IN OCTOBER 1985, KRISHNAMURTI, aged 90, arrived in India for what would be the last time. He was still physically fit, despite some nagging health issues, and had an active schedule of talks planned. Nandini went to the talks in Rajghat, Varanasi, in November and wrote in her diary that the experience was extraordinary. She felt radiant and found the discourses full of significance. However, she knew that Krishnamurti’s health was failing drastically. At one point he tripped and fell in a mango grove and Pupul and Nandini wondered if the end was nigh.

Though Krishnamurti was feeling unwell and losing weight, he continued his schedule of talks. He knew that the end of his life was near and stated so. He said to Nandini, “My travelling days are over. Those days are gone for good, Nandini. I may die soon”. He wanted to travel back to Ojai for his last days. He was scheduled to leave on 10th January 1986, and a number of medical tests were planned for when he returned.

Nandini, Devi, Ghanshyam and his family, Kaka, Aditi, Pupul and her daughter Radhika, and Asit travelled to Madras to attend his last talk and meet him before his departure. Krishnamurti was staying at Vasanta Vihar, the Krishnamurti Foundation Centre.

One evening at the centre, everyone sat together and talked, and though feverish and unwell Krishnamurti managed to converse and even joke a little. At one point he asked all of Nandini’s family to sit in a circle on the floor with him, holding hands in quiet meditation. It was a very significant moment for everyone, a memory that still lives on.

On 10th January 1986, his last evening in India, a group of his friends and associates drove with Krishnamurti to the beach. The sun was setting in a fiery burst of flames, casting blazing rays over the sky. The beach was full of people standing and waiting for Krishnamurti. The sky too seemed to be waiting. Krishnamurti walked well and looked rested. Nandini walked for a while alongside him. She knew this was going to be her last walk with Krishnamurti. At one point he reached out and gently touched her shoulder. No words were necessary.

On the way back, Krishnamurti let everyone move ahead so he could fall back. When he was about to exit the beach, he stopped, facing the ocean. Then he turned and directed his gaze and a salutation one by one to all four cardinal directions. With that gesture he said his last goodbye to India, at the very site where Charles Leadbeater of the Theosophical Society had first noticed him, 75 years earlier.

During those last few days Krishnamurti had said to Nandini: “There is something wrong here (pointing to his body). If I am going, I will take charge and inform you a few days before I go. You will have time to come, or not. I am not afraid of death. You have to accept it Nandini.”

“How will I say goodbye to you?” she asked. “You will not say goodbye,” Krishnamurti replied. “Will I never see you again?” she asked. “You will see me,” he said.

The doctor had wanted to have Krishnamurti’s prostrate checked when he got back to California. Krishnamurti had decided that if something was found to be wrong, he would not undergo any operation, he would let it be. Soon after returning to Ojai it was ascertained that Krishnamurti had pancreatic cancer that was spreading fast. He was desperately ill and in immense pain. Knowing that the end was near, Pupul, her daughter Radhika, and nephew Asit left for Ojai, arriving there on 31st January 1986. Nandini decided not to go. She wrote Krishnamurti a letter that Pupul hand delivered to him.

Dear Krishnaji, My pranams and love to you. I shall not say goodbye. I hope you are not in too much pain. Asit told me that you had pain on the flight and had to use a wheelchair. I am so sorry that you have had to suffer all this pain and discomfort. Pupul telephoned Asit and he told me of the results of the biopsy.

I have no words to fully express my agony at what has happened. It all seems so wrong that you have to bear pain. It is a nice day Krishnaji, even for Bombay—it is cool, the sun is sparkling on the waters, the birds call out. Everything is as it ought to be, but you are ill, very ill, and you are going away, but I shall not say good bye to you. Nandini.

I wish I could have been with the others in California, but my body is telling me to remain behind and be quiet. Devi, Ghanshyam, Kaka, Meena, Aditi, Maithili, and Aditya send their pranams to you.

Krishnamurti read the letter and kept it by his bedside. He told Pupul to tell Nandini that he sent her his profound love, a message that was recorded on tape and shared with Nandini later. During the next two weeks, Krishnamurti’s health deteriorated significantly and his days were filled with pain and agony. Close to midnight on 16th February 1986, the great 20th-century teacher and philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti passed away at Pine Cottage in Ojai, California. Outside the window of his room stood the pepper tree under which he had his first revelation at the age of 27.

In Bombay, Nandini received the news by telephone. She was expecting it. There was no loud weeping, wailing, or hysteria. She shed silent tears that day. Then, as Krishnamurti had wanted of her, she wiped them dry and faced the reality of a world without him.

Though he was physically gone, Krishnamurti was by no means a forgotten force. Years after his passing, recalling the immense joy that came over Nandini in Krishnamurti’s presence, Ghanshyam wrote to his mother about those times. She mentioned it in her diary:

Ghanshyam writes to me in gentle tones of Krishnaji— of his going away, of things which can never be the same. Of Krishnaji’s gentleness to him and to me. Of walking and laughing with Krishnaji. Of his radiance, and what a joy and delight it was to be with him, to sit and eat with him, to be in his presence. Has that all gone?

Ghanshyam writes, “I will never see the same joy and radiance on your face that you had when Krishnaji was there. But do not forget his last message was his profound love for you.”

Though Krishnamurti died in 1986, Nandini’s diary has many letters addressed to him even after that date.
Whenever she had worries, problems, family issues, she would turn to Krishnamurti, asking him to take care of those who were troubled, or had illnesses or setbacks. She felt assured that Krishnamurti would take care of things for her family. After all when he was alive he had often said to her that she was in his consciousness. She believed his protection continued even after he was physically no more.

