Nandi the bull.

Suntanned as I was, still in my Western clothes I was a magnet for all who sought to gain a rupee as I stepped in time with the hoards leaving Delhi’s chaotic station. I was budged and shunted and grappled and tugged, and that was just the rickshaw and taxi drivers. “Sahib! I knowing best hotel in district!”
“Sir, I taking you honest place with all facility – even toilet!”
“Baba-ji, my cousin most enlightened man, he sadhu-in-suit!”

I’d obviously arrived in the right country for enlightenment. Smiling with satisfaction, I pushed through the scrum. Preferring to walk, I headed down a medieval street jammed with shops, shoppers and vehicles of every kind. I moved faster than straining rickshaw men shoving their three wheeled contraptions loaded far too high with hessian sacks or cardboard boxes. Another heaving rickshaw driver also pushed his load – a tangle of sixteen arms and legs with eight bodies and heads, thankfully all attached and telling each other jokes on their way to primary school.

A white bull stood in my way with his sober eyes taking me in. This was Nandi. I cherished the coincidence – I had grown up in Kenya with the illustrious Nandi tribe. Nandi belonged to Lord Shiva, creator of everything. Shiva, who put Brahman in charge because he had the important work of maintaining the universe’s constant evolution with his consort Parvati, the personification of the Divine Mother who sits in his lap for aeons of procreativity. Although still a convinced agnostic (which some might take as a contradiction, but one can be sure there is no certainty), I loved Hinduism’s practicality – womanhood’s role respected, gods having sex – how else do things propagate? The crowd parted. Several women and men ran the 3rd finger on their right hand along its spine before patting their third eye.

Ha! The third eye. That was partly what had drawn me to India. How logical, me-thought at the time, to have a window-to-the ‘soul’ which you could learn to open. The ‘soul’ – a simple element which connected you to infinite light. No need for gods, churches nor priests, only you and the eternal which you’d one day be able to open up to. That was another beauty of Hinduism – there is a place for the agnostic in pure Vedantic Yoga. Practical, physical, logical. Meditation, a posture following on from the stretching exercises, nothing more mystical than a tool which sharpens your mental faculties. Quite Zen, if you found the right practitioners….

Due to unfortunate circumstances, the reluctant hero in my novel, a serious ‘establishment’ Englishman, unexpectedly finds himself grappling with this nebulous inner world. Floundering to make sense of his crumbling self-image, he tries to comprehend Yoga’s base logic as three powerful women, each wise in their own way, and a humble herbalist gradually prod and prompt him along this illusive path until he discovers his own way out of the mess.


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