The grand highway is crowded with lovers and searchers and leavers, so eager to please and forget. Wilderness – Jim Morrison
The city of Calcutta lights up in the month of December, especially for the bourgeois families. There is a social event every evening and bars and country clubs are filled with patrons eating and drinking copiously, dancing till dawn, and overall having a gala time. The streets are lit up with Christmas themed decorations. Park Street, the most important street of the city, becomes a walking street and holds the annual carnival at Allen Park where various bands and choir groups perform Christmas carols and other festive songs.
Many non-resident Indians return to the city to participate in the festivities. It is said that there is magic in the air and one often meets one’s prospective, life partner during this season. Many couples even choose to tie the knot at this time, adding to the already overflowing social calendars.
Ayaan had been in the city for only a couple of days and had already received a dozen invites from friends and family for various social functions that he was in no mood to attend. At six a.m., he sat with a double espresso and a copy of Paramahansa Yogananda’s An Autobiography of a Yogi and began rereading it for the tenth time. Whenever he read about the sadhus of ancient India, he was inspired to make a positive change in his life. This time around, he was looking for some sort of spiritual enlightenment that would help sort out his mental angst. He felt he needed a guide to lead him down this path but didn’t know where to start looking.
Luv was Ayaan’s go-to person for advice on most matters. Luv was universally loved by one and all — no pun intended, and would make friends with people of all ages, statuses, genders and religions. He had once told Ayaan that he had met a spiritually elevated woman who practiced an ancient technique of God-realization called Kriya Yoga. The lady had told Luv that she had seen her guru levitate six inches off the ground while in a state of deep meditation and that miracles were common in her world.
Ayaan thought back to that conversation and decided to meet this lady and make her his spiritual guide — if she was willing. Luv set up the meeting somewhat reluctantly and a week later, Ayaan made the long drive to the lady’s bungalow, deep in the suburbs of North Calcutta.
The house was a typical Bengali raj badi. It had a two-storied structure with a huge courtyard in the middle and large rooms surrounding all four sides of the courtyard. As Ayaan walked in, he saw a row of young men and women practicing ancient meditation techniques on yoga mats.
The lady, who was sitting in the verandah alone, drinking a cup of chai, smiled at Ayaan and politely asked him to take a seat beside her. Her skin was glowing with the radiance of the rising Sun and, although she was over seventy years old, she looked no more than forty. She had an aura that spilled over onto Ayaan and everyone else in the vicinity; and he was completely entranced by her personality. Luv had prepared Ayaan for the meeting and had asked him to address the lady by her spiritual name, Mataji.
“She is one of the most advanced, living Kriya Yogis and is in direct contact with Mahavatar Babaji, the founder of modern Kriya Yoga. Babaji, as he is commonly referred to, is an ageless saint who lives in the mountains of Dunagiri in the state of Uttarakhand. He has no gender and has been freed from the cycle of life and death. Kriya Yogis believe that he can appear and disappear at will and his primary purpose is to act as a spiritual guide to the human race,” Luv said to Ayaan before setting up the meeting.
Mataji was dressed in traditional saffron robes and studied Ayaan for what seemed like eternity before speaking.
“You are like my daughter, a lost soul. I know you come for guidance and you have exactly a month before you head west again. If you want to practice ‘Kriya Yoga,’ you must not drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes during your time here and you must take a sacred vow that you will keep our techniques a secret from the outside world. You will be staying here with us and in your spare time you can help chop vegetables and clean the house. Do you consent?” asked Mataji gently.
“Yes, Mataji, you are right. I am lost, anxious and depressed. It would be my honour to learn under your guidance,” replied Ayaan almost too quickly.
“Go inside, take the first left and you will find my daughter, Suneera, reading a newspaper in the living room. She is studying Psychology in London and like you is back for her winter holidays. Ask her for a kurta pajama and a yoga mat. Then go get changed and join us for the first lesson in fifteen minutes,” commanded Mataji with the confidence of an evolved soul.
When Ayaan walked into the living room, he saw a short, skinny girl with curly brown hair dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, drinking coffee and reading The Times of India. She was sitting in the lotus posture on the seat of a rickety old armchair and her proportions were so small that she fitted comfortably. He could tell by how she sat that she was very advanced in the art of yoga.
When she looked up to greet him, he noticed that she had sharp features, piercing, dark brown eyes and a warm smile that showed small, shining white teeth. She was not conventionally beautiful, yet she was strikingly elegant and moved with the agility of a cat.
“So your Luv’s friend, the druggie? Let me give you a word of advice — this will be one of the best experiences of your life. It was for me — initially, but I want a life that is not determined by rules and regulations, so I found a balance between practicing Kriya Yoga and living normally. You will need to find that too, Mr. Druggie,” advised Suneera.
“I have a name. It’s Ayaan.”
“I’d like to call you Mr. Druggie, just the same. It has a nice ring to it,” she responded, in a teasing manner.
For the next week, Ayaan became immersed in Mataji’s world. He woke up early in the morning and spent hours mastering several ancient meditational techniques such as the Energization exercise, Hong-Sau technique, Aum technique and Pranayama. They ate twice a day and the menu was made up exclusively of fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden. Surprisingly, none of the food was cooked and still tasted delicious. This was done to preserve the life force in them causing one’s chakras to awaken more easily.
In the evenings, Ayaan was happy to chop vegetables and clean the house, because he was overflowing with energy. He had never felt so tall, confident and healthy in his entire life. After completing the housework, they sang hymns and listened to fascinating talks by Mataji.
“The goal of Kriya Yoga is to help human beings experience the divinity within their own souls, claiming divine joy as their own joy. It helps us realize God and frees the soul from all forms of bondage,” Mataji explained animatedly.
