Chapter 14-

30 November 2023

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ONE DAY MONTHS LATER just a few days before I was to leave for Paris--I went into Madeleine's room. She had influenza, and was coughing a great deal. She seemed almost shocked that I should have come in-so much indeed that having opened the door and gone forward, I stopped half-way to her bed, apologetically.

'Oh, why did you have to worry?' she said. "This vestment of the eighteen aggregates must have fevers and suffer. It is in the very nature of things composite that they should disintegrate. Brother,' she said, almost begging me, 'do not worry over this sorry mass of flesh."

I could have wept. I stood by her. And wanted to rub camphor-oil on her chest. She gently put my hand away, as though I were not satwic enough. The room had an intimacy with her now which made me a cognate outsider. But Buddha, by whom an oil-lamp shone, seemed pleased with her adorations. Lovely hyacinths floated before him in a clear copper plate of simple water. Her books were carefully arranged on one side, all covered with yellow and brick-red cloth. I guessed they were the Tripathikas.

'I can read Pali easily now,' she explained, as I looked at her treasures. There was a small mat on the floor, an Indian mat made of wattle. I wondered where she had got that from. There was even an Indian temple-bell with Nandi mount and all, a censer and a folding book-rack, such as only Brahmins have in their sanctuaries.

'You are more of a Brahmin than I?' I remarked. She seemed to agree, for she said nothing. 'Let me make you a hot- water bottle, la sainte Bouillote,' I begged her.

'No,' she said, 'my body should find its own psychic heat: "santampayathi suam deha mapadatalamastaka", as your Taitreya Aranyaka says. Then why feed this foolish thing?" She seemed so uncomfortable to see me there that I was on the point of going. She stopped me and said, 'Beloved,' as though she spoke to some- one not there. 'Beloved, it's you who have brought me all this.' I looked at the Buddha from the Musée Guimet and begged for- giveness, for so much betrayal. I could see her bed was made of boards, and her mattress was thin as my palm. She understood my thoughts. 'You know, whatever I do, I do completely. I'm a Sadhaka now; my Buddhism is very serious. Be a good Brahmin, Rama,' she said, as if it were a prayer.

I went back to my room a desperate little creature, my breath broken within me. So this was the Madeleine I had cherished and made! The next day some of my own 'irregularities' disappeared, I reduced my food, bed, and clothes to real needs. Madeleine was sore distressed with this transformation of me. 'You are not of this country. Besides you must think of your lungs,' she pro- tested. But the next time I went to her room she did not treat me as though I were an outsider, an intruder to her sanctuary. I started taking her soup, her medicines. Sometimes when I knocked she would whisper, 'Come in.' And I would see her with a rosary in her hands, which she never hid from me any more. I did not go back to my rosaries, but I started on my meditations more seriously. In fact my health improved a great deal with them.

Lezo came less and less. He must be having difficulty with his fat Communist and her baby, I thought. Or was it that the atmos- phere of Villa les Rochers was becoming too oppressive for him? 'We are so happy-are we not, Rama?' asked Madeleine one day, when I was sitting in her room. Her health though was not too good the whole winter. Even so she would not allow me to make up a fire in her room: she said, 'Why this luxury?' I begged her to accept it as corruption brought in by a Brahmin. She could still be persuaded by humour, and she accepted that I should prepare her fire every evening. 'After all, the Brahmin's first job is to make fire,' I said, quoting a Rig Vedic text.

Now and again when I went to her room she would be seated by her narrow bed reading away at some text, her legs crossed in lotus posture. She would sometimes ask me for the meaning of a Pali word, but I did not know Pali at all, and my Sanscrit was not always a help. Her face shone as if she had come nearer death, and there was a glow of truth between her eyes. She reduced her food to con- sidered proportions-she took the right vegetables according to the eight seasons of the round long year. She observed every festival, decorated the house with lamps and mandalas, burning incense everywhere. She even observed an eclipse and fasted the night before; she bathed both as the eclipse started and as it ended, though it was in the early hours of the morning. On the whole she grew gentler, but when she did become angry at times she spat the five fires.

She decided, after reading a Tibetan text, that three hundred words a day were enough to cover all our daily needs, so once a weck, on Saturdays, she took what she called the vow of moderate silance. 'But just as I need a little more cloth here than in India, the French language may need a little more statistical elongation, I teased her. 'In French you have more prepositions like en, à, de, etc.... So I sought Lezo's help, and we added one hundred and fifty words to her restricted vocabulary.

I should say Madeleine was happy, if simplicity and truthful- ness are the attributes of happiness. Her colleagues, so Lezo told me, almost revered her, and she was elected President of the College Syndicate. When the Inspectors came, they always made the best report on her work. The Headmistress laughed and said: "This is the sister-soul of Simone Weil. Simone Weil always regretted never having gone to India. So here is her hope ful- filled.' Even I received a little of this veneration; they thought I was the noble cause of this transformation of Madeleine.

Sometimes Madeleine would start off in the early morning, with just a bare pair of sandals, on an expedition to her various sanctuaries. She had discovered one on the way to St Ophalie, that she called the 'Black Madonna' which answered her all her questions. There was the poor woman whose husband was fighting in Indo-China; she had had no letters from him for six or seven weeks. The 'Black Madonna' gave Madeleine the answer. 'He's all right, and he'll soon be back in Saigon from the front. You'll receive a letter in ten days.' Nine days passed and nothing had happened. On the tenth day there was nothing in the morning either. Madeleine went to visit the woman after morning classes, to verify that nothing had come, and to console if need be. She said, "The mistake must be mine, though I can still see it clear in my mind, as if on the classroom blackboard.-ten days.' That evening Madeleine and I went on a walk together and as we were returning, there was the young woman waiting for us at the door. She had her youngest, a child three years old, in her arms, and she bearted such gratitude. The letter had come, of course, and Jean felt fresh as a carp. She had bought us some oranges. Madeleine would not touch them. She said, 'I am not a priest, I am a miserable woman. It is your prayers, Madame, that have helped; yours and not mine.' We took the woman in and gave her coffee, for the day was very cold.

