We arrived back in the UK on 5 January 2007 after a 31-day visit to India to find that our central heating system required minor repairing. Rashmi did not give me any Risperidone during the visit, and I did not suffer any ill consequences that I could detect. On our return from India I decided not to respond to a letter from the Disability Living Allowance authorities who had asked me to resubmit my claim for this benefit. I resumed my job at the Shell Wigmore petrol station and celebrated my fiftieth birthday.
The trip to India had gone very well, at least until the final few days when all three of us were taken ill from various stomach and cold ailments and my brother-in-law (Mihir) who travelled with us from Bhubaneswar to Kolkata to see us off at the airport was robbed from the hotel room that we stayed in before boarding our flight. He had met us at the airport on our arrival and my second brother-in-law, Nihar, a Government Advocate, had arranged with a friend of his to transport us from and to the airport during our stay at Kolkata at each end of the visit.
We stayed at my in-laws house in Bhubaneswar and caught up with the news on how various family members were faring and the difficulties they faced in coping with their lives in India. My younger sister had arranged for me to conduct the shraddha ceremony for my deceased father and this was my opportunity to pay respect to him and his soul, apparently to guide it past the evil souls in the spirit world that form a barrier along his path unto God.
There were however conflicts between my two sisters on the matter of the disposal of my father's property and the money that he had left behind and I had to try and resolve these, without antagonising either sister. Because my younger sister was actually looking after my elder brother who suffers from mental illness, I decided to go along with her suggestion that Rashmi and I should give her the power of attorney to dispose off the Kolkata flat of my father which would fall into disrepair unless it was occupied. However prompted by Rashmi I wrote a letter to my elder sister, Mrs Meera Panda, copied to my younger sister, Soumya, that we were expecting to receive our share of the inheritance in due course: Dear Nani. We came to India two years after our father died and you were aware of this visit but chose not to stay in Bhubaneswar for its duration. We could have sat down together and sorted out all financial matters left awry after our fathers death but you chose not to cooperate with me or Soumya during this period. As such no decision could be made on the fate and disposal of the Flat at A13/3 Kalindi Housing Estate, Kolkata, nor of the Post Office Accounts of my father for which according to my information you hold the Pass books and have drawn money out of. Soumya is trying to get duplicate copies of the Pass books issued to her so that Debananda can have access to the money of Rs 5-6 lakhs but is facing difficulties. The Provident Fund Account has generated over Rs 3.5 lakhs which Soumya has deposited in her Account - and I am entitled to one-third share of this money which I am asking her to deposit in Rashmi's Account at the State Bank of India, Bapujinagar, as soon as possible. Lack of any cooperation from you on these matters before or during our stay in India has left me with no alternative but to give Soumya the power of attorney to dispose off the Flat as she considers appropriate. Rashmi has also given her power of attorney to dispose off the part of the flat left to her by our father. If the Flat is to be sold off you need to give a letter stating your agreement to this effect so that the proceeds of the sale can be divided in proportion to the entitlements of each of the interested parties. You may state now what you expect your share to be if the market value is now £16 lakhs. For Rashmi and my share we are prepared to accept Rs 4 lakhs. In total, with the Provident Fund money I expect to receive Rs 5 lakhs in the said Bank Account. Soumya has assumed control of all of Debananda's entitlements which is his pension money, plus the Post Office Account money and the share of money he is to receive from the sale of the Flat. That was her choice the day she brought Debananda from your house and she has the responsibility of looking after him until his death. If the Kolkata Flat is not sold for any reason, Rashmi and I are prepared to accept our share in cash terms from my two sisters. In this case an appropriate sum of money must be deposited in Rashmi's Bank Account at Bapujinagar. Once the finacial matters have been resolved a decision on my brother's future can be taken for which I am prepared to make a financial contribution. This is the most I can do since I/we have no immediate plans to return to India. I look forward to your reaction to this letter and an appropriate response from Soumya (and Babu) since they have taken over the care of Debananda from you. With my best wishes for the New Year to all your family, we leave for the United Kingdom.
