Every introduction to Bangalore speaks of the four towers of Kempegowda that marked the corners of the capital he founded four-hundred years ago. But these small things are not towers—not in the way the Jin Mao or the Sears or the Qutb Minar are towers. Kempegowda's Towers are small gopuras, tiny things built on dome-shaped virgin rock, each a mere nipple on a supine breast.
The Ramana Maharshi shrine is on a tangent down from the northern gopura near Mekhri Circle. I tried to meditate there today, but couldn't, because of two men speaking fine Tamil at the door. I don't know the language so well, but I could tell that there was nothing spiritual in their dialog, but words of commerce in this business city of Bangalore, and their voices had an excellent timbre which was doubly distracting. I opened my eyes after a while, but without anger. (I remembered the story from school of Sage Durvasa, upon whom, when he was immersed in meditation, a sparrow released itself from a branch above. He opened his eyes and raised his head to the sparrow. It burned to ash.)
I am no sage, and my eyes opened to the Bhagawan's: inviting eyes; riveting eyes; loving eyes; the most unusual eyes I've encountered. Into them I melted, and felt no desire to resume meditation. I sat a long time. I like to pray here. It is clean and dry, unlike in our temples. It is quiet. There are no rituals. I can be religious in the way I want: I prostrate myself sometimes. Some visits, I do not even do a namasthe: I merely sink into veerasana and meditate and afterward I gaze into the Bhagawan's eyes.
I ask for nothing.
Today I wondered who took this picture of the Bhagawan. And I thought of Henri Cartier-Bresson, who was in Arunachala during the last two weeks of the Bhagawan's life. On the night the Bhagawan died a meteor died a brilliant death in the skies: thousands saw its light over the Arunachala mountain. Seeing that sight in the heavens the poet Harindranath Chattopadhyaya shouted: mark the time! Cartier-Bresson, who was with him, shouted back: thirteen to nine! That was the moment of departure of the Bhagawan: the men ran to the ashram knowing it in their hearts.
The following day Cartier-Bresson tried to capture the frenzy of the devotees at the burial. It was delayed into dusk and he was disappointed with what he achieved with his camera, and cursed his luck.
I finished up the day watching The Sting, seeing Chicago of 1932, a post-depression story in which the thief robbed the burglar, and the conman swindled the fraudster, and all the money there was, was bad money. The famed blue of Paul Newman’s eyes didn’t show so much, but when he smiled, and Robert Redford too, all the gray of the time turned to shining silver.