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The Three Verbs of Being
Kiren-Maya's readings

Swami's philosophy
When the family arrived at the lecture hall, next door to the restaurant, the formal religious rites of the meeting had finished. A ceremonial fire giving out pleasantly scented smoke was burning in the centre of the hall. Leaving their shoes outside the door, they entered the hall in stocking feet, and took their seats on the carpeted floor around the fire. Before long a saffron robed swami was introduced and the lecture began with a history of religion. The swami talked about the first tenet of Hinduism, the cycle of birth and death that the ever-living soul must go through on its path of spiritual evolution, each birth giving it a different repository, a physical shell, a body to enable it to experience life and to register the pluses and the minuses of Karma, the motive force propelling us on our paths. He continued. "Without the body, the soul cannot experience anything. Death is not the end, but a beginning of a newer set of experiences that the soul pre-determines for its course. Meditation and yogic practices can help to reduce the number of birth-death cycles the soul must go through to attain mukti or liberation. When the soul or consciousness enters the body, the combination becomes a living jivatma. The sole purpose of jivatma is to form a union with Param-atma or Superconsciousness to become free of the empirical Ego or mukti." As a simple exercise to prod the mind the swami suggested that each person should spend some time contemplating, Who am I? Where did I come from? What is this body? What am I? What is my true nature? "These questions will induce you to seek further knowledge. Understand your biological roots. Above all, seek your nonbiological roots." Dina was pleased with the attention given to the swami's teaching by the members of his family. A lively discussion . . . . '

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Monkey encounters
Personal accounts of run-ins with monkeys abounded. Every family had a woeful tale to tell. Even Rashi at his young age had had a few skirmishes with them. The one that hurt most was when he had just returned from school only to hear his prized collection of marbles rolling off the roof and raining down on the street. Savit had carelessly left a window ajar. A monkey had grabbed his bag of marbles and run up to the roof, only to playfully tumble the contents on his hand, looking for food.
The other stood out in his mind because of the part played by sheer luck in his favor. Walking home near his school in Phagli, he was roused from his thoughts by the unmistakable guttural sound of a charging female, some eighty to ninety feet in front of him. Instinctively Rashi reached down and filled his left hand with golfball-sized stones. He noticed a few bushes spaced out in front of him. He transferred a stone to his right hand and hurled it at the monkey, who took cover in the bush. By the time Rashi had transferred the second stone to his right hand, the monkey had advanced to the next bush and took cover there for the second delivery. The stones were hitting the ground with great force but missing the target by a few inches. He was down to the last stone and the monkey was no more than fifteen feet in front, gnashing her teeth furiously. A shudder of fright ran down Rashi's body. Bellowing out an instinctive scream, he wound his arm and delivered the last missile, landing it squarely on the front paw of the monkey. The belligerent, charging growl of the ape turned into a cry of pain of a beast in full flight for its life. What a lucky break had it been for him, Rashi recalled; and from that day on he was alert to this risk, especially when he was alone in an isolated area. He dared not contemplate the consequences if the last stone had not delivered the goods.

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An uncanny recall
Rashi was drawn deeper into the mystery of how Ram Dave could make the monkeys do things by moving his eyes and hands because of 'his faith in Hanuman', as Dina had said. He started to think of the swami's religious words he had been hearing at the lecture hall. He could feel the mushrooming of a deep curiosity in his mind. In the next few months he realized that a fixed train of thoughts was finding fertile ground there. His fascination with the enigma of Ram Dave's mysterious powers was followed by the swami's exhortations of, 'Who am I? Where did I come from?' Then he would remember the punishment he had received at Ustad's hands at the school and in the ensuing pain his mind would go blank. He would immediately turn his mind to the memory of the train ride from Kalka to Simla and he would become cheerful and go about his business.
One day a scene appeared in front of him. He saw himself as a very small child crying and jumping to and fro to escape from a courtyard with verandahs all around. His feet were bare and he could feel a burning sensation in the soles. The ground had become hot from the overhead sun. He saw three reclining chairs in the shade of the verandah facing him. A weak-looking woman lying on the chair on the left was watching him with her sad longing eyes. A young girl occupied the middle chair. On the chair to the right sat a young woman who was waving at him and was laughing loudly while she asked him to run faster and to come to her. He heard the laughter and recognized Savit's voice. He waited a few days and reassured himself that it was in fact Savit's voice he had heard in the scene. One day after dinner when all members of the family were chatting, Rashi described the details of the scene to them. He used to call Savit by the name of Sittan.
"Sittan, was that you in that scene? Please tell me."
Savit looked at Rashi with a puzzled look while Dina wondered what Rashi was talking about. "It is impossible for you to remember that day. You were barely eighteen months old. Someone has told you about that day," a reluctant Savit ventured after some thought. She turned to Vimli and asked her if she had talked to Rashi about the day. Vimli answered no.
"Sittan, please tell me if that was your voice I heard in the scene. No one has told me about the day. I am telling the truth. I actually 'saw' the scene a few days ago and 'heard' your laughter. Now tell me."
Savit looked at Dina and he nodded his head. The big secret was out. Rashi was not to know the secret until he was old enough to grasp the significance of the grave event. He was being protected. That evening Rashi learnt that the scene he had seen and the voices he had heard were a true re-enactment of what had happened six and a half years earlier in his life! The scene had come alive in his mind because he was a participant! Savit went on to describe . . . .