There were days when Madeleine took her haversack and left a note for me to say she had gone away to the mountains-and Provence is full of mountains and sanctuaries. She would return late at night, having trudged for kilometres on end. On such expeditions she found grottoes and forgotten sanctuaries, and she was sure that most of the Virgins were old Roman gods and Goddesses. Often she tried to scratch some plinth to discover thename of Mithras, Jupiter, or Mercury, but I do not think she ever had luck in that direction. She laid flowers at their feet and probably sang a Buddhist hymn. For her, whatever was not Catholic was sacred and true. She said it was now sufficiently proven that the Druids were Buddhist, so all these sanctuaries were certainly of Buddhist origin. Her meditations gave her remarkable indications. She took me sometimes on her 'spiritual hikes', as I called them. 'If we go this way, that is, in the direction in which this grass-head has turned on itself and fallen,' she once said, 'and we come to the top of that hill, we may find an old ruined windmill; I can see it as clearly as a cat in the night. We must turn to the left then, and go twenty yards and dig. We may find an ancient stone. I am sure it was a sanctuary.' We went up the hill-it was near St Ouen-and the windmill was there; we dug twenty yards away and found nothing. Disappointed, she searched all about the place, as mountaineers do, when they ponder on the direction of the avalanche. She drew deep breaths to find her chemin de cristal, and said, 'Now I know-it must be at the fountain here.' When we washer the stone and dug a little, true, there was a ruin of some sort. I could not say whether it was Roman, Greek, or Christian. It was a small, circular slab, like marble, and there had certainly been some characters on it at one time, but I could not read them, nor could Madeleine.

She started putting flowers into this fountain. 'I am sure it can heal,' she said. 'Let us try it at Madame Fellandier's: when her son had a stroke, you know, I gave her a cloth, which I had held in my hand for eight days during my meditations. The child sat up for the first time for months, Madame Fellandier told me.' This must have been a fact, for Madeleine introduced me to her. The child was up and looked at us with much affection. We had taken him almonds-salted almonds-and his mother opened the packet eagerly and gave us to eat, two to Madeleine and one for me.

'Certainly we'll give your Fellandier a dip in your Roman fountain,' I laughed. 'Why not, after all!'

No, I could not disbelieve in Madeleine's powers, but she felt she owed them to me. 'I was an atheist,' she said, 'with a horror of the church. You it was, Rama, with your Brahminism, that gave me the eyes to see."

'To see Buddhism,' I protested, and laughed again.

'Look how beautiful the evening is,' she said, sitting down on the grass. 'How far from the elephant and the bull, Rama! You have been a wonderful friend to me. Promise to be happy.'

'I promise,' I replied. I must have looked such a fool.

Sometimes she saw miracles as well. The flowers began to speak to her, the marguerites, the daisies, and the horsetails. One day, coming down the hill from one of her expeditions to the 'Black Madonna', she begged, oh, ever so tenderly, that a little pansy she had found lying crushed on the road would not suffer.

'Some brute,' she muttered; 'there are such ignoramuses all over the world. They are so cruel that they pluck innocent creatures like these,' she said, caressing the flower under the moonlight, and then throw them down and walk away, as if the world were made solely for man. What if someone did the same with their children, the young ones? And this is the Europe,' she continued, sitting on the garden bench, 'that has known the horrors of two wars, and Hitler's incineration camps. Lord, Lord!' With tears she dug a small hole, and laid the stem and the two leaves and the blue, open-eyed pansy on the earth. 'Rama,' she begged, 'bring me some water.' I brought a jugful of water from the kitchen. 'Rama, touch this, please. You have holy hands.'

'Holy indeed!' I burst out laughing. 'Holy with Brahminic cruelty.'

'But it is Brahminic. I know you have power."

'Power or no power, Little Madeleine, give it to me then,' I said, and touched the plant, and gave it back to her dispiritedly.

She planted it with many Hum-Hum-s, Om-Hrim-s, and Mani- padme-Hum-s. She laid it first on her frock, and straightened the stem and leaf; then, closing her eyes, she pushed the little broken stalk gently and carefully into the earth. Today is the ninth day of the moon of Sravan,' she said, 'and it is an auspicious day.'

I gave water to the pansy. We called it the Buddha's plant, and the last thought of Madeleine before going to bed was to go into the garden and see if the Buddha's plant still flowered under the moon. The pansy looked happy. Indeed, who would not be happy under the Mediterranean moon; and with such loving care about one. In the morning Madeleine woke, and there he was, the Buddha's plant, his face smiling under the magnificence of the sun.

'Oh, be good!' prayed Madeleine, like a child, and gave him water again. We made a small canal round him, and as often as possible we gave him water. Madeleine then went into her room, and brought the sacral water of the Buddha. "This is the best Ganges water,' she proclaimed. The pansy was bright, and we were happy with it. Even I grew attached to the pansy. You get attached to anything you create. You create the world, and so you get attached to the world. 'Madeleine,' I said, 'Look, it stays on!'

'Of course it does. And why not? If men recover from wounds in a hospital, why not a plant, a tree?'

'You've heard of Jagdish Chandra Bose and his experiments on weeping trees, have you?' I asked. 'Of course. But you don't need an electromagnetic instrument to know plants suffer. Even so, it needed an Indian to prove that plants do suffer."

*And a Bongali,' I said.

'What's that now?"

"The Bengalis are a sweet, musical, poetical, large-hearted, sunshine, moonshine people.'

'All that sounds very nice,' she said.

And for them the world is all Brindaban-miraculous with peacocks, rivers, lotuses, and dancing men and women with garlands, and the lilting finery of weeping trees."

'And so?'

And so Santinektan and Tagore and all that gayagnyanerie. The world has to be made beautiful. They're like the Italians: the world has to be made paradisiac.'

'And you, the southerners?"

'Our home is in Siva's crematorium grounds. We dance away our momentary deaths and there is no time for Paradise. Be- sides, Paradise,' I added, 'needs space and time.'

'In space and time the pansy blooms,' she said, and closed the subject.

We gave water to the plant. It flourished with a vigour which made us admire life itself. The leaves stood up, and shot up more leaves. Madeleine's altar table had now a special vessel: a silver tumbler I had had since my upanayanam ceremony, which I brought to Europe for remembrance and for reverence of Grand- father Ramanna. Eventually I gave the tumbler as a family present from Hariharapura to Madeleine. This Grandfather Ramanna's silver tumbler gave water to the pansy-and the pansy seemed almost to remember the Himavathy and the Mysore mountains; and the pansy put forth more and more flowers, flowers large as nenuphars. We called in the gardener from Villa Belmont, and he exclaimed, 'Ah, c'est bien étrange, Madame, et encore une pensée! And Madeleine said, 'Rama, if you stand here in the middle of the night, you will hear a bell, I promise you- just a tingle-tingle bell. And believe me, I felt things turn round me, shapes, eyes, presences; sometimes I would turn round and try to see them, but they always seemed to be where I could not see them. They were there; I have no doubt about it what- soever.

Then Madeleine started looking for wounded caterpillars.

