I got up early this morning when darkness still covered the land; just had a feeling the stars would still be shining. Not good to make friends with a bed; too much sleep imprisons the soul. But to sit here in crisp late night air stargazing in wonderment and discover some lonesome adventurer looking down at me makes my heart break out in laughter. I call up. “Send me a sign, a paper airplane will do.” Just the thought makes my heart laugh … and I dream of you as the new day slumbers.
I pined for raindrops to fall against my cheek; yet nature had not the strength to yield moisture to earth’s bounty, nor water for thorny bush seedlings; my feet scorched to the touch. All the while, I foolishly prayed for night to come quickly, that a gentle breeze would push me over the edge. Oh Weaver, what was the greater gift? Was it the baubles received or the hard lessons learned?
Baba Ji mentioned he would be travelling for five days in Punjabi towns giving satsang, and wants us to come with him. However, the good doctor believes that in order to have positive long term results, these treatments should be consistent. We’re disappointed but we understand. Happy day. Doug’s daily sessions with Dr. Sharma have provided much relief. It’s wonderful to see him feeling chipper and more like his old self. Once again Baba Ji invites us to travel with him. I pack clothes for five days. We’re good to go when I hear a knock on the door: it’s Jasbir with a message from Baba Ji telling us the trip has been postponed. Okay. I unpack our clothes, but just when I’m ready to work in the brickyard there’s another knock on the door. Jasbir stands in the doorway with a grin on his face and says, “Well, are you ready?” I answer, “Ready for what?” He replies, “Baba Ji leaves in ten minutes for his satsang tour. He will pick you up in five. Be ready.” He walks away then turns back to me, and says, “Get moving!” We can’t be late. I hardly have time to pack more than one change of clothes; clueless as to how long we’ll be gone. Baba Ji and his driver are in the front seat, and us in the back. I honestly think I finished my first book travelling in the back seat of his SUV. Hard to believe we’re travelling with Baba Ji to his many satsang centers. Everywhere we go he is greeted like the great Saint he is. We spend the night in Ludhiana at the home of Tarsem Singh Bhullar who opens his home to Baba Ji whenever he gives satsang. Baba Ji knows I want to buy gifts for our friends in America. He tells his driver to take me to a little shop no bigger than a closet that sells unique handcrafted gloves, caps and Indian shawls I would never find anywhere else. When I return, Doug is outside waiting for me, “Jen, hurry up, get in the car. They say we’re in for a surprise. We’re going to the main satsang center.” We go on another speed-o-drive through the streets of Ludhiana. The moment we walk in, a door opens behind the dais where Baba Ji sits, when a swarm of little children rushes through with their hands over their heads holding pencils for him to bless and help them make good grades. There must be at least two hundred who want his special blessing. The closer they get to Baba Ji, the quieter they become. It’s easy to see he loves children and intends to stay until not one is left. What a wonderful experience to watch him laugh with these kids as he blesses their pencils. What a moment. In the morning we come downstairs where prantas, chapattis and chai are being served. To stand back and watch three or four Punjabi women prepare an Indian breakfast for Baba Ji in a small kitchen is something to behold.
I’ve gone from a scrappy kid wondering when I’d get to China digging a hole in the backyard with a spoon, to being a Hollywood starlet, then to Broadway and the high life, to the present. I’m a very pregnant crazy lady with two little kids and ten hours out from a long, hot cross country drive across America in my old Chevy. I can’t sleep for all the memories running through my head. If there was ever a time for a mind boggling quote from Dylan or a sobering passage from Moby Dick, that rambling classic with a point I never quite grabbed by the tail – this is it. Oh, and just in case I forget to mention it, with so much going on and all, my future looks like zip, and what really happened to J.D. Salinger? The big day is here. Insomnia is driving my mind nuclear reliving every piece of minutia from my birth to the present. It’s 3:00 a.m. and I can’t sleep. I’ve cried so much, I’m alarmed at the amount of snot one person can lie in without being glued to the pillow. How did it all come to this? Seems like only yesterday, I was a rising Broad- way actress with successes under my belt. I can still hear the knock on my dressing room door, the stage manager giving me the last call, “Showtime Jennifer! It’s a packed house tonight.” As usual, I’m so terrified before going on, I can’t remember the first line. But the moment I step onstage, my jitters long gone, I vanish into character and I’m fine. It’s make believe time. The thrill of playing before a live audience is better than dope. I’ll be driving straight through the Mojave Desert from LA to New Jersey, no doubt my three year old kicking the back of my seat all the way asking, “Are we there yet? Mommy, I have to go.” If Romie kicks hard enough, with my luck I’ll go into labor and have this baby next to a cactus. I can’t sleep for stressing over the future – no husband, no money, no job, bills to pay and three kids to raise. How will I do it? All these years I’ve supported myself as an actress. What am I supposed to do – squat on the sidewalk and sell pencils out of a shoe box? My choice is either fall back into my old, destructive ways or wrap myself around a future I know nothing of. Being clueless at thirty is a bitch. Why cry over the “Sperm Donor?” He makes love like shoveling spaghetti with both hands. Lots of women have husbands who cheat. You could monitor how often they drop their pants by putting a metronome up their ass. They don’t fall apart like me. The ones I know marry wealthy men, and find it convenient to ignore their over active libidos. They compensate by shopping on Rodeo Drive until they pass out, then to spring shows in Paris, then to Milan, having affairs along the way, and thanking God for revolving credit. For some men, the more submissive the wife and mother, the less appealing she is as a woman; the sexual attraction and challenge no longer exists. Like a hound chasing a fox: hound chases fox, hound catches fox, hound kills fox, hound hunts for another fox. The Sperm Donor is never home. I doubt he even knows how fast the kids are growing. I closed our joint bank account today. What I took is barely enough for this trip, the hospital bill and rent for a small apartment once we arrive in New Jersey. That’s if we make it to New Jersey. Just saying those two words makes me run for Imodium, and what’s wrong with me? I always make the same mistake – jump first, and look afterwards. I’m home late tonight. I worked overtime on a Gunsmoke. Thanks to Arness it took forever to hear, “It’s a wrap!” This house looks like a tornado just passed through, popcorn all over the floor, the kids eating Wheaties out of a box, and our latest addition, my husband’s five year old from a previous marriage racing from room to room wearing a Batman cape, his school uniform still not washed for tomorrow. The Sperm Donor is sprawled out on the couch watching Mod Squad, oblivious of the circus going on in front of him. Working all day, then coming home to a nightmare like this would push anyone over the edge. Some things never change. I shift to high, make dinner, wash and iron Willie’s uniform for tomorrow, and do a quick tidy-up. Afterwards, I bathe the boys and tuck them in for the night, knowing full well they won’t go to sleep unless I read to them. I sit on the edge of the bed, and begin the next chapter of Wind In the Willows. They love the Badger. I still have ten pages of new dialogue to memorize for tomorrow, get five hours of sleep, be at the studio at 6:00 a.m. in makeup, and pray to God I don’t have bags down to the floor. I can’t keep up this pace. If I don’t step back from my career our home life will be in worse shape than now. There’s not enough room for two careers in this family. Let him have it. It’s what he wants. Something is wrong.How long does it take to answer a simple question, and what’s wrong with me that I can’t confront him? The two of us stand in this small kitchen that looks out over the mountain, his back facing me as he pours himself a second cup of coffee when I finally say, “You leave mornings, and don’t come home until dawn.” Moments of silence pass. He continues to sip his coffee and stare down at the floor before he finally turns around, his dark eyes focused into mine and replies matter-of-factly, “I don’t love you anymore. I’m done.” My response is frozen in silence that so reverberates in my ears that I’m deafened to its clamor. My breath pushes me to smart-ass, flippant silent retorts, “You’re done? What about me and the kids? Are we done too? When you leave the house each morning, I make you a brown-bag lunch with fresh banana bread sandwiches, the crusts cut off the way you like. My paycheck goes to you after every job. I’ve all but given up my career for you. We have two children, another on the way, and now you say you’re done?” I listen to my unspoken thoughts coming through this mealy-mouthed person I hardly recognize. I’m unable to speak because there are no words left to come right out and say, “How many hours can one man spend at the Actor’s Studio? I know damn well what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with.” The Sperm Donor wastes no time describing his passionate feel- ings for her, and the futility of living one more second trapped in a loveless marriage. He talks to me like I’m not in the room, and explains in great detail how good it is to finally let it all out, that he’s not the type man to live in shadows. I can’t catch my breath … I’ll stop breathing if he doesn’t shut up. Still unable to speak, I grab both kids by their hands and run along the narrow, weathered path alongside Aunt Lowee’s house, a brick missing here and there, the smell of Eucalyptus guiding me like a silent friend to the top of the mountain that overlooks dark clouds of gray smog hovering over East Los Angeles. I can’t stop crying for the uncertainty of our future, for having wasted so much of my life, for the baby growing inside me, and for Willie, his five year old son who just came to live with us and misses his grandparents. Several weeks ago, he mumbled something about a new project he was working on with some actress at the Actor’s Studio West. When I asked about her, he casually mentioned a name I immediately recognized. The exact same feelings of rage and jealousy welled up in me again, precisely the same as I had experienced twelve years ago. As soon as I heard her name, I knew I’d lost