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Shona's first inkling
She closed her eyes to concentrate and a thought breezed through her mind. She remembered seeing Ram Dave's brown eyes. A vague feeling that she had seen them before started to bother her. Feelings of familiarity and acceptance came over her and her mood changed. Was she becoming confused?

"Is this what fear can do to you?"

She muttered to herself as she tried to dismiss the feeling from her mind. Although she had become alarmed, she realized that now she was not fearful. On the contrary, a sustaining feeling of confidence had started to build in her and soon after, a wave of enthusiasm coursed through her. She was taken aback by the rapid transformation of her emotional state. How quickly a state of sudden alarm had been replaced by a positive feeling of well-being accompanied by a charge of exciting energy! She could not think of a reason. She had not experienced anything like this before in her life. She wondered whether it might have a mystical undercurrent.


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Monkey psychology
Shona gave Ram Dave's face a quick glance before she started on how the two young monkeys had paid Belinda a visit and then she went on to question him about the subject of the sacrificial rites as it had been propounded to her by Major Pritchard. As a mother, she was worried about the safety of her child and she was there to get some answers from him. Frankly, the monkeys terrified her. Ram Dave raised his head in a slow, deliberate manner. He looked up at her face for a brief moment and then cast his eyes down to the floor as he spoke of the natural affinity young monkey mothers felt for human infants. In the springtime, when their maternal instincts were at their fullest, young mothers used the sounds made by their babies as cues to gauge their condition of wellbeing and bodily needs. The cooing and crying of human infants attracted them just as much but their fear of humans prevented them from making a direct approach upon what was to them a foreign territory. The monkeys were fascinated by human actions, especially any that they had never seen before, and their natural impulse to mimic human actions often put them in awkward situations. After having seen a man brush his face with shaving-soap, monkeys mimicked the act by licking the shaving-soap off their limbs with interesting results.
This was how they had learnt many of the tricks unique to them. One other powerful drive in the monkeys, Ram Dave went on, arose from their innate impulse to be playful and downright silly; this interfered with their attention span, which was tiny to begin with. This trait had cut their learning-process short and since they had no memory to speak of, their behavior seemed in the eyes of humans a mish-mash of unpredictability. He had seen a monkey mother go through the hair of an unattended human infant . . . had often been seen to take baby bottles away from human infants and empty them into their own mouths or those of their infants. Their fascination with human clothing being hung on a line had gotten them into trouble many a time. Over the generations a successful tactic they had found was to proceed with caution, invisibly, which was viewed by humans as sneaky and deliberate.
A large troop of monkeys would normally go into the region where they first heard human baby sounds and in the beginning they would merely try to mimic the sounds. They usually scouted the area for days and then one day a medium-weight brave would go in to explore the site. No, he had never known the leader of the group to undertake this first hazardous venture and how a volunteer was chosen was, he confessed, something he had never fully understood. As the scout stealthily entered the site, his mates hid around in the trees; these, again, were misinterpreted by the humans as lookouts and he conceded that the whole approach did smack of a pre-planned and deliberate skirmish. Then he emphasized to Mrs. Prior that the origins of this tactic were buried deep inside the instinct of self-preservation, which was possessed by every known species on God's earth, including humans, in ways unique to their species. He then begged her indulgence to take part in a small experiment in the open, which, if successful, might illustrate the points he has been trying to make to her.

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An unusual experiment
Shona stood there quietly listening to Ram Dave's gentle voice in the dimly lit inner enclosure of the temple. Sparse, foliage-filtered sunlight flowed through the front door. A naked bulb at the end of its wire dangled from the dark ceiling, giving out streaks of dull orange light. Burning oil wicks set in terracotta bowls shone like amber nuggets of gold, exuding a smoky scent. Curling columns of incense smoke rose from the floor. Orange shafts danced in strange patterns as the flames flickered on the oil wicks. A bouncing pattern of shadows played on the rough walls, all around the grotto-like room. In the midst of all this, Hanuman's face projected a mystifying aura of supreme gravity. His shining eyes pulled everyone under his sway as he appeared to be flying, with a mountain top with flaming plants resting on the palm of his hand. Shona was struck by the solemn serenity around her. She looked up at Hanuman's face and was held captive by it. She tried to pull away but she couldn't. Then she felt that Hanuman's face no longer made her feel apprehensive. She felt drawn into the spiritual aura of the space around her. The heavy scent in the room was numbing her senses. She felt her shoulders relax and her tenseness soon eased.