'Oh,' she said, 'how the motor-cars crush these sloy centipedes. They must go from tree to tree-it is in the very nature of creatures centipedic that they crawl like this. They must go from pine to pine. If man has built a road and cut furiously through the hills, and has invented fast-moving vehicles of battery and combustion, that's no reason why these poor animals should suffer. Poor, poor creatures!' she would say, and lift these hairy, itching things on her lap and arm, and take them across the road and leave them on a pine tree. In fact, some days when she had no class, she would go up the Luberon highway and sit by one of the bedraggled pines, which seemed to specialize in caterpillars." "The caterpillars eat the tree, so you must kill the caterpillars,' I teased Madeleine.

'Oh, no, we should save both.' And so she put a large stone under one of the trees and would sit for hours in the Dorje- posture saying her mantras, or would take a book-some Pali book, preferably and read. She made friends thus with the schoolchildren, who went up there every Thursday; but once when they climbed a tree to see a nest of starlings, how she howled, did Madeleine, and told the curé to look after all the children of God, not merely those of man. She convinced the children with Saint Francis of Assisi, There is no doubt Madeleine developed powers-extraordinary powers. She had by now procured through Lezo, somehow, a Tibetan thighbone Kangling, and she tied bells to it, little bells that also came from Tibet no doubt; she started waving it and sounding it and muttering prayers to herself, chanting 'Hum- Hum-Phat'. She started looking fixedly at the sun, and began meditations on the infinity of space. 'Do not think of the past. Do not think of the future,' she would repeat Nagarjuna's dictum, and keep your mind in its cool state.' She meditated too, on a red ball, one of those balls you can buy at any big store for children to play with-and then suddenly she would meditate on a stick: the texts said so. So she broke a stick from the holy pine-the one with caterpillars-and she polished it and washed it and gave it an ochre colour, and placing it in the south-west corner of her room she started saying her japas It gave a green and liquid fixity to her look; she smiled with gentlegess and her anger seemed to grow less and less. Then, when she had fasted for new moon or eclipse, she would go and throw her sanctified water-always in Grandfather Raman- na's silver tumbler-to the holy pine tree. And the pine tree put forth new green eager needles.

The Buddha, in one of his previous incarnations, had allowed himself to be eaten by a Tiger; like the Bodhisat the pine tree, I told Madeleine. This satisfied her, so we called it the Bodhisat Pine, and the caterpillars never seemed happier. Birds, especially ravens, swallows, and flamingoes, found the tree very interesting; first for the caterpillars, and because Madeleine fed them with peanuts, rice, and wheat. When I told her about the Jains, how they feed ants with sugar, she would secretly take bits of sugar and feed ants also under the tree. When I came home from the Library and could not at first find Madeleine, I was sure to see her on her vajrasana-for so I called it, "The seat of diamond- reading away at her book. Sometimes she would look down the hollow valley to Mont Ste-Victoire; you could see she felt the world was true. But now and again, she would feel great despair-one saw it in the colour of her eyes. Sometimes they grew quite yellow and she became distant and almost inimical. She seemed to hate every- thing, food, room, books and all, and she would say, 'Oh, Rama, be patient with me; it's only the female nature that must be making monthly demands.' Her horoscope was pretty irregular about these events, and I suspected that human biology might have strange variations according to metapsychical convictions. Maybe, and why not?

Her yogic asanas helped her; she bought a book on yoga by a Swami Paramananda, and she was so competent in her locust pose or the swan posture. She also took the Buddhist vow of lying on her right side the lion-position-and said she slept splendidly, needing only five hours of sleep now. Her classes became brilliant, so some of her pupils told me, and the Head- mistress looked up to her for advice. Colleagues came to ask help with regard to family matters, and very humbly she told them whatever came to her in her morning meditations. Sometimes when the subject was very serious, such as marriage or financial difficulties, Madeleine made many mandalas and sat amongst them. She woke up as in India at three o'clock in the morning, the brahmakala-and sat in meditation till eight o'clock. Now, one day the holy pánsy died-'for like all living things of the eighteen aggregates he had to die,' said Madeleine-and he was given a proper funeral. We washed him and put him on a grass bed-curiously enough he had no roots at all, we dis- covered, after almost seventeen days of life-and cremated him with AUM-AUM-AUM-TAM-TAM-TAM-HIRI-HIRI-HRIHA-HA-HA'. We buried his ashes under the Bodhisat tree. The 'Black Madonna' appeared to Madeleine after some of her fasts. The divinity gave specific instructions as to medicines, good days and bad days, right people and evil people; and now Madeleine prayed to her, whenever I had fever. 'Rama,' she said, 'you must, must be cured.' One day, all of a sudden, she declared: 'I'm going on a forty-one day fast-on Buddha Avalokiteshwara. I had a vision and I am sure I can cure you." And so she started on her fasts and prayers commencing at dawn, on the seventh day of the month of Ashwija, when the dew was clear as eyes under the late moon. Those forty-one days were very moving and important. I could hear Madeleine wake up (she had bought herself a new alarm-clock) at two, have her bath, chanting verses in her pecul- iar round Charentaise accent, and make aspersions to the eight- directions of the house, calling on each god and naming his attributes. Then I could hear her stay long, very long, near my door; after which she would suddenly go back to her room, and I could hear her mantras rise slowly, deeply, as though they needed to make themselves familiar with the world, with the night; and then they came out more and more quickly, more and more articulated and grave, till by four in the merning the whole house would be one unanimous sound, vibrant through walls and roof to the kitchen below. One felt that the trees stood stiff, the birds slept awake; one felt that the roads rose up and lifted themselves to the skies, that the cattle looked into sheer space, and the whole of the valley of Aix and the mountains beyond, with those perched lingering lights on the top, were but one single thought, one single experience. And then after a caesura of interrupted silence, the words came quicker and gentler, the mantras became more and more melodious and little by little the flowers opened to the morning, the Mediterranean sang out its shores, birds spoke, children rose and cried; and man walked back to his journeying work with the spirit of a child, of a happy father, of a new incarnation on a new earth. The morning train could shout as it liked, or the tramcar scream as it turned in the Place Mirabeau; the world was being transmuted-something pink and golden would rise out of the Fire-of-Lotus heart, and Rama would be made whole again.

Ah, on dirait que toutes les maisons sentent les fêtes,' said Madame Jeanne, when she came to work. She knew nothing of Madeleine's sadhana. But, I ask you, need one be told when the gods are about, and in Provence?

