What, I asked myself, does one wear for dinner with a Guru?
The answer was layers. Lots of ‘em. Not because he might be quite holy and I should not expose an inch of my crinkly flesh to him and not because he might break out into spontaneous yoga poses and I could de-layer and join in. Mainly because, snow was forecast and it was brass monkeys out there. Plus I didn’t want to look as if was going on a date.
It took every ounce of effort for me to get out of the flat that night. I was trying to be less suspicious and take things on face value, but all I could think was ‘What does he want?’
‘Maybe’ I told myself sternly, ‘he senses your distress and wants to help. Maybe he tries to meet all of his pupils before the training intensive. Maybe he just feels a connection.’
We arranged to meet at an Italian place in North London. I set off like Nanook of the North, little face poking out of my furry hood (fake, naturalmente) braced against the wind. On arrival to the station I see I have a missed call from the Guru. Something tells me not to call back.
‘About to get on train in about 5 mins, you still good to meet?’
Reply pings back almost immediately:
This was the first time I’d been out properly for days. At each stop the trains filled up a little more than the last. I bristled at the close proximity of others, their flapping newspapers, nudging elbows, their clumsy feet. ‘Fuck off’ I hissed inwardly. It seems to work.
As the train chugged over the Thames I started to feel more than a tad nervous despite my medication (some of which I only just remembered to take before leaving). What on earth are we going to talk about? Do I act reverential or nonchalant? Make polite chit chat or just wait and see what comes out of my mouth? All I can really do is play it by ear.
‘I bet he expects you to pay, him being a holy man and all that’ whispered my inner voice gleefully, ‘I bet he doesn’t even carry money!’
‘Shut up!’ I retorted silently. The man next to me turns and looks at me oddly. Maybe not so silently. I turn my face to the window and bite my lip.
As the train pulled into the station I found myself on the verge of giggles. I have barely exchange more than three sentences with this guy and we’re having dinner. If I didn’t know that he was married to a beautiful young girl, I’d be crapping myself by now.
I arrived at the restaurant, and there he was, a tiny figure sitting at the back near the heater. That’s something at least. He looks strangely unimpressive, and out of context in winter attire without his body on show, and his adoring acolytes around him. I walked over to the table, say Hi, skip the air kissing stuff, and sit down, at once noticing his eyes, which are deep chocolate brown and twinkling.
‘So’ says I jovially, ‘I hope you’ve got your thermals on tonight!’
He laughed obligingly and I relaxed a little. We order food (chicken for him – not macrobiotic/fruitarian/vegan then) and drinks, water for him, wine for me. There is no way I can do this on water. Big mistake. Within half an hour of polite but warm chitchat I start to feel really out of it. Med + painkillers + wine = shitfaced.
He leans across the table and looks penetratingly into my eyes.
‘You look like a really happy person!’ he says with confidence.
I nearly spray him, myself and a passing waiter with Cabernet Sauvignon.
‘Me! Really?’ I say incredulously. So much for him being tuned into me.
‘Yes!’ he said with emphasis ‘sure you have your off days and sad times, but fundamentally you are very happy!’
No. I’m not. Really.
I blurt ‘So what are you? Some kind of Guru then?’
Subtle Sista, very subtle.
‘Me?’ he twinkles ‘No. I’m just an ordinary Brummie guy! But I live in India.’ This was said in such a way that told me that he really doesn’t believe that at all.
We chat, banter and eat, me quizzing him about his lifestyle, books and practice and taking the piss out of his fawning fans, him flattering me at every given opportunity. If I wasn’t so out of it I’d probably feel a mite giddy.
Suddenly he grabs my hand and holds it. I let out a little yelp of a laugh, alarmed. I didn’t see that coming. The grip gets tighter. The wound on my palm throbs dully. I keep my grip loose and flaccid. I’m not sure why.
‘I can feel your fire and your energy’ he tells me ‘you have a deep inner strength at your core.’
‘Seriously I don’t. I’m bonkers. I’m on medication, I self harm, I barely go out half the time!’
