Tuesday, February 02, 2016


Joan was around 30 years of age, though she looked much younger - more a girl than a woman. She came from the States.

Of her father she knew nothing, except the abusive references made by her mother. And of her mother, well, mother fighting for her existence with all that she had - good and kind, but also quite a dislike for Joan, who tied her down quite a bit, so to say, bound her hands, so that she could not use both her hands freely to fight the world.

Of course there was work and work gave money; Joan could not remember sheer lack of money - though always she would remember the ever present threat of lack of money which haunted her mother. Getting money for work done was alright, but work meant many more things, relationships, obligations good, bad and obligatory. From what Joan saw of her mother it meant many other things, too. 'Work is worship and joy', Joan heard it early at one of her Sunday school attendances. But when mother returned from work, and when she had washed off the powder and the make-up, her face showed anything but joy.

As Joan grew up she quickly came to know what the many things beside work were, and why so many layers of powder and paint were necessary, why the cosmetic shops and beauty parlours did such roaring trade. The tiger needed no make-up, said Joan, or the dog or bitch - but a human being trying to conceal the tiger or jackal had desperate need for cover. Early in her teens itself Joan came to recognise the jungle around her. Well, if it was that, she would get ready for it; she became an adept at sharpening and shaping her teeth and claws, and at the art of camouflage for putting on the right human mask. Church attendance too was part of this game. "My! today I look years younger than when I had the need for all that war paint," she said.

She had seen and felt enough of that jungle. Just about that time she realised that the animals, the ugliness in her was trying to reach out to something beautiful, and that if animals wanted to remain animals, there was no need for them to appear in the human, she was beset with propaganda, press, radio, friends, doctors, everyone declaring that man is but another animal, a cleverer one, and it is all hypocrisy to deny it, that such denial causes illness, and so on. But the Sunday school said that man was different, he had a soul, that Christ bore the Cross to save it - it didn't make sense, but it bothered her - though she remembered that you had to have the right camouflage even to see the priests.

"I became ill and I screamed and raved. If there were animals inside and outside and she herself was only an animal, why, then she would let them out. She was taken to the psychiatrists - and she hoped there would be an answer - but all she found was swallowing pills, and repeatedly going over the spicy bits of her life relating to the animals, they said, gloating over the recitals - to disinhibit her, they said, not to cramp the animals that needed an outlet - and God was I ever inhibited! But not a word about why the animals in a human shape and why they needed to be painted up to look respectable; what were they ashamed of? Not one damn bit about that! The animals had a whole world to themselves, why bother to come in me or others?

“I was becoming an expert in the art of camouflage; I stopped shouting and screaming; I said that now I shall let the animals have more fresh air, and even take them for walks; and they said I was cured and they let me out.

“Then I worked for a bit, and came out on a tour of India organised by some people in the States and I came out with them. A change would do me good, I thought.

“In India, a funny thing happened. When we were in some city in India, my old trouble came back - but seeing - seeing and behaving accordingly. I would look at one and say, ‘Here, doggie, have a biscuit - sweet doggie’ or look at another and say, ‘cluck, cluck,’ at the hen in her. I was not violent or anything like that; I was being kindly or friendly, or like a frightened child wanting to make friends with a bull-dog lest it bite.

“Promptly, the secretary of the tour - a kindly young hen, took me to a psychiatrist for emergency attention. Here something new happened to me. I remember it so clearly because it was a turning point:

“The secretary, Mary, I think, and I went into the room - a small room, just the psychiatrist at a table, and one or two straight backed chairs. No couches and things. I forget the doctor’s name. We sat down and he looked silently at us.

“Mary said, “This is Joan. I think she is in a bit of difficulty and may like to consult you, doctor.”

“ “ Do you think she is in trouble or does she think she is in trouble - Let us get it clear,” he said.

“ “ I think she is in some difficulty. Joan did not say so, though she kindly agreed to come with me to see you,” said Mary.

“ “So,” said the doctor, “since it is you who first thought of the difficulty, it is right you tell me about it.”