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Ram Dave had spoken with authority on the subject of monkeys and she sized him up as a well educated and indeed, a learned man. A deep sense of pride and a deeper sense of conviction were written all over him. His manner, a bit abrupt at times, displayed humility on the outside but the strong will on the inside could not be missed. From where she had stood while he talked, she could not see his face. But then she realized that Ram Dave did not make eye contact with her; he mostly looked down when he spoke.

"You certainly know your way around the monkeys." Shona said as she moved towards him.

"But how did you manage to gain this level of control over them?"

Ram Dave did not answer her question and he did not look up.
Then Shona wondered why they were inside the temple when the weather outside was simply gorgeous. She asked Ram Dave if they could continue the discussion outside. She went out to the verandah and saw Belinda sound asleep in the carriage and the two servants sitting on the front steps, gossiping and laughing. Ram Dave got up from his seat beside the idol but did not go outside.

"Mrs. Prior, let me answer your second question, the one raised by Major Pritchard about the sacrificial rites, and then we will go outside to our simple experiment, if you will kindly consent to take part in it."

Shona went back inside. Ram Dave stood with his back to the door, pointing away from the ceiling lamp. He started telling her about how the mother monkeys brought their young dead to him in the early morning and the cremation ceremonies he performed for the dead babies in the hollow in the ground. He then invited her to come up to the temple in the early dawn, if she wanted to witness the mother monkey bring the young corpse to the temple for cremation.

"Most of the babies have grown up and the possibility of one dying now was very small, but you could take a chance and you would have to be here before daybreak," he said, sensing Shona's sympathetic mood.

She had shown a keen interest in the subject and had acknowledged his statements with an unquestioning eagerness in her eyes. They went to the verandah and Ram Dave jerked the bell hard. The loud tolling awoke Belinda and Shona could not help thinking that he had done that deliberately. From the lofty neighborhood, monkeys of all descriptions came running to the eating-compound. Shona removed the netting from the carriage and lifted a sleepy Belinda into her arms.
"Mrs. Prior, the experiment I have in mind needs your cooperation. Today when you nurse Belinda, please make sure the young monkey mothers can see you clearly. That means you have to nurse her the way the local pahari women nurse their infants, with no inhibition and in full view. If the mother monkeys are to respond, they have to be able to see your breasts and your baby's lips. There is a reasonably safe and private spot where you will be comfortable and your privacy will not be threatened."
Shona was taken aback when she heard Ram Dave's words. She had had no idea that the experiment was such a risky one. She had never nursed Belinda out in the open and for her to expose her breasts to the monkeys! How immodest! she thought to herself. She felt embarrassed and Ram Dave could sense her predicament. He acted quickly to provide a diversion by dropping a bag of peanuts in the eating-compound. Thereupon a mad scramble took place, which distracted Shona and gave her the opportunity to ponder his proposition for a few minutes. The woman in her noticed how candidly Ram Dave had proposed the experiment. His tone had the quality of a clinical detachment when he referred to her breasts. She weighed the risk and found herself searching for the right reasons. What would John think of it? He didn't even know that she was up there talking to Ram Dave. But John was her husband, and he would understand her reasons, whatever they might be, once she explained them to him. How would Major Pritchard react to her taking part in an impromptu experiment with the trainer of the monkeys, who stalked British babies? He would consider her act seditious, indeed downright rebellious, she thought. But only if he found out! she mused. Her train of thought was becoming open. Why had she initially reacted the way she did? What was the real threat to her? As she searched for answers, she concluded that Ram Dave's proposition was well intentioned, although she had been taken aback at the unexpected way he had announced it, and that her decision on whether to participate would depend on the degree of the danger to which she would be exposing both Belinda and herself. She had been nursing Belinda for weeks; the experiment could be viewed as another episode of nursing and her decision could be taken in that light. Then she thought about the scientific outcome and became excited with the possibilities. She could not think of a plausible outcome, although she knew that the experiment might give her an insight into monkey behavior. Her curiosity now getting the better of her, and with Belinda getting restless in her arms, she turned to Ram Dave standing behind her.
"Where and how far is this place where I am to expose myself? I feel unsure but let me first inspect the site."
Ram Dave led the way. The path went down the slope to a stone ledge from where a flat area could be seen on the hillside. An old weather-beaten wooden bench stood by a few large boulders and trees covered the ground on both sides.
"Please ask the servants to wait here and if they can remain out of sight, we might be so fortunate as to get favorable results." Ram Dave then walked further down the slope to a footpath switching back on the hillside.
"This footpath will take you to the bench." He reassured her that he would be at hand, albeit out of sight, to increase the chances of a successful outcome of the experiment.
"A word of advice; I would not have proposed the experiment if there were any danger to you or to your child. But please be yourself and act naturally."

