Madhusudan Rajagopalan, India

Mohanji often says, “Life is a journey that starts with two people bringing us into the world, and ends with four people carrying us out. And in between those two points, we meet various people and undergo various experiences that make this life complete.” This frail life journey between the two and four is peppered with encounters of relationships with various flavours – family, relatives, friends, colleagues, enemies, acquaintances, and many strangers. In my time with Mohanji, I have seen relationships with almost complete strangers metamorphose into an unusually close bond. Other than them being past life soul connections, it would be hard to explain this phenomena easily.

One such personality was Mr. T. R. Gopalakrishnan, a doyen of the shipping industry, who recently succumbed to his recent ailments and passed away on 23rd June 2021 in Chennai, India. Gopalakrishnan Appa was an amazing personality whom I had the privilege of knowing closely over the last few years, thanks to Mohanji. Through this blog, we would like to honour his memory and share insights on the deep connection between Appa and Mohanji that extended over several lifetimes.

Gopalakrishnan Appa and Mohanji – a deep bond

Gopalakrishnan Appa was a highly regarded figure in the world of shipping. He was the head of Southern Shipping Corporation, one of the leading Indian shipping companies in those times, and a much-sought advisor and consultant post retirement. A qualified lawyer and an expert in international maritime law, he served as an arbitrator for legal cases and was also venerated as a model of integrity. He travelled to teach on shipping related topics and was known to breathe life into an otherwise dull subject with intelligent use of humor, anecdotes, stories and experiences.

In 2000, Mohanji was working in the shipping industry in Dubai. One day, an ex-colleague requested Mohanji to arrange a vehicle for his boss (TRG) who was arriving from India. He was out of town and wanted to ensure that things were done right. Knowing him to be a very senior official, Mohanji offered to pick TRG up from the airport. From the airport, Mohanji took TRG to the hotel room and ensured he was comfortable. The next day, TRG had to attend some meetings. Instead of arranging a taxi, Mohanji decided to personally drive him to his meetings. Over those trips, Mohanji shared the story of his daughter Ammu’s death in a tragic accident a few months ago. TRG responded with the story of the unfortunate death of his son. In no time, a strong connection was built up between them.

After completing his business meetings, TRG told Mohanji that he wanted to buy gold jewellery. Mohanji took TRG to the people he knew at the gold souk (market) where TRG bought a big gold ring. When Mohanji dropped TRG back to the hotel room, TRG unexpectedly gifted the expensive ring he had just bought to Mohanji. When Mohanji asked why, he hugged Mohanji with great affection and told him “Even my son wouldn’t have done all that you have done for me. You ensured that I felt loved and not lonely. Please keep the ring as my memory.” Mohanji refused saying, “If I need a material object to remember you, I’m not worth it.” TRG persisted. Mohanji countered, “I will take the ring only if you allow me to gift the same ring to you as my memento to you.” When he heard this, TRG decided against it since he knew that this ring was too expensive for Mohanji to buy. This episode deeply impacted TRG.

On his return to India, he sought Mohanji’s parents’ address and travelled to the neighbouring state to visit them. He told them, “Do you know what kind of a son you have? He is not greedy, not trying to conquer the world, quite unlike the typical professional in Dubai. He needs nothing. He is the epitome of purity. He is not ordinary.”

Their strong bond continued thereon. TRG treated Mohanji like his own son and regularly kept tabs on Mohanji’s well-being and career. Being from the shipping industry, he would engage with Mohanji on this subject matter. Mohanji would visit TRG and his wife in Chennai regularly and stay with them. Mohanji remembers the memorable days they spent together. He took Mohanji to Tirupati, a revered temple town in South India, that is thronged by millions of devotees. Together, they did normal “family stuff” – joked around, watched Tamil movies (7G Rainbow Colony is one of the movies that I’ve heard they watched. They also watched a Malayalam movie called Rajamanikkam, which was directed by Mohanji’s friend Anwar Rashid), ate at restaurants, had late night ice-cream outings. One day, he commented that he had recognised Mohanji as his son from a previous lifetime. Mohanji acknowledged it and over the years, with love and reverence, fulfilled the role of a dutiful son.