Apart from this, she told many fascinating stories about the life and adventures of Babaji and his disciples.
On the eighth night at 1 a.m., Ayaan was rudely awakened by Suneera and dragged out of bed into the pitch-dark courtyard. She caught him by the arm, shushed him and forcibly walked him to his car which was parked on the street outside the house gates.
“I feel like smoking a joint and I’m out of stash. Drive me to my father’s house. It’s only fifteen minutes from here,” said Suneera demandingly.
“What if Mataji finds out. You’re her daughter; she won’t say anything to you. I’m just a stranger — she’ll kick me out and I really need this. Kriya Yoga is doing me a whole lot of good,” responded Ayaan, scared shitless.
“As Mom always says, there are no strangers in her world. There is a purpose to every meeting and you might have just gotten to know Mom but she knows you very well. She will not interrupt us. She knows that my path is different from hers and accepts it without question. I have a feeling she will do the same with you.”
“But Mataji asked me, specifically, not to smoke.”
“She said cigarettes, not hash — so you’re not breaking any rules.”
“You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”
“Just shut up and drive. There’s one thing you should know about me — I’m always right. Even your beloved Mataji is scared of my sixth sense.”
“And your nine loves, you crazy feline creature,” muttered Ayaan under his breath while finally giving in and starting the car.
They arrived at her father’s home in exactly fifteen minutes just as she had predicted. Her father had a cute little bungalow by the Hooghly River. The house had steps leading down to the river on one side and a wide street named Strand Road on the other side.
Suneera had a key and led Ayaan inside the bungalow, up two flights of stairs and into an attic-like bedroom. The room had a king-sized bed, a large Godrej Almirah and a study desk accompanied by a wooden stool. What he found really odd was two Sony video cameras placed on tripods facing the headboard of the bed at a forty-five degree angle.
“Are you going to kill me and video record it?” asked Ayaan half seriously.
“Yes, what good is a cold-blooded murder if you can’t watch it later with a bowl of fresh popcorn?” replied Suneera smirking.
Suneera then opened the Godrej cupboard with a key, took out some hash and began rolling a joint. Half an hour later, they were happily stoned and the room was hot-boxed full of smoke. Neither of them spoke and were just enjoying the peaceful bliss of being high. All the hours of meditation had already given them a lot of clarity and this clarity was now enhanced.
The quietness seemed to go on for an eternity and with Suneera’s subconscious guidance, Ayaan had a moment of revelation. He began seeing past the layers of maya (illusion) and got a glimpse into the divine energy that some call God. The things that were important to him seemed so fickle, and he realized that this life and every life from now on was just a piece in the puzzle that would eventually free his soul from the bonds of life and death and allow him to merge with this infinite source of energy.
Sometime after the vision ended, Suneera interrupted the silence. “I have seen what you have just seen many times before. It does not mean that this life is unimportant. Like me, this will not be the last life for you. Material things still matter for you and me. So do physical urges. It is not in our path to renounce everything and try only to experience divine joy. Our souls are too young,” said Suneera with a wisdom way beyond her years.
She stood up, went over to Ayaan, caressed his hand and kissed him on the face, gently and seductively. “Doesn’t that feel good too? So let’s have some fun while we still can,” she whispered into his ear.
Ayaan was dumbfounded and rendered speechless. He was also extremely turned on and reciprocated by excitedly kissing Suneera on the neck and planting little kisses down her back.
“Not like that. I like it a little different…I like to role play. You seem smart enough to do that. You, Mr. Druggie, will be dressing up as a handsome doctor and I as a sexy nurse.”
Suneera went to the cupboard and took out two costumes. Ten minutes later they were on the bed playing doctor. Ayaan noticed her switching on the cameras before sitting by his side.
“You going to be recording the whole thing?” asked Ayaan nervously.
“Relax, it’s never going online. I just keep a physical copy locked in the almirah for posterity’s sake,” replied Suneera defensively.
“Do you record all the men you’ve been with?” asked Ayaan nervously.
“Yes, most of them — it’s my jam,” replied Suneera unembarrassed.
Before Ayaan could argue, she whispered, “Doctor! Doctor! I think I have a lump in my breast. Will you examine me?” And voila! Just like that, she began undressing.
Seeing the silhouette of her beautiful naked body in front of him, Ayaan didn’t care that they were being recorded; and the next hour was almost as blissful as his divine vision had been. Ayaan had always wanted to be an actor and that night his performance was Oscar worthy — even the experienced Suneera was impressed.
They got back to Mataji’s house just before sunrise and Ayaan began another full day of meditation, housework and discourses.
The next three weeks went by in a flash and Ayaan was a changed man before he left Mataji’s side.
Mataji was impressed with Ayaan’s quick mastery of difficult meditation techniques and his understanding of complicated Kriya Yoga concepts. Little did she know that Ayaan and Suneera would sneak out every night for unmentionable extracurricular lessons.
After a month’s stay at Mataji’s suburban home, Ayaan returned to the city in great spirits. Before returning to college in America, he met Luv to say goodbye and thank him for the introduction to Mataji. Luv was pleasantly surprised to see the change in Ayaan. He had glowing skin, radiated calm, had a spring in his step and was smiling and laughing like his old self.
That same evening in the midst of packing, Ayaan phoned Suneera to say goodbye. They had become quite attached to each other and he was expecting a long, tearful farewell; yet much to his surprise, she cancelled the call and almost immediately sent him a text message.
It was a beautiful month. There was magic in the air and Cupid will one day write a song about our trysts. Let’s not ruin it by getting to know each other.
That was the end of that.