My father had once informed me that I was not going to be a beneficiary of any of the property and money that he had in India, and I was resigned to this eventuality. It did not matter to me whether I did receive anything now, but Rashmi wanted me to receive something so that she could build a house in the Bhubanseswar plot adjacent to where her family stay that was purchased by her father and us jointly some years ago but for which there is a court case pending on the legality of ownership. Apart from this issue that caused friction our stay in India was made very pleasant and comfortable by my in-laws family and I was able to reciprocate in kind. The cost of living had gone up dramatically since our last visit six years ago. The effects of globalisation was there to see and I entered into discussions with various people including with a retired Indian Administrative Service Officer on the apparent triumph of the western civilisation, even suggesting to him that Indian civilisation seemed to be doomed given that now artists like Nelly Furtado were being brought into the country to sing songs to Indians. I found that people did not pay much attention to Sri Satya Sai Baba: instead Guru Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living concept and Baba Ramdev with his yoga teachings were prominent in the news. I kept an eye on the news from India and abroad and learnt about the execution of Mr Saddam Hussein by the new Iraqi authorities.
During our stay in India I did not go to any temple as family tradition forbids this for a period of a year following the death of Rashmi's father. My father-in-law had led a good life but was struck with ill health in his sixtees which eventually lead to his death. He had a room built in his house for the worship of God and regularly conducted puja. I therefore did not consider that he deserved the suffering of the birth of a daughter who was to become physically disabled, and the ill-health that he suffered in later life. Yet one of his sons, Nihar, still spent up to one hour a day doing puja. The apparent pointlessness of existence in which people earned a living, saved money, built or bought a house, got old and were then largely discarded by society bothered me. People got married and had children and whilst this was a joyous occasion, the couple had unknowingly embarked on a life time of struggle and suffering to feed and educate the children and ensure that they would have enough to live on after the parents were gone. Parents had a responsibility to look after their children all their lives for the children did not ask to be born into this torturous world: it was the parents decision to procreate. Of course, the British model of development did not encourage parents to look after their children, and the State effectively took control of the child's welfare when the parents were unable or unwilling to meet the minimum standards set by the State.
For the past year or so Rashmi had started practicing Cosmic Ordering in which one's wishes are written down thus ordering the cosmos to fulfill them be a certain date and then one waited to see the outcome. She encouraged me to do the same, which I did in a limited way.
The visit to India had given me the opportunity to review my experiences and wonder again on the meaning of life and whether God and soul existed in reality. I was now also seriously considering whether life was indeed a play of Maya as has been written about in Hinduism, or was made up of an infinite number of unconnected random incidents in the absence of a Creator God and the spirit life. I could not disregard my mental and physical experiences as my memoirs hitherto were written in good faith and as things happened. I seemed to have gone through a process of purging my delusions that may have been borne out of misunderstandings, misconceptions, and the misinformation to which I had been subjected in my life. The end-result of this search was that I had not turned into an atheist but had come down to earth to face reality fearless of God.
Was happiness important in life? It was certainly true that depression was a common cause of suicide so that one needed to find some degree of happiness or satisfaction with one's life in order to survive in dignity. Was there a higher happiness than the simple acquisition of wealth, fame or power over people provides? One needed to maintain good health by living a healthy lifestyle with good food, hygiene and physical exercise, and one could be satisfied with this outcome. But on the basis of the case studies that I had conducted I concluded that true satisfaction with one's life and the happiness that this entails (which through karma should also meet the presumed goal of human existence, namely union with God) must come from pursuing the sadhana of service - to oneself, to one's family, to the wider society, and to other creatures. For this one needed to be blessed with love, which is unlikely to be a genetic trait but may come from 'above', that is, the Spirit residing within. My attention was drawn to the following poem, 'duty', by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
The sweetest lives are those to duty wed,
Whose deeds, both great and small,
Are close-knit strands of an unbroken thread,
There love ennobles all.
The world may sound no trumpet, ring no bells;
The book of life, the shining record tells.
Thy love shall chant its own beatitudes,
After its own life-working. A child's kiss
Set on thy singing lips shall make thee glad;
A poor man served by thee shall make thee rich;
A sick man helped by thee shall make thee strong;
Thou shall be served thyself by every sense
Of service thou renderest.
