Meeting a Yogic Guru in London

Yesterday was a historic twenty-nine degrees that Nicole said was like furnace. I told her we called it good weather. Then it rained all night and this morning, and for me, it was winter in Kashmir. 

“Take the river bus,” Nicole had told me. “Very few on board this time of the day and the year, and no commentary with stale Cockney humour. Look out if you want to, there’s Westminster, the London Eye , St. Paul’s, the works. otherwise close your eyes and just relax. That’s what I do once in a while. The boat takes its own time. You can buy coffee or beer, if you like”.

“Just a hundred metres that way to the pier,” she said and dropped me outside a sprawling Vauxhall apartment block and sped away. The drizzle was depressing as if I needed one more reason.

I entered the river bus, trying to hide my shiver. A girl tried to collect my umbrella and jacket, I handed over the umbrella but kept the jacket on, telling myself that at least the inner wasn’t wet.

I found an empty set of seats and sat by the window. The air was grey, and the city stood shrouded in it. Even in the rare sunshine, view of London from the Thames is no match for Shanghai viewed from Huangpu River.  In any case, I wasn’t too keen on sight-seeing nor for taking photographs. One could always buy a dozen picture-postcards with one’s photo in it in a few minutes’ time and pay the price of a plate of re-heated samosa in an Indian restaurant.

Just as I was opening the Guardian. I noticed this couple in loose saffron clothes and heavy, pitted Rudraksh-beads. The man walked a little unsteadily hunching forward, the woman, thin like a reed when viewed from behind walked ramrod straight. A thick-set man, properly freckled and of about forty in jeans and T-shirt led the way as they went a few rows ahead, found a couch that faced my direction, and sat down.

The younger man noticed me and said something to the  oldies. The woman, darkish and pretty for her age, draped in a sari and long-sleeved and midriff-covering top saw me and smiled across the several seats and a few brown heads.

 “Another Indian guy,” was probably what the younger man said.

The oldie placed his hand over his eyes as if the grey interior was in glaring sunshine. Then he stood up and walked towards me.

“Arnold,” he said, stretching his hand. “You fuckinn’ Anglo, so found your ‘Home.’ Eh?”

My generation of Anglo Indians never mentioned England as ‘home’. Yet in India that was another joke plastered on our back.

Safron Clothes of a Sadhu, here in this city, language of an  old  railway guard from Geroge Town, Madras. He wore a red U-shaped streak on his forehead with a long exclamation mark in the middle.

Image borrowed from

““Of course I recognize you. How can I forget.?”,  I said, standing up to shake hands, and lying through my teeth. His thin voice, distorted  by the gruffiness and shiver of old age,  rang a bell. But I couldn’t quite put a name to it.

He sat next to me. Even the whiff of his presence felt familiar. Where did we meet last? In the military? My home town?  An old classmate from UCC?

“You are here visiting your son, I see”. I said.

“I know you don’t recognize me,” he said in one panting breath. “You’ve grown a beard. Just a few creases –very few –  on your cheeks and this bledy white hair – but I recognized you.  .

The ‘bledy’  for bloody settled the matter. A south Indian with light skin. Absence of melanin gave him a lot many onion-rolls on his cheeks and strings of creases under his chin.

I pointed towards the forty-ish pseudo white who kept looking at us with a smirk.

“You look more like home here,” I said. “A white son and all.”

“Not my son, but a self-styled disciple. Someone told him it’s easier to get the charas if he’s with a Yogi.”

“And you proved that someone right.”

“Shut up,” he said in a hoarse whisper. He looked around furtively and dusted the empty seat near  mine.  His adopted pseudo-white son,  walked up and and sat down on its edge, apparently resting on one buttock, Indian style..

“I am here for a series of discourses. The Hindu union in four universities have invited me. Every time a Paki rapes a child, the newspapers scream that an Asian did it. The Hindus get a bad name. So they have invited the press, big and small, for my discourses on the Hindu way of life.”

“I smell Radhakrishnan there,”

His forehead corrugated in a frown. “You have read Surveypally Radhakrishnan, you dancing-singing, Tony Brent  lip-syncing Anglo?”

“I read Philosophy in College.”

Suddenly, it dawned. Kurien Markose, the loud-mouthed one who once stood at the gate of the school and measured the size of breasts with his eyes and commented on each when girls filed out. When he complimented one with a larger bustline, she slapped him. Next day he was kicked out of school. Last heard, he was training alcoholics and drug addicts in a Christian meditation centre. A course of dhyanam, they called it, meditating on Christ who only imbibed wine.

“I know you Kurien, but how did you get to be a Hindu Sadhu preaching discourses in England?”