My first meeting with Gopalakrishnan Appa… and thereafter

I first met Gopalakrishnan Appa on 24th November 2015 when I visited his home with Mohanji, Devi and Mila. We had just returned from Tiruvannamalai to Chennai and had a short window of time before a satsang later that evening. Mohanji insisted that we should visit Appa at any cost. Oblivious of their connection, I had accompanied Mohanji to Appa’s home. We were greeted with great warmth and love. Aunty (Appa’s wife) related stories and showed pictures from Mohanji’s visits from the earlier years. Also, pictures of Mila from when she was a small baby. I gathered that Mohanji hadn’t visited them often in recent years. However, he had obviously been in regular touch with them. Similarly, they were keenly tracking developments in his life as well as his work around the world. It was amazing to see Mila warming up to Appa and Aunty, totally at ease in their home. She demanded her favourite food and enjoyed their pampering. It seemed like a visit to one’s family.

Despite his deep affection for Mohanji, I noticed that Appa remained poker faced with a strict demeanour all the time, other than the occasional wise crack, often at Aunty’s expense. At that point, I didn’t know how Mohanji and Appa were connected, but when I learnt about it later, the dynamics during that whole visit made total sense! While leaving, Mohanji casually invited TRG to the evening satsang. Normally, TRG would never budge out of his home or his routine, but on that day, he agreed immediately! At the satsang, Mohanji requested TRG to speak a few words – his way of honouring Appa by giving him due respect. Appa spoke spontaneously and humorously about Vedic texts, their interpretation and relevance to us in human life.

I was responsible for coordinating Appa’s to and fro travel which allowed me to spend more time with him. When we returned to his house, he invited me to his library, stacked with ancient Indian scriptures. I learnt that Appa was an ardent student of the Hindu scripturesand a Sanskrit aficionado. Daily, he would spend time in his library, poring over a scriptural text, reading each word and phrase a few times and contemplating on the depth and true meaning of the verses. Averse to the ritualistic or mechanical scriptural reading, he liked to parse each word, split the syllables, think through various interpretations and truly understand the life lessons from the text. He was learning advanced Sanskrit from a teacher to help understand the scriptures better. Despite being in his 80s, his zest for learning was inspiring. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna, especially in the form of Lord Guruvayurappan (a famous temple of Lord Krishna in Kerala) and would quote shlokas (scriptural verses) at will to buttress his points.

Our first day after satsang meeting cemented my bond with him. I connected with him almost instantly and I believe vice-versa possibly because I accompanied Mohanji. We stayed in regular touch, whenever possible, either on the phone or in person meetings during my visits to my parents in Chennai. This pattern continued for many years after.

The Mohanji Home for Seniors

In late 2019, we acquired a piece of land in Tiruvannamalai (a sacred temple town in Tamil Nadu) to build the “Mohanji Home for Seniors” – a safe home for abandoned elderly people in the town especially sadhus (wandering monks), where they could live with respect and love for the rest of their lives. Mohanji decided to inaugurate the project on 29th January 2020, on the auspicious day of Vasant Panchami and wished that a few elders close to him preside over the function, namely, his parents, Gopalakrishnan Appa and Snehajyothi Amma (an elderly lady in Tiruvannamalai who was deeply connected to Ramana Maharishi and very fond of Mohanji).

I was tasked with ensuring Appa’s presence at the function and arranging his travel there. When I informed Appa, he was thrilled to hear about the project and keen to support it. He also mentioned a deep yearning for many years to visit Tiruvannamalai. However, he was unwilling to step out of his home or undertake the journey to Tiruvannamalai. He cited various reasons – old age, his health, aunty’s health, the need for him to be there, and so on. I persisted as best as I could, but despite several phone calls, he literally stonewalled me! When I wasn’t making progress, I explained the situation to Mohanji.

Mohanji then shed light on his relationship with Appa. As Appa had revealed their connection an earlier lifetime, Mohanji shared more details that he had been a prince in waiting while Appa was the king. Despite being very fond of his son, Appa as the king could never express his deep affection or love, due to his royal position. It continued in this life as well where he would never display it visibly and keep his expression within bounds. Further, Mohanji revealed that the Mohanji Home for Seniors would be a place of nitya annadaan (daily feeding of people). By presiding over the inauguration, Appa would get the benefits of feeding people three times a day for the times to come, that would cleanse his lineage karma and substantially lighten his baggage. Mohanji was  subtly fulfilling his duties as a son, thus completing his past bond with Appa.

