Welcome to the Personal Website of Soul Whistles & Musings of

Purushottama Bilimoria

Each of the topics/themes below this wilderness image represents a separate page and entry;
 you need to click on each to enter and then scroll down to view, read, laugh, cry, feel diffident or bluffed, or sick.

Hazel Rowley: A memoir; Obituary; & 'Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt & Gandhi (India)' 


1. A Memoir (recollections from Australia and New York) (by PB)

2. Obituary by Patrick Hutchings (in Sophia)

3.  An essay on 'Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt and Gandi/India" for Memorial Volume on Hazel Rowley (forthcoming 2013) (by PB)

'She was vivacious, vital, a generous spirit': Hazel Rowley has died at the age of 59.

Remembering Hazel Rowely, (1st anniversary)

The weekend/month [March 2012] has marked the 1st anniversary of the untimely and sorrowful demise of Hazel Rowley. Most of you have heard about her acclaimed literary accomplishments (in the haute circles of New York, Adelaide/Melbourne, Paris, etc), but I shan't placate you with her trophies; rather I wish to indulge you with my tearful recollections of her simple, human and fragile life (which is how I knew her best).  There follows a sweet obituary to Hazel by my esteemed colleague and Melbourne Editor of ʼSophia', Patrick Hutchings Esquire. This is preceded with a memorable photo of Hazel and myself in East Village, N Y C: where great minds meet* – and if lucky are remembered in posterity's history.

For information on 'Sophia', the international journal in philosophy & religion please visit: http://www.springer.com/social+sciences/religious+studies/journal/11841

*The 'life of mind' – that mostly invisible achievement of εὐδαιμονία [eu̯dai̯monía] as Aristotle called it and pointed out – lives on even in one's afterlife [more here than there]; all else – the good and the bad – get interred with the bones [parodying Shakespeare], and except for some remnant spiraling vibrations in the ākāśic spangles and stars dancing to the rhythm of the shoreline horizons, no one really remembers anything much back on planet earth. Our worries are too often longer than the short life we've come hither to live out, or fade away into and close-off in crushing time.

HAZEL Rowley once described writing a biography as like having a love affair. ''You know how it is when you are in love? You smile indulgently at their faults, you are fascinated by every minor detail about them. You cannot take your mind off them, you become so totally obsessed. You live with them day and night for years.'' The Age March 3rd 2011

Hazel's last book was a biography of the famous (though controversial and rendered questionable perhaps by certain "family" crises that happened in other spaces) Roosevelts; Hazel sets many a record straight, and as a good-Aussie feminist battler, demonstrates to the chagrin of many, the "absurdly conventional" mentalité of the American establishment, especially over how they handled and characterized the private lives and doings and dealings of the ever-celebrated pure as snow, and perfect as the swift victory of WWII against the arch-Hitler and the ready-to-be nuked Asians (Japanese), iconic paragons of American morality (nay, moralism).

Hazel pulls no punches, and I know well the strain and stress she put herself through in re-working this history beneath the archival glosses and judgements. A remarkable achievement; as movingly incisive as her previous biographical rendering of the entangled lives of Simon de Beauvoir and John Paul Sartre (probably more insane than most in some perceptions of the most sane and saintly, indeed).

The New York Review of Books carried a faithful review of Hazel's book - combined with a similar reinforcing account by another known writer (titled 'The Charms of Eleanor'. It is a telling piece in itself and does immense justice to the accomplishment of Hazel Rowley. A must read if you have not got tot he book yet (I sent out some copies for St Valentine's Day). This is the site for the review:

                                                 *     *     *

‘The Hazel that I cherish still: Sharings in the bleakness of New York City'.

Hazel breathed her last prāṇa on March 2nd, 2011, the great night of the Hindu god Shiva [Maha-Shivararti], in a hospital intensive care unit in New York City. Not one given to spiritual or transcendental flights, she nevertheless happily shared some aspects of my 'Indian' semi-secular/philosopher's life, at least in conversation and in her irrepressible curiosity.  For instance, she would come with me to Jackson Heights (Queens) where there are lots of Indians and did shopping with me at Indian bazaars and have a bite to eat. (We were actually looking to visit the Hindu temple there but couldn't find it.) She lit or let me light incense in her apartment occasionally when I visited (or when I hadn't yet moved to NY) staying over maybe once or twice, and I slept on that lovely settee. Strange that I knew Hazel - always, even while we worked at the same university outside (and a campus within) Melbourne - at a much more personal level – even though we'd sit together often at seminars, such as the memorable one when Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak came all the way to the Geelong campus to give a talk;  or i would have her speak at seminars I organized, when she was beginning her work on Christina Stead. And of course we sat through endless School and bureaucratic meetings, in exasperation; and then drive back to Melbourne (as hardly many of the Humanities faculty lived in Geelong, Melbourne being more metropolitan) in the endlessly rainy night; in one such drive - Jock (McCulloch) took to the wheels in her little car - we hit a dog running across the highway; that upset us all so deeply, but we couldn't find the dog as it ran off into the bush. And then we were all scattered as  if the wheel of time had sundered us apart, only to come together during visits and sojourns in Harvard (she lived in Cambridge for a good while, as I did a little later, as a visiting scholar at Harvard), and then in New York about the same time almost as my half-yearly move to NY (Stony Brook Long Island, Brooklyn,  then to the East-Village, as I taught in Columbia University too).

I cannot count the number of times we went out in NY ( we called it 'fake dates'), doing things, cooking together, dinning out with or at her many friends' homes in the city, visiting at each others' apartment, lying in bed watching a documentary or two (and never a hint of romance as she respected both my recent loss and the then fledgling yet troubled relationship with a woman back in Australia, who visited and they became good friends). We enjoyed walking in Central Park (parts I had never seen before, winding back around Lennon's memorial, lakes, ponds, rocks, zoos, and kiosk for brunch), the wide historic streets of Manhattan ("Wow, I am walking down Avenue of the Americas - gazing up at  Chrysler/Rockefeller buildings -- with Purushottama Bilimoria!" "No, I am walking glove-in-hand, tête-à-tête, with Hazel Rowley, the famous New York writer, down the literary alleyways of the town that has now all but claimed her as one of their own!" - how true now!!). Moving past  architectural sites, churches, Chelsea Hotel, Plaza hotel where Sartre had got trapped in the revolving door (we laughed),  to Brooklyn for a film or two, and Orange, New Jersey to visit my dear friends, or a picnic on the urban beach - Hobsbawn - in NJ facing Manhattan, and catch a swim in Jones Beach (Long Island, I drove in my unreliable car; she lost pair of glasses in the water; 'Bummer, how am I gonna write again?'); or hung-out in Union Square,  local bookshops, Sunday brunches at her favourite French cafeteria, etc etc. She introduced me to PEN which got me to see Salman Rushdie and Amartya Sen in dialogue in NY Public Library Gallery, and many other such events. Once, we stood out in the cold in a long line in Soho to get into  some historic trade-union hall to hear Harry Bellafonte (he is a better singer than a civil rights speaker, we concluded).

Often she mused about the proverbial "Aoustrralyean" accent, especially when amidst the drone of NY accent; someone ‘phones from back home and begins with "Heizel  Luv... how are ye keeping dare in Newyooke?". "She be right, luv", and "Bob's your uncle"! ....We'd break into rapturous hilarity walking up and down Broadway or wherever. Hazel did not suffer fools easily; it was always an experience listening to her tales and reportage about some adventure or mishap or perhaps even misunderstanding and misconnection between her and someone known too well to both us. The most characteristic signature to such a story-weaving into meandering conversations that touch – from my side at least - metaphysics and the psychology of grief, and – from her side – woes of a promised but lost love, or a nasty review, or of a left-behind friend from Downunder showing up on short notice at her doorstep to camp in her small apartment, and as her scrawny arms flying hither-and-thither in the spacious air, she would blurt out some less-than-appreciative explicative......:

”and you fricking never hear from them again!”; or this one (sigh): "He opens the door to his hotel room, wrapped in small towel, dripping wet'Oh Hazel dear I was in the bath; come in; there is some wine on the table'; .this was supposed to be the greatest London date of my life, whisked away in chauffeur-driven limousine to the ritziest bar and restaurant in the great city and he is telling me he’s got libido and he can be naked...; I had news for him: [... deleted]"

