When I walked into the offices of the Tilak Ayurveda Mahavidyalaya one fine morning in early February 1974, brandishing a letter from Pandit Shiv Sharma, then India’s most eminent Ayurvedic physician, directing that institution to admit me forthwith as a student, the powers-that-were in the college handed me over promptly to Dr. Vasant D. Lad, who equally promptly welcomed me into his family. Often have I wondered whether I could have completed my course of study there had it not been for Dr. Lad’s instructive, modulating, occasionally gently reproving influence; and my gratitude for his presence in my life at that crucial moment is unceasing.
During August I had occasion to revisit the four decades (thus far) of my association with Dr. Lad when his Ayurvedic Institute requested me to be interviewed for a documentary that is being made about him by Jeremy Frindel. Jeremy, who made quite a splash with his first feature film, a documentary of the singer (and my friend) Krishna Das:
interviewed me & Dr. Claudia Welch (who studied, worked and taught at the Institute for two decades) at a quiet location in the woods, assisted by intrepid cameraman Jimmy Ferguson, whose himself has a documentary headed (hopefully) to Sundance this year.
Watch this space for further news about the film, and for info about how to make a tax-deductible contribution toward its completion.
S. C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon was the book that spoke most powerfully to me this month. It is the biography of another great man, Quanah Parker, son of a white woman and a Comanche chief. Of the Comanches Gwynne writes that “no tribe in the history of the Spanish, French, Mexican, Texan, and American occupations of this land had ever caused so much havoc and death. None was even a close second.” Quanah was born into a society in which torture-killings, gang rapes of female captives, and the infliction of pain were routine in raids and warfare, and became the paramount chief of the Comanches; and then, amazingly, after he and his people surrendered to U.S. forces and went to live in the Indian Territory (which is now Oklahoma), he reinvented himself as a successful rancher who became the friend of many a paleface, including President Theodore Roosevelt. Parker’s biographer Bill Neeley wrote: “Not only did Quanah pass within the span of a single lifetime from a Stone Age warrior to a statesman in the age of the Industrial Revolution, but he never lost a battle to the white man and he also accepted the challenge and responsibility of leading the whole Comanche tribe on the difficult road toward their new existence.”
And if this were no enough for one life, Quanah also became one of the first important leaders of the Native American Church movement, about which he said:
“The White Man goes into his church and talks about Jesus. The Indian goes into his tipi and talks with Jesus.”
Let us close this month’s hagiography with a remarkable woman, Kate Bush, and her return to the live concert stage after 35 years; here is her song Aerial: