An excerpt from Madhuri’s soon-to-be-launched book, ‘Mistakes on the Path’.
I had now moved into a room round the back of a mansion two streets behind the ashram, where a few spaces were rented to sannyasins while the main part of the house still sheltered a wealthy woman, whom I never saw. My room was large, upstairs, with a huge Raj-style bathroom with a claw-foot tub. There was an enormous window which was covered with screen instead of glass. A narrow walkway led along in front of this window, overlooking the dusty backyard of the mansion, where the servants moved about desultorily and great trees offered shadow. Beyond the yard were fields of cane.
Next to my entry door was a hallway, and on the other side of it lived Nisarg and her boyfriend Subhuti, in an identical room.
I paid 300 rupees a month for this room, which was quite a lot then, but worth it.
The movie Pretty Woman was shown in the ashram. (We had occasional movie nights, in what I’d been told was a converted elephant barn, in Meera. Only later someone insisted it had really been for huge, shiny black water-buffaloes. But somehow I can only see that beloved barn with an elephant in it.) I was utterly undone by it – the kindly gent, Richard Gere, showering the innocent prostitute, Julia Roberts, with gifts. I wanted this sort of thing for myself! And, with no Richard Gere in sight, I decided to do the next best thing – provide a bunch of beautiful clothes for myself. I had just enough money for the upcoming rent, but I borrowed it from myself, hoping more would come along. I was told of a very good tailor, and I bought fabric, created designs. What beautiful things I then had made! A short red jacket with white polka dots and bias-cut frills, in silk crepe. A dress to go with it. A vermilion silk-velvet jacket with black satin-silk lining… and so on. The tailor wasn’t in M.G. Road, but nearer, in verdant Boat Club Road – so it felt quite luxe to go for the fittings.
Finally the clothes were ready, and I went, on one of my usual frantically-busy, over-scheduled days, to pick them up. I rushed to collect them, then rushed on to the next thing… and somehow, by the time I’d gotten home, I didn’t have the new clothes – I must have left the bag in a rickshaw. I was devastated – just devastated! All that indulgence of the little poor girl, the neglected whore… who just wanted a nice daddy to take care of her, finally – gone! No indulgence after all! No rescue!
I put notes up around the Commune, in case anybody else had seen those clothes, either in a rickshaw or on some person – I drew pictures of the missing garments.
Someone took the notes down again, right away.
Somewhere I’d gotten my hands on a little book by a psychic, who gave formulas for getting back lost things. I just happened to be reading it right then. So I tried the prescribed ritual. I forget just how it went – but it was a distinct and direct plea for the return of lost items. I did it with great fervor before I went to sleep.
And then… sometime in the night, someone got into my bed behind me and lay there, putting an arm around my waist. He squeezed my body hard with that arm – so hard that it was as if the arm had metal in it – hard, and vicious. He yanked me back against his own body.
I woke up, brushing the hair out of my eyes, putting my hand down to try to pry the arm off me. It was very difficult, but I managed, and, completely terrified, I turned towards the other side of the bed to see who was there.
There was nobody.
Just then I saw the wavering beam of a flashlight outside the window, moving along the narrow terrace before my room, then turning down into the hallway.
I was too frightened to move, but I thought of Nisarg and Subhuti, and after a bit I forced myself to get out of the bed, go to the door, unhook the screen, go hesitantly across the hall, and knock on their door.
The flashlight had been shone right into Subhuti’s face! He’d called out and the intruder had vanished. Subhuti was going to get out of bed and investigate, but Nisarg wouldn’t let him!
I listened to all this, and then went back to bed.
Next day I found out that the mansion had been burgled for the first time in forty years. Silverware was taken, and a few other things; and some sannyasins’ rooms downstairs had been raided.
I met Sarita in the ashram later, and told her the story, of the actual burglar and the spectral assault.
“Greed,” she said simply, referring to my ritual and its purpose…