I … am … home

36,000 feet in the air, flying above the Canadian Rockies, traveling from Amsterdam to Portland, back from our visit to India, I am wondering where is home? Amritsar, New Delhi or Portland?

Let me back up for more than three decades. I was born in the holy city of Amritsar, in a Sikh family, little did I knew that the home for me would be different during different phases of my life.

My early years were spent in my ancestral home of my grandfather, where our family dwelled with my uncle’s. His son is likely the closest of my cousin’s, having spent the most time with him. He was 10 years older than me, introduced me to Bruce Lee and Michael Jackson. Being the only child, I was spoilt. Being the youngest among my paternal cousins and oldest among the maternal ones, I was loved from both sides. My grandfather would carry me on his shoulders and take me to street vendors selling painted clay toys. My cousin taught me how to fly kite, and my dad taught me calculus (yes, I knew calculus as a young child, but that’s a different story). And my grandmother practically raised me. I was home.

As my dad bought his first house, we moved out of my grandfather’s home. I was 7 or 8 years old. The new home was alien a bit. I remember that I’d ask my parents to “Take me home” as they would put me to sleep. I missed our ancestral home. Over time, I made friends in the neighborhood, played cricket with them, and, most importantly, my grandfather came to live with us. The new house became home. I shared the room with my grandfather and before going to bed, I would ask him to “sing me a song”. He would oblige with singing “sacred hymns” or Shabads, which I would understand much later. He lived until the end of his days with us. That home also gave me the first experience of death. I do not believe I fully understood the gravity of it, as I was protected, and did not attend his funeral. It was maybe it was my parents’ way of protecting me. I also lost a friend to cancer at that young age – someone who was just a few months younger than me. My time there was not that melancholic though, I had lots of fun, learned to ride the bike in the neighborhood. I also started biking to school with friends from the neighborhood, eventually got a moped (yes those tiny things) much earlier than I should have been licensed to drive. I grew until late teens in that home, and the time came for us to move once to our current house within India. I think all three of us got emotional as we handed over the familiar sound of those jingling keys to the new owners. But were also excited to go to our new home.

The new house, where my parents still live, became my home for the next few years. My dad constructed it to home a decent size family. A jingling sound of new keys became part of our lives and we started to get familiar with which switches would turn on lights or fan in different rooms (we have way too many switches in each room). I did not get to live there much, because I left for studying engineering in Chandigarh and then move to New Delhi for a job. A couple of years later, destiny brought me back to Amritsar for two years and I was living once again with my parents. That was almost 20 years back, filled with some good memories. We bought our first car, and I drove it into our outer wall while bringing it home. I blasted classic rock music while occupying the top room in the house. I collected thousands of audio cassettes (my father keeps them as a memory of me). Got my first PC – Intel Pentium PC. And I dreamed of going to the USA. I also met my wife during those years.

My move to the USA was both less of a culture shock than a climate shock. I moved to cold, snowy Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the middle of January. My wife joined me a year later and a few months later, we moved to wet Portland, Oregon in 2001. We are now settled there. We have created our lives around our work. We found friends who became family. Got a house in 2007, became our home where we are raising two incredible human beings.

During this last visit to India, in November 2019, as I walked into the home in Amritsar, memories came flooding back. My brain brought memories of nooks and corners around the house. My muscle memories activated while walking around a broken floor, which my parents got it fixed, still, I kept skipping it. I started looking through the old photographs and fond memories of all the places I have been to. I saw colors in those black and white photos – the red seat of my tricycle, the stripes of my shirt, or the dress my mom wore. Vividly, I remembered the places where that photographs were taken – as an infant in my parents’ arms in our ancestral home and to see my kid’s photos in our home in Oregon.

As the trip was coming to close in India, someone commented that it seemed that “we were ready to go back home”. That made me think, where is my home?

Maybe it is at every place that I have lived or maybe it is where my heart lives and mind remembers or just maybe it is where I am with those whom I love and who love me. 36,000 feet above the ground heading back to Portland, makes me wonder, am I going home?

And as I look at the faces of my kids, I know … I … am … home!

JPS Nagi
November 30th, 2019
Written on the iPhone, 36,000 ft in the air, above the Canadian Rockies!

Memories of the Clouds

I have very few memories from when I was very young. Still some moments are strongly etched in my mind.