Mohanji decided to call Appa directly. He gave Appa an ultimatum, “Either you agree to go to Tiruvannamalai or I will fly down to Chennai tomorrow to take you there with me.” It worked. Appa called me later and mentioned Mohanji’s conversation. While he was still not confident, he could not deny Mohanji’s intense wish! He said that he would travel with us and let Lord Srikrishna ensure his safety. We made the necessary arrangements for Appa’s travel and stay in Tiruvannamalai. Besides Appa and aunty, their close family friends also joined to spend 2 blissful days in Tiruvannamalai.

Over that trip, Appa understood the significance of the project and was deeply grateful for having been involved in it. Appa’s heart melted when he saw the homeless people who would be served by the project. He spoke beautifully at the inauguration and later told us that he now understood Mohanji’s insistence on his participation. He also visited the famous Arunachala temple and Ramana Maharishi’s samadhi as well as soaked in the energy of the powerhouse that is Tiruvannamalai, home to thousands of siddhas (perfected beings).

Appa, Acchan, Amma at the hotel room at Thiruvannamalai

Since then, he regularly stayed in touch with us to enquire about the project progress. By March 2020, our project plans were ready but the Covid-19 lockdown put them on hold. Appa however asked us to use the time to finish our planning. His corporate leadership skills came to the fore. He advised us to take advantage of firms hurting from the lockdown by negotiating with the vendors and buying materials early to save money. He also suggested to fix the project plan and timelines and assign a clear date for completion. He gave a few contacts for help with construction work in Tiruvannamalai and would enquire regularly about the progress. When work started in late 2020, we shared the project interim pictures and videos with Appa. He was thrilled and drew deep satisfaction that this project would soon house many helpless elders in Tiruvannamalai.

The last few months and the protective net of Mohanji Family

In early 2021, Appa’s health took a turn for the worse. When Mohanji found out, he gave one clear instruction, “Appa is family. Do everything that a son would do to take care of his father. No compromises. Do whatever it takes. Go to him like a son.” He also said to us “Do whatever you can, as if you are Mohanji”. I knew through conversations with Mohanji that Appa avoided favours and preferred to be independent. So I spoke to Kishore, our Mohanji family member from Chennai, who was the project lead for the Mohanji Home for Seniors, to discuss how we could help, and ensure that Appa saw it as support from family and not as a favour. Since Kishore had based himself in Tiruvannamalai to drive project progress, he couldn’t visit Appa personally at short notice. However, as it turned out, I happened to be in Chennai for a substantial part of Feb and March 2021 to attend to my father’s health.

When I heard about his failing health, I immediately visited Appa and Aunty without any prior warning. They were excited to see me and invited me for lunch. Aunty even commented “Madhu, we are so happy that you came. You have come here like a son.” I could feel that they were yearning for company and support. Appa was visibly weak, having just returned from the hospital a week before. After lunch, I conversed with Appa – the only topic being the Mohanji Home for Seniors project and its completion date. He expressed a desire to visit the project site to see how the building looked. I told him that we would arrange for it when his health improves.

Over the conversation, I could see that he was brightening up and somehow drawing energy from our discussions. When I entered, he was barely able to walk, even with the support of a walking stick. A couple of hours later, he walked confidently to see me out to the door and said “I am much better, don’t worry.” I also gifted him a copy of Mohanji’s latest book “Mast” and he promised to read it soon.

When I updated Mohanji about my visit, he ominously said that Appa may not have much time left, so we should take good care of him. As per Mohanji’s instructions, we connected Appa to Dr Harpreet Wasir, a renowned cardiac surgeon in Delhi and our close Mohanji family member, to discuss and advise Appa on his health. They spoke regularly and his health began to stabilise slightly.

A few weeks later, I went to visit Appa when I went to Chennai again. This time around, he was much better, evident from his presence in the library. I enquired about his health and he pointed to a picture of Lord Guruvayurappan and said it was all ordained as per His will. He said that he was almost feeling normal again, except when he didn’t drink enough water. I told him that he should drink water every 30-45 minutes. He then went on to explain his process of study. He said that he did not “read” the verses but analysed them in detail by consulting a Sanskrit grammar reference book, made notes to confirm his understanding before continuing. He said that he often went so deep into the book that he completely forget himself. So how could he remember to drink water? While happy to hear about his return to his normal mode, I still insisted that he should prioritise his health.

We started talking again about the Mohanji Home for Seniors. He went on to add, “I have known Mohan for 21 years. But never once have we ever discussed Tiruvannamalai. And then, I got connected to this project. You see, nothing happens without Lord Krishna’s will.” He again expressed a wish to see the completed building, and we agreed to arrange his travel when his health improves.