In one of her letters to him she recalled with happiness walking with him: Walking beside him on dusty Panchkoshi Road in Varanasi and in the green hills of Ooty. The walks in Rishi Valley where they went to Thetu village, in Sri Lanka beside the Galle Face Hotel in an open green space, and in Bombay at the Racecourse or along Worli Seaface or Carmichael Road. “I always had a strange feeling walking with you—it was such a joy to be part of that group that walked beside you,” she wrote.

In his lifetime Krishnamurti never spoke about God or an afterlife—he always talked about living this life well. Nandini would often quote him and tell her children “It is no good bemoaning the past; it’s finished and over and it is a waste of time to wish it were different. What is important is to live in that flame without regret, without want, without expectation.” Nandini lived her life according to what she had learnt from Krishnamurti’s teachings. To Devi she wrote:

We die many times before our death, made fearful by our own thoughts. We live in an age of pain. There is a way, and Krishnaji has shown it. We have to pick up the key and walk to the mountain top. In any case we have to die but once. So let us live now as if it were our last day—ending and giving up all we have, putting aside all our worries and dislikes. Walk lightly, be ready for whatever may be.

Nandini would frequently remind herself that he had asked her to keep awake, aflame, completely alive and whole. When she looked at a river, she recalled him saying that she should be like a mountain stream, ever flowing, with no resting place, full of life and beauty. “The less there is thought of the self, the more energy there will be to give of oneself, to be happy and grateful,” he would say. His advice to Nandini was often simple, “We can never step into the same waters twice, and what has gone can never come back again. So each day should be full, as it never was before, without compulsion, without envy, without conflict, without the me, me, me.”

In 1988, Nandini’s first great grandchild Karma Vivan (nicknamed Nayaa) was born to Devi’s daughter Aditi Mangaldas and Iqbal Kumar. The little boy spent a large part of the first three years of his life with Nandini and Devi in Bombay. His presence filled Nandini’s life and she was totally devoted to him, staying up all night if he was ill, playing with him, feeding him. He too was very attached to his great grandmother, sleeping next to her with his leg over her body. After those early years, he spent many of his vacations with Nandini and Devi in Bombay.

Nandini was devoted to her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren—two more, Ayesha and Amaya, children of Aditya and his wife Mamta, were born in 1995 and 1997. None of them recall ever seeing her melancholy or depressed, moody or brooding; she was always tranquil, yet had a great passion for life. She regularly wrote letters to her children. When she saw them, or any of her grandchildren, her face lit up with a smile and she would take their hands in hers and kiss them.

So it was a great shock to all those around her when Nandini started showing signs of memory loss and dementia in 1995. She started having hallucinations of being attacked and assaulted, but luckily they were short episodes that soon passed. Slowly, her handwriting started to deteriorate and she was unable to write letters or her diary. Her three children and close family were greatly saddened by this. She had been their rock during all their difficulties; their foundation was shaken. Nandini’s three children, grandchildren, sister Pupul, and niece Radhika often stated that they could not understand how this could happen to someone who had led such a disciplined life and was mentally so strong. It was a painful truth to accept. Even in her last years Nandini did not spend her time lying in bed, except at night or for a short afternoon nap. Until the end, she continued to visit Bal Anand every day, nurturing the lives of the hundreds of children who passed through its doors.

On the night of 7th July 2002, at the age of 85, the end came swiftly and unexpectedly, as she rested her head on her grandson Aditya’s shoulder, the name of her older son Ghanshyam on her lips. Aditya later said, “I had always dreaded the thought of someone so close passing away in front of me, but Nandinima passing away was most peaceful. She was an amazing human being”. Her son Ghanshyam echoed the sentiments of others when he referred to her as a “unique and transcendental” being.

Not just among family, Nandini was loved and respected among the women who came to swab floors, wash utensils, and cook in the high-rise apartment buildings of the Malabar Hill area. She was the one who had provided the much needed protective space for their children while they worked. Along with their mothers, local electricians, plumbers, and shop assistants mourned her passing. They recalled how she had taught them drawing and painting, and guided their hand as they wrote their first letters. One of her students compared her to a banyan tree, under whose shade all of them found shelter.

Not much is known about Nandini Mehta in the Krishnamurti world. At best, she is remembered as the friend to whom Krishnamurti wrote the letters published in Pupul Jayakar’s biography of him. These letters were also published in booklet form with the title: Letters to a Young Friend: Happy is the Man who has Nothing. The title captures Nandini’s life: She was a beautiful woman who lived anonymously, owned virtually nothing, but nourished many lives. But she was so much more than what is publicly known of her: a gentle soul, strong willed, ahead of her time, a deep thinker, an infinitely caring and affectionate personality. She truly lived the life Krishnamurti advocated in his talks.

Very aptly, Pupul Jayakar once compared her to a subterranean stream that nourishes and sustains life, but is never seen.
Nandini and Krishnamurti listening to Beethoven at Asit Chandmal’s home in Bombay around 1980, during his annual visit to India.
Krishnamurti and Nandini walking, in Madras in January 1986, on his last visit to India.
Having a discussion after a talk at Rishi Valley in the late 1970s.
Nandini with Devi and Aditi, at the birth of her great grandson Karma Vivan who she called Nayaa, in 1988.
Nandini looked after him for a significant part of the first three years of his life when he lived with her and Devi in Mumbai.
Nandini with great grandchildren Ayesha and Karma Vivan around 1997 in Delhi.
And sharing a joke with great granddaughter Amaya in Mumbai around 2001.
Family was everything to Nandini. She was always concerned with everyone’s health and well-being. Nandini at the wedding of her grandson Aditya with Mamta Dalal, in 1992; Devi is sitting behind them.
And with her mother Iravati and sister Amru circa 1977.
Nandini at home in Mumbai around 1995, with a picture of Krishnamurti on the wall.