“Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.”
Velandy Manohar, MD
Reflections on a well lived life of my Pooja Poocha RIP
05 14 21
This is a story about the adventurous life as well as the peaceful and saddening passing or our orange family cat- “Boroughs” He was born April 2004 in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NYC. When he was an abandoned newborn kitten, he was rescued, nurtured, and cared for by our son, Vishwam Velandy for a few years. He travelled with him to Maryland, California and then transferred to our home in Haddam, CT. In Baltimore while sitting at an open window one afternoon he boldly swiped at a bird that sought to perch nearby. He flew out and landed on the sidewalk. We do not know if the bird survived or if it was scarred for life from the terror struck in his heart by Boroughs. Boroughs needed medical care but bounced back quite well.
He expired peacefully earlier in April in our home in Haddam. CT. He was Certified Dead on arrival at Pieper Veterinary Center, Middletown, CT and received by very caring and skilled staff with understanding, and compassion. We arranged for his cremation which was performed on the first Monday of May.
During his life he demonstrated great skills in setting his territory around our home. It was interesting to see him escort alien cats to edge of our property and return home. He made friends with 2 or 3 cats. He did not bother birds that came to a water basin to drink and gather with other birds. He drank from the same basin. When flocks of wild turkeys came through the yard and fed themselves safely while Boroughs watched. He left Deer families with spotted young ones alone as well and merely watched intently from the windowsill.
He was a very present companion who mitigated by his behavior the stresses generated by the confinement and constraints imposed by the COVID-19 Pandemic on human gatherings.
He was quite cuddly with specific individuals and tolerated a few others as they caressed him but drew the line with others. He showed some unusual interests. Whether he was sitting with me on the sofa or at the table he showed specific interests in Classic Hindi music, Sanskrit Scripture, Bhajans, Carnatic music, European Classical music and Religious music, Christian hymns as well as Gregorian chants. I was quite stunned some years ago when he sat in my lap and held his head up and ears pointing up when I was trying to learn and understand the Shiva Mahimna stotram. He showed similar preferences for a variety of Hymns and prayers of different faith traditions which earned him his title “Pooja Poocha.”
He showed very unusual qualities when I went through personal medical trials and needed to spend my nights on the sofa with some devices attached to me a few times over a couple of years. He was a steady, reliable and timely source of much needed support. He played an important role besides my family and my great Medical Team to bring me through with total recovery by God’s grace for sure.
In the last three weeks of April 2021, we noticed he became skinnier. He appeared to be eating and drinking and following his pattern of seeking sunlit parts of our home from about 10 AM to 6 PM. In the last two weeks he was getting very weak, and my wife Prema and I had to move the food and water to his chosen place during the day. In the last two days he could not move around.
On the last Friday of April, we noticed even his meow was very weak. His breathing resembled terminal kind of breathing while exhibiting random leg movements. That evening I offered my prayers next to him while holding or stroking him. I noticed in the last moments say half hour before he passed his breathing was infrequent. He created some noise with his ceramic dishes when I had left to call the Veterinary Center. I went back and sat with him. His breathing was down to a few breaths a minute. He was making jaw movements as if to make his calls. Finally with great effort he made a familiar call, while I was stroking him that my wife in the neighboring room heard as well. He was lying on his left side when he stopped breathing for the final time while stretched out in a totally relaxed pose like the Lions in Africa.
As I consider the life Boroughs, shared with our family, I can recall the poignant verses of William Blake. These words have special meaning to me as I contemplate our 17-year long relationship with Boroughs, who represented more to us than what he presented as a furry four-footed feline.
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand and a Heaven in a Wildflower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand and Eternity in an hour”
In the last two or three weeks my family and I adopted the strategies that are known to lead to what is known as a “Good Death” among professionals who provide Palliative and Hospice care. Fundamentally it includes offering the person in extremis, an environment that is free from avoidable distress and suffering, which conveys quiet dignity, is infused with spiritual elements, and accords the same solace and succor that was experienced bidirectionally during the life that is transitioning to a new phase.
I want to share with you three sources of insights from the Hindu Faith tradition that can shed light on our relationship to Boroughs and all of creation.
I. Jnanappana- Fountain of Wisdom by Poondhanam Namboodiri in Malayalam- Verse 17 The Cycle of Births and Deaths of all creatures in nature.
A Jeevan or soul from heaven or land of Devaas (suralokatthil ninnoru Jeevan) is born as a Brahmin on earth (naralokatthil maheesuranaakunnu). People who do extremely cruel actions becomes "Chandala" or a member of a despised castes. Demons or Asuraas become Suraas or Devaas. People who are eternal or immortal or deathless (amaranmaar) are born as trees (marangal aayeetunnu). A goat (ajam) is born as an elephant (gajam) and vice versa. A tiger (nari) after death is born as a human being (naran) and a woman. (Naari) is born as a fox (oriyaai). A king who mercilessly tortures (kripa kootaathe peedippicchitunna) his citizens, takes birth as a worm (krimi). A fly is reborn as a cat and all these are Bhagavaan's leelavilasam or playful divine drama.
II. Isavaasya Upanishad.
I chanted these blessed Sanskrit verses of the Isa Upanishad on Monday morning believing Boroughs would be cremated on the morning of the first Monday in May 2021.
V.17 Now may my breath return to all—pervading, immortal Prana! May this body be burnt to ashes! Om. O mind, remember, remember all that I have done. V. 18 O Fire, lead us by the good path for the enjoyment of the fruit of our action. You know, O god, all our deeds. Destroy our sin of deceit. We offer, by words, our salutations to you. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi!
III. Invocation from Hymn to Creator Purusha Sooktam.
Former Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Atul Behari Vajpayee in the General Assembly of the UN on Sept 24, 1998: “I close with an ancient sloka from the Rig Veda composed thousands of years ago in Sanskrit, the oldest language in the World “:
"Svastir Maanushebhyaha, Oordhvam Jigatu bhesajam Sham no astu Dwipade Sham Chatushpade. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi". Let all human beings be blessed with prosperity, let all flora and fauna which are lifeline of all creatures, grow abundantly, let there be harmony with all two-legged creations,
Let there be harmony with all four-legged creations.
Let peace prevail in all the three domains: body, mind, and Spirit, in the vast waters, on land and in the limitless skies
Velandy Manohar, MD
dit your page content