him … and remembered the first time I saw her face. Twelve years earlier in Hollywood, long before I moved to New York and met the Sperm Donor, a friend gave me an article he’d cut out of the newspaper about a beautiful actress who worked in Elvis Presley films, as well as B-movies. It showed her photograph along with details of a large sum of money she inherited. It wasn’t the money. It was the recognition of her face that filled me with jealousy, feelings out of proportion to the situation. So many times I’ve asked myself why I reacted like that to someone I didn’t know. She looked like every other starlet in Hollywood, as opposed to me who was somewhat offbeat compared to the Barbie Doll look of the sixties. I threw the paper back and snapped, “This has nothing to do with me.” Ironically, as quickly as those feelings of anger entered my psyche, that’s how fast they left. That incident still puzzles me. Perhaps my reaction was a premonition of events to come – although I’m not into crystal gazers, psychics, telemarkers hawking spirituality, fake gurus and all the other scams to support their mansions. What difference does it make now? I’m beginning to sound like those women in supermarket tabloids next to the check-out. If it’s a long wait, I’ll take one off the rack and give it a quick look. If I read about one more female who attempts suicide over a failed marriage, I’ll pull the plug on myself. I can’t stand whiners yet much as I hate to admit it, that’s what I’ve become. “Yeah you are, so shut up!” “I’m not. Am I?” “Does a bear pee in the woods? “What kind of man abandons a pregnant wife and two kids?” “The one you married stupid, now shut the hell up!” “How will we live? I have no money.” “Stop watching As the World Turns.” It’s as though two people live inside me. One like sand in an hour glass, moment by moment drained of self-worth, crawling through each day begging to be punished for everything I’ve ever done in my life. But the other more predominant one is a hard-edged, spirited fighter who laughs her way out of every impossible predicament. Dammit, I may cry, I may bitch but I won’t fall under the train. There’s got to be more to life than getting married and having babies – even a career. I remember having a close friendship with a powerful presence as a child, but somewhere along the way I lost it and I don’t know why. I’m fighting for my life, for that lost girl I only vaguely remember; one buried so deep, I fear she may never be resurrected. I fight not to fall into the depths of a mental abyss so intense, I might never recover; the ugly face of ambition rides me like a horse frothing at the mouth. Three lives depend upon rising from this quagmire of self-loathing to reinvent the person I began life with. I still talk to a God I can’t see, and I still can’t shut up. I know there is something powerful in me, something outside myself, otherwise how could I have survived the past thirty years? Where’s my damn tissue? Blowing my nose is the only constant in my life. I always feel secure in one good blow on anything outside of my Hermes, God forbid. Dear God, Dorothy, Sam or whatever your name is, May I shake your hand for giving us Oil of Olay and Kleenex, or do you prefer Puffs? Store brand? And the big winner hands down is … ta dah: Puffs Sincerely lost in East LA … P.S: Need sleep fast
Baba Ji’s driver is waiting for us in Amritsar. I’m so happy to be here that I smile and greet him. “Mera sir dukda.” Sunny is a handsome young man who goes out of his way to help with our luggage. He has a funny sense of humor, speaks perfect English and smiles at my attempt to speak Punjabi and says,
“Jennifer you just said you have a headache.”
He laughs and tells me not to worry, that I’ll learn a few important words in no time. Once our luggage is in the car, he tells us that Indians have been pouring in since yesterday. Baba Ji will come tonight for his birthday celebration. It’s late, and we’re barely going to make it; no time to waste in Amritsar. I feel my heart begin to race. The drive from Amritsar to Dera Tarn Taran is an experience I am seriously not used to. There are no traffic regulations, just drivers on suicide missions, and motorcycles weaving in and out with no sense of right or left lanes. Three people huddle together on a motorcycle and weave around a buffalo standing dead center in the road. He can’t make up his mind about why he’s there or where he’s going. Indians love to beep their horns which confuses the buffalo even more. I imagine myself lying on the roadside dead as a doornail. Tarn Taran is a small rural town where Baba Ji lives along with residents who work here. Busloads of Indians who arrived the day before seem happy to sleep outside in sub-zero weather just to be near him and pay their respects to this great Saint. I notice some without hoes wearing only thin shawls around their shoulders. They don’t seem to care. More busloads from nearby villages are just arriving. The moment we drive through the gates I hear a groundswell of voices singing shabds of love and devotion. The air is electric with song. I feels a sense of relief as though I’ve come home again. Baba Ji is greatly loved by all. Whenever he travels to give satsang, the Indian hotline lets everyone know when he’s about to drive through the front gate. No matter how exhausted he is, he makes time to hear the children sing shabds he taught them at a very young age. Afterwards, he gives them candy prashad. It is something to behold.
