Me and My Tantrik
The year was 1964. I had just then married a beautiful girl after a long courtship. Life was full of joy and anticipation. I was a young qualified surgeon then just returned from Britain. The problem was that neither I had an independent accommodation to live nor much money of my own.
With stars in my eyes and prayers on my lips, we opted for bed and English breakfast accommodation with an elderly couple in the upscale Colaba area. After hunting a bit, my wife and I were able to find nearby an inexpensive eatery that took care of our lunch and dinner.
I had arrived from England only a few months earlier; I was neither attached with any surgeon nor to a specific clinic. It was not easy for a surgeon to begin practice without such an attachment. I could not have possibly practice as a freelance surgeon without scalpels or pairs of scissors. I was virtually at my wits’ end and did not know what to do next.
It was a Sunday morning; a telephone call came from nowhere. “Prithvi Madhok”, the caller asks. “I am looking for a doctor called Prithvi Madhok,” the caller says. I was really astonished; nobody knew me in the area and how could anybody be asking for me and that also by my first name that very few of my friends knew. Nervously and hesitatingly, I answered “I am Prithvi Madhok”. The caller said somewhat authoritatively, “I want you to come to see my mother. She is 90 with complaint of pain in her tummy.” I consulted my wife. She imagined that it could be a prank from one of my friends and advised me not to go. The man called again. This time he gave his name as Sharma and said he was sending me a car and urged me to come and see his mother.
How did he know where I stayed or that I was a surgeon? I hardly knew anyone in the area. Who had then recommended me to him? After an hour the car arrived, and I found myself sitting in a Mercedes, going towards Colaba Causeway near the Taj Hotel. On reaching his house, I discovered that his name was Nyaya Sharma. Of medium-height, he was a fair skinned individual with piercing eyes. There was something about him that was out of the ordinary. Very different! I was led into an elegant bedroom where his mother lay on a four-poster bed. At 90, she was frail and diabetic with gross abdominal distention and also had temperature. A detailed examination revealed that there was a long history of constipation and diarrhea with occasional blood in stools. That was obviously a case of blockage in the large intestine, probably caused by cancer. With her frailty, pallor, dehydration and inanition, she hardly looked like being fit for an operation. I advised Mr. Sharma to shift her to a hospital where we could do X-ray studies and endoscopy for proper diagnosis as also to control her temperature and diabetes. He was agreeable to my suggestion provided the hospital was not far off from his residence. We chose the North Cote Nursing Home that was just across the road from the Taj.
Dr. Moti Wadhwani, a young diabetic specialist, was consulted to control her diabetes. He ordered blood test and some treatment. Meanwhile, we got going with resuscitation and put her on a drip. She responded to enemas and her abdominal distention lessened. With control of diabetes, correction of dehydration, she showed signs of improvement. Nyaya Sharma was pleased. The diabetic specialist started visiting the patient thrice a day, although that was not necessary. Moti was a greedy doctor and would make much ado of controlling simple diabetes in any patient. Meanwhile, X-ray and endoscopy with biopsy had confirmed the diagnosis of Colonic cancer.
Mr. Sharma was not happy with Moti and the exorbitant bills that he frequently presented for his visits. Sharma was of the opinion that Dr. Moti’s services be dispensed with. On a Sunday afternoon, we all met, to make the final payment to Moti and to tell him that his services were not required any longer. Not much was said except that Nyaya Sharma produced a wad of notes and put it in his hands. Instantly, Moti started yelling with pain, he fell down, got up, threw away the notes and started running for his life. Being a Sunday afternoon, the lift was unavailable. So Moti ran down the four flights of the stairs, and I ran behind him. Panting heavily Moti opened his car doors and told me that when Nyaya shook his hand, a peculiar pain and fire ran through his body. He thought he was going to die and swore he would never come back. He thought Nyaya was some kind of magician, who had supernatural powers. We never saw Moti again.
The operation of Nyaya’s mother went off smoothly and she was discharged after five days. When I went home that evening, there was a silver tea set waiting for me with a note “Happy Birthday”. It was the 9th of September and I wondered how Nyaya came to know of my birthday? This remained a matter of speculation for many days in my small household. He amply rewarded me for the operation and suggested that I continued to visit his mother once a week as long as she was alive.