When I was couple of years old, my grandfather, whom I remember wearing only white garb, used to carry me on his shoulders, walk couple of miles and to take me to a local potter who made toys out of clay. These toys were molded by hand and painted in the shapes of animals – parrots, dogs, lions, cats, or rabbits. All the toys were painted in bright colors, like reds, blues, yellow, orange, green or black. They would capture my imagination at that age.

Bapu ji, as I fondly called my grandfather, would get me a new toy, and then we would walk back home. The toy, being made from clay, would invariably break within couple of days and he would take me back to get a new one. So this small journey would happen every week.

Time would fly while riding his shoulders, listening to him humming a hymn, the periodic rhythm of his gait, and desire of getting a new toy. We would reach the potter, and I used to choose one of the toy animals. As much as the journey to the potter would be filled with excitement of getting a new toy, the journey walking back home used to be filled with happiness of holding it in my hand.

My eyes would look up in the skies, and I would try to find a cloud, shaped like the toy I just got. As soon as I would find some decipherable shape, I would point to the cloud and shout “Bapu ji, look there is a cat”. He would stop, shade his eyes using his wrinkled hand, and look up. He always agreed with me on the shape of the cloud. He would then tickle my feet, break my gaze from the sky and start to walk again, as I would giggle with tickles.

As I got older and heavier, he would hold my hand, so I could walk along. The moment I would step out of the house, I used to tell him that I would get tired. He would implore me to walk a little further, till the end of the street, where he would promise to pick me up. As we would reach there, he would ask me to go a little further. Humming hymns, pointing to new shapes of the clouds, he would keep me distracted from not feeling tired. Before I knew it, I would have a new toy in my hand, and I would pull on his hand making him go faster. Hopping, skipping, pulling on his hand, he never let go of my hand. We would keep looking for new shapes in the skies.

Summers were hot, so we would sleep on the terraces. The sun would wind down, bringing in a cooler dusk. The sky would get shades of orange, red and purple. I would lie down on the terrace with my parents, or grandparents, or uncles, or aunts, or cousins, and watch those clouds as they float by. Constant changing clouds would result in innocent arguments about their shapes. I would call some shape a horse; my cousin would say that it is a dog. The wind would melt away the white elephant before my aunt would make out its trunk or tail. And sometimes the rain clouds would appear and start pouring as everyone would rush downstairs.

While lying under the skies, I would slip into the dreams of floating with the clouds. I would never know when my father carried me to my bed on the terrace, or when my mother would tuck me in. The bird calls at the break of dawn and my mom’s calling would wake me up. The slanting rays of the sun would hit the eyes. Through peeking eyelids, the white and grey clouds would be floating against yellow or red sky.

Maybe these memories are the reason that every camera that I have ever owned, seem to turn itself up to the heavens. I am still looking for those shapes in the clouds that I used to as a kid. The blue skies seem so far away, yet it seems like so close. It carries all the memories from my childhood in its vastness – of people who were, people who are; for the people who will be.

All I have to do is just reach out.

Jatinder PS Nagi
May 25, 2012

The Creator and His Creation (Guest Blog by Rana)

Back in the day when we were kids, we never thought where we would be when we grew up. And then we grew up. Scores of years later, I came across Rana, one more time through the internet.

When you walk away from a place, in your mind the time seems to have stopped for that place. In your mind, the images, the people freeze. My mind also had a picture of Rana as that guy I knew during school. I had frozen him back in that time too. As I started interacting with him, I saw him as a person I knew from cryogenic chambers of my mind, yet I saw another side of him. Even being separated by more than 6000 miles, I could easily identify with him. He is like my long lost brother.

Rana writes. And he writes beautifully. What follows here is a piece he shared with some of us recently. It is a well thought, well written piece. So I decided to share it with the world.

This is the first contribution "guest blog" by Gurpreet Singh Rana, and that too without his knowledge. His writings may seem small like marble, but if you look closer, they envelop the universe. I hope he will contribute more "knowingly" in days to come and tickle our gray matter.

Here he is with "The Creator and His Creation"

He sat alone one day thinking
What if I create a world of living beings?
Lo and behold and the earth came into seeing
And came the mountains, the oceans and the spring
Came the stars, the moon the sun and all other things
And all those beauties, emotions and the musings
Then came the greed of the man, the lust and the cravings
Drew they lines; the countries,the continents came into viewing.

Sad He sat as He saw the wars, battles and the deceit
Sad He sat as He saw the poverty, religious fanatics and the people cheat
Sad He sat as He saw the corruption, oppression and the truth taking a defeat.