I recalled having said to Sri Krishnamurti, the Indian Liaison Officer at Kew Gardens when his family visited our house in 1997 at a time of great struggle that I was going through in the University of Greenwich: I hope God does not place such a burden on me that would make it impossible for me to fulful my duties (kartabya ka paalan). It remained to be seen if in my case I would get the chance of serving society in any capacity, but I decided that I should persevere with my duties to myself by combating and avoiding evil; towards my family by earning a living, living a full married life and guiding Rupa as needed; and towards other beings by practising non-violence generally. After receiving a birthday card from Chris Wood and family I wrote to them: It was a pleasant surprise to receive a birthday card from you on my reaching the milestone of 50 years of age. It made me feel optimistic so that I felt urged to write this note to you. I can only hope that these years of learning have made me a wise man at last!
As you know my forties were my terrible years during which I lost a great job - that of being a scientist specialising in Animal Nutrition with a PhD and after the publication of 35 scientific papers. My efforts to get back into Science have proved to be in vain. However, I am lucky to be working at all after over 200 job applications since then, and am also fortunate in holding on to this petrol station job in view of the uncertainty regarding my mental condition that the doctors had diagnosed. I live in the hope that something better will come along in not too distant a future. I shall certainly keep on trying.
We have just had a months holiday with our relatives in India, full of utter relaxation and visits to nice places. That is what life should be like, if only one had the money to retire to such a future! But living in India has its own problems - too many relatives with financial problems worse than one's own to whom one feels obliged to provide some support. And there is a limit to what one can do for them. It would be nice to think wishfully about selling up here and retiring in India but we have also to think of Rupa's education and her long term future taking into account her ideas of what she would like to do in her life. So we struggle on here for the present, with the Council Tax, Gas Bills, other Stealth Taxes and the rotten weather!
I am glad to know that Stanley has decided to join the Armed Forces after his many career starts. It has been said that a man without an ambition is like a ship without a rudder, drifting about in uncertainty; and with the UK's renewed vigour in pursuing world domination with both soft and hard power options, it seems to me like being a good career choice at this point in time. Unfortunately it is too late for me to consider pursuing after half a century of living life! I hope too that Decia is doing well with her hairdressing apprenticeship. My love to them both.
More when we meet.
The highest level of happiness and satisfaction with one's life may come from finding out the truth about oneself and the wider world for one is then no longer drifting in uncertainty. Acquiring knowledge proved exhilarating at times but it seemed ultimately to lead to the control of all of one's emotions. The path was littered with depression too but this seemed to be only due to knowledge still being hazy or incomplete. How could one tell for certain that one had purged all one's delusions amid the haze and had homed in on the truth at last? I did not receive any flash of enlightenment as the Buddha is reported to have received. The answer would therefore lie in the course that I chose to follow from this point in time.
The central question was whether I should continue with the policy of trying to be one with the truth which would have meant retirement to relative inactivity doing the bare minimum needed for survival and leaving all contentious physical matters alone to sort themselves out? Or should I engage with mankind at large, adopt ambitions in this physical world and pursue them as far as they would go, for example by resuming my writing of scientific papers and looking for a better paid job? In other words, the choice was between following Brahmanism or Vaishnavism (that is, my understanding of it). I decided that being married and having duties to one's wife and child meant that I should be practicising Vaishnavism, which meant celebrating creation and doing one's duties to preserve the environment, both social and natural, in whatever way one could. Without procreation there was no life so that following Brahmanism seemed to me to be the choice of worship for sanyasis: this explained why there were so few temples devoted to the worship of Brahma in India. And I could not bring myself to worship Shiva as the Destroyer, but somewhat contradictorily, also the god of procreation. It has been said that if God had not given man a stomach and a little bit of meat under the stomach, then all the problems of the world would have been removed. But He did, and life must still be lived dutifully in harmony with creation. For all of these reasons I concluded that in the final analysis Gandhiji deserves his place in history as the Mahatma.
What is fated must be mated, and Fate had decided how far I was destined to go along my particular path of questioning the meaning of life and of the existence of God. This was my experience which I wrote for the record so that others may read and draw their own conclusions.
