Gayatri Majumdar

This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in the most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today…

– David Bowie, ‘Space Oddity’

I had a very pious aunt, Minati Roy Choudhury, mother’s elder sister. She had a generous heart and a large house which had a small room dedicated entirely to her various gods and gurus – what they call thakur ghar1.

Although she never talked about all the trauma she lived through her young adulthood as a wife and mother, I heard about them from numerous sources. Perhaps she could not recall what they were.

She had an unusual glow and infectious smile and seemed to remain unscathed by all the scars life inflicted on her. She had a soft corner for me as I was one of the few girls growing up in that household in Calcutta. Like so many others, her family of ten brothers and sisters were forced out of Chittagong in erstwhile East Bengal (now in Bangladesh). (She visited her hometown where she grew up with her son, Nabarun, in later years).

There are many precious memories with BoroMashi2, but one particular event has left an indelible impression on me.

When, as a young wife and mother, BoroMashi was having to face unbearable cruelties, when, as the legend goes, she had a dream.In this dream, an elderly woman with grey hair and red-bordered sari gave her directions to a house in Calcutta; meaning she was given an address and asked to visit. And so Mashi did.

And that ensued a lifelong bond between her and her GuruMa. In the process, her entire extended family got involved with this tie. Guru Ma was a Yogini3 and devoted her life to prayers and bringing blessings on others. She was often surrounded with a handful of devotees.

I was around nine or tenyears old when BoroMashi started taking me to see her. There was something very becalming and restorative about the cool surroundings of the house with red floors during harsh summer days of Calcutta. God knows I needed to be there then, but apparently Guru Ma’s blessings were with me from the moment I was born. I visited Guru Ma a few times, sat along with her devotees engrossed in prayers and chanting.

When I was born, Guru Ma gave me a special name – PoddoKoli (lotus bud). I find it quite intriguing, pleasantly so, how two seemingly unrelated women (the other being my grandmother), but very close in their devotion and spiritual aspiration, called me by the, well almost same, name – Poddo or Padma (lotus flower). Was it just a mere coincidence?

This journey has been about persistentexcavation and discovering hidden treasures that lay buried in us – where time and space collapse and dreams and reality coalesce. Who is to say when dreams end? What is this dream made of? What’s its substance? Who indeed is it who is dreaming?

Where does reality begin? Is this also someone’s dream? Or is this a collective dream?

Do bald eagles, dolphins, butterflies dream? In whose dreams are they in?

I often get vivid dreams wherein I’m floating in space with Jupiter and Mercury brushing past me; I’m able to resolve complex emotional issues in my dreams; hug a friend in distress and who is thousands of miles away; have perfectly sensible conversations with my parents and other relatives who have passed on long since. Are they any less real? Not to me. For where should we draw the line?

Are we still human and in a human form, or remember we are, when we are dreaming? Or are we in god’s dream formless experiencing a human existence? For how is it we can fly when we step to the other realm?

Do we continue to dream when we die?




1Thakur ghar is a room dedicated to the gods in many Bengali homes.
2BoroMashi: Elder aunt.
3Yogini is a woman who practices yoga.



Waking Up From Deep Sleep

Tat Satyam Sa Atman
Tat TvamAsi

(“That Reality is Atman
That Thou Art”)

At first the concept appears preposterous and perplexing; this idea of dream which I will describe in a bit.

The MāṇḍūkyaUpaniṣad1 explains three states of “consciousness” which are “sleeping, dreaming and deep sleep”, and the fourth state is called “Thuriyam2. Just as we dream when we sleep, the waking state, this Upanishad goes on to say, “is a dream”. Only most of us erroneously consider it as “real”. How is that possible, you might object, especially when I can see, discern everything so distinctly around me? But then, we also do so in dreams – see the world as vivid as day.

“Everything is experience”; and I believe it’s never easy to grasp this concept unless it becomes experiential. And that’s what I mean by ‘downloads’ or recognizing your true ‘Self’. When one becomes intensely aware that all that there is is consciousness and all so-called objects we perceive are but appearances, it’s magic!

This phenomenon has been described variously as “emptiness” or the “neti, neti3” process – which all lead to the same place – the Self.

By no means does the story end here with the imminent collapse of space, time and ego, but it transmits you to that great expansive never-ending peace.

You then walk around this make-believe bazaar as if your life depends on it; it really does not! You are free to drop this structure this instant and, well, do whatever you please.

As our rishis4 have been indicating for centuries, we are the “drishti-shristiwallas5”, making up this creation as we go; just in our dreams, everything is as real as we believe it is. So in our waking state, this ‘reality’ is as much a dream. We call ‘objects’ around us by names and render certain attributes to them thereby solidifying the dream, as it were.

Then we go a step further cementing our collective ‘dream’. And god knows, we’ve messed this dream up, the reason why many of us suffer so.

Bhagavan Shri Ramana Maharishi says, “All that one gives to others, gives to oneself” and continues, “If one knows this truth, would one ever remain without giving?”6

When all that one perceives, becomes a part of the ‘Self’ – the light and stillness – who are we going to blame? Besides, who exactly is it that is going to do the blaming? Where did that doer (jiva) originate?

What form does it take?

Shankaracharya, in his AtmaBodha (‘Self-knowledge’) says, “…the moon shines as the sun’s light is reflected on it; where does the sun get its light from?” – “that Brahman should be realised”.



1 The MāṇḍūkyaUpaniṣad is the shortest of all the Upanishads and is assigned to Atharvaveda.
2Thuriyam or Turiya is the state of liberation, where according to the Advaita school, one experiences the infinite (ananta) and non-different (advaita/abheda), that is free from the dualistic experience, the state in which ajativada, non-origination, is apprehended.
3Netineti is a Sanskrit expression which means “not this, not that” or “neither this, nor that”.
4Rishi: Enlightened person.
5Masters of simultaneous creation.
6A. Devaraja Mudaliar. Gems from Bhagavan (Chapter XIII); Sri Ramanasramam 1965.


Gayatri Majumdar is founder-editor, publisher of critically acclaimed literary journal, The Brown Critique. Her published and upcoming books include A Song for Bela (a novel), poetry collections Shout, I Know You Are Here and The Dream Pod and non-fiction The Lotus of the Heart. She curates the three-day annual Pondicherry/Auroville Poetry Festival.

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