“Well, there was some Yoga in the Meditation centre. The promoter said yoga was not of Hindus, but invented by St. Aquinas who could do levitation. Then I discovered that Hindu Ashram had many more tricks in their yoga, not just a handstand reciting the Lord’s prayer. I joined Sri Varadananda Swami, you know, the incarnation of Lord Shiva  who got arrested a few months ago and is still in jail”

“For rape,”

“Ill informed idiot. For sodomy on little children. Something perfected by our  – I mean- Christian priests. Blow jobs perfected by a Cardinal in Australia, Techniques, like those in the trade and movies, pirated by Hindu priests and Muslim Imams.”

He chuckled and sat more comfortably in the seat. “That time he was famous with thousands of followers. I learnt yoga by joining one of his public TV performances and, whenever I could, his live shows Soon enough I came to his notice.”

“You had smooth light skin and hairless face, the way I remember you. In the UCC, we used to call you Payyan, the soft boy. . No doubt, the Guru was inspired by your smooth light skin.“

“Matter of fact, yes,” he chuckled. “But he turned out to be a passive sodomist. You know, what you Anglos call a pansy.”

“A gantu,” I helped.

“That’s it. Once on his many Hamalayan tours travelling first class, paid for by his devotees, we reached a great Ashram near – have you heard? Gangotri.”

I told him the name of the Ashram.

“Yes. There the old bastard practically sold me. For the next 8 years, I did chores in and around the Ashram, learnt some Sanskrit – well, enough to quote the famous verses – the four Vedas, Upanishads, Brahmanas, Gita, you name it. I decided that the gods who carried weapons all the time and acted as contract-killers for a tribe called Devas,  were happier gods than Jesus who carried his own cross to be nailed up on it and to wail like a baby.  But by then I grew hair all around, a long beard, and, turned – well, unattractive.”

“For the Active-Passive thing.”

He shuffled his bottom and looked around again. ‘Yes,”

“When I left, the swami graduated me to Ramananda Swaroopa. Which means the true form of Rama’s bliss. They call me Ramananda Baba. “

“Must have made a lot of money,” I said, hoping that envy did not show through my eyes.

His eyes narrowed. “Not much. Bought a 120-acre plot in Himachal near Manali. My chelas are building an Ashram there with arrangements for skiing and trekking for the materialistic whities seeking spirituality.  Bledy cutthroat price even in such a place.(That bledy again!) I am negotiating for a smaller place in the Ayrshire Coast in Scotland., A virtually abandoned old hotel and a few acres of land. After my last engagement in Oxford, I will need to go to Scotland  to find the place which is already paid for..”

“By your chelas.”  A contemptuous Hindi word for disciples.

The boat was slowing. We were nearing the Greenwich pier. Even in the quiet suburban  London, city noises let you know you were getting closer to land.

“Got a lecture on Oriental Spirituality and salvation  in the University here. Tickets sold out. If you wish to attend, I will manage you a press tag from the BBC. For free.”

“No need,” I said. “I found my salvation when Jennifer, once my childhood sweetheart at Frank Anthony’s, whom I married and lived miserably with for fourteen years, found another idiot and gave me a divorce.”

Without turning and looking back, he signaled backward with his eyes and whispered: “The skeletal bitch there is my wife. Passionate like hell in bed, but not passable for my kind. So we stroke each other and discuss the collection of the day. We’re riding this slow boat because someone at Wales Trinity told her that the view of Westminster and the London Eye are breathtaking from the Thames.” He tried to silence his chortle with the back of a fist which ended in a series of coughs.

The boat slowed down, its chugs spacing out longer by the seconds. The next pier, I guessed Greenwich North, was closing in.

He stood up and made a gesture of Namaste.  As he bowed, his Rudraksh-garland grazed my cheeks.

“Sorry, can’t stop to talk. There must be a car waiting. I was due by a previous Clippers.”

“A Mercedes-Benz for sure,” I said.

“I’ll blacklist the university if it’s not a Rolls Royce.”

He was boasting, of course. Even Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had to buy a new Rolls himself every time he went to a new place. Could be, for a change, the Beetles bought him one when he landed up at Liverpool.

As he began to shuffle along the heaving boat, the pseudo-white disciple in his trail passed me a slip of paper scratched in bad writing. A London  phone number.

“Call me whenever,” he whispered, getting closer.  “The best stuff. Old man loves it after a hectic day.”

I thought his breath stank a mixture of stale Marlboro and – well, and decaying garbage..

I pointed in the direction where Ramanand Baba had disappeared, looking for his Rolls Royce in the garb of a Kia Sportage.  “Does he raise your kundalini?”

He chuckled silently, his shoulders shaking as if his back was itching. Then he elbowed  his way through the few who were trying to get out into the wharf drenched in a depressing  drizzle.


4 thoughts on “Meeting a Yogic Guru in London

  1. Enjoyed the piece. Racy style. You are a raconteur par excellence!

    Pleasure having met you yesterday and sorry we dropped in unannounced. Unfortunately, we couldn’t spend as much time together as I would have liked to.


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