Reader, you may want to rest your eyes for a moment
And before Shona could look up, Ram Dave was gone. With hesitation and faltering steps, Shona moved along the path towards the bench. By now Belinda was crying loudly and Shona pressed her close to her bosom. The footpath widened and around the corner lay the plateau. She almost panicked and retraced her steps. But then she looked around and waited a moment to take hold of herself. When she finally reached it a minute later, the place was deserted. She felt the bench with her hand and put weight on it to test its strength. She sat down and took a deep breath as she surveyed the area. Bright sun was shining down at her from behind and the surrounding air felt warm. She waited a while, looked to the right and left and then towards the footpath on which she had walked. She looked straight down the slope and turning her back, looked uphill over her shoulder. It was deathly quiet and she felt alone. Slowly she unbuttoned her blouse. She lifted the bottom rim of the left cup of her brassiere to expose her left breast and then her right breast dropped out of the cup. She took out a swab of wet cotton from her bag and cleaned her nipples and then gently raised Belinda's head to the left nipple. The quivering, tiny lips closed around it and started to draw milk. Shona dropped her head back, enabling the warm, mid-day sun to bathe her upper body. She realized that never in her life had she put herself in such a compromising position.
As a precaution she had kept a baby blanket handy on the bench. Her normal routine was to suckle Belinda for two minutes on one side, raise her head to burp her and then suckle her for as long as she wanted on the other side. Maternal physiological instincts started to take hold of her and soothed her nerves, relaxing her tense muscles, and her eyes welled up as she looked at Belinda's mouth around her nipple. The hot sun warmed her and she pushed her blouse down on her shoulders. The setting was idyllic. Her initial reserve about the strange situation melted away and she even started to enjoy nursing in the open. Soon the novelty of the idea overpowered her inhibitions. Pleasant sensations swirled in her head and she took a deep breath, which went a long way to calm her mind. Mothering a new life into the world, and then nurturing her in this intimate way, she thought, had been among her most fulfilling experiences. She realized that she had not looked at life in this light. An enigmatic smile appeared on her face. She threw her head back and stretched her legs. Then she remembered why she was there and she pulled herself up.
The tiny head rested on her chest. Her ears became alert to the slightest of sound and her eyes scanned the ground around her for signs of movement. Halfway into the session, she heard a guttural sound in the tree to her right as she watched a monkey climb down the trunk in reverse, its tail swaying in the air. On the other side, from around the boulder, she saw a pair of young eyes, set in a scrawny, dirty-brown head, peering at her. A monkey walked to the edge in front of her and sat down on its hind legs and Shona saw two rows of pink, bulging nipples on its breast. The infant leapt from the rock to the mother and she coddled it with her paws. With its head turned to one side the infant monkey sat there watching Belinda with its wide-open, round eyes and then grabbed a pink nipple with its mouth and sucked. Then in playfulness it went from one nipple to the other and the mother pushed it away with a snarl and scolded it for being rough. The scrawny infant came right back to its mother with a timid look in its eyes and pleaded with her. Shona had never before seen such an expression of guilt and tenderness, especially in the innocent eyes of a baby monkey. Her whole body resonated to the energy of the primal scene. She could feel a buildup of a new vivacity within her, which at first caught her by surprise. Soon she was laughing at herself. She could relate to the animation of the mother monkey and its young baby. She smiled.
Belinda was by now finished feeding and Shona set the blanket on her shoulder, put the infant face down on it and stroked her back to relieve her of stomach gas. When Belinda let out a burp, the baby monkey's ears perked up and it jumped up and down mimicking her with its own throaty sounds. Shona pulled her blouse over her shoulders, closed the buttons and got ready to leave. When she stood up with Belinda in her arms she could see the sloping ground in front of her. She was amused at the sight of baby monkeys and their mothers frolicking about, making their way up to the plateau where she was standing. She was certain that if she had spent five more minutes nursing Belinda on the bench, they would have all made it to the top and watched her and it was quite probable that many would have mimicked her actions.
Ram Dave and the two servants met her halfway on the footpath as she walked back. This was the first time she had come face to face with Ram Dave in broad daylight and she saw his bearded face with a pair of intense pale-brown eyes. Shona noticed that his eyes were fixed on Belinda's face resting on her shoulder. Not many words were exchanged during the walk back to the temple. Shona, however, noticed that Ram Dave chose to walk a step or two behind her, close to Belinda's face.
"Mrs. Prior, if you had taken part in this experiment in the early spring, you would have been surrounded by a hundred suckling young mothers; such is the extent of the curiosity the monkey mothers have for human infants. You are in their territory up here, and when you were sitting on the bench nursing your child, you did not pose a threat to them. Too bad that, by the time they had discovered your presence on the bench, Belinda was finished and you were ready to leave, but we'll call this experiment a major success!"
"But how did they know I would be on the bench?" she wondered. Without waiting for an answer she changed the subject.
"Ram Dave, you've impressed me with your knowledge of nature and your ability to derive deeper meaning from seemingly simple things. Your approach to understanding the basics is simple, yet persuasive. But for now, I'm sorry, we must hurry back, as we're getting late. We'll come back another time, for this visit with the monkeys and ...".
Shona hesitated for a moment, then looked up as she almost uttered the word 'you' but stopped short of saying it.
"This morning's experience has been most enlightening for me. It has answered many of my questions." The servants tucked Belinda into the carriage, and the visiting party departed bidding quick good-byes.
On the way down Shona mulled over the day's events in her mind. A web of sympathetic feelings swirled from within as her thoughts touched upon Ram Dave. He was too learned in worldly ways as well as sophisticated in his handling of difficult situations for an ordinary temple pundit. His people-dealing skills were acute and he directed the progress of events in pre-planned sequences which he cleverly camoflaged in subtle ways. His grasp of the course of the morning's events, she thought, was remarkable because she had called on him without any advance notice. Had he anticipated her visit? Could he have possibly peeped into her mind, before she showed up at the temple?