A man sat alone one day thinking
Who is the one who has made all these belongings?
Is He there or is He not, or all are just imagining
This creation is a chain of reactions, apply some reasoning
How do I believe that He made all which I am perceiving?
I am the supreme; I am the creator, of all these worldly things
I controlled the floods; I carved the mountains, and even did cloning
I have the power to reach the moon and now I am who is controlling

He sat alone one day, but He was not sad
He had a smile on His lips as He saw the human being brag
He reflected and remarked, “Is this the beginning of the end?”

September 10, 2010
Copyright Gurpreet Singh Rana

Shaheed Bhagat Singh

In a midwinter afternoon in 1928, an Indian dressed eloquently in long overcoat, and a formal British attire of the times, walked towards the Lahore railway station. He was wearing expensive clothes, well groomed and wore a mustache as the only facial hair. The mustache was turned up on the ends showing his pride, the head was adorned by a suede hat turned on a side in style. He was closely followed by a lady carrying a small child. The lady was dressed as someone from rich Indian class. Three poor looking servants were carrying their luggage and following them. On their way from the horse cart to train station, they were stopped by the few British officers. Police asked for their identity cards, upon checking and satisfied, they let them go. One of their servants fell behind while carrying a heavy load. He was stopped by the officers. When the Sahib realized one of his servants was stopped, he turned around and kicked his servant. Follow us closely, he told him in anger. Officers were shocked at the sudden reaction by the Sahib, happy the way he was treating the poor servant, smiled at him and let the servant go. Indian Sahib asked the officers why the security is so tight on the railway station. Officers replied that they are looking for a young Sikh guy who had murdered J. P. Saunders, a Deputy Superintendent of Police few days back. The sahib bid them good luck and walked towards the train going out of Lahore smiling and amused.

Earlier in 1928, the British government created a commission under Sir John Simon to report on the current political situation in India. The Simon Commission was boycotted by all Indian political parties because it did not include a single Indian as its member and it was met with protests all over the country. The commission arrived in Lahore on October 30, 1928, Lala Lajpat Rai led the non-violent march as a protest against the commission. But the police responded with violence and the police Superintended Scott beat Lala Lajpat Rai severely while the rest of the police force tried to keep the remaining protestors at bay. Lala Lajpat Rai later succumbed to his injuries. Among the people who were kept away from Lala ji was Bhagat Singh, a mere young man of 21 years of age.

Bhagat Singh was born to a family of freedom fighters in 1907. In his teen years he read ferociously about the European revolutions and developed communist viewpoint. During that time he believed strongly in Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement. In 1922, at Chauri Chaura, few British officers attacked few members of demonstrators of for the Gandhian movement. In retaliation, the remaining party members attacked the police chowki (police station) and set it ablaze. When Gandhi heard of the incident, he called off the movement. Bhagat was about 14 years of age then, and he was disappointed when the movement was called off. He felt strongly that one should have right to defend one self. He had escaped his home to avoid an early marriage and later joined National College at Lahore where he excelled in studies and dramatics. When questioned later why he ran away from home, he told him mother that he is already married. She was shocked, and relieved when he said he is married to freedom and will one day bring home his bride.

During his years at National College, he became a member of Naujawan Bharat Sabha (Youth Society of India). He became popular and joined the Hindustan Republican Association who was bringing awareness among youth to fight for their freedom. He started writing for freedom newspapers in Urdu and Punjabi. He later organized a meeting of all the revolutionaries from all over India which was held under the name Kirti Kissan Party (Working Farmers Meet). He met and got highly influenced by Lala Lajpat Rai.

Bhagat was one of the eyewitnesses of Lala ji being beaten by Police Superintended Scott during the Simon Commission protest. They were shouting slogans “Simon Commission Waapis Jayo” (Simon Commission Go Back) with their banners saying the same in 4 different languages. Three weeks later, Lala ji died from the head injuries he received. Bhagat was highly moved by this incident and decided to avenge his death. Bhagat joined other revolutionaries – Shivaram Rajguru, Jai Gopal and Sukhdev Thapar in a plot to kill the police chief. They watched the movements of Scott for days. The plan was that Jai Gopal who was posing as a street side vendor, would signal when Scott comes out of the police station in Lahore and Bhagat was supposed to shoot. Sukhdev and Rajguru were supposed to cover him and shoot Scott when required.

On the day of the planning, a British Police officer in a large hat came out of the police station and Jai signaled his fellows. Bhagat fired a shot and pistol rang out in the heart of Lahore. Some guards outside the police station ran in to get guns. In the mean time Sukhdev and Rajguru joined Bhagat and the three emptied their pistols in the officer lying dead on the ground. It was then that they realized that the officer was not Superintendent Scott, but it was his deputy – J.P. Saunders. The three looked around to see if Scott would come out, but they saw guards coming out of the station with guns. The three ran in different directions. Guards got confused whom to follow. and they split after them. The confusion of the police and gave them few extra minutes to escape.

The days that followed, police searched almost every house in Lahore. Somehow the three of them stayed hidden to a pre planned location. When the police searches were conducted, they moved to a home of a fellow revolutionary – Batukeshwar Dutt, his wife and their kid. The three were treated as part of the family during the next few days. Police was getting strict in their searches. On one of the nights, while gazing at the heavens, Bhagat came down hurriedly, and took off his turban and cut his hair using a scissors, He asked his friends for razor and shaved off his beard. He kept his moustache and shaped it to turn up on the ends. “This is my pride” he said. Sukhdev and Rajguru were surprised, as he shaved his beard and cut his hair, a violation of one of the sacred tenets of Sikhism. His answer was “My religion is my country. What kind of religious person am I when I can not get my motherland out of the chains of slavery.”

He obtained some clothes that looked like upper class Indian clothes and a hat. The wife of his fellow revolutionary posed as his wife with a kid, the remaining three as their servants and they made their escape from the Lahore train station via train. The officers who checked their identities did not realize that the family of Sahib that just passed was in fact the very person they were looking for. The police searched more and found no traces of Bhagat Singh. He has excaped right under their noses.

During the weeks that followed, British government enacted the Defence of India Act to give more power to the police. The Act was to combat revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and was defeated in the council by one vote. However, the Act was then passed under the ordinance that claimed that it was in the best interest of the public. Bhagat Singh’s Hindustan Socialist Republican Association planned to explode a bomb in the assembly where the ordinance was going to be passed. The idea was to create noise and make people aware of this act so that they can protest against it. Chadrashekhar Azad attempted to stop Bhagat Singh from carrying out the bombings indicating that assembly would difficult to escape from. Bhagat response was why they would want to escape, when they can get more attention and awareness. Seeing all arguments fail with Bhagat and others have made up their mind too, Azad gave up. It was decided that Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt would throw the bombs in the assembly and then distribute pamphlets which discuss the Act to bring awareness.

April 8, 1929 is when Bhagat and Batukeshwar entered the assembly silently. And when the act was brought up, they stood up, and threw noise makers in the corridors of the assembly and shouted Inquilab Zindabad! (Long Live the Revolution!). They opened the front of their overcoats which revealed colorful leaflets talking about the Act and started showering and handing out the leaflets. They stood there and waited to be arrested, as they knew the escape would surely kill them due to the security outside the assembly. The bomb neither injured nor killed anyone, Singh and Dutt claimed that they used a noisemaker, a claim later confirmed by British forensics, that the bomb was not powerful enough to kill or injure anyone. Still they were sentenced to Transportation for Life for the bombing on June 12, 1929.

The trial followed for the bombings and eventual involvement with Saunders killing was brought to light too. Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev were charged with the murder. The rest of the members of their party were also captured one by one and they were all tried together. Bhagat Singh decided to use the court as a tool to publicize his cause for the independence of India and bring the awareness among the youth. They admitted to the murder and made statements against the British rule during the trial which were highly publicized in both British and Indian papers. Singh would quote past European revolutions and British Law and Policies. He would argue how they were wrong and how the British should learn from the history of their continent. Due to their anti-British arguments in the trial, the case was ordered to be carried out without the convicted being present at the hearing. This decision was met with an uproar among their followers as the public was now waiting to hear his views.

In jail, Bhagat and others led a hunger strike advocating for the rights of prisoners and undertrials. British jails at that time were treating murderers and thieves better than political prisoners, who, by law, were meant to be given better rights. The strike lasted more than two months and they eventually got better food for political prisoners, books and a daily newspaper. The British also agreed to provide better clothing, hygienic living conditions. He also demanded that political prisoners should not be treated to forced labor. British succumbed to their wishes which resulted in making Bhagat famous outside the prison walls beyond Punjab. His popularity grew in the subcontinent among the young Indians whom he had inspired. People started to ask to be treated better from their British masters.