In late May, Kishore updated that Appa had been hospitalised again and his health had deteriorated. I spoke to Appa on the phone but was barely able to hear him due to his weak state. A few days later, Mohanji also spoke to Appa on the phone. Appa told Mohanji that he would like to spend some peaceful time in Tiruvannamalai and was also keen to meet Mohanji. He enquired about Mohanji’s return to India (from Europe) as he felt that his time was near. Mohanji again told us to do whatever possible from our side and said, “I want him to be happy. I want him to feel that we are all with him. That we care. That extreme love should be felt. Companionship”.

Since arranging travel looked bleak due to his health as well as the fresh lockdown in Tamil Nadu, Mohanji told us to arrange a big sized picture of Appa and get it blessed from him, so that the picture could be placed at the reception of the Mohanji Home for Seniors, as a mark of respect and belonging. Further, given that Mohanji was unlikely to return to India soon, Mohanji also asked to arrange a video call with Appa to fulfil Appa’s desire to meet Mohanji. This was arranged the very next day through Srinivas G, our Mohanji family member who visited Appa’s home to check on him. Later that evening, I spoke to Appa and Aunty and spent nearly 45 minutes on the phone with them. They were overjoyed that they could speak to Mohanji. Appa again spoke less about his health and more about the project. It was evident that the Mohanji Home for Seniors project was really the anchor that was giving him purpose. He told me, “When I get better, I really want to prostrate before you, Kishore and the others who are doing such noble work.” I responded that we would prostrate at his feet and would take him to see the project. But even as I said it, I knew that it may not really be possible. It felt like he had no real interest in living and was holding on just to see the site. I discussed with Kishore to share videos with Appa regularly so that he could feel the place and visually see things developing day by day.

The same day, Mohanji also gave us instructions to take Sai Babu udi (sacred ash), holy water from Ganga and Mansarovar to Appa and give to him regularly. From previous experiences, I knew that Mohanji’s instructions  to act quickly, especially in cases of elderly people like Appa must be taken seriously. A wasted day could be a lost opportunity for life. Hence, we acted with urgency and the request was immediately executed through Usha LN, our Mohanji family member in Chennai. Though she had very little Gangajal and Mansarovar jal, she happily parted with it saying, “I can get this later. Let Appa have it now. He needs it more.” While executing Mohanji’s instructions, we once again experienced the true power of a united Mohanji family – people coordinating over the phone in various cities, local people going out of their way to share time or materials without question – working on the basis of the common understanding of the noble intent and compassion behind the purpose.

The only pending thing was to get the photo blessed from Appa. We had two challenges with this – Appa and Aunty had no good usable pictures, and no shops were open during the strict lockdown to get the framing done. We used photos from our archives which we digitally edited to make them suitable. Kishore mustered all his resources to print and frame the picture in an elegant manner within a week. By now, Appa was in the hospital and unable to speak much. But he saw the picture frame taken in by the nurse and blessed it with his eyes. He liked the photo a lot and asked for two copies for his family members too.

When we updated Mohanji, he again reiterated that Appa did not have much time left and asked us to do whatever we could to support him. We stayed in touch with his caregiver at the hospital offering support at every point. We also ensured that Appa was given the gangajal and mansarovar jal with full awareness, so he could appreciate it. Being an extremely spiritual and evolved person, he would have truly understood the significance of those steps.

A couple of days later, Kishore informed that Appa was in pain as a surgical procedure did not work out as planned. He informed that Mohanji had asked our Mai Tri practitioners to offer sessions for Appa to help his situation. As our Maitri practitioners did their sessions, it revealed more dimensions of how Mohanji was fulfilling his responsibilities. Subhasree Thottungal (from the UK) wrote about what she saw during the Mai tri session (Click here to read Subhasree’s blog) – the key message being the cleansing of lineage karma and lightening Appa’s burden as he approached the end of this life.

Mohanji also gave guided us to organise poojas and ceremonies at various temples. With Mohanji’s grace, we had arranged for poojas at various powerful temples – Lord Narasimha at Ahobilam, Sai Baba at Shirdi, Lord Murugan and Sage Bhoganathar at Palani, Mata Vaishno Devi in Jammu, Datta peethams at Gangapur, Pithapuram, Vallabhapuram, Banke Bihaari at Vrindavan amongst others.