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Hurt feelings
During the Saturday afternoon, Ram Dave had noticed a pronounced restraint among the dominant monkeys on the Jakhu. He had suspected that a trapper had captured a family and was holding them in a hidden cage. This had happened many a time in the past. Every time the trap had appeared, the monkey community had withdrawn closer to the temple until the stranger was gone. Upon reaching the temple, when Shona told Ram Dave of the shooting-incident and pointed to the basket with the corpse, he became very angry and agitated. He pondered over the matter, trying to think what to do about it. He decided to open the basket to expose the corpse and then he placed it in front of the temple steps and went up and struck the temple bell. . . .

and not a single monkey had come there! For the next few minutes Ram Dave struck the bell again and again, but his efforts were in vain as the compound remained empty. There was not even the slightest stir in the trees or on the surrounding grounds. He went inside the temple and came out with a sack full of food. Emptying it next to him while standing in the middle of the compound, he gave the customary wave of his arm.

It failed to produce any response from the monkeys. Ram Dave walked back to the temple and Rashi suggested to him that the open basket with the dead body in clear view was perhaps keeping them away. Ram Dave muttered words to the effect that he had never failed to summon them in the past even when a dozen bodies lay where the single basket stood today.
"Let us go to the hollow and cremate the body first," Ram Dave suggested.
They all followed him down the slope to a thicket through which the narrow path fell sharply down to rocky steps leading to the glen below. There, beside a trickle of water coming down the rock face . . . lay a shallow depression in the ground containing charred pieces of wood and ashes. Remains of charred bones jutted out of the ashes. Ram Dave prepared a latticed pyre with firewood in the hollow and placed the basket containing the dead monkey on top . . .while he chanted sacred Sanskrit mantras. He placed a piece of raw camphor under the basket, which he surrounded with kindling-wood in the shape of a cone pointing upward at the basket. Ram Dave pulled out a prayer mat from a bag, laid it on a flat stone surface and lit two incense mounds in front of him as he sat down with his legs folded under his thighs in the typical meditation posture. He stretched the arms to rest his hands on his knees with the open palms facing up, the index finger rolled under each thumb. . . . deep breaths and gradually the lines of pain and agitation on his face were transformed into an expression of serenity. . . . In supplication he placed his forehead on the ground between the two smoldering mounds of incense and then stood up with his hands folded on his chest. . . . he lit a kindling-stick and reached into the cone to ignite the camphor. The funeral pyre burned fiercely . . . . . a physical enactment of the proverbial 'ashes to ashes'.
The party returned to the temple and Ram Dave smudged his forehead above the nose with saffron paste. He walked down to the centre of the eating-compound and sat down in the same posture he had taken at the cremation ceremony. He sat there for many minutes imploring and signalling but the monkeys refused to show up.
Belinda's mysterious sway
Suddenly an idea flashed in Shona's mind and she took Belinda out of the carriage, walked down to the eating-compound, placed her in Ram Dave's lap and returned. As Belinda started to whimper, at first a few grunts were heard from the trees next to the compound. The cacophony of a few sounds grew into a veritable chorus of grunts and catcalls from the monkeys.
A miracle started to take shape, as countless small brown forms came running in from all directions. They approached the eating-compound and ringed it all around, many bodies deep, but still they did not enter. A jubilant Ram Dave opened his eyes and waved the king and queen monkeys into the compound. He stood up and walked out, handing the crying child to her mother . . . .
The king and queen monkeys came into the compound and started to munch on nuts and grains, still lying there since Ram Dave had poured them on the floor. When the king and queen departed, a throbbing mass of the waiting brown bodies jumped into the compound. Within minutes the food was all eaten and the monkeys dispersed into the thick woods in their usual manner.
Peace was made.
Ram Dave felt an overpowering sense of elation welling up within him. Shona had not only received his unspoken message but she had interpreted it and responded to it. Wonder of wonders! Since the very first day when he had momentarily set eyes on her face, he had been obsessed with the idea that she embodied a consciousness in perfect harmony with his own. He had had many premonitions of her presence. Before he had built the Hanuman temple on the Jakhu peak, when he had wandered in the mountains, going from guru to guru, seeking solace for his turbulent soul, Belinda was the baby . . . . if he succeeded in finding the site and built and dedicated a humble temple to it, somehow the baby would appear on the scene. He had prayed for years for this. He hung on to his hope that, one day, the substance of his vision would be fulfilled.
At last the signs seemed to have come together. First an image of Belinda appearing before him; then the monkeys leading him to the chosen site for the temple; and now Belinda herself, appearing in living flesh and blood, and holding a magical sway over the monkeys! . . . .