Being a ferocious reader from his young years, he devoured books in prison. He also kept a diary. He would read different books and note down quotations that he liked in his diary. He became friends with the jailor and other officers due to his good behavior. He befriended a homicide murderer who is said to have been influenced by him. He would sit down and have long talks with him. He turned from a heartless murderer to a person who was praying day and night to spare Bhagat’s life.

The numerous supporters had been protesting against the hanging. Bhagat’s parents were struggling emotionally outside the jail. They had pride in their eyes from the revolution their son had started and also sadness from the upcoming loss. Bhagat had met his parents and sister earlier that day. His mother was last to see him. He asked forgiveness from his mother as he had not brought home the bride he had promised her. He also asked her not to cry when he is gone. “You are a brave mother who gave up his son to mother India for a bigger motive. You are an example of the big heart of an Indian mother who has given birth and blessed me. You might be loosing one son, but when you look up, you will see thousands more sons. And the mother of such brave sons can not be crying over the loss of just one”, he had told her.

To avoid any violent protest by the supporters who had camped outside the prison for few days, it was decided to hang the three of them at 7 pm the night before they were due. The hanging which used to take place in the morning, was proponed by more than 12 hours. When the jailor came to fetch him, there were tears in his eyes when he told Bhagat “It is time.” Bhagat was reading Karl Marx’s book and he complained that if they had decided to hang him per schedule he would have finished the book. Sukhdev and Rajguru also joined, their hands tied behind their back. As they walked, their heads were held high in esteem, and they were all singing “Mera Rang De Bansanti Chola” (Dye my clothes saffron). This song has been passed on to generation and became a cult song in the hearts and minds of Indians.

When they were about to be hanged, they refused to cover their heads. Their last wish was to untie their hands so that they can embrace one another. Police obliged and they were given their last freedom. They hugged and congratulated one another on having achieved the honor of dying for their motherland. Then they stepped forward and kissed the rope when they placed it around their necks themselves. There was smile on their faces and a hope for a free nation. They held each others hand and shouted “Inquilab Zindabad”.

“Inquilab Zindabad” was heard from inside the jail at 7 pm on March 23, 1931. The shouts sounded happy and joyful. This was the signal of the final curtain dropping. The deathly silence that followed both inside and outside the prison was broken by his sister’s wails. Bhagat’s mother and father did not cry. They held their heads high with pride to have given their son in a struggle to free their motherland. The bodies were smuggled out of the jail by the police who feared that the dead bodies will instigate violence protests. The bodies were cremated by the police (some say cut and then cremated) at Hussainiwala on banks of Sutlej River.

Bhagat Singh’s death had the effect that he desired and he inspired thousands of youths to assist the remainder of the Indian independence movement. After his hanging, youths in regions around Northern India rioted in protest against the British Raj. The Raj made Bhagat a martyr and wrote his name in golden letters in India’s independence struggle.

On the banks of Sutlej River where he was cremated, the Bhagat Singh Memorial commemorates freedom fighters of India. A ceremony is held every year there to commemorate that day. But the ceremony is celebration of youth – inspiring the new generations. There are dramatics contests, debates, singing competition, something Bhagat Singh would have enjoyed.

“The aim of life is no more to control the mind, but to develop it harmoniously; not to achieve salvation here after, but to make the best use of it here below; and not to realise truth, beauty and good only in contemplation, but also in the actual experience of daily life; social progress depends not upon the ennoblement of the few but on the enrichment of democracy; universal brotherhood can be achieved only when there is an equality of opportunity – of opportunity in the social, political and individual life.”

– from Bhagat Singh’s prison diary

September 2007

Copyright JPS Nagi

Richard Bach & Me (and her)

What if space shifted and time bent and we could meet ourselves as we’ll be twenty years from now? What if we could talk face-to-face with the people we were in the past, with the people we are in the parallel lifetimes, in alternate worlds? What would we tell them, and what would we ask? How would we change if we knew what waits beyond space and time?

Heavy? Don’t worry, I’ll lighten everything up. The last time I wrote was when I fell in love … … with ‘a book’ … … and that too of philosophy of Plato. And my friend Mols, he wrote recently to me, saying so. My falling in and out of love is a story that stretches far back in time. I fell in love couple of times and (luckily) fallen out of it till I found Gitanjali.

