Stories from Pranika
Hi! My name is Pranika. I had the honour of being close friends with a very special spiritual sister and seeker Subarata.
Together we shared many unforgettable experiences and I have recounted some of these delightful and amusing moments here. I am eternally grateful to Sri Chinmoy for this sacred and unique friendship. It spanned the oceans – Subarata residing in New Zealand and I in New York.
Subarata Runs With Her Soul's Power
There are so many things that I miss about my dearest friend Subarata on the physical plane – and yet still it is very hard for me to feel that she is gone. So many memories are deeply alive. So many times I respond with a typical Subarata retort to a situation. And it is exactly as she would have uttered it!! So, she lives on...
Subarata was so multifaceted and such a good disciple. Her heroic efforts in the triathlons, 12 hour walks, 47 mile runs, marathons and ultra marathons were exemplary. On her last and final attempt to complete the 700 mile distance in 1997 at Wards Island Park, her spirit momentarily waned. Sri Chinmoy was having a 3 story mid- Manhattan gallery display of his 7 million birds. On this particular day a gala festival with VIP's from every sphere – ambassadors, diplomats, heads of state, world class artists and athletes, friends and family – was being held. A concert was given followed by a beverages and a dinner buffet. As the food service began, my cell phone rang. It was Subarata – in tears. She was at 550 plus miles and wanted to drop out of the race. She was in agony. I begged her to stay confident and strong. I assured her she would finish. I begged her just to hang on and keep going until we finished the function and packed up. We would pass by on the way home.
When we finally found her, her spirit had changed. She felt she would keep slowly plugging away at the dwindling miles and she did finally did it – completely based on her love and faith in her meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy whose personal example and philosophy of self-transcendence she had come to admire and embody.
Subarata Was Always A Kid
Subarata was a kid at heart. She had her serious times, but generally, life was fun. When we traveled abroad at Christmas time, she was sure to open up her suitcase with one of her long treasured stuffed animals inside. 'Cutie' – a teddy bear, made its last trip to Guatamala. One day upon returning to her hotel room, Cutie was found to be missing from it's perch on her pillow. I was always a prime suspect as I loved to tease her by hiding her treasures. But no, this time I had not pulled a prank. Together we began the long search to find Cutie. And everyone was a suspect! The front desk, the house manager, housekeepers, laundry maids... all were scrutinised.
We searched into the hotel basement and beyond – with thorough questioning, too. Finally I convinced Subarata that we should sit and say a sincere prayer to God that Cutie got an excellent new home, as it was Christmas time in a poverty stricken country...
After this act of surrender and self offering... 'Baby Yack' was born in Subarata's life. He was a grey stuffed yack in a store window that had to be purchased that second with a pooling of all our resources. 'Baby Yack' lives with me to this day.
Note: Even after her passing, when Sri Chinmoy visited her room at the Auckland Centre in 2002, his immediate comment was, "It is like a child's room."
A Perfect Dresser
In one of my many 'weight-roller-coasters', my Christmas trip to Japan in 1996 required all new warm clothes. And with a sign of approval of my new wardrobe, Subarata casually said "let's swap clothes... you can take anything of mine you would like also..." I was not so keen about this exchange so I asked for a preview of what she had to offer me. Subarata told me to look in her closet. After looking, I said "I do not think so. I really do not see anything I would like to wear." "You cheek!!" Subarata exclaimed. Knowing her desires for my outfits, and especially my fur lined booties, I told her she was still welcome to take anything of mine with no exchange necessary. And she happily did.
If you knew Subarata, she is like a child with the purest excitement when she feels she is dressed nicely. In fact, on many an occasion, her friends knew her to comment, "Don’t I look nice, I am sure everyone will say something to me about how nicely I am dressed!" followed by the most gleeful smile.
Subarata's South Pacific Bliss
In 1993-1994 our Christmas travels took us to the South Pacific. Subarata and her husband Jogyata became the local hosts from New Zealand. I believe it was the first time that some of their members joined the trip. Subarata was like a proud, and guiding, mother hen – she wanted them to shine as Sri Chinmoy's excellent students and for them to have a good time also. She did really well with both.
Her own personal joy hit its height when we repeatedly had to leave behind items of luggage. She sent home all New Zealanders laden with decos, Christmas lights, clothing, etc for their Centre.
And as it happened to us all on this South Pacific trip at one point or another, she lost her luggage in Tahiti and was rewarded $350 USD!! She prayed the luggage would never be returned as she shot off to the local boutiques for the latest fashions. To have her birthday celebrated with Guru, after this, was the height of bliss. It was celebrated on an outdoor lawn in Sri Chinmoy's presence... all day long. This was her ultimate birthday treat.
A Burmese Decorating Surrender
If you knew Subarata no matter how good a friend you were to her, Sri Chinmoy was her first, her best and her only priority. So in Myanmar in 1995 when she and a few girls were secretly sent off to decorate our Guru's cottage for a gala festival of art, music and food the next morning, she struggled to be cheerfully surrendered about it. To miss any golden opportunity to be in Guru's physical presence, was painful for Subarata. But once she threw herself into something, the sky was the limit. She was up all night decorating and preparing to make it perfect for Guru the next day. It was a glorious event with Burmese streamers, colors, and shrines... She was smiling ear to ear that morning.