I sent a copy of this update to Dr Shobha, writing: you asked me to provide you with a list of all my thoughts and delusions and I left with your Secretary about 120 pages of the history of my case entitled 'Ignorance is bliss' for your analysis and comments. I hope you received this as I have not heard anything from you about these memoirs. I have now changed the title to 'Purging Delusions' and have included this hopefully final chapter. Dr Shobha did not specifically acknowledge this letter but sent me one back confirming our next appointment of 7 February 2007.
In response to an email sent by Rashmi about the disposal of the Kolkata flat, my younger sister Soumya wrote that she was a simple person and did not understand the ways of God. Rashmi also drafted a letter that I sent to the Department of Education and Skills: I wrote to the Prime Minister sometime ago regarding the problems I have faced for the last two years in finding suitable employment and I understand from the reply of the Prime Minister’s Direct Communications Unit that the letter has been passed on to your department so that you could reply on his behalf. I am attaching copies of my letter and its reply from the PM’s office. My letter explains in details my problems. My letter to the PM was written in desperation after I failed time and again in finding suitable employment by following the normal procedure. I know that this will continue unless someone/some organisation assists me on compassionate grounds. I am a PhD holder Research Scientist with 18 years of experience and 35 scientific papers to my name. But I am now working as a till operator in a petrol station earning £5.50 an hour. The postman who delivers letters to my residence also delivers letters to the petrol station where I work. He very boldly asked me last week if I am a Doctor and if so, why I am working in a petrol station. I have lead a humiliating and frustrating existence for a long time and it is time something was done to end my plight. I will leave my case with your department with the hope that someone can come to my aid. I will be very happy to visit your office if that can bring me face to face with people who can help me as the Prime Minister has advised.
Theresa Bailey of the Department of Education and Skills replied: Firstly, I am sorry to hear of the difficulties you have had finding employment which will allow you to use the skills and knowledge you have developed during your studies. The Government is taking steps to increase further the attractiveness of Higher Education (HE) qualification holders to employers. Vocationally based Foundation Degrees are being introduced in the post 16 sector and colleges and universities are working in partnership with employers to ensure learning programmes are focused on work-based skills. In addition, the Higher Education Funding Council for England is promoting and embedding employability skills into the curriculum of all institutions and programmes. For most people, a degree is a very worthwhile investment. Graduate unemployment is very low: holders of HE qualifications are more than half as likely to be unemployed as non-graduates (2.7% versus 6.0%). In addition, four years after leaving university 85% of people holding HE qualifications are in jobs using their university-acquired skills. Recent research suggests that 18 million jobs have become or will become vacant between 2004 and 2020, half of which are in occupations most likely to employ holders of HE qualifications. I am sorry that your own experience has been disappointing; you will no doubt be aware of a number of websites such as www.prospects.ac.uk and www.jobs.guardian.co.uk which advertise graduate employment opportunities. You may also wish to know that New Scientist also has a vacancy finding facility specifically for science graduates and holders of postgraduate qualifications. The web address is www.newscientistjobs.com/graduate. I hope the above information is helpful. May I take this opportunity to wish you well in your search for suitable employment and your future career.
Rashmi had encouraged me to write again to the Cosmos on 19 January 2007 for this was apparently a very significant day for Cosmic Ordering. I wrote: 'Dear Cosmos. I wish to have another job paying over £20,000 per annum by June 2007. Thank you in advance'. Soon afterwards I applied for the job of a Research Officer at the World Society for the Protection of Animals: to play a key role in researching priority campaign issues and to help implement these as part of the organisation's strategy to raise the standard of animal welfare worldwide. In my covering letter I wrote: As you will note from my CV I was an animal scientist for 18 years before I lost my job at the University of Greenwich and have since become a freelance scientist. After a great deal of soul searching during the past 10 years I came to the conclusion that the environment and all animal life must be preserved and protected by mankind. You may therefore say that in applying for this position I have turned from being a kind of poacher who paid little regard to animal welfare in his early career to becoming a gamekeeper who sees it as his duty to preserve life through non-violence of any kind. I also believe that I have a duty to do something useful and productive during the rest of my life in the area of my specialisation, namely animal science, the environment and societies and a job at your organisation will give me the opportunity to devote myself to this end. This application is therefore not a simple matter of making a career choice to earn a better standard of living, I consider animal welfare as being part of my way of life. I hope you will find my application worthy of in-depth consideration.