Anyway, flashback. I recall one incident on the time-line during which my heart would skip a beat on seeing her. She was (and is) somewhat of a whizz-kid.

The settings this time are shifted to the beautiful and serene Chandigarh. And that’s here that I fell in love for the second time (yes, it was my second crush). The city is beautiful, the climate – just right and she was absolutely stunning. What else is required? … … Richard Bach? … …

Did I hear someone mention a name that sounded like some classical music composer of olden times whom my friend Misha would very often impress upon me to listen? And what the hell was this Richard Bach doing in my private and personal love story? Well, he was there. No way out of it and no denying of it. Richard Bach. The lines in the beginning of this piece are by him.

I was studying in the local engineering school and she was there too. my junior (I hope everybody has guessed her by now). I fell in love with her, not at the first sight or first bite (as my good friend Mols would put it). But this happened over time, with some encouragement from Mols and other. she was his classmate. Slowly and steadily, the poison of love entered my thought my heart and into my head. “What a girl!”

Lets skip some details of how I got to know her and all the stuff I did to make her notice me which she did, we’ll go directly to one incident of me with her. So flash-forward a little.

I was sitting with her at her place, and we started talking about books (Oh my God! Save me.). I became an avid reader after that encounter, but at that time I would say I was … not a great reader and was likely not very comfortable discussing about them books. But anything for her.

“Do you read?”, she asked. What a question. Of course I read. I did my schooling in a British Convent School, and yes ma’am I do read.


“What do you prefer in fiction?”, now wait a minute, what is fiction … … my mind was running its horses; fiction … fiction … yes – stories.

“I prefer pulp.” In my mind I silently thanked Quentin Tarantino for making Pulp Fiction. If many of you have not guessed, I’m a movie-buff too.

“Do you? What all authors have you read?”

“I don’t read much. I prefer music and movies. But sometimes I read. I’ll tell you about the first novel I read (apart from my school). That was Sidney Sheldon’s If Tomorrow Comes. One of our family friends suggested it.”

“So you like Sheldon in pulp?” Hmmm. OK, so Sheldon writes pulp … …


“Sonu, I’ve read many authors and many styles. Now I would like to read philosophy and some more meaningful writings. Have you heard of Richard Bach.”

That was the first time in my life I heard about Richard Bach. Who was this Bach. Misha would often come to my hostel and put Johanne Sebastian Bach’s compositions at very high volume … boring the hell out of all of us. But same man cannot be a philosophical or meaningful writer and a great composer at the same time (or could be, you never know). Richard must be someone else.

“Yeah.” I was trying to be ecstatic, “Richard Bach. O my God! You should have told me; rather we should have talked about him earlier. Do you know my father reads a lot and Richard Bach is one of his favorite authors? Do you know that he has all of his famous books? I think 5 or 6 of them. But personally I would have skipped though 1 or 2, but his writing do not impress me much. Actually, I am more practical, so I prefer staying away from all that needs brains.” I was trying everything to win her.

Now that I have made an easy way out of all the discussions that I could have gotten myself into, I’ll tell you about my father. Well he reads a lot … he reads jokes, newspapers and his immense collection of advanced calculus books. If you would ask him, he would say who is Richard Bach. He is all logic and no philosophy. He doesn’t even know if a man with such a name ever existed.

“O really? Do you have all the Bach? Well that’s wonderful. Have you read Jonathon Livingstone Seagull? Oh, I have read it long time back. It’s beautiful!”

Jonathon Livingstone Seagull? Now what is this? Must be some seagull.

“Oh yeah, it’s different. Unlike many stories we read in our day to day lives.” This is the most appropriate answer. For those articulate people who are very good in discussion, I think they would understand that at this point I must give discussion a new turn.

“Yes Sonu, this small book really makes a difference in one’s life. After reading the book, one thing has become pretty clear in my mind, we are not here for mere earning our bread and butter. Life is all about exploring new heights, think about them till you reel under the pressure, dream about them and nurture them.”

God help me.

“I read it long time back. So I never perceived it like that. Would you like to read it? I can get it to you.” Let’s get out of this seagull business, I was thinking myself.
“I can get you the book. I have it in Amritsar.”

“Can you?” there was twinkle in the eye and a beautiful smile on the face. I could have done anything at that time.

“Sure. But its in Amritsar. Rather, I’ll get all his books, next time I’ll go to Amritsar. You can read them all.”

