Sunday 16 August 2015

The love song of the dark lady X

Chapter 10

When David described some of this to me later I encouraged him to continue. I emphasised the positive and downplayed the negative. His mood was mixed and as we smoke and drank he began to confide in me. He needed me at that moment and, I too, needed him. I knew he was one of the best chances I had of fulfilling my task. Galina was deeply in. I couldn’t even reach her at all. We had barely even spoken. She had been pleased to see me, but my story had always been that I was interested in finding out about meditation and Indian mysticism. I had written to her that I’d found my own path dull and finally a dead end. I wanted to try something else and had met some people in Kaliningrad who had showed me something about yoga. I described some of the books that I had read, some of the classics of Vedic literature. She’d suggested that I come to this gathering of like minds. But then that was my cover story. I was an interested participant. I hadn’t come to see her. She had only done me a favour by helping me to find this meeting. I had some more cards that I could play, but I hoped that that might not be necessary. If David could win her round, that would be altogether better in the long run. My leverage, at that point, with Galina was limited. I could only really talk to her in passing. We were friends, but not so close that she would have expected us to talk incessantly. Anyway, her role now was as a devotee instructing an initiate. Whenever I started talking to her about life outside, she reminded me that we must focus on our inner life, on saying our mantra and on listening to the guru. I couldn’t argue against her position, as that would have blown my cover.

It was only David who could argue, for he didn’t need any cover. He’d been clear that he was there to see her. But I couldn’t take that line. Even David could not attack directly. His goal was similar to mine, but also different. Imagine if he had fallen in love with a girl from Japan, he would have done everything he could to respect her beliefs and her culture. If they had gone together to a Shinto temple, he would not have criticised her beliefs and practices, rather he would have respected them and discussed them in a friendly way. He would have said that he wanted to learn and would have listened patiently as she told him of each little thing she did in the temple. Indeed, such a person, in love with a girl from Japan, would have tried to eradicate from his mind any negative thoughts about Shinto or Buddhism, because these would be negative thoughts in part about the girl he loved. It is for this reason people sometimes convert when they marry. But even if they don’t convert, they treat the beliefs of the loved one with respect. A lover doesn’t make jibes about idols and ancestor worship.

David’s goal was not to turn Galina away from Krishna. When every day there were discussions, he knew that Galina was either listening, or probably would later hear what had been said. Therefore, he was careful in how he argued. He did not attack, he only defended and if that defence contained a veiled attack, he veiled it very carefully with his excellent maskirovka. He didn’t care what Galina believed so long as she believed in him.

I continued to help a little with the vocabulary and as we sat together in his room at the end of each day our discussion would range over the issues involved. In this way his thoughts developed like in a tutorial. In this way I was able to describe some new defensive formations and ways of outflanking attacks. I told him, for instance that it was only by focussing on externals that people felt they had the need to travel to India to find enlightenment. Boethius or Bunyan after all could find God in a prison cell. Though, let alone faith need not be influenced by surroundings. So why travel all the way to India to sit in a nunnery? Galina had exactly the same mind in Kaliningrad as she did there. Why choose someone else’s religion if you are seeking mysticism and that which is beyond the ability of all of us to think. Wittgenstein found this in a prisoner of war camp. It is not as if Christianity lacks mysticism. I thought these people were looking for something exotic, something strange, but this exoticism only masked the shallowness. They were imitating someone else’s practices and doing so rather badly. It was as if I went to Japan for a while and looked on as people performed the rites of Shintoism. I might read some books on the subject and then return home and set up a Western branch of Shintoism. But it is likely that I would miss something. What I would miss would not necessarily be a lack of understanding, but I would miss the mundaneness of every day Japanese life. Shinto would be something that was integrated into Japanese life, something that was done more or less automatically without necessarily too much thought. With my newly found enthusiasm and obsession I could easily change this into a cult.

So, too, here. There were millions of Hindus in India who went about their daily lives and sometimes went to the temple. But it was just that. It was a part of everyday life. It wasn’t an obsession. These Indians did not say a mantra all day long. They did not listen to endless lectures about whichever God they focussed on. Their Hinduism was therefore mild and gentle and the reason for this is that it was theirs. It was their culture. This western imitation however, was as far away as possible from ordinary life. I saw a lot of intelligent Russians dressing up in face paint and wearing saris, pretending to understand something that they were not. They imitated and aped what they thought Indians would do, but they were all deeply undercover. They all played a role, just as much as I did. They all had their funny sounding Indian names, but in a few days they would return to ordinary Russian life. For many of them this was just a sort of role-playing game. They came here because there was an emptiness in their life and this somehow filled it. Many of them I knew did not take it all that seriously. I had had a few words with Vera and she’d made it clear that she was just interested in Hare Krishna as another form of esotericism.  It went along with her ankhs and her crystals and whatever else she could dream up. She was therefore quite safe and in no need of rescuing. She still lived with her parents, I think.

