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In shorts and a T-shirt he appears happy, contented, calm and serene. He has given up his life in Delhi—a decision he spent eight months thinking about—to join his guru in the shram. He helps to run the place. Taking in his demeanour, I too have this wild desire to flee Delhi.

The Aurobindo Ashram will be my future home. But of course it is not the place, is it? No place can free you from your suffering. Not a single place in the entire world. As he shows us around, we tell him our story, one we have told many times.

With greater longevity, the quest to avoid the infirmities of aging is more urgent than ever.

What can anyone tell us that will make the pain recede? At some level I feel our quest is hopeless, yet we are driven on. The man begins to describe the mind. A mad monkey, a mad, sick, crazed on drugs, frenetic, jumping wildly from tree to tree monkey.

The responsibility of controlling the monkey was ours. We and we alone had the power to remove our suffering. We ask desultory questions. After a point he says you just have to experience it. Words cannot make you feel a spiritual reality. A nephew is getting married.

If I Die Young (GMV)

With ceremonies lasting one week it promises to be the event of the year. It is one of the first weddings of this generation in our family and there is much excitement. Amba would have been in the centre of such things. She adored company and company adored her. She loved interacting with people, intuitively relating to them at all levels.

Her visitors never stopped coming, her phone never stopped ringing, her fingers never stopped tapping out the hundreds of numbers she knew by heart.


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I am a people person she would say from time to time. Her eyes were shaped like gleaming almonds. Her fingers were long and slender, so was her neck. She had a little mole at the tip of her nose; a mole that she wanted removed. I sit among the growing flowers and count the days left to the wedding.

But what was the use? This one over, there would be others. Her cousins, her friends, and we invited to them all. What else could anyone do? They wanted to remember—we wanted them to remember. We were what was left of her. We had to be involved. She sits down to look at me with the earnest sympathetic gaze I now attract.

Can We Live Longer but Stay Younger?

Nobody can talk to me—what is there to say? It does make a difference, I promise. What do you have to lose? Always this statement hovering over everything I refused to try.

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What did I have to lose? My belief in karma though stronger than before was not doing an adequate job in enabling me to come to terms with what had happened. Tranquility, acceptance? Nowhere on the horizon. A husband to recover fully from the cardiac arrest a year of relentless grief had brought on. Most forms of Buddhism actively deal with suffering. The BSG was the structure that propped me up—day after day, with person after person coming to visit me, chant with me, talk to me.

It is incompatible to want things and simultaneously wish yourself dead. In a shift so tiny it was imperceptible, the hope I thought had disappeared forever, glimmered fitfully. Drops of water falling on a stone. Another favourite analogy implying that eventually you will get there. As I chanted I gradually stopped feeling like a victim.

Why her? The way I think is now deeply influenced by what I practise.

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Every day, day in and day out for years together I have tried to change myself into a person who possesses the Buddhist virtues of wisdom, courage and compassion. A person who recognises in the depths of her being that you cannot hang onto anything, not even your children. That if you manage to accept this basic fact you will not feel so violated. The teacher at Aurobindo Ashram was right: a spiritual journey is difficult to explain in words. Words seem tired, old, self-evident, obvious and simple, even while embodying precepts almost impossible to follow.


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Whenever I hear of parents whose children have died or worse, committed suicide I think of the long, long road ahead of them. I want to rush out and hold their hands, assure them that their darkness will lift, that though their lives have changed irrevocably, they will be able to experience light again, a different light from the one they thought they would live in earlier, but light nonetheless. I want to present a smiling face. See, this happened to me. It happened, I thought nobody could help, but that was not true.

I was helped, by many, many—even though it did not feel like help at the time. It felt like wanton intrusion into my misery. I will tell them how angry I was. My life had been desecrated. The mystery—the one everyone is trying to solve—is why some of these children develop into normal adults while others end up on death row. A trained eye can spot a callous and unemotional child by age 3 or 4. Whereas normally developing children at that age grow agitated when they see other children cry—and either try to comfort them or bolt the scene—these kids show a chilly detachment.

In fact, psychologists may even be able to trace these traits back to infancy. Those who favored the ball displayed more callous traits two and a half years later. As a child gets older, more-obvious warning signs appear. Kent Kiehl, a psychologist at the University of New Mexico and the author of The Psychopath Whisperer , says that one scary harbinger occurs when a kid who is 8, 9, or 10 years old commits a transgression or a crime while alone, without the pressure of peers.

This reflects an interior impulse toward harm. Criminal versatility—committing different types of crimes in different settings—can also hint at future psychopathy. But the biggest red flag is early violence. He has scanned the brains of hundreds of inmates at maximum-security prisons and chronicled the neural differences between average violent convicts and psychopaths.

Broadly speaking, Kiehl and others believe that the psychopathic brain has at least two neural abnormalities—and that these same differences likely also occur in the brains of callous children. The first abnormality appears in the limbic system, the set of brain structures involved in, among other things, processing emotions. In particular, experts point to the amygdala—a part of the limbic system—as a physiological culprit for coldhearted or violent behavior. Someone with an undersize or underactive amygdala may not be able to feel empathy or refrain from violence.

Essi Viding, a professor of developmental psychopathology at University College London recalls showing one psychopathic prisoner a series of faces with different expressions. Why does this neural quirk matter? Abigail Marsh, a researcher at Georgetown University who has studied the brains of callous and unemotional children, says that distress cues, such as fearful or sad expressions, signal submission and conciliation.