I was there when reviews of Tête-à-Tête came out; we raised toasts to the positive ones (there would always be wine and snacks and food from the Delicatessen below on Broadway; she was still in the apartment on 99th & West-side), and commiserated over the negative one (such as the appallingly unfair one – almost ad hominem - by a New Yorker reviewer, though published elsewhere, maybe 'La Monde'). I was there when she was struggling to decide on her next biography project. She took my suggestion seriously to do one on Arthur Miller, one of my own heroes and I had heard the memorable interview Phillip Adams had done some years back replayed on LNL, ABC Radio, before I left Australia; or maybe a short book on the Indian diasporic life, or Gandhi and his wife Kasturba, or some non-white great woman,  or the Russian Jewish community in Staten Island (her own find). But after much soul-searching and talking to her agents, she hit upon the Roosevelts -  and off it took, shortly after I left New York.

Still,  her elevation and fame in the literary world was not the attraction for me; nor my own fledgling reputation in the academic world (mostly outside of Australia) for her (kids and siblings don't care for that sort of stuff). That was so sweet, like a member of the family; and when her father died I shared many conversations, some on walks on bleak winter mornings near Columbia or Riverside parks by the Hudson. we got to discussing how I was dealing with the grief after  2-4 years of the loss of my wife back in Australia, a feminist-postcolonialist who she knew and loved as well. She mentioned me often to her mother as well, with deep respect it seems. She kept a meticulous diary of her movements and conversations. More poignantly, I shared with her my (by some accounts, countless) infelicities and misdemeanours; I have lived the disguised double-life of a fake, I would report to Hazel this and whatever other revelations emerged in joint therapy sessions as another life fell apart. ‘None of us are perfect', she’d say reassuringly. Still, there was a complicated bundle of pain that I carried with me to New York and was undergoing psychotherapy there, upper East Side, where else?  Our mutual displacements, bleak disappoinments and respective emotional turmoils drew us closer in a deep and beautiful way.

It wasn’t always so heavy and bleak though. There were, as I said earlier, lighter moments too. I would help hang up the newest paintings or art-work she acquired, set up her new sound system and carry away the old one to my apartment, or fix her ailing computer, the door that the Latino workman didn’t know how to adjust to the frame.. train down on Line A to Canal-end J&B to buy a new wide screen for ease of her working long hours on the monitor, and I would take away the old one, and so it went. So I feel like I don't know what the fuss is or has been about in the papers, and long wonderful obituaries, peaking with the ones in 'New York Times' and 'Washington Post', 'Sydney Morning Herald', 'The Age (Melbourne)', 'The Australian', and so on

Needless to say, indeed, I celebrate to this day the achievements in that area and the fame and glory that have come along with the recognition and awards; but I just knew Hazel as Hazeley, the tall girl of thinnish frame and great wit and humour from Melbourne. But she left for Austin, Texas, after I started the overseas jaunts and escapades from Waurn Ponds myself, indeed from when we were still junior colleagues at Deakin - she was about 33 or 35 then. We all used to car-pool to Geelong, twice a week, in 2s and 3s, cracking wits with my now Sophia co-editor, Patrick Hutchings Esquire. We'd have dinners at our respective homes with friends (Helen Garner; on one such dinner in the lovely Camberwell home - a tribute to Renuka indeed - I brought together Sneja Gunew, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and Hazel for a roaring evening). And then I started to travel out overseas even more frequently (to India, Oxford and New York, and all corners of the globe);  Hazel said later she followed my escape route (I shared with her my secret of working the university system for junkets and long absences - like a fallen Hindjew god, Renuka would  quip!). Hazel never looked back!! I stayed on in the university system, the 'teaching machine' as Gayatri-di calls it, and am still sequestered within its narrow walls; she could not understand why I kept one foot inside the academic juggernaut -  as she called  the system, which she left after publishing in the national paper a scathing rebuke of the corporatization, hence demise, of the tertiary educational establishment in Australia. It is my Jagannath (lexical root) I said, the mockingly sacred cow I hide behind because it keeps me sane and devoted, and – more importantly - I am fearful of the outside world, I told her.  Or as the sage with his 3-feet long dreadlocks up in the Himalayas put it to me last July (2010): ‘Yaar Baba, you keeping doing re-searrcche, only you are re-searrcchinng always.. 30 years now aaree, why never you doing any real searrcching?’ But Hazel  put it down to my self-reconstructed, suitably re-invented, ego-mania! She's proven to be so right. Narcissism of sorts.  (Hence, I am still in psycho-therapy, with homeopathic complements, digging down as deep as I am able to in the weekly sessions; each attempted intimate situation has had me back on the improbable couch, as I relate in my paper on Grief and Mourning, which I began writing in New York, with Hazel's generous encouragement.) Darling Hazel (strange that we did call each other 'Darling') never visited my haven in Venus Bay (I have always regretted that), nor did she get to see my re-invented third life adrift on the other end of the continental-coast, but knew about it and sent her blessings. And I need more of her blessings as the sun sets each day.