He had considered asking the Priors if they would let him take the baby to the compound with him. The uncertainty of how John would take his request and the likelihood of a refusal had dissuaded him from asking. While sitting in the compound and realizing that he was not going to succeed in bringing the monkeys back there, he had mentally uttered the words,
"Shona, my compassionate soul-mate, bring the baby to me now and place her in my lap",
repeating them with his heart full of deep devotion as when he recited a sacred mantra in his mind. Then, calling upon his will in incantation, he visualized an ethereal duplicate of Shona's body actually separating from her physical form and bringing the child to him. And it did happen, exactly in this way! The very first stirring in his inviolate channel of transference had borne fruit!
A more profound peace had been made!
What lay ahead for him he dared not contemplate as his head swirled . . . dizziness . . . his bodily energy left him and an indolent passivity filled his being. His face turned pale and his stare became fixed and grew progressively more blank. He reeled to seat himself on the steps and struggled to summon his iron will to his rescue. His body shuddered and, in a heaving motion, his upper torso fell backward on the stone steps. He felt a tautness spreading over his skin from head to toe as a sensation of a feeble electric current running through his body energised him. The white of his eyes shone through his trembling eyelids like two desperate, gasping beacons. With a superhuman effort, he tensed the muscles in his forearms and his hands stiffened with fingers and thumbs curling inward. His face twisted with concentration as he lifted the trembling hands toward his face and bellowed an endless primal scream that rhymed with Sh-o-o-o-na.
Invisible sparks of energy streamed out of each and every pore of his taut skin. He had summoned every single iota of his prana shakti, the vital energy . . . . .
Shona felt the gossamer shadow of a pressure wave striking her. In response she careened in a posture of defence against an oncoming shock wave and then her still body quivered as a focal point of shakti formed at the base of her spine. The life-force moved upward to the small of her back and then faded . . . . leaving her disoriented . . . . her newly awakened Kundalini agni . . . . . a rejuvenation of her central nervous system . . . . new vitality settled throughout her body, partly freeing her from her weight, and she experienced her first feeling of weightlessness. Later, when she regained her balance, a state of euphoria pervaded her whole being. In small steps, she was becoming conscious of profound changes taking place within her. A superphysical vehicle aligned with the axis of her being and she felt spiritually captivated by Ram Dave. An aura of confluence filled the space around her. Then the feeling of a powerful unifying force enveloped her. She felt that she was whirling around in the eye of an imaginary hurricane and soothing, cosmic forces, moving in circular paths from all directions, were dissolving in her body. She perceived diffuse light forming around her head. It lingered, imparting a glow to her face and bestowing on her the gift of an inner anchor. The new vitality, slowly taking hold of her being, was totally different from anything she had ever experienced before. Something inside kept on telling her not to resist or reject whatever was happening. She realized that she had made a connection with a magnificently benevolent vehicle and that Ram Dave had something to do with it . . . . . He was lying still, stretched out on the front steps of the temple. . . . . kerchief from around her neck, wetted it in the water and stroked Ram Dave's forehead and temples. An awed feeling had come over everyone. . . . . .
Rashi was totally confused as he had watched the scene unfold before him. He turned and was bewildered to see the dark mountain ranges on the horizon moving toward him. A faint rumble came out of the ground under his feet. Then he cupped his hands around his ears, pressing hard while his elbows lifted upward. His eyes' focus receded inward as he heard faint musical sounds that were pleasing and had a melody to them. He had never heard such sounds before in his life. . . . .

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Puzzling melodies
That night, in spite of extreme fatigue, Rashi could not fall asleep. He lay on his bed, tossing and turning, trying to wind down for a good rest. Once when he shut his eyes and nearly dozed off, he heard the girl in the green pashmina kameez softly singing to him. His drowsy eyes saw her beautiful form floating in front of him with her amber eyes glowing in the dark. Suddenly he was filled with the urge to embrace her. He advanced towards her form with outstretched arms. As he got closer, he saw her two amber eyes emitting beacons of soothing, golden light. In the darkness, Rashi saw the two shafts of light recede and shrink into the blackness of empty space. As he watched them, they looked like two slender sticks suspended in space shining brightly. They started to dance as if they were being moved by invisible hands. A flourish of musical sounds passed by his ears. A chorus of clapping-sounds now followed and Rashi saw the two shafts of light resting on a sheaf of papers on which figures resembling large black ants with round heads, skinny bodies and curling limbs, were scribbled across straight lines, drawn in groups of six on the sheets of paper. He could make out the outline of a man taking a bow . . .