Fun On The Train
When Subarata passed, I marveled at how many lives around the world she had touched in her short life. Not only that, but how many people had inwardly been touched by her soul as it passed, Luntitha in Singapore, Dundhubhi (in Switzerland), Sujta (in Japan), Sylaga and her sister (in Zimbabwe) and of course her many friends in New Zealand, to name a few. Each person had a unique story to tell of Subarata. Then I remembered our trip to Africa and Subarata's love and warmth to all her brothers and sisters there. They remember Subarata with the fondest affection. But Africa again reminded me of a cute clowning with each other. Once we took an excursion with Guru on an old steam locomotive onto the countryside. On the train, someone pulled out a large set of traditionally hand carved and painted African earings. Subarata took one and I the other and put them in our ears facing everyone on the train. As neither of us wear such things, mouths dropped, cameras flashed, and Nishtha ordered us to take them off immediately – "you look so gaudy" she giggled!
Our shared Birthday Party
Birthdays! It became a tradition. Nishtha as head organiser threw a duo bash for us before we would leave the Christmas trip. My birthday was January 31st and Subarata's was on February 2nd. We always had such fun. A birthday becomes even more of a treasure when shared with a dear friend. We had our last fun in Brazil – pin the tail on the donkey, piñatas, cake, name embroidered hats and T-Shirts. When we blew out our candles together, the chocolate shavings went all over each other and everywhere. But somehow my heart hurt – it knew this would be our last... As ill as Subarata was she personally went out to shop for parting gifts for Nishtha, Shephali, Dipali and I. Angels... they were the only thing that finally satisfied her search. They were the most beautiful luminous, angels for each of us in a pastel color. To this day they hold a spark of our 'Subarata-Angel'. They sit on each of our shrines.
The Sao Moritz Flood
Sao Moritiz! How we loved our chalet!! We were in the Brazil mountains! Subarata loved it so much we organised a photo with all the occupants poised on each of our balconies for a group photo with Adarini!! It was precious!! And now priceless!!
But this place had another treasure – the water stories! Subarata late one night, as we did hand washing, told stories of how they had flooded several Centres, set a water station in her car for a long run (and had the car stolen during the run!!) and... as we laughed and washed, the sink fell out of it's casing and our room flooded! We all screamed and ran to hide with tears of laughter in our beds! Then in total 'Subarata-the-master-mind' mode, she told us to tape the sink back in place and when the maid came to clean tomorrow it would fall out on her! "Then they could never blame us!!!" she said. How she wished we could set up a candid camera to watch this plot unfolding with the maid. As it turned out, the maid admitted that the sink was broken before we arrived and had never been properly repaired.
Note: She never wanted to be blamed for mischief. It came from her Irish upbringing! Oh my God, did you ever hear her childhood stories?!
The Final Day
Sri Chinmoy was on a trip to Europe at the time of Subarata's passing. Subarata had traveled home from the Xmas trip in Brazil but was never well enough to complete her journey back to her home in New Zealand. But to me, Subarata's soul knew exactly what it was doing. So before Guru traveled abroad he came to see Subarata at Vyakulata's house where she stayed in New York. It was a room at he back of Vyakulata's house, practically, in the Aspiration-Ground meeting place where we have spent so many happy hours meditating with Sri Chinmoy over the years – Subarata's most favourite place of all.
The pain and discomfort Subarata must have had, her surrender and faith to Guru, was exemplary. Guru had never wanted her to know of her worsening condition or what the medical world tagged it as. So part of her last conversation with her Guru was, "Guru, will I get better?" "Why not?", Guru immediately replied, "Why not?" Little did I know, but my secret vow to see Subarata daily, I would never regret. At this exact time we had been commissioned a local Congressman’s wife to do our largest catering thus far. It was for 800 persons, to honour for Women's Month that was to be held at the Hall of Science in Flushing Meadow Park. As a gratitude offering to honor the coming anniversary of Annam Brahma was also being prepared, it was a rather intense time for all concerned.
My last remaining worry... with Subarata's worsening condition and my secret vow, I feared my ability to perform for this event should anything happen to my dearest friend. So with a last prayer to Guru to keep all protected, a last visit to Subarata and a request to her to stay well for the one day that I would not visit, we jumped into the food service world of high society. And it all went amazingly well! At 2 am we laid down our heads at the end of the day in gratitude. At 6 am March 15, Annam Brahma's anniversary, Nishtha called us pleading for us to come immediately as the end was very near for our dearest friend. And so as all is planned in God's own Way, our imp of a friend passed on Annam Brahma's anniversary. As if to say to us... "Now I know you will never forget me, for you will never forget your dearest temple-restaurant Annam Brahma's anniversary!"
Pranika and her sister Nishtha own and manage Annam Brahma – a vegetarian restaurant
in Queens, New York. Both were Subarata's very good friends.