Purushottama Bilimoria

The bridge over Greenbrae, Marin County/Berkeley CA


Hazel Rowley: Obituary

Patrick Hutchings

# Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

The untimely death of Hazel Rowley at the age of 59 is a great loss to the world of letters,

and to her friends. She died in New York where she latterly spent much of her time since

circa 2003. She was a colleague of the Sophia editors at Deakin University. While there

she completed the first of her notable biographies, that on Christina Stead: one recalls

the launch of this splendid book at a fashionable restaurant in Melbourne. Rowley left

Deakin and Australia with memorable parting messages: she found the Literary

programme at Deakin too theory-laden and said so; and her view of the then Labor

government’s University ‘Reforms’ formed part of her farewell interview with the

newspaper The Australian (‘Universities are losing on points’, December, 1996). In it

she was scathing, expressing her – low – opinion of the then Minister of Education.

Abandoning the slowly collapsing academia she went abroad to pursue her true

vocation as a biographer. While on a writing fellowship at Harvard she wrote on the

leftist African-American author Richard Wright. This was followed by Tête-à-Tête:

The tumultuous lives and loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Copyright issues saw one printing of this book pulped, but a revised issue came out to

great acclaim. Rowley, who was fluent in French – had earlier met and talked with de

Beauvoir, so she knew – half of – her biographical subject rather well. Her last book,

on Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt, was fairly recently launched, and very

well received. In New York, Rowley met often with Sophia’s chief editor

Purushottama Bilimoria, who, without quite abandoning Deakin and Melbourne,

sensibly contrives to spend much of his year at various American universities and at

Oxford. Rowley was born in London and brought to Adelaide as a child. She – as one

recalls – never became reconciled with her new country. Her memorial service was

held on 13 March 2011 at the elegant, Gothic Revival, Episcopalian Church of the

Transfiguration in New York City.


SOPHIA, 23 June 2011

Patrick Hutchings 

Lynn and Hazel in the Park that Honours Eleanor Roosevelt (her statute is behind), 72th Street and 9th Avenue, Manhattan. Some of Hazel's last remains are scattered on this soil, and a plague to her name also honors her life and closeness she felt to Eleanor, on a bench in this beautiful garden in Riverside Park. Visiting the site brought tears to mine eyes.

HONOURING THE LIVES OF HAZEL ROWLEY : the Book and my longer essay on a  subject dear to her heart: a fitting tribute to her mind and heart; a privilege.

1.7 MB

This is text of my essay on Eleanor Roosevelt and Pauli Murray on American's Civil Wrongs, Gandhi and India, which is published in the book honoring Hazel Rowley. Click on 'PB Chapter..pdf' above line for full details and the essay.   Here is the abstract (1st paragraph) from the essay/chapter to give you a foretaste:

In her insightful biography of Richard Wright (2001), Hazel Rowley demonstrates empathic appreciation of Wright’s concern for discrimination of Blacks marginalized in a majoritarian white-America, and his growing disenchantment with the movement for Black liberation. It is a moving story. Likewise, in her very last biography, that of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt (2010), in addition to the near-exhaustive excavation work on their extraordinary, yet sometimes troubled, relationship, Hazel also pushes against the received wisdom of their individual and joint public engagements with the Black cause in the American landscape that was undergoing immense transition before and especially during the Roosevelt years. Hazel and I had several conversations about my own interest and work on the African-American Resistance and Civil Rights struggles from early 20th century to the present, with a focus on Gandhi’s influence in respect of the Black adoption of nonviolent truth-force (satyagraha) that was used successfully against British colonial sovereignty of India, and in time came to be associated in popular history with the heroic strides of Martin Luther King Jr (who acknowledged himself a disciple of the Gandhian method). 

Web Hosting Companies