Stories about Venu by Hiyamallar


            These are short anecdotes about Venu in the singing world and regarding his athletics. It must be no less than 15 years ago, on my birthday, when I was in New York and was asked to sing the Long Song (Dyulok Chariya) at Guru’s house, and he specifically asked that Venu be there as well. He and I were staying together in Jamaica, and I left in the morning, we arranged to go to the Center at a certain time later that evening. The moment came when Guru asked for the song and we sang it sitting at Guru’s feet. Our singing was much appreciated by those present; however, Venu and I had sung that song together many, many, times, and to my ear it felt as if we were not synchronizing as well as in the past.

            Later that evening, when back home and alone, I mentioned this to him and asked if he was feeling all right. I told him that while it was wonderful to sing the song together (as it always was), I felt we had done better in the past. Venu looked at me and stated that he agreed that this was not one of our best renderings of the song, and said that perhaps he had over-stressed his voice by singing the song during the day in preparation for the evening. I asked him how many times he had sung the Long Song that day. He looked at me and said "11 times , Hiyamallar, 11 times"!


            Venu took his athletic pursuits with the utmost seriousness. I cannot think of a better example of this than the events that took place in the weeks and months shortly before he passed away.

            We were all hoping that he could attend the San Diego Self-Transcendence biathlon in July 2013, an event which he had participated in for over 25 years, only missing it once in that time.  This race was easily one of those events dearest to his heart, if not the most dear. Although he had undergone many rounds of chemotherapy in the past year and a half, remarkably, he was still able to train for the race as late as May, and the only concession to his being somewhat weaker was that he was going to swim the mile and I was going to run the 10 km, instead of his doing both parts.

            Of particular concern to him was his strong desire to exit the water before his dear friend Sujantra, with whom he had a friendly competition in the swimming world. Unfortunately, as his health began to decline, he realized that he would be unable to participate, and one of the last phone calls I got from him in the week before the event was a message about the event, and asking me to call him back. When I did, he told me with great enthusiasm that he had done some calculations, and he requested that I start my run at a time that represented the average of his last 5 swims in this event, a time which would likely put me in a position to start my run before Sujantra! (whose swimming times he of course knew to the minute). To those of us who knew Venu well, it is clear that he had in fact calculated these times with the absolute honesty and precision that went into all of his athletic endeavors, and also, that if I have followed this plan of his, I would have started the run before his friend and rival!

            I saw Venu only a few hours before he left the body; at that time, he was very weak but still responsive. Hoping that talk about the race would be something he would like to hear, I mentioned that I might run in tandem with another swimmer, and was in a way hoping that Venu would give his blessing to this, although it was not exactly the plan that he had proposed. He did not say anything one way or the other, and to this day I remain somewhat uncertain if he would have preferred that I followed out his original scheme! One thing for sure, wherever Venu is, I remain certain that he would has forgiven me for this transgression!


            The last story is especially dear to me, because I told it at Aspiration-Ground and know that Guru got tremendous enjoyment from hearing it. On that occasion, Guru had asked those with 25 years as his disciples to pass in front of him. The next group, of course, would be those were between 20 and 24 years, which is where I stood (to be completely honest). However, I had a burning desire to pass through in front of him with the 25 year group, for whatever reason – egoism, curiosity – you name it. I went through a few moments of rather intense self-questioning, then at the last minute I joined the 25 year group.

            As I told others later, the meditation experience was quite good, without anything extraordinary happening. I then started walking away when all of a sudden Venu came up to me and said "Hiyamallar, are you 25 years? Are you 25 years?" Of all the things to happen, someone had noticed! I knew  he had caught me. Somewhat shamefully, I informed him that I was perhaps a few months short of my 25th year.

            He said, "I was thinking of doing that too." In that moment, seeing the way he said this, I realized that he was not at all trying to attack or criticize me for having jumped in prematurely, but he simply wanted to share his own experience about this, having gone through a similar process .

            I then asked him "Venu, when do you become ‘25’ ?” In the most straightforward way possible, he looked at me and said “tomorrow Hiyamallar,  tomorrow!

When CKG heard this, he laughed and said, “Venu!”