The next half an hour was like a cross between a session with Aunty C and a Piers Morgan interview (yuck). I pretty much spew up every bad thing about myself that I could possibly muster and a few besides including the fact that at times I don’t want to live. I’m not sure what my motivation was, it might have been my usual ‘Don’t get too close’ or the very new ‘Save me Master from this hideous incarnation! Show me the way!’
He kept hold of my hand and contradicted pretty much everything I said.
‘Sometimes even I don’t want to live, but you must do as you are still here aren’t you?’ Twinkle, twinkle ‘trust me, you have a great capacity for joy.’
I was starting to think that anything I said would have gleaned a positive, supportive response.
‘You arse rape kittens with a hot poker? That only demonstrates to me your bravery, curiosity and capacity for taking risks!’
All I can do really is smile, nod, and take it in the way that it was intended. Kindly.
‘Oh, yes, well maybe….OK…..really? Wow….that’s….well…’
Nod, nod, nod.
He wiggles my still captive hand. ‘Are you enjoying this?’
I stop nodding, startled and think. It is quite nice I suppose, I haven’t held anyone’s hand for quite some time.
‘How does it feel?’
‘It feels….it feels like its all one unit.’
And it does. Maybe that’s down to the fact that my hand has gone to sleep, but I had, somewhere down the line, gotten rather comfortable with it.
‘So don’t let go’ he grins ‘you didn’t want to come tonight did you?’
‘It’s not that’ I counter, ‘I just didn’t want to leave the flat.’
‘Funny you should say that’ says he, ‘we could have stayed in at yours as I was going to ask if I could stay.’
And there is it. The reason. I didn’t know whether to feel exasperated, exonerated or relieved. I KNEW it.
I feel like such a tit. What did I think he was? My own personal, Jesus?
He smiled, stroked my wrist and raised an eyebrow.
I know his wife! And even if he has no intentions of that sort, it would still feel very very wrong having him stay.
Sensing the change in mood, he justifies.
‘Sometimes I have an arrangement with students’, grip, grip, ‘where they get free lessons in exchange for putting me up.’
I don’t answer. Imagine if he lunged? Cringe!!
‘Don’t worry I have a hotel tonight and I fly home tomorrow. But I still want you to preside over my next conference, and if you can put me up for that weekend, you can attend all of the workshops for free.’
‘Oh, right, well….my place is very small…’
Smiles ‘I don’t take up much room’
‘I’m a bit of a hermit cat lady….’
‘I’m a hermit too and I like cats!’
Who likes her own space and doesn’t like men she hardly knows forcing themselves upon her!?? I’m starting to feel a bit panicky.
‘OK, well…can I think about it?’
I extract my hand as gently as I can, excuse myself and nip to the ladies.
We get the bill, pay and leave. He links my arm companionably and smiles. I return the smile.
‘Did you enjoy yourself? Glad you came?’
And I did. And was. But there was no way on Gods green earth that he was coming back to mine. I can just about tolerating close friends and family staying in my shoebox of a flat for a night, sharing the same loo/bathroom. Sometimes we can hear each other pee. As for a permanent ad hoc arrangement? I shudder.
‘Cold?’ The grip tightens. He’s a strong little thing. I nod.
He turns me around and gives me a big warm hug. I reciprocate. It’s nice. He’s nice. We say our goodbyes. He watches as I approach the train platform.
‘Have a think about it!’
I turn and wave. He’s right. He’s just an average Brummie man. Lovely. And easily more spiritually evolved than I am (not difficult really). But not a Messiah.
Today the UK is besieged by snow. Roads are blocked. Trains are down. People are panic buying at the supermarkets.
Flights are being cancelled left right and centre.
Imagine if I’d let him stay. He’d still be here now. Smiling, gripping, hugging, praising. And I’d wouldn’t be able to poo until he left in case he smelt it.
I know I won’t be able to put him up ad hoc when he’s in the country. I just have to find a nice way of telling him. I’m feeling super paranoid that he’ll be angry, offended and or that I’ll alienate myself from his followers, I mean students, when I go back to classes.
Then I remember his philosophy. He never does anything he doesn’t want to, but he gives what he can freely. And people understand. Because it’s just the way he is.
Lets hope that goes both ways.