And that the gods were about, who could deny? One heard strange musical sounds-more like drum-beats than melodious wind-instruments and they seemed to play not all the notes but just three or four, do, re, fa, si, or just do, re, si, as if we had grown subtler, etheric. We played more with each other, Madeleine and I, and sometimes--you must forgive and believe me when I say it-I felt the presence of others playing with us. The red ball went here, went there; the ball stood as if transfixed by someone -the earth moved, one could think, but not the ball: space moved, and not time. Then sound itself became firm and stood. on the spot and gyrated; and colours came out, red and green such as parrots have, or blue like the Himalavan hills, and you saw tongues of flame leaping out in the four directions. I could sometimes hear in the heat of the southern sun the Aix tramcars screech away and yet these flames leapt, they made curves in green and red, turned on themselves and went straight into the ceiling.

Madeleine looked at me and she was so happy. "There, there!' she said, 'Listen, that's the music.'

The drum-beat indeed was powerful, and as each sound ended another more powerful one,rose as if creating mountains, rivers, seas, roads, man. I felt the nervous spiral uncoil from the spine- end, and stood aghast. 'Madeleine!' I cried. But she sat on the floor, with her eyes nobly closed. And I went back to the familiarity of my room. Nothing had happened to my room of course, all things seemed in their place; but everything was dusted, laved and cleared. I was afraid.

Madeleine knew no fear.' 'I am not only Charentaise, I am Santonjoise,' she said, 'and we from the Atlantic wilds have no fear."

But her hair grew curly, her skin somewhat parched, and she began to give out odours that seemed, to speak civilizedly, not too pleasant. I felt the smell of rotten flowers, the smell of the car- casses of birds; I felt foul winds, odour of burnt nails and hair and of damp hides. And in the evenings when we walked back honte, sometimes I could hear voices, whispers, pham-phat sounds. Once I saw a man walking in front of me; he was just like a skeleton- he looked like Mahatma Gandhi, but taller, much taller, and bent, and walking quickly, feverishly, in front of me. Madeleine was pleased with this apparition-it was according to the texts. 'On the twenty-second day, you will see the apparition of a man walking in front of you,' they said. 'Do not be afraid: it is the body in its grossest form. True it was, for Madeleine showed me the text and I was astonished. Yes, it was, it was true. The birds became more familiar with us. Some of the sparrows came and sat on Madeleine's shoulders as she walked and fed them. She once sat on a stone and lost consciousness thinking on some japā. I waited patiently by her till the moon rose.

'I was in another world, Rama, and what a beautiful world it was. Rama, why must one come back to this?"

This one or the other, Madeleine, they're both worlds,' I remarked, which did not take the discussion any further. Spirits came, strange, bewildering in their tongues, sounds, sizes, and specialities--some to wash and whirl, others to sound nostril and dance; some making noises like the turning of a quern, and speaking as if their voices came from hollows of the bone; some talked in French, others in Hindi or Tibetan, but they all seemed destitute, utterly helpless. I did not see them much, for I just did not care, but could feel them behind doorways, or between the sink and fireplace in the kitchen; they sat on the dustbins, they sounded from trees; they chattered, they talked, they became flame and walked in front of you; small, short creatures, they begged you to have desires, then they showed the red or the pink of your desires-they spoke to Madeleine and to me, but with me they seemed at once arrogant and ashamed. Sometimes I would say to them "Get out!' If they did not understand English or French I shouted to them in Sanscrit or Kanarese, and these often seemed to have greater efficacy. They leapt like monkeys. And sometimes when Madeleine talked to them in her room, I just wanted to howl, to weep.

But the twenty-ninth day soon came nearer, and the house which was hot as fever began to grow cooler; gentler sounds came, tenderer, and the colours of the spirits became more refined-you saw more mauves and greens, and you often thought them a wisp of cloud or petal of sky-flower. The music had more elevated notes, and the spirits seemed to waft unbelievable per- fumes, like those of roses or lotuses. You heard the sound of mountain birds, and they seemed more familiar to you, they came beside you, not in front of you, and had gracious forms. They looked like deer or small, sleek horses. Some floated and flew, like swans musical. Madeleine's delight was deep and grave. She just felt the world was spread out before her, and there was no thought or desire she could not ask that the gods would not accomplish. They came less frequently, however, than the other spirits, but the world changed as from monsoon to the Dussera festival. You could see elephants in procession, the sword of Kings, and the Lotus of the Throne; and maybe soon, very soon, the Buddha seated on the Jewel of the Nine-Rays.

Joy, if I had ever truly seen on Madeleine's face, I saw it then. She marked thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three days on her door, as our milk-women do with cow-dung on the walls, to show how much milk we have taken. Virtue was flowing back into the world. The 'pale-gold light' of the subtle worlds filled the valley of Aix; the earth floated on its own light. With the thirty-sixth day Madeleine looked as if she could last no longer. Her eyes were deep set and she could not eat much. Whatever she ate she threw out, and for a day or two she just drank Vichy water. I added a little camphor and honey to it, quoting the texts to make it taste sweet and wholesome. I gave her honey and hot water consantly. When the thirty-eighth day came, she was unable to walk about. But she smelt like a thousand-petalled jasmine, or like the blue-lotus. I liked sitting beside her and feeling the sweet breath of her presence. She looked a saint: I worshipped her.

I gave her the sainte-bouillote, but now this too she discarded. It was too artificial, she said. Se I strewed some liles and marguer- ites on her bed.

'Oh this, this is perfect,' she said, 'but not lilies, please; they remind me of First Communien.' And she continued with her 'OM DHIM-OM GIH-OM JRIH'. She slept very well. indeed.

On the fortieth day she would not take the honey and water.

'Then take lemon and water, if you will,' I pleaded. 'Event

Mahatma Gandhi took lemon and water.'

'Let me follow my own gods.'

I understood and went back to the kitchen.

On the forty-first day she woke up an hour earlier that is, about one o'clock--and sat in austere meditation till six. I heard no sounds or noises any more. I felt a great, true, compassionate prezence in the house. I felt lighter, my breathing improved. At six, while I was in my bath, I heard a strong, singing, super- terrestrial gong go, a long chanting, waving, unsilencing, univer- val sound. "The Palace of Dhamma is hung round with two networks of bells,' says the Mahasuddasana Suthanata. The earth became earth, trees became trees, the sound of tramways became normal; the speech of men became crude and simple, the milk of Monsieur Béguin was actual, we paid our electric bills, and the newspapers came in; Madame Jeanne had a headache and smelt bad; when I went down to Aix, I smelt the acridity of tobacco and dust in the air.

That evening Madeleine gave me a bitter orange to rub on my chest, first one, then a second one, and then a third. For twenty- one days I was to rub thus, and my fevers and evil breath would be taken away from me. For Madeleipe had had a vision between eleven o'clock on the fortieth day and then on the forty-first, it was made clear to her: an Arab doctor with beard and authority appeared to her in her dream. "Twenty-one days and bitter oranges on the chest,' he said.

