The sky was overcast and a light drizzle filled the day. As it was Sunday, my mother Nandini Mehta, who had recently turned 85, and I spent the day together at home. I noticed that her breathing had appeared slightly heavy from the morning, but she neither mentioned it nor complained. At about 11 a.m., as was his daily routine, Kaka, my brother Vikram, dropped in to see Ma briefly. She was delighted to see him. Gazing at him with adoring eyes, she held his hand and kissed it. He showed his affection for her by teasing her a little and ruffling her hair. After he left, Ma had lunch and an afternoon nap.

At home with us was Bhagyashri, a young student of Bal Anand, Ma’s school for the underprivileged. She was spending Sunday with us so she could practice conversing in English. Ma asked me to give her an evening snack and then Bhagyashri turned on the TV. Ma sat with her to watch. Doordarshan was covering the funeral of Dhirubhai Ambani who had died the day before on 6th July, 2002. Ma shook her head and asked the young girl to put on a hilarious Marathi play instead. She sat upright watching the show, laughing heartily at the jokes and banter. At 7 p.m. we sat down for dinner. Ma had peas, her favourite vegetable, and some tomato soup and toast.

Around 8 p.m. the phone rang. It was my son Aditya. He’d returned from Alibag and was very tired, but wanted to know how both of us were. I told him we were fine, and mentioned Nandinima’s occasional heavy breathing. Being quite exhausted, he wrapped up the conversation quickly, saying he would come by some other day.
Ten minutes later the doorbell rang. I was surprised to see Aditya walk in. Ma was sitting in her usual chair and she said, “Aditya has come”. She was so obviously happy to see him. Aditya sat beside her, leaned over and kissed her. She placed her head on his shoulder and smiled at him. Then, very clearly, she said, “Oh Ghanshyam,” referring to my other brother who was travelling in Europe. There were no signs of distress, no change of expression, no outward signs for me to think she was leaving us, but for some reason, without really thinking about it I involuntarily said: “Ma, go in peace, don’t worry about anything”. She closed her eyes, head still on Aditya’s shoulder. Less than thirty seconds later he felt for her pulse and shook his head. There was none.

On a Sunday night, where would we find a doctor? Who should we contact? Luckily, Dr Vandana Merchant from our building was able to come by. She said Ma had passed away peacefully. We contacted Kaka, and called Ghanshyam as well. Kaka rushed back, hurrying into the flat calling out “Ma, Ma”.

Then we laid her down on her bed and sat beside her in silence. No crying out, no wailing or clutching at her. I put a piece of the bark of the pepper tree from Ojai, California in her mouth. It was from the same pepper tree under which Krishnamurti is believed to have had his first revelation in 1922. Aditya and Kaka made the arrangements for her cremation. I asked that she be put down on the ground, under the stars, just before she was transferred into the ambulance to be taken away. There, I held her feet for a few seconds and kissed them.

Ma had truly gone in peace.
Have a family, a house, but do not be caught up in it or take shelter behind it. When death comes, go empty handed, alone, unafraid, without a tremor, and there will be light. Krishnaji says, ‘a tremendous light’… if not, you will be right back.

From the diary of Nandini Mehta, June 1975.

Devi and her mother always shared a very close bond. Nandini and Pupul at Devi’s wedding in Bombay in April 1959 (above). Mother and daughter, a few days before Nandini’s passing (below).