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Excerpt from "For Seven Lifetimes"

by Vatsala & Ehud Sperling

Chapter 2

Reaching Out

So I had to deal with this Mr. Ramakrishnan before getting to know who Ehud Sperling was. It did not bother me not to have a direct connection as yet with the advertiser. After all, in my scientific inquiries, I had gotten used to trying and trying again until I found the answer I was looking for. . . .

I read the clipping from the Metropolis. Though Ramakrishnan’s letter said nothing about Ehud Sperling, the interview clipping, biographical sketch, and accompanying photograph gave me something to think about. Here was an unusual man! I replied to Ramakrishnan, thanking him for his letter and telling him that my mother and I would be delighted to meet him at our home.

One afternoon my mother was taking her nap on the living room couch. Hearing the doorbell, she woke with a jolt and approached the door with unsteady steps. “I am Ramakrishnan,” said a gruff male voice with a strange British accent. Amma gaped at him in astonishment, wondering who he was. I came to the door and greeted this tall, distinguished, neatly dressed man. . . .

[Ramakrishnan] rolled his eyes in all directions trying to assess the living facilities of our household. Soon I noted a sense of relief on his face, perhaps because he did not have to deal with stinking rich people with a fortress for a household and an army regiment for a family.

We soon got into the usual conversation. He said he liked my smile (this compliment wasn’t new), and he was impressed to find that I was balanced and stable and did not get excited at the prospect of dealing with his highly esteemed American friend. On my part, no, I did not specialize in getting excited without a tangible, genuine cause. And even when such a cause came my way, I was always aware of the transient nature of everything, and that helped me maintain a balanced approach to people and events. Ramakrishnan asked me to get my photograph album and fished out a few pictures of me that he liked. He then scribbled down a name and an address and told me to get in touch with Ehud Sperling at my earliest convenience. . . .

Dear Mr. Sperling,


As best as I can think, I do not know what means other than letters exists for getting to know a person who lives on another continent. . . . So let us see where these letters take us.

Two days ago, your friend Dr. Ramakrishnan called on me at home. We had a pleasant exchange of news and views. He gave me your name and address and asked me to write to you. Hence this letter.

May I tell you something about myself? I am B. R. Vatsala, a tall, slim, brown-skinned woman with a “good smile,” to quote your friend. In fact, he left my home with a series of strongly positive observations about me. Instead of quoting them, I would prefer if with passage of time people who are concerned about each other make genuine efforts to discover and understand each other on the basis of their own observations and interactions. This is more scientific, right?

By training and profession, I am a clinical microbiologist. Besides bugs, many other topics interest me deeply. My present job in a hospital is challenging and stimulating, and quite often it jolts me severely about the role of God in our lives.

I am positively looking forward to meeting a compatible gentleman with whom to grow and share life. I do cherish family life. It instills a sense of belonging. In the future I envisage myself as a competent homemaker (a good wife and a good mother to kids). . . .

Enclosed please find a few pictures of me. Some of these were selected by Ramakrishnan. Also, I apologize for writing to you by hand. My handwriting is not one of the very best. I could use the computer terminal in my laboratory, but it would be possible for anyone to get the file name and enjoy finding out whom Dr. Vatsala is writing to. . . .

Then may I look forward to receiving a reply from you? I have enclosed my office phone number and the time I am around, so you could call, if you feel like it, that is. I think it would be interesting to hear your voice.



Amma and I stared at the name and address for a long while. “Good for you; go ahead and try. Maybe something good is in store for you,” Amma said, trying to break the silence that descended on our household after this sudden coming and going of Ramakrishnan.

The letter written, read over to Amma, and posted felt like a big job done. In the flow of time, the letter and its contents subsided into the back of my mind as I got busy again being a microbiologist and a devoted daughter to my mother.

Vatsala Sperling, Ph.D., fluent in a number of Indian languages and Sanskrit, learned these traditional stories at her mother’s feet and enjoys introducing them to children of the Western world. Before marrying and moving to the United States, she was the chief of Clinical Microbiological Services at the largest children’s hospital in India. She is the author of How Ganesh Got His Elephant Head, How Parvati Won the Heart of Shiva, Ram the Demon Slayer, Hanuman’s Journey to the Medicine Mountain, Ganga: The River that Flows from Heaven to Earth, and Karna: The Greatest Archer in the World. She lives in Vermont with her husband and son.

Ehud Sperling is founder and president of Inner Traditions International, one of the world’s largest publishers of books on spirituality, religion, and alternative health. He lives in Vermont with his wife and son.

Estimated publication date: 12/22/10.

Price: $19.95

To purchase this book visit InnerTraditions.com, B&N.com, Borders or your local bookstore.

Excerpt from For Seven Lifetimes by Vatsala and Ehud Sperling © 2011 Inner Traditions, originally published by Ten Speed Press © 2000, 2002. Reprinted with permission of the publisher Inner Traditions / Bear & Co.
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