I did not believe it, of course. As days passed, nothing hap- pened. I only saw the birds were even more familiar with Madeleine: sparrows came to eat from her hands, owls flopped near her windows and she took them back and laid them on some precise tree.

But the tree, it is true-the Bodhisat Pine-put on new shoots, and it was unbelievable. Madeleine gave water to Madame Jeanne for her second child, which had very bad asthma. The asthma stopped; Madame Jeanne herself assured us of this.

Madeleine made me visit the Black Madonna'.

'She must once have been a Buddhist Tara, a Druidic Goddess. I now know her name-and even her epoch. Oh, Rama, how wonderful it is to live in the world!' she said, as we sat before the chapel of the 'Black Madonna'.

The 'Black Madonna', I might say, looked Byzantine, with her long nose, refined hands, and dark, slant, oriental eyes. Looking at the quivering blue of the Alpilles and the Durance flowing white at our feet, I was reminded of Uttara Rama Charita and chanted out to Madeleine:

'Etat tad eva hi vanam punar adja dṛṣtam yasminn abhama ciram eva pura vasantah aranyaka ca grhia ea ratah svadharme samsarikesu ca sukkeṣu vayam rasajnāk. Ete ta eva girayo viruvanmayards täny rea matahariadni vanasthalini amanjuvanjulalatāni ca tiny amani nirandhranilauiculari sarittatani. Meghamäleoa yaç edyam arad api vibhavyate girib Prasravanah so 'yam yatra Godavari nadi."

"What does it mean?'

Kim idam apatitam adya Ramarya?" I said, as if I were talking to Madeleine in Sanscrit.

"Which means...?"

'What's happened to Rama?' I answered, and continued, Cirád vegarambhi prasta iva tiro vizarasaḥ kutaç cit samvegat pracala iva çalyasya çakalaḥ vrano rudhagranthih sphutita iva hrnmarmani punar ghanibhatab çoko vikalayati mám nátana iva.

Madeleine still sat on the slab between the chapel and the road. Now and again a pine-cob fell on the chapel roof, and rolled noisily into the gutter below. The day was very warm for a mountain afternoon in February and singing like the honey-bee. I continued to recite Bhavabhuti, as if I were explaining some- thing to Madeleine. ekah sampratināçitapriyatamas tām adya Ramah katham papaḥ Pancarațim vilokayatu vá gacchato asambhavya vd."

And now Madeleine understood. Even the dead and buritd legionaries of Marius, those severe civilized men who fought against the Teutons and conquered Gaul, whose bones must be lying somewhere all about us, they too must have keyed their ears to this grave speech and understood.

'Sapin and sap, come from the Sanscrit word Sapa,' I said, as though it were the definition of Truth. The dictionary is often the bible of the inarticulate. Etymology and grammar, I thought, help in the mechanisms of matrimony. These are the Sancrit verses Kama chanted to Madeleine on that February afternoon. This, then, is the forest-I see it now.... Both as hermits and householders here have we lived For a long, long while, performing our sacred acts And knowing the juices of the joys of existence. This, then, the mountain where the peacocks cry And here the valleys with antelope wooded; There, with bamboos softly murmuring In dark blue tufts, the banks of rivers. There, where soars Mount Prasravana Like a garland of cloud, flows the river Godaveri.... Like the burning spread of a rooted poison- Like splinters raked by a force unknown- Like a healed wound's touch on a tender heart- Intense, my pain enfeebles me, As if it sprang but yesterday. Pañcavati, where with her I have spent so long As if it were my own true home; Pañcavati, the immediate, object of our constant talk. But now alone is Rams, and faded his dearest things, Heartless would it be not to linger long looking, Or leave without deep salutation To Pañcavați. THOSE WINTER DAYS in Aix seem to have avowed such simple and deep understanding between Madeleine and myself that I can only think of them as having had a lot of warm and powdery sunshine, which bathed the lives to the spread roots and gave the cypresses a sense of singleness, as though they represented a direction, a formula, a principle.

Life outside was full of charm. Monsieur Béguin brought his goats up the path, and he left them to graze while he lay under the olives reading the Petit Provençal. Two goats looked up at the now and again with a feeling of kinship and knowingness, and big bellies became flat and the young ones came to play, tottering under the intoxication of being born. I had heard in India that goat's milk was good for weak lungs, so every afternoon I walked out into the fields, and M. Béguin would produce a bottle of the strong-smelling viscous liquid; sometimes he milked the goat called 'Gazella' in front of me. How kind and maternal the milk was! Whether it did me good or not I cannot say, but my health never gave me much cause for anxiety.

Dr Séraphin at the Hospital laughed and confirmed me as the perfect specimen of a good patient. If I asked him to drink three spoonfuls of cod-liver oil, you could be sure he would run down to ask me if I meant the big English coffee-spoon or our small coffee-spoon; in fact he would produce the spoons from his pocket to make sure my instructions were strictly followed. In his country it must be so easy to be a doctor. It must all come from their age-old civilization. Not like the cattle we have to deal with here....'

Whether I was a good patient or not, I took my illness very seriously. I did not want to be a problem te Madeleine. We were already enough of a problem to one another. Madeleine's own illnesses were, if one may say so, somewhat more picturesque. She came back one day with a thorn in her heel, and bandaged the whole thing up so savagely that after a few days it began to smell. 'Let the wretched thing suffer,' she said; but even so she moaned, quietly, rhythmically, as if she were repeating a mantra. Then I knocked at her door, went down to the kitchen for some hot water and cleaned her wound with boric- acid. She had become so shy of exposing any part of her body, that even getting her to stretch out her leg was difficult. She covered the whole of her leg and let'me just touch her foot. And when she had a stomach-ache-for she ate so little that her stomach began to give her trouble-she would not let me massage her either. She grew more and more like a young girl and cov- ered up her chest, as though it were a sin to show any part of her body but her two hands and her big, kind face.

'Poor child,' she said to me one day, 'I make you live the life oan ascetic. You must one day find the right Hindu wife. I did not seem so eager for a wife.

'Madeleine, you have a swollen throat. You must allow me to put some hot towels on it."

'Oh, it's nothing. You know I have had a bad throat since I was a child of three. They say that Mother thought I would have goitre some day. But nothing so serious will ever happen to me. I am not even good enough for disease."

Her food was now measured with the palm of her hand in Indian style. 'Three times a day and three handfuls a day,' so the Buddhist text said. And whether it was this starvation or the working of her inner spirit, she looked so transparent, elevated.