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Cobra reveals a mental secret

The first streaks of daylight had broken out and as father and son walked in silence, the Eastern sky behind the Jakhu Mountain came alive with the bursting whiteness. It would be a while yet before the first rays of the sun peeped around the mountain form. A silent, pensive son, and father perhaps relieved from having so icily chastised his foolish son for the wrongs he had done, walked up the steep slope in zigzags, taking small steps and big heaves of long breaths. Neither had said a word. They were awakened from their monotonous reveries as a sudden, sharp hissing-sound came and went. The father quickly grabbed his son by the arm as they froze in their footsteps. Presently a black cobra rustled out of the bushes to their right and slithered across the dirt road in a wavy motion, luckily pointing away from them. It stopped in the middle of the road and Dina's eyeballs almost popped out of their sockets with fright. He had never seen such a large cobra. Tiptoeing cautiously Dina retreated, dragging his son by the arm with him as he whispered 'Om' repeatedly under his breath. The cobra stayed motionless on the road, poking its forked tongue in and out in rapid bursts, sensing the air.
Moments passed, there was a rustling of quiet and deliberate footsteps on dried leaves in the bushes behind them and before they could turn their heads to look, the outline of a mongoose appeared on the edge of the road in front of them. The body was about eighteen inches long and it cleared a full four-inch space under its belly, big for a mountain mongoose. Seeing the snake, the mongoose quickly ran up to it and stalked its quarry from a safe distance. A much smaller second mongoose climbed up from the bushes and walked up to the arena, where a life-and-death battle seemed about to take place. The bigger mongoose had sized up the cobra and had decided to stick around. From its exposed position in the middle of the road, the cobra had seen the predator and blowing a sharp hiss, it had coiled its long body in a circular mass out of which a head rose a clear fifteen inches in the air. Intense with rage, the pair of eyes in its head looked like two poisoned darts poised to plunge forward. The head was flanked by a hood at least six inches across, making the foreboding prospect very menacing for the predator. The snake's neck was at least four inches in diameter and it had a dotted crown on the back of the hood.
"King cobra, in its prime," whispered Dina. "The mongoose has no chance. Let's move back."
The bigger mongoose had taken a position slightly uphill from the beleaguered prey and cut off its escape route to the bush on the other side of the road. Bristling with cunning and belligerence, it was ready to pounce on the cobra's neck if it should make for the bush. The snake had not seen the other mongoose, which stood downhill and behind its hood. With a startling hiss the snake lunged at the mongoose in front of it. With the speed of lightning the mongoose retreated a few inches. The cobra's mouth bit the dirt and was back up in the air and the mongoose stuck its paw forward to provoke the cobra to strike again. Again a resounding hiss, another strike by the cobra and another retraction by the mongoose. The sparring went on for several minutes.
"What a cunning mongoose!" whispered Dina.
"It is wearing down the king cobra to suit its reaction time to grab the neck on the way down on a strike. The cobra's strikes are getting slower."
Dina had barely finished the sentence when the cobra struck again; but before it could raise its tired head, the mongoose had jumped on it and grabbed its head from behind with its wide-open jaw. What a feat of immaculate timing! A ferociously bloody battle ensued. The snake curled its body around the mongoose but before it could squeeze hard, the mongoose jumped forward and banged the snake's head on the hard ground. The cobra coiled its body again in the shape of a corkscrew and the agile mongoose bounced forward and held the snake's head to the ground, pressing hard. The combatants were getting weary and the action of the battle was wearing thin. The next tussle saw the mongoose's jaws close ever so tightly around the snake's neck and the snake's body tightly curled around the mongoose.
"Both are going to die," shouted an excited Dina.

In sheer desperation the two animals called upon the last drops of their reserve energies. The mongoose's eyes started to pop as the cobra strangled it. The mongoose's jaw turned red with the snake's blood as its incisors cut deep through the flesh. At this point the younger mongoose jumped on the cobra's head where it protruded from the bigger mongoose's jaw, grabbed it by his teeth and pulled it apart. With its head torn open, the cobra's strength ebbed as its muscles twitched around the mongoose in dying spasms and the battle was won by the tricky predators.
"The son saved the father's life," said a relieved Rashi.
The bigger mongoose worked its way out of the snake's limp body and the two disappeared down the hill. A man stepped forward carrying a sickle in his hand and with a big jute bag full of freshcut grass on his back. He put his load down and used a stick to pull the cobra's body straight out for everyone to see. It was put at over six feet long. A big hole was dug on the side of the hill and the cobra was buried in the soil. Rashi got to watch the dead cobra from close quarters as it was being laid to rest; the scales on its smooth skin formed an exquisite pattern of shining, gray-blue colors and the embossed crown on the back of the forehead, although ripped up and disfigured, was drawn in a uniform pattern of black dots on the overlapping scales. What a sombre but beautiful expression of artistic creativity! The painstakingly immaculate design and blend of colors looked menacingly dignified. Only minutes ago, this long form of animal flesh had been a writhing fury of poison, portending certain death for anyone who dared to cross its path. Now, here it lay in its shallow grave, mutilated and motionless, reft of its own breath of life.
How the tables had been turned! . . .