“Oh thank you, Sonu. That’s so nice of you”. Oh yes, I am nice.

And henceforth this man … … what’s his name – Richard Bach came to my life.

Well I stayed for some time and had some pakoras (fried fritters) with her while I was being given this dhobi patkaa about Richard Bach. Before taking leave, I promised her that next time I’ll go to Amritsar, I’ll get all of Bachs.

It was 4’o clock in the afternoon when I left her place and it was Thursday. On my way back, I stopped in Sector 17 at Capital Book Depot. My friend Ajay’s dad is the owner of that shop (he became my friend after this Bach). I went to him and asked for Bach … Richard Bach. He looked at me from head to toe (“Don’t I look like one of those Richard Bach guys?”).

He showed me to the shelf and I could see was a rack in front of me with all the Bach. He suggested Kahlil Gibran, if I was about to start with this kind of writings but I told him that I’d buy only Bach. He went away and I counted that six of the titles of this author were lying there. I brought all the six of them on the counter and asked Ajay for the price of all. He said they’d all cost me around Rs 800. And I had none in my pocket. I told him that I have no money with me but I would like to buy all of these tomorrow and he can keep a set aside for me. He said that would be no problem at all and that I can come anytime to buy them.

Now to arrange 800 Rupees. In the evening, my parents called (they used to call me everyday, even today they call me almost everyday) and I told them that I was out of money and needed to pay some hostel dues and I also need to buy few books. My father never questioned me about money. He said that I can collect the money from the driver of a local bus service (Maharaja Travels) that runs between Amritsar and Chandigarh. Wonderful. The very next day around half past 10, I got the money. Two thousand rupees.

Hit Capital Book Depot. Ajay recognized me, I think it was easy for him since I was wearing the same clothes that I was wearing the day before. He was surprised that I have come back for Bach. Many people do not turn out after they have asked the bookseller to keep some books aside for them. I bought the books, made the payments. That’s when Ajay and me came to know each other. I have bought many books after that from him.

Over the weekend, I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull, One, There’s No Such Place As Far Away. So now I knew who is Richard Bach. Then I started with Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah and then later after 3 days I started with Biplane. Well I was through with five of his books. And then the one that remained was The Bridge Across Forever: A Love Story. On Friday Misha came. Misha’s eyes twinkled at the sight of these books. He saw all the books lying scattered in my room. His expression was of a clown who gets struck by a baseball (or cricket) bat and passes out with the smug happy expression on his face.

“Sardarji, theek thaak ho (surdy, are you alright)?” was his instant question. After much dodging around, I ended up telling him the truth. Now it was easy to talk to him. Needless to say, Misha had read almost all the books. We had a nice discussion.

“After reading the book, one thing has become pretty clear in my mind. we are not here for mere earning our bread and butter. Life is all about exploring new heights, think about them till you reel under the pressure, dream about them and nurture them.” I repeated what she had said to me.

Misha had his own ideas, “ It also tells us that to follow freely the promptings of heart, one must not conceal from oneself that life is coarse and ruthless in its own wayward course. The book is a bid to rekindle the sleeping Jonathan Livingston Seagull in all of us. Through the seagull, the author explains this to us and takes us to the finer nuances of life. What does a man need? We always think of common things – bread, butter and a bed to sleep on. After reading the book, you will see that there is more to life than those. You don’t have to simply live for them. How about bringing a pose of roses for your beloved from the stiff cliffs of Alpine, when roses are out of season. This book will teach and prompt you to do that.”

I was impressed. Misha, the great. Now I can talk about this author.

“This book packs into a few short pages a plethora of universal truths. It is a simply written tale of the nature of purpose and of perfection. It’s a story of freedom and thought and immortality that ought to inspire even the most stubborn pessimists and nay-sayers.”, I added as now I understood it better.

Misha made himself comfortable in my room (as he always used to do). Many ideas were exchanged over lunch and over evening tea. Misha wore the same smug expression and was also enjoying every moment of it.

He started another thread of discussion, “There’s No Such Place as Far Away, now that is an amazing piece. When she was about to turn five, a little girl named Rae Hansen invited Richard Bach to her birthday party. Though deserts, storms, mountains, and a thousand miles separated them, Rae was confident that her friend would appear. There’s No Such Place As Far Away chronicles the exhilarating spiritual journey that delivered Rae’s anxiously awaited guest to her side on that special day – and tells of the powerful and enduring gift that would keep him forever close to her heart. Richard Bach’s inspiring, now – classic tale is a profound reminder that miles cannot truly separate us from friends … that those we love are always with us – every moment of the infinite celebration we call life.”