"When you were in India,' she said une day, 'I was afraid I would die of those complications. I was frightened they would bury me at the Cimetière St Médard. So on coming here I made a will, and I want you to know-as Catherine knows too-that I'd like to be cremated. You know how complicated French law is on the subject. I wish it would happen, though, when you are still here. Rama, you need not apply to the Préfet des Bouches du Rhône any more."

'Oh, don't say sach inauspicious things, Madeleine. You know I am more ill than you are."

"That is why I say it. I have prayed night after night, like you said Emperor Baber prayed for his son Humayan, that I be taken away in your place. You are young, you are a man, you have yet to live. When I knew you first you were such a sprightly, viva- cious being. It is I who brought all this on you. I am only a log of flesh, and anyone can take my place. But you, you are the head of the family.'

'Madeleine! Must you torture me like this?'

'Well then, I shall be silent.' She was tucked under her ochre- coloured sheets, and her brown rosary just showed against her pale green-eyed face. The moment had come, I felt, to ask the question that had been lying between us. I made bold and wanted to ask. But she divined my question, I think, and said:

'What is it separated us, Rama?'


'India. But I am a Buddhist."

'That is why Buddhism left India. India is impitoyable."

'But one can become a Buddhist?"

'Yes, and a Christian and a Muslim as well.'


'One can never be converted to Hinduism."

"You mean one can only be born a Brahmin?'

"That is an Indian,' I added, as an explanation of India.

'Your India, then, Rama, is in time and space?

'No. It is contiguous with time and space, but is anywhere,


'I don't understand."

'It stands, as it were, vertical to space and time, and is present at all points.'

'This is too mystical even for me.'

'Would you understand if I were to say, "Love is not a feeling, it is, you might say, a stateless state, the whole condition of one-self"?"

'I don't. But suppose I did?'

'Can you understand that all things merge, all thoughts and perceptions, in knowledge. It is in knowledge that you know a thing, not in seeing or hearing.'


"That is India. Jnanam is India.'

'But that is the place of the Guru-of Buddha?'

'Well, for me India is the Guru of the world, or She is not India. The Sages have no history, no biography-who knows anything about a Yagnyavalkya or a Bharadavja? Nobody. But some petty King of Bundelkhand has a panegyric addressed to him, and even this is somewhat impersonal. We know more of King Harsha than we do of Sankara. India has, I always repeat, no history. To integrate India into history-is like trying to marry Madeleine. It may be sincere, but it is not history. History, if anything, is the acceptance of human sincerity. But Truth transcends sincerity; Truth is in sincerity and in insincerity -beyond both. And that again is India.'

She was silent for a very long time. She was playing with her beads, thoughtfully.

'We are a nation of gamblers,' I said.

'Of gamblers? How so?' she asked abruptly, sitting up.

Play not with dice but cultivate thy corn-field", you know, is a famous Rig-Vedic hymn.'


'You remember Dharamraja sold his Kingdom-nay, even his wife gambling? Even so did Harishchandra give away his Kingdom for the Truth. Sri Rama went into exile because his gamble-minded father promised anything she wanted to his young wife, and his young wife gambled for the Kingdom of her own son. Recently Mahatma Gandhi said to the British-in the middle of the war, mind you, when the Japanese were at our door "Clear out and leave India to anarchy. We will know what to do with ourselves."

'A strange theory. But like many of your dear theories it sits comfortably on the head of history. After a moment she asked, 'From where, though, does this spirit come? You are such a serious people.'

"We are so serious, deadly serious, about everything, that we are perhaps the only nation that throughout history has ques- tioned the existence of the world-of the object.'

"That may be true. True also that the Chinese were very realistic.'

"There can be only two attitudes to life. Either you believe the world exists and so-you. Or you believe that you exis-and so the world. There is no compromise possible. And the history of philosophy-remember that in the eighteenth century even scientists were called 'les philosophes-is nothing but a search for a clue to this problem: "If I am real, then the world is me." It also means you are not what you think and feel you are, that is, a person. But if the world is real, then you are real in terms of objects, and that is a tenable proposition. The first is the Vedan- tin's position-the second is the Marxist's-and they are irre- concilable.'

'And in between the two?'

*And in between are the many poetic systems: monism, tem- pered monism, non-dualistic modified dualism, God and Para- dise, Islam, etc., etc....

'Where does Buddhism come into your system then?"

"The supreme religion of a poet,' and I laughed, so loudly that I could have been heard from the cypress or from M. Béguin's meadow.

'I don't grasp what you mean.'

'You do, I said, still laughing. 'But you do not want to accept it. To have compassion, remember, presupposes the existence of the world. You must have compassion towards some suffering thing, so suffering exists and compassion as well.'

But how is Buddhism so poetic?'

'First, we know more about the beautiful and moving life of the Buddha than of any other spiritual figure in India. What do we know of Krishna, let us say? Yet he has more influence in India today than any other figure. Second, the Jatakas are among the most poetical stories of mankind. Take the Sibi Jataka, for ex- ample, and compare it to the Mahabharatha. How moving and personal the Jatakas seem to the impersonal figure of, say, a Bhisma, a Karna, a Dharmaraja. India believes-and it is of this belief that have arisen not only our philosophies, but our temples, theatres, and castles; our grammar, poetics, and mathematics; our knowledge of jewellery; even the science of erotics and that fine system of medicine the Ayurveda-India believes that to prove the world as being real or unreal is being really objective. To be objective to it is to have a scientific out- look. That is why Lowes Dickinson said we were more like mod- ern scientists than the mystical people we were supposed to be.'

'What happens to Buddhism then?, 'It tries to take more and more of Vedanta into it, so that the Buddha becomes a Hindu Avatara, and the Mahayana almost a Vedantic system-but a negative one, that is all. What is Indian remains."

And what is not Indian...?"

... Is exported for others' benefit, even unto Aix,' I said, and laughed till she laughed too. And to Lezo can study Pali texts, surrounded by his communist comrade and his little Buddhist baby. You know the baby is called Ananda?'

You are too clever for me,' said Madeleine.

'Brahmins are like race-horses, they are either good at their job, or they're sent to the vet to be shot. They are never sent to the common butchery; they could not be. Biology and eugenics are very interesting you can grow almost anything out of any- thing. In Russia they will soon grow horses on pear trees, and babies from hyacinths.'

'Now, now, don't get childish. One more question, and then Monsieur le Professor can retire to his room.'

"The historian is here to answer questions."

"Then my question is, what was Christ?'

A poet like the Buddha, and with the great Indian to be ban- ished from the perfect state of Plato. The new civilization has to be a technocratic one. It will have to banish the personal, the romantic, the poetic from life. The true poet sees poetry as poet, and the world as "I"

'Then there is no world?'