It is a humbling experience to see what Baba Ji has done to welcome us. On a small table is a lovely arrangement of flowers from his garden; a box of Indian candy; a bowl of apples, oranges, and bananas. It is a cozy room, approximately 12X16 feet with a heater, bed, and bathroom. Perfect for meditation. He has gone to great lengths to make our stay a happy one. We quickly revive ourselves by splashing water on our faces, put on extra shawls, lock the door, and walk to the Bhandara Hall. Before entering we take off our shoes, find a spot in the back and sit cross legged Indian style, men to the left, women to the right. Satsang is held in this room each morning and evening. The floor is made from polished buffalo dung and covered with some type of matting. Overhead there is a tin roof with tarpaulin sides anchored with rope to keep wind and rain from coming in. I see small birds huddled together on top of tenting posts. Once again, I hear a crescendo of shabds. Everyone looks in the direction of Baba Ji who now walks who now walks inside on a red carpet assisted on each arm by sevadars. It is impossible to put this moment into words. The sudden silence is deafening in the presence of this great Saint. Once again the room is alive with shabds, more importantly the beautiful radiant face of Baba Kehar Singh Maharaj who gently motions the crowd to quieten down. In silence his head slowly turns from one side of the room to the other. He is giving darshan to each of us”
I received your letter so full of love. You are so important and loving for me that I cannot mention it. What you are doing and have done for Guru is more than sufficient. I am very much pleased that you are coming here. I anxiously await the both of you. One line in your letter impressed me very much. I love to read it again and again, Mye tuhanu bhot pyar tey yaad karde han.” At the bottom of his letter, Baba Ji added, “Main vi tuhanu bahut pyar te yaad karda han, main tuhanu udeek raha han.” Translation: I also love you very much, remember you, and am waiting for you.
I have no idea what Baba Ji meant when he wrote, “what you are doing and have done for Guru.” His letter reflects a loving heart for one so undeserving. He is the Beautiful Father loving his daughter.
Baba Ji invited us to be his guests on December 26 for his Bhandara Birthday Celebration at Dera Tarn Taran. It is fifteen minutes from the Pakistan border and a short distance from the Himalayas. Finally, I’m going to India, and today we depart on British Airlines. In a few days Dera Tarn Taran will be teeming with people. We cannot miss it. Our friend Mike will drive us to the airport. My suitcase is packed with wool leggings for cold Punjabi winters. I am so looking forward to this trip I can hardly breathe. I’ll believe it when I’m strapped in my seat. Doug, on the other hand, is his usual calm, collected self. The weather forecast is awful. I’m more than a little concerned about this.
We arrive at the Philadelphia airport only to be told they are experiencing storms all over Europe. Great, just great. They say the runways in Germany, France, and England are iced over and our flight is grounded. Oh please, these people have got to be kidding. Doug calls Baba Ji in India to explain our dilemma. The airline suggests we take a flight out of Philadelphia tonight that lands in Paris. Typical French reasoning suggests that it’s not too dangerous to slide a plane onto the Paris Airport runway during a snowstorm, but c’est la vie, sliding out to India is a firm no. So why worry when we’ll have five days to shop and enjoy Paris until the storm passes. This gives them enough time to get out their blow dryers and clear the runways along with our missing Baba Ji’s birthday celebration. This can’t be happening. If we agree to this, we’ll arrive in India long after it’s over. I know the weather is treacherous, but there has got to be a way. This man can be really maddening at times. Doug explains his concern to Baba Ji over a bad telephone connection. He’s worried we won’t arrive in time for his birthday celebration. Silence prevails at the other end of the line. After an excruciatingly long pause, Doug says tomorrow afternoon there is only one flight available out of Philadelphia to Detroit that connects to Switzerland that connects to Delhi. Okay, what’s the catch? We have to fly coach from Philly to Detroit. This is a concern because of his cervical spine issue. The seats are so close together his legs will be pushed into his esophagus. Anyway, he tries to make a case to Baba Ji that he can’t fly coach since he’s paid for non-refundable business class tickets. By this time, I’m so nervous I bolt to the women’s restroom to find an empty stall. I sit here a few minutes in an effort to focus on simran, a mantra of five holy names given to me at the time of initiation. My mind is going ballistic. I finally calm down, close my eyes and begin to focus on Maharaj Ji’s beautiful face. I slowly repeat the five holy names, pull myself together, and pray that this night ends on the upside. When Doug sees me walking towards him, he puts his hand over the telephone and whispers, “Where were you? I can’t hear Baba Ji for the static.” Suddenly the line is okay. Like the parting of the Red Sea, Baba Ji’s answer is crystal clear, “Ehh chhoti kurbani ha, ki tusi mere janamdin di party te nai rehna chahunde ho.” Translation: It’s a small sacrifice. Don’t you want to be at my birthday party? This makes Doug laugh. He quickly answers,
“Nothing will keep us away. We will be with you on your birthday.” As luck would have it, someone is with Baba Ji to translate our conversation.
You sweeten me like ripe melon on a hot day, my eyes burn …can’t think straight from mid-day sun, working in the field without a hat. Don’t blush. I’m merely a pond reed through which you play music to feed my soul.