On the morning of 23rd June, 2021, we finally got word that Appa was no more. Our job was not yet done. Mohanji gave further instructions to conduct annadaan in Appa’s name over the next thirteen days of the customary rituals. Annadaan for various beings has been organized – fish, birds, animals as well as people at Haridwar and Tiruvannamalai.


A palpable sense of sadness remains after Appa’s passing. I genuinely enjoyed his company and felt it to be mutual. I remembered feeling similarly on the passing away of Vasudevan Swami (of Ganeshpuri) and Baba Ganeshananda Giri Maharaj. One less stalwart to rely on. I will miss his company, wise cracks and erudition. However, I have absolutely no regrets or guilt, for we left no stone unturned to help and support Appa and aid his onward journey, with the clear and compassionate guidance from Mohanji. In that sense, the sentiment of fulfilment and satisfaction overrides.

As I reflect back on this whole journey and the Mohanji factor in it, the key thing that has really struck me was that there are no half-measures when Mohanji takes responsibility. Everything is done to the fullest extent possible. He truly means it when he says that he treats people like his own family. Irrespective of his own schedule, there are no compromises or short cuts in delivering on his commitments. He repeatedly told us, “Do what a son would do for his father. Do as if Mohanji is doing.” In that process, he also highlighted the value of the putra dharma (duty of a son/ child) that Mohanji values above all other duties to society and even sadhana (spiritual practices)

The second thing is about the value of acting immediately. At several points, Mohanji asked us to complete certain tasks. Following through on those instructions immediately has ensured that we fulfilled all the responsibilities a son could do for his father. A lax approach could have meant an opportunity lost forever. We often hear people crying over their lost ones feeling guilt over what they would have done. In Mohanji’s world, the only time that matters is now. When we do the best we can at each moment, we set ourselves up for completion which leads to contentment. I truly realized this with Gopalakrishnan Appa’s experience.

The third take away for me is the purity of connections that come through when Mohanji entrusts tasks. I can’t quite fathom how I connected with Appa, but in that process, as I have helped and served him, I have never felt anything to be a chore, always a sense of duty with the understanding that there may be other dimensions to this relationship beyond the plainly visible. Neither does Mohanji usually offer this information nor did I seek it. But I am sure there may have been debts that I perhaps owed Gopalakrishnan Appa from a past connection. With Mohanji, here are no accidents or coincidences!

A palpable sense of sadness remains after Appa’s passing. I genuinely enjoyed his company and felt it to be mutual. I remembered feeling similarly on the passing away of Vasudevan Swami (of Ganeshpuri) and Baba Ganeshananda Giri Maharaj. One less stalwart to rely on. I will miss his company, wise cracks and erudition. However, I have absolutely no regrets or guilt, for we left no stone unturned to help and support Appa and aid his onward journey, with the clear and compassionate guidance from Mohanji. In that sense, the sentiment of fulfilment and satisfaction overrides.

In the last 18 months of his life, Gopalakrishnan Appa’s main interest was the Mohanji Home for Seniors in Tiruvannamalai. His regal photo will grace the reception hall of the Home as reminder for times to come of his significant contribution in getting this project to life, driven by his abiding desire to see many people served and fed at the Home. Nothing could be more apt to honour his memory.

Fond farewell, Appa. Please shower your blessings on us to follow in your glorious footsteps of achievement, integrity, purpose, commitment and selfless service. May Mohanji and the other Mohanji (your favourite Lord Guruvayurappan – Mohan, the enchanter is one of Lord Krishna’s names) take good care of you in the beyond.


Edited & Published by – Testimonials Team, 25th June 2021


The views, opinions, and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of Mohanji, Mohanji Foundation, it’s members, employees or any other individual or entity associated with Mohanji or Mohanji Foundation. We make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability or validity of any information presented by individual authors and/or commenters on our blogs and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries or damages arising from its display or use.

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  1. Radha Narayanan

    It was such a pleasure reading the article. I am Radha Narayanan,his niece his eldest sister’s daughter. He lived with us in Mahim Mumbai from 1956 till 1963 or so. Loved us three sisters. We were very small then. We had a strong bond with him. In the later years after retirement was lucky to travel with him to Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Bangalore, Pune . Our last trip was to Kodaikanal. A wonderful person both Gopalamama and Vimalamami. Writing about him will take volumes. Hence I am stopping my narration here. Will miss mama a lot. Pray for him. Lots of love. Radha.

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