“ Mary hummed and hawed - “If I could speak with you alone?” she asked.

“ “If it is about her she may like to hear about it, too; if she does not like it she will not be stopped from leaving,” said the doctor.

“ “Oh, alright,” said Mary a little sulkily, “she thinks we are all animals, dogs, cats, and so on - and I am fed up with this tour without having to drag in a number of animals that are not there; and she never told me that she was in an asylum before and all that - all this ruins the tour. We thought you could help.”

“ “I am sorry, doctor, but I really do see them,” I said.

“ “You really see them; how fortunate!” said the doctor, “many great teachers said that there are a lot of animals in man, and you actually see them, you say. Do you see any in yourself?”

“ “Yes, yes,” I said.

“ “And what do these animals want with you?” he asked.

“ “That is what I have been trying to find out. At the other place they kept telling me I had to let them be and live with them or be like them. But I wanted to know why they come to me; if they want to be free they can go away - I didn’t invite them. That’s what bothers me.” I said.

“ “I am afraid I don’t know the answer,” said the doctor. “Maybe I am in the same boat, though unfortunately I can’t actually see them. One thing I can do and I have been trained for it; I might help in stopping you from becoming frightened; I can help you in screening them out. If you are not too frightened, it may help you get the time for better answers. Maybe if you take a tablet or two I prescribe, it may help.”

“ “Oh, I had taken too many of them,” I said. “but they don’t answer.”

“ “No, I quite believe you. How can tablets speak? But as I said they might help you become less bothered, more steady, so to say buy you time to find the answers,” he said.

“Thank you,” I said, and I meant it. For the first time I met someone who understood, who didn’t pester me with lots of questions, silly questions about matters every school child knows about, and I agreed to take the tablets.

“Maybe, you are a kind person and you wouldn’t like to hurt your friends on the tour by talking of the things you see. After all we do not talk about all the things we see, do we?” he said.

“ “I won’t doctor, but where do you think I can find an answer?”

“I am afraid I can’t help you there. You see, I said, I have the same difficulty, though I can’t see it as clearly as you do, I got help from persons like Krishna or Buddha or Christ who seemed to me the ones who said that man need not be a zoo; the psychiatrists and psychologists want to maintain the zoo in a hygienic, sterile and respectable manner. I think you see the difference. You are quite right, if the zoo was all that was necessary, there was no need for man, and all his bother with thinking and so on. Well, there you are, I found some help in the type of persons I mentioned. It may or may not help you. Here are the tablets,” he said.

“ “Don’t you want to see her alone, doctor,” asked Mary. “Don’t you want to know about her parents and childhood?”

“ “Oh, I forgot, didn’t think of it;” he apologised, “bring them in.” He looked at Mary.

“Mary looked puzzled, “Bring whom in?” she asked.

“ “Why, her parents and childhood - if they are in the waiting room,” said the doctor placidly.

“ “That’s silly, doctor,” said Mary, “how could they be here!”

“ “Oh,” said the doctor, “I thought that this young lady in front of me was in difficulty, and I attended to that. If her parents and her childhood are in difficulty, and if they are waiting to see me, why I shall certainly oblige them,” he got up and walked off.

“Mary said, “Oh, he is nuts - these Indian doctors, must be a quack of some kind.”

“I cannot tell you what a burden was lifted off me by that one interview. All that blaming my parents, my childhood, my yesterdays, all that vanished, at least lost its sting,” said Joan.

From then on she found that she could look at things with greater optimism waiting for answers. She got her visas extended, occasionally earned some money teaching English in some kind houses; met the usual round of sadhus and swamis - many of them had horrible beasts peeping out of them, many kindly, too.

At one place she met one Swami. He was very different. She was now quick at detecting the things behind a person’s mask and placing herself on guard.

He told her that books gave no answers; philosophies and systems only explained; they did not bring about any change. Questions gave answers but no knowledge; they often led to more questions.