One day he phoned to say “doctor, please come on Sunday for your weekly visit and have breakfast with me.” When I reached his house, I saw about 10 foreigners mostly Americans with a few Englishmen sitting in his living room. They came from various callings. Two were from Hollywood and another was a manager at Disney Land. The Englishmen were university professors from Oxford and the remaining were businessmen, visiting India for business and spiritual calling. Nyaya Sharma was absent. We came to know that he was in his prayer room. After some light breakfast and coffee, we were ushered into his prayer room that was about 14x12 feet in size and dimly lit. Fragrance of burning incense and dhoop filled the air; Nyaya Sharma sat behind the icon of goddess Durga with two small fires burning. He was partly dressed in shorts with a sacred thread around his neck. His body was oily and sweaty. We were told that he had been meditating for 24 hours. Facing him was a medium size picture of Mahatma Gandhi that hung on the wall. Nyaya’s eyes were half shut and the smoke of incense and burning oil was all round him.
He opened his eyes and extended a warm welcome to all of us. He told me that they were his friends from abroad and they had come to learn Raj Yoga and spirituality from him. They were all “confused” men, as he put it, in search of happiness, which had so far eluded them. First of all, I want to show them the power of Yoga. He beckoned one of them and asked him to hold his wrist and feel the pulse. He asked me the same thing. Both of us answered in the affirmative. He then jerked his wrist and asked us to feel again. There was no pulse.
He asked Mr. Warner who was the manager from Disney Land ‘what was his favourite food?’. He said cheese omelette. Nyaya looked up at the ceiling and blew his breath. Lo and behold the room was filled with aroma of cheese omelette. Another Mr. Smith, professor of Sociology from Oxford, was asked to close his eyes and then look at the picture on the opposite wall. Prof. Smith replied it was of Mahatma Gandhi. Nyaya tapped his hand on his knee. See again, he said Oh! It was Marilyn Monroe. Once again he tapped. He said now. It was Lord Buddha. He tapped again and asked once again. It was then Jesus Christ. The photo was that of Mahatma Gandhi and Smith kept seeing the various images that Nyaya wanted him to see. There was a brief interval when everybody was looking at everybody else in awe -- surprised, shocked and mystified. Nyaya announced that everybody should close his eyes and only open after two minutes. Nyaya was sitting in the Yoga posture (Sukh Ahsana).
When we opened our eyes after two minutes, we saw Nyaya sitting one foot above the ground in deep thought, eyes closed and smoke of incense surrounding him. It was incredible that he was floating in the air. Later, on Nyaya explained that it was called levitation. His persona, aura performance, and the tricks were unforgettable. They lingered in my mind for many weeks and months, yet I could not figure out whether Nyaya was an abnormal or a supernatural human being or a tantric. Nyaya’s mother died a natural death after a few months and with that my visits ceased. It was not uncommon to see him with a bevy of ladies and gentlemen in his balcony solving their personal problems largely related to their minds. But most of the time Nyaya was in the prayer room, lying prostrate in front of the idol of Mata Durga. There was always an aroma in the house and an air of mysticism.
By then I had shifted out of Colaba and lost contact with Nyaya. Many months later, I came to know from a common friend that Nyaya had died. I was sorry to hear that because whatever his beliefs, he had been extremely nice to me. The money he gave me was much needed and of great comfort to a doctor without patients.
A few months later, my mother developed cancer and was advised radiation treatment. We opted for the Tata Hospital and I used to take her every day at 12 noon for her sitting. One day, as I was coming out holding the hand of my dear mother and elbowing our way through an enormous crowd that thronged the out-patient department of the Tata Hospital. As I turned left towards the gate, there was he, Nyaya standing right in front of me. The same semi naked body, the same piercing eyes, the same aroma, smiling this time. “Dr. Prithvi Madhok, why didn’t you come for my funeral?” he asked. I knew he was dead and yet stood facing me. I was shivering and trembling like a leaf. My mother wanted to know what was wrong with me. She hadn’t seen him. That multiplied my fears. Was I seeing a Ghost? I left the hand of my mother and ran towards the car. I had never run that fast in my life. Slowly my mother joined me and asked me what was wrong with me.
In the long drive back home there was a stony silence between my mother and me. She was greatly worried that something was wrong with me. I was terrified and nervous not knowing what to expect tomorrow. Friends who believed in this kind of things, gave me a rosary, some gave me tribal herbs but the fear of seeing Nyaya I think I saw him but there was no confrontation, no talk, no questions and answers, no benedictions. Had Nyaya gone forever? I have never seen him again but is that the end? I kept wondering.
(Dr. Prithvi Madhok is a recently retired widely-respected Mumbai surgeon)