade skateboard ramp outside in the driveway. I did become a disciple a few months later, and soon was witnessing Venu and the other San Francisco boys learning hundreds of songs to perform in New York, wearing bright pink pants and shirts. I could see that Venu really loved singing, and I was, and still am amazed, at the work and tenacity he put into learning Guru’s songs. Venu loved music. He told me that even before becoming a disciple, music meant so much to him. In the late 60’s music was such a powerful force in San Francisco. I became a member of Venu’s singing group many years later, not because I am a great singer, but Guru gave Venu the right to allow people to join his group if they were serious and would come to the practices. Though I don’t consider myself a “good” singer, Venu always allowed me to sit next to him during our singing practices, and that helped me a lot. Thanks to Venu, I had the privilege to sing in his group at Aspiration Ground for many years.
Venu learned the Long Song, I believe, better than any other disciple that I know. He sang it religiously everyday. I lived with Venu in the same flat from 2002 until 2013. I sometimes heard his soothing voice, so soft, (he did not want to bother me) from my room which was right next to his. He spent hours every day singing Guru’s songs. He put so much effort into learning the songs for Kailash’s group. This became one of his most important goals. A few months before he died he said he was happy because at least he could still sing the Long Song everyday.
Venu was a great athlete. He was an excellent swimmer, and when he was younger he surfed. When he became a disciple he started running. I remember when Guru wanted disciples to make records and Venu ran with an egg in a spoon and later walked backwards for hours attempting to break Guinness Records. As a newer disciple, I frequently ran with him in marathons just for the fun of it at the San Francisco State University track. One of my best memories of Venu is running a marathon with him around the entire city of San Francisco on a course that he measured. He ran marathons in the middle of the night and would rush into the house for a drink or snack, and then rush out again to continue running.
Venu was fanatical about timing and accuracy of race courses. He took athletics very seriously and his dream was to do an iron man triathlon. He was a great inspiration to me and together we did two sprint triathlons in the past four years. I never would have done that without Venu’s inspiration. He had great admiration and respect for all disciples who were tri athletes, and he told me that in his next incarnation, his dream is to complete an iron man. For more than 20 years, Venu was the most loyal participant in the San Diego Biathlon. He loved that event and continued swimming until a few months before he passed away with the hopes that he would still be able to go to San Diego and participate.
Singing and athletics were Venu’s two passions. This made it easy for him to be a disciple because music and athletics are such an important part of Guru’s path. Venu was compulsively one pointed in these two areas, and I am grateful that I had the privilege to know him and participate with him in athletics and singing. Venu’s example helped me to be a better disciple.