I was getting ideas too. as I said, “This is one of those rare books that has a timeless message and a simple beauty which belie its brevity. You can read this book in ten minutes. And, you can re-read it a hundred times and feel differently about it each time. Consider it the abridged Jonathon Livingston Seagull or Illusions, but don’t think of it as leaving out anything of importance. I particularly like this book because, in a few minutes, it helps me remember some of the simple truths of life – that time and space cannot separate us from the one’s we love. Besides that, it has some fantastic water-color illustrations which I found enjoyable to simply view.”

“Yes, exactly. Very true, very true”, Misha said sipping his tea.

I wanted to explore more. “And Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. In the cloud-washed airspace between the cornfields of Illinois and blue infinity, a man puts his faith in the propeller of his biplane. For disillusioned writer and itinerant barnstormer Richard Bach, belief is as real as a full tank of gas and sparks firing in the cylinders…until he meets Donald Shimoda–former mechanic and self-described messiah who can make wrenches fly and Richard’s imagination soar…. In Illusions, the unforgettable follow-up to his Richard Bach takes to the air to discover the ageless truths that give our souls wings: that people don’t need airplanes to soar…that even the darkest clouds have meaning once we lift ourselves above them… and that messiahs can be found in the unlikeliest places–like hay fields, one-traffic-light midwestern towns, and most of all, deep within ourselves.”

Misha had something to say too. “The best part is the thought-provoking dialogue between a guy named Richard and a real Messiah. This story will change you if it ever get into your head.”

Misha left for home later in the evening. That night, I finished Biplane. It was first time in my life I felt there is more than Sidney Sheldon to life. There is Richard Bach. Oh what a writer. I was doing it all because of her. Did you guys think I forgot her, talking about Misha and Richard Bach? Of course not.
And all these days, I must tell you, I was meeting her everyday and we talked and chatted a bit – but not Richard Bach.

During the next weekend I finished with The Bridge Across Forever: A Love Story. Bach wrote of a man haunted by the ghost of a wise, mystical, lovely lady who lived just around the corner in time. This story tells of his quest to find her. His search for his dreamed-of soulmate, his detour into wealth and success, and his ultimate meeting with the woman with whom he has found love and enchantment. If you’ve ever felt alone in a world of strangers, missing someone you’ve never met, you’ll find a message from your love in this book. Isn’t it amazing how our life is so in our faces yet we are too blind to see? This reconnects to the hummings from my inner self and not the moaning of the outside world. When we are finally at one, awake, and aware who knows maybe we can all have it. We get the answers all the time but we push them away for whatever reason. An inspiration to love beyond this life.

Well, I had read it all and was ready to talk to anyone about this author. All this to get the attention of that someone special. Over the next weekend, I went to Amritsar to meet my parents. Spent some time with them. Met couple of friends. Missed her. Traveled back to Chandigarh.

On Monday, I met her. After daily greetings, I told her that I had brought the books she wanted. She was happy to know that and seeing her happy, I was happy too. That evening I took the books to her place and gave it to her. And even suggested the one’s she should read first and the one’s that are to be savored last.

She read them in about 10-12 days time. I had continued to meet her wherever I could and even discussed the books individully with her (thanks to Misha). She was happy to know that I had read them all. She was impressed by my versions and understanding of these writings (I think). Afterwards, she suggested many more books to me and many more she demanded (the one’s she wanted to read and Ajay happily supplied me with them (of course not free).

And that how I came to know about Richard Bach. As I write this, I see that set of books in front of me. As I look back, sometimes I think I was making a fool of myself, and at other times, I think that she has to be thanked at some point for making me a more ferocious reader. I have read hundreds of books since, needless to say even more heavier than Richard Bach. But these books have a special place in the time line of my life. It was fate, destiny or her, but in the end, she did make a difference in my life, and my reading.

Wherever she is in the world, I hope she is reading some new book, or maybe she is reading the ‘life’ itself.

February 2008
Copyright JPS Nagi

Epilogue (August 2010): Although my original Richard Bach books are scattered everywhere, my new set of Richard Bach still sits on my bookshelf, as seen in one of the images above.