"The perfect civilization, then, is where the world is not, but where there is nothing but the "I". It is like the perfect number, which is always a manifestation of 1. 1. 1. The Buddhists say the world, the perception is real, "Sarvam-Kshanikam", that every- thing is minutous the moment we see it. The Vedantin says the perception is real, yes; but that reality is "my Self". And that difference is big enough to drive the Buddhism of Gautama out- side our frontiers."

'But what happens when it comes in?'

'It will be treated as a separate caste, and maybe given a com- passionate bath, when the wound is painful, at the feet. Love, not compassion, is impersonal.' "Then leave me to my poetic world.'

"Yes, I was thinking only yesterday: the miraculous itself is but the dual made manifest, albeit magnanimously. The miracle proves the power it proves."

'I don't understand,' she said.

Formerly, Madeleine, you read Paul Valéry and I read Rainer Maria Rilke. And now you read Rilke

And do you now read Valéry?'

'Yes, I read him a lot in India. Valéry is on the edge of Ved- anta. Rilke's angels bore me. Like Tagore's Ganges they are ennuyeux. There can never be a Paradise."

'How so?" she asked, spacing herself with a long silence. "The world is either unreal or real-the serpent or the rope.

There is no in-between-the-two-and all that's in-between" is poetry, is sainthood. You might go on saying all the time, "No, no, it's the rope," and stand in the serpent. And looking at the rope from the serpent is to see paradise, saints, avataras, gods, heroes, universes. For wheresoever you go, you see only with the serpent's eyes. Whether you call it duality or modified duality, you invent a belvedere to heaven, you look at the rope from the posture of the serpent, you feel you are the serpent-you are-the rope is. But in true fact, with whatever eyes you see there is no serpent, there never was a serpent. You gave your own eyes to the falling evening and cried, 'Ayyo! Oh! It's the serpent! You run and roll and lament, and have compassion for fear of pain, others', or your own. You see the serpent and in fear you feel you are it, the serpent, the saint. One-The Guru-brings you the lantern; the road is seen, the long, white road, going with the statutory stars. 'It's only the rope.' He shows it to you. And you touch your eyes and know there never was a serpent. Where was it, where, I ask you? The poet who saw the rope as serpent became the serpent, and so a saint: Now, the saint is shown that his saint- hood was identification, not realization. The actual, the real has no name. The rope is no rope to itself.' 'Then what is it?'

The rope. Not as opposed to the serpent, but the rope just is and therefore there is no world.'

'But there can be a Beatrice?' she implored. 'Yes,' I said, after a long while. 'Yes, where I am not. When I can love the self in Maitreyi, I can be Yagnyavalkya."

'Find then, my friend, an Indian Maytreyi. Let me be the woman of the marches.'

Una vera Marchesa?" I smiled.

'Yes, my prince.'

'He who is,' I quoted an ancient text, 'not the body, not the mind, nor the sense organs; he, the true Emperor.'

The battle at last had ended. I must have sat for a very long time in Madeleine's room, for the moon which I had seen high up in the sky when I came in had set beyond the tower of the Cathedral, and the night was musical with the noises of owls, with crickets, and the distant sea. On a quiet night, especially in winter, you could hear the sea from where we were, and whether the world was real or unreal, the sea seemed proof of something unnameable. 'La mer, la mer toujours récommencée.

I went down to the town a few days later, and bought Mad- eleine a pair of strong country shoes, with crêpe soles on them. And one evening, when the wound was almost healed, while I was dressing her foot, I said: 'I have played a trick on you, Madeleine.'

'What was it?' she asked, smiling, but weak with so much dieting and lying in bed. Her voice had the gentleness and sorrowfulness that come to those in constant prayer, silence, and askesis.

'But, first let me tell you a story. It is a story that Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to repeat a great deal. And it is an old Vedantic parable. It runs thus:

"Once upon a time, and that was a long time ago, there was a very good man. He did whatsoever he undertook perfectly"-he was let us imagine a Charentais "So one day, when the sun was very hot, he said to himself, the sun is hot here in the courtyard, it is hot there on the road-and he looked farther and he said, it is hot there on the stretch of fields, and hot, too, on the hill. It must be hot in the valley below, and beyond the river and the towns it must be hot too. And beyond the palaces of the city and the fields and the mountains, it must be so hot, hot, in the deserts that be, and the wide, dust-bearing plains. Round the whole world it must be hot. So, said he to himself, I must protect myself from this scorchsome heat. I will cover the whole earth with leather; I will cut and sew, and patch every spot of the round earth with good solid leather. And in this wise I could walk where I would. Thus saying, he went up to the loft, and brought down large chunks of animal hide and started cutting, and shaping them.

The bull, standing in the yard, gave a loud laugh. “ Héo-ho,” he cried.

"The good man said, "You laugh at me, do you, bull?"

"Yes, I do, revered Master. I know what you want to do. You find, like I do, that the whole vast world is very hot, and you want to protect yourself from the heat. So, you want to cover the world with hide!"

"Yes, that is precisely what I thought. But how did you know it?"

"Well, when I plough the fields, and I drag the cart, the Master does not have to say much to me, does he?"

"No, certainly not. You know I want to go to the Jack-fruit field before I lift my whip, or that I go to the Siddapura or Ramapura fair almost before I jump on the yoke and say 'hoy'. That is true. But why did you laugh?"

"Learned and good Master, I thought how strange that Master should be thinking of covering the world with leather. It will take him all the night and all the day, cutting the hide and stitching it; first in this courtyard, and then on the road with its ruts, on the stretch of fields with their furrows, on the still- standing forests and the sands by the river; and the winter will be gone and then the summer, and the sun will rise and grow hotter and set. The Master will grow old and his children will be born, and they will grow old, stitching and stitching the leather round the earth. And bulls will die, and elephants and horses, too, and sheep, and the earth will take a long time to get covered. It will, of course, be covered with hide, one day after many suns and moons. But if only instead, I thought, the Master who gives me the steel shoes every four months, if only the Master made a pair of nice country slippers, the Master could go in winter and summer, where he would; through furrow or forest, and the sun would not scorch his feet."

"The good man was so pleased with the beast's answer that he mightily patted and caressed him-thus the bull has the hump and dewlap neck. Then he laughed, the Master did, so that all the trees and the hills laughed with him. The wise man put his bullock to his cart, and went to Rammpura Siddapura and made himself a pair of nine slippers. He could walk where he would, and he was greatly pleased with his freedom.

'And when the bull died he went naturally to the Kailas of Lord Shiva, and became a servant-companion of Nandi."