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Extrabiological beginnings
Next day Rashi could not bear the thought of staying in school to the end. He was restless and felt encaged all day. When the final bell rang he tore through the front door, running at full throttle to Shona's house. He arrived out of breath, his heart beating wildly. He banged on the front door. Shona was waiting for him.
"Well, what did you find at the library?" he shouted even before he said namaste.
"Come in first and have a seat, Rashi." She held him by the arm.
"What's the matter?, Why are you trembling? Your arm feels cold."
She pulled him into her arms. She tried to soothe him.
"You're soaking wet. Why? What's happening to you? You look pale and drained. What's coming over you? Rashi, speak to me. Answer me. I do have something for you," she thought the news would cheer him up.
Shona held him firmly and led him to the settee. She sat down beside him.
"The library does not stock books on European music. But look, I found this."
She held a book on the history of German-speaking lands and cities. Together they flipped through the pages, one by one. The bulk of the book covered German provinces and cities. At the back, however, a section was devoted to other German-speaking lands, which opened with a map of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Vienna, Graz and the great Alpine regions of the Tirol were described. Engraved plates adorned many a page, displaying spectacular Baroque facades. They turned the next leaf. A black-and-white engraving of a town lay across the next right-hand page. Rashi tilted his head sideways to see it, and quickly pulled the book out of Shona's hand. Then lightning struck inside him.
"This is it! Shona. This is it!" He came back to life as he screamed at the top of his voice.
"This is the place that grows out of the ground all around me when I hear the music inside my ears. See the big building with rows of windows, the river in the front and the fortress on the hill! Shona, this is it! You found it for me! O Shona! What a miracle! A guardian angel you are. The agony is over, Shona! The waiting is over. I will love you for ever for this.... You are my true love; I knew my true love would find my music place. These are my nonbiological roots; my nonbiological blueprint is here for all to see. Shona, we're there, now! See this big cupola? I go to this church, often. My love, will you come with me to the church? I want to take you there and we will listen to Nannerl. Her singing will bind our souls together for ever. After that no one can separate them." Rashi was out of control. He blabbered on; he wouldn't stop.
Shona pulled him over, put her hand on his mouth and held tight.
"Rashi, it is all right. Quiet down. See, I found it for you, your place of music. I love you too, you suffering boy! I was here with you when you made the discovery. No, we made the discovery together! I can see how you've been agonizing over this. Now I understand what you have been through, not knowing your nonbiological beginnings, especially when they've been haunting you. I would have moved heaven and earth to find your place of music.
It's Mozart's music, isn't it? Tell me. Who were you, Rashi? Think: Who were you in those days?"
Shona picked the fallen book from the floor. She opened the picture page. There was no title. She turned the page, and read, 'the plate on the previous page shows a view of Salzburg, drawn from across the river Salzach.
"Rashi, this is Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart."
Shona looked at him. Vitality had drained out of his body as he slid down from the sofa. He lay motionless on the floor. She could tell that he was not in his body. She carried his body to the guest-room and tucked him in bed. She summoned a servant and sent word to Dina that his son would be spending a few days with her. Rashi was missing from his body for three days. Then about noon on the fourth day, he stirred and moved around. By late afternoon he was almost back to normal. Shona was beginning to make sense of some words in his uncontrolled blabber. She had watched him playing out some kind of an internal experience at Margaret's piano recital. She thought it was a good time to question him.
"Rashi, were you aware of what you were doing with your hands at Margaret's?"
"No, what was I doing?" After Shona described what she had seen, he apologetically confessed that for a few minutes after Margaret struck the first chords, he had left the room! And when he came back, he promptly stood next to Margaret and watched her play the piano. Shona was mystified by Rashi's answer for she had watched him mimic Margaret's music. This called for more probing.
"Did you listen to the piano sounds? What did she play?"
"She did not play the same piece all through. When she started, the music sounded serious, but when I returned to the room, it had turned into happy, high-spirited sounds with a pleasant melody."
"But Margaret played only one movement."
"But it had two faces, one serious and the other jolly."
"I do not understand what you can possibly mean by that."
Rashi did not respond. Shona asked him if piano sounds were present in the music he heard inside his ears.
"I did not know that they were piano sounds until I heard Margaret strike the first key. I had heard them but I did not know what they were. There were other sounds playing together; but once in a while, only piano sounds played, and other players stopped playing for some reason."
"You have described a piano concerto."
"I do not know what that means."
Shona was beginning to fit together the pieces of the puzzle. What made sense to her was that somehow Rashi had left his body and relived an episode from the past. He had clearly escaped from the reality of the present timeframe. She had carried his limp body in her own arms. Wait a minute; it didn't make sense, she reasoned. But whose life? His own or someone else's? How strange, she thought. The idea had just come to her. Is there really something to it, or is it all a world of make-believe? She realized that even the simplest of things is not really that simple!

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