“ “You say, you see, you hear, you feel, therefore you are different from the things you see. Now it is this ‘you’ which does all these things and is yet not one of them, this is important. More and more, learn to recognise it and keep it aloof, as a sort of witness. If you learn to stand aloof, to let the witness take over, you have got the key, and then what you find is yours, your own knowledge. As long as you want things from the world it will trouble you,” he said.

“ “what about average persons, how can an average person like me do it,” I asked.

“Let the average person take care of his average troubles with average solutions. If they are happy with the world and what it gives them, or they are unhappy and like it, well let them be. But it is you who said that the average world troubled you, and it is you who wanted a different solution. To be an average person requires effort; and to strive to be something not average also requires effort. The choice is yours - I have pointed a way I found useful to me,” he said.

“I saw no want in his eyes and felt at peace. I stayed near his hut for a few days. I told him I was still quite a little frightened and that I was feeling friendless and lonely. I could see things or note feelings and remain uninvolved, but they sometimes overwhelmed and frightened and sense of loneliness became acute.

“ “Well, what type of friend do you wish for,” he asked.

“ “Why, someone like you,” I said.

“He laughed. “What good of a friend who himself is floundering,” he remarked. “ Is there anyone whom you trusted, recently or in the past; someone whose name you may have heard of, a perfect guide?

“Or as perfect as you ideally wish for?”

“Jesus,” I answered.

“ “Then let him be your friend,” he said.

“ “Oh, but he didn’t help,” I said, “ As a child I remember calling to him, so many times.”

“ “You have come through that jungle, growing and knowing, and alive. Yet, you say, he did not help!”

“ “Yes, you are right,” I said, amazed that this Indian Swami was preaching Jesus to me.

“ “Only from now on let him be your constant friend, witness and guide. Guides like Krishna or Christ and many more beside had come and keep on coming and they don’t die. They keep close to those who seek their guidance, to those who wish to grow in their likeness, to those who wish to transcend - not just amend - the average limits of man. Seeking their help to help you remain in the average way is like asking a Himalayan guide to help you to get a theatre ticket.”

“ “Does it mean that I have to strictly follow the Bible; I am afraid I may not be able to do that,” I said.

“ “I did not say that. I think that books like the Bible and Gita are like large road maps you buy at a shop. But they do not tell you exactly at which place a bridge has broken down on a particular day, which road is closed and so on. For that the Guide himself is necessary. You may also carry the road maps, but if you mean business and not bibliography, then, you need a guide,” he said.

“This was a new thought for me. Then I asked: from childhood, I have been taught to earn more and more and to want more things; and earn more for the new wants and so on. How can I stop wanting?”

“ “It is not a question of stopping wanting, but a question of growing up. When you are a child you have the tendency to grab at anything you see around you; and your parents say: Can’t you just see, and leave things alone? That is the idea of growth. Not to want or grab except what is absolutely needed. But the grown-ups themselves forget the lessons they give children, and run after things, wanting to own everything they see around them - yes, it is a matter of conscious growth. But why worry, let Jesus choose your wanting!” he said.

“ “Are there not other guides besides Jesus - Buddha and so on. How to know who is the better guide?” I asked.

“ “If you are true to one guide he himself will settle it for you, I think. Guides are many and will be many - the goal is the same - man’s destiny to grow into the likeness of His Maker. These guides are not like college professors quarreling about copyrights! Their disciples may make it appear so. There is no need to change a guide one knows, unless it happens by itself.”

“After a few days, I received his blessings, took leave of him, and wandered about a bit in the Himalayan Ashrams.
“Then, somehow, nostalgia for the States caught up with me, and the advertisements about this Compass looked so much like it. I landed up here,” concluded Joan.

“Wonderful,” said Ram, “I am glad I came here; I seem to have learnt so much from each of you, more than from the teachers themselves.”

“What are your subjects,” asked Sankar.

“Psychism and spiritism,” answered Joan.

“What is the purpose of life - purpose of all this; I don’t see any point, sometime,” said Ram.

“That’s the sore point,” said Sankar.
“A point has no dimension; where do you put the sore?” asked Domby.

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