Madeleine laughed with me, a gentle laugh, that was like the cry of mice or of little rabbits. I had finished washing her feet. Underneath the wound, the skin was getting red and whole.

'And so,' I added, coming back from my room, 'here are your shoes. I told you India is impitoyable. Like the wise bull we laugh at all good men.'

"The story is like one of those medieval stories about the cure and his wise dog.

Wisdom, fortunately, is no monopoly of India. But if you start covering the warm earth from Aix She burst out laughing this time, till her belly ached. you may need a hundred lives and more. Fortunately you believe in reincarnation,' I teased her.

'We Europeans believe in being good,' she added, thought- fully.

'We Indians in being wise."

'Let me remain the Marchesa,' she pleaded.

And I the Brahmin, the bull.'

She liked my choice of shoes, however-they were beige with a yellow border-and to honour me she put them on, on the day I was leaving for Paris and London. My main work of research was almost finished, and I only had to consult a few manu- scripts at the British Muscum and at the Bodleian; then I could start on the thesis, maybe before the vacations began. I put all my papers and important books into my case. I took many warm clothes too; the winter was mild yet, and when it came it might be severer, I thought. My case was very heavy, but Madeleine procured a barrow with cycle tyres from our neigh- bour, and stopped me from carrying my luggage. I am the foolish good man,' she said. She brought me to the bus-stop.

On the way she said, 'I have a trick up my sleeve. I will come and see you off at St-Charles.' So we sat in the bus, warm, very near one another, but with a feeling of the incongruity of destiny.

"The bus isn't bad, is it? Why must we always have such expensive ways, and get in and out of taxis, when there are so many who suffer? Your father was not a Maharaja, nor my father anything but a good bourgeois.'

The bus is all right, but all this smell, and this rubbing against one another...! My olfactory organs, Madeleine, as you know are made of Brahmin substance."

'Whereas I, I am the great-granddaughter of serfs freed by the Revolution. For me human self is rich and warm, and even this smell moves me to tears."

'Yes, Marchesa,' I said ironically. At St-Charles I protested against her lifting my heavy luggage.

The porters came. I bought myself a first-class ticket.

'Ah, the Maharaja,' she said. 'You are always a Pasha.' I got into the compartment. In honour of my departure Madeleine had put on the yellow Aurangabad himru jacket, that had brought her from India. Her face was paler against that yellow, but how kind, how true she looked, did my Madeleine, as the train took me away.

Devi, devi, ayam paccimas te Ramaçirasă pădapankajasparçah. Goddess, here for the last time Does the head of Rama touch the lotus of your feet. 

The Serpent and The Rope
The Serpent and the Rope is an autobiographical-style novel by Raja Rao, first published in 1960 and the recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1964. The book explores themes of reality, existence, and self-realization. Throughout the novel, protagonist Ramaswamy's thought process develops in line with Vedantic philosophy.

Chapter 1-

28 November 2023

I WAS BORN a Brahmin-that is, devoted to Truth and all that. 'Brahmin is he who knows Brahman,' etc. etc.... But how many of my ancestors since the excellent Yagnyavalkya, my legendary and Upanishadic


Chapter 2-

28 November 2023

I CANNOT REMEMBER anything more about Benares. We spent a further two or three days there, and while Little Mother went to hear parayanams in a private temple I wandered, like a sacred cow, among the


Chapter 3-

28 November 2023

THE TRIP BACK to Aix started somewhat inauspiciously. My plane, after being five hours in flight and almost half-way Here they tinkered away on the tarmac, but somewhere in the middle of the night the


Chapter 4-

28 November 2023

MONTPALAIS is a little château on the top of a sharp monticule, as they say in France, a lone, eleventh-century bastion, with many gaping eyes and hands and feet, all torn to bits, first of all by the


Chapter 5-

28 November 2023

I STAYED at the Hotel d'Angleterre. It opened on to the north, and from my room the Pic du Midi seemed but a leap, a touchable stretch of murmuring, unsubsiding green. From the mornings the mist rose


Chapter 6-

29 November 2023

GRANDMOTHER Lakshamma used to tell us a sweet story: 'Once upon a time, when Dharmaraja ruled Dharmapuri, he had a young son of sixteen, Satyakama, who had to be sent away on exile because his stepmot


Chapter 7-

29 November 2023

PAGES from my Diary. October 17. Catherine came here the day before yesterday. It's no use pushing her and Georges into each other's arms. Of course she's shy-but she looks at men as she would a lega


Chapter 8-

29 November 2023

TOOK Savithri back to Cambridge. At the station we jumped into a taxi and I left her at Girton College; then I went on to reserved for me. The short porter, called John, led me up the staircase to my


Chapter 9-

29 November 2023

IN LONDON I could not say whether I was happy or unhappy. I walked back and forth in my room in Kensington-it was on the third floor of an old building, and looked out on a lovely square beyond which


Chapter 10-

30 November 2023

DESTINY is, I think, nothing but a series of psychic knots that we tie with our own fears. The stars are but efforts made indeterminate. To act, then, is to be proscribed to yourself. Freedom is to le


Chapter 11-

30 November 2023

I FOUND MYSELF saying the Gayathri mantra as we landed at Santa Cruz. I had said it flay after day, almost for twenty years; I must have said it a million million times: 'OM, O face of Truth with a di


Chapter 12-

30 November 2023

I GOT BETTER. Dr Pai ordered three months in Bangalore, so Little Mother, Sukumari, Stidhara, and I, with the cook and Baliga, all went up to Bangalore. I hired a house in upper Basavangudi and with c


Chapter 13-

30 November 2023

MADELEINE HAD MOVED to a new house. 'I could never again live in Villa Ste-Anne,' she had written to me. The new one was called Villa Les Rochers, for the sloping garden was strewn with brown and whit


Chapter 14-

30 November 2023

ONE DAY MONTHS LATER just a few days before I was to leave for Paris--I went into Madeleine's room. She had influenza, and was coughing a great deal. She seemed almost shocked that I should have come


Chapter 15-

1 December 2023

AS THE TRAIN pulled itself northward, and we passed through A Eyguières, Tarascon, Avignon, Orange, there was much spring in the air-though it was only mid-February-and I thought of Savithri. There ha


Chapter 16-

1 December 2023

WHEN I CAME BACK to Paris I found Catherine, and the baby so pretty, so happy. It seemed as though happiness was near at hand, could be cus from a tree like a jackfruit, like a bel. I took a room near


Chapter 17-

1 December 2023

I HAVE NOW TAKEN a room off the Boulevard St-Michel, just where the rue de Vaugirard goes up by the Lycée St-Louis. My room is on the seventh floor-I had long been waiting to live up here, and had ask