But Galina took these things seriously. There was an intensity about her. There always had been. I think also there was a greater emptiness in her than in the others. Her need was greater and so she had searched harder. Only love could fill this emptiness. Only David could.

He could get through to her. I knew that during their walk in the woods he had got through to her. The Hare Krishna smile had gone. Her eyes had flashed like they had done when he’d first met her. She’d stopped saying her mantra. Only he could make her stop saying it forever.

The mantra was the key to the brainwashing. There had been a discussion one night about the difference between telling the rosary and saying the mantra. David had said that when he said his rosary, he focussed both on himself and on the object of his prayer. He didn’t lose his self and that was not his goal.  That was not his tradition and it was not his path. In this way he explained the differences between what he believed and what the others believed without criticising. This was always his way. The criticism was implied, never stated. He defended his beliefs ably and showed how they were incompatible with the Hare Krishna beliefs.  In doing so he pointed out where following Krishna led, but it was always up to the Krishna follower to conclude that this wasn’t the path and this wasn’t the direction.

Yet, despite his able defence, I worried about David, too. I saw him get rather too involved in the practices. Even if he was only there to see Galina, I saw his eyes glaze over like hers did during the singing and especially during the dancing. Sometimes in the discussion he was willing to concede a point that I would not have conceded. Sometimes I wondered how far he would be willing to go for love. I didn’t think he had any limits.  Galina had got him to come in the first place because she knew that he loved her. How much was she willing to use that leverage? If she offered love in exchange for following her path, would he take the offer? I wondered. I rather thought that he would. But then I also thought he would just be going under deep cover. Yet I worried for this was a very dangerous game to play. His love could rescue Galina, but it was a two- edged sword. Her love, or even perhaps the promise of her love, could take him places that were not quite safe. Even if he was in deep cover, there is always the danger of going native. At what point does pretending to be a Hare Krishna amount to being a Hare Krishna? Saying the mantra all day will block out any other thought and any other self. Eventually, the person who infiltrates the mafia, finds that all their friends are in the mafia and their assumptions, even their actions are mafia actions. At this point the cover can become so deep that it ceases to be cover at all.

I told him a little of my own love for my husband as a way of expressing sympathy for his difficulty. The path of love is not always easy and it can be necessary to do what it takes. I described how I had met Petr in Denmark, how we’d got together and how we wrote letters after that when he’d gone back to Russia. But our situation had seemed hopeless. I couldn’t visit him and he couldn’t visit me. But he had been able to arrange it so that he could get back to Denmark some months later and I had faced a choice. I didn’t know him terribly well. We had spent only a few weeks together and I would be going to a place I had never been. I had to face some rather difficult moral choices too. I had to gain permission from some people in Cambridge who had invested a lot of time and effort in me. I had some rather difficult and intense discussions with Russians both in Copenhagen, and later in Moscow and Kaliningrad. It wasn’t easy for our love to find its place. I took some risks. There were times, especially in the early years, when I was frightened. I have faced some very scary people over the years, but I picked a path through them, because I knew what my path was. But most of all I knew that I had love.

It was because of love that Petr and I were able to find a way to be together. Without that I would not have even considered going to the Soviet Union.  But given that I did have love, I would not have even considered not going. It is love that changes everything. It motivates in a way that nothing else can. But the point is that I knew that Petr loved me. I could see it. It was not a role that he played, nor was it a role that I played. You can’t fool someone on this, not for long.

I told David some of this, both as encouragement, but also as warning. If he could win her love, it would be worth doing anything for Galina. Of course, it was worth flying to see her, just for the chance of it. But it must be two-way traffic. There was a feeling between them, but after all, in the end, she had said ‘No’. The realisation of this sometimes hit him. It wasn’t always, but when tired, when our conversation became full of feeling, I could see that he had found a sadness here, outside Moscow. Part of him wanted to stick it out, but another part was inclined to give up and go. After a couple of drinks he began once more to express regret at coming. I thought it worth him staying on and seeing what might happen.

“A proposal sometimes does something to a woman,” I said. “It makes it clear that you are serious. You have flown a long way and now you have proposed.”
“But she turned me down.”
“Yes, she turned you down. But she will feel flattered. And, moreover, she will be thinking about that proposal. Give her a chance. Sometimes women need a little time.”
“It’s like something out of Jane Austen.”
“Do you mean this turning down a proposal as a matter of form? As if it’s necessary to say ‘No’ two or three times, because that’s the way it’s done?”
“It used to be that way I think out of a sort of feminine modesty. It was expected. It was part of the language game that they played.”
“I rather think Galina is a little like that, but also like a heroine in one of these novels: she is scared of love. It must have been something like the great unknown in early 19th century England and rather scary, too, given the chance of death in childbirth. I don’t know how far you can take the analogy, but it’s not a bad one. That’s why she loves Krishna so much. It’s a way of loving and, perhaps, being loved without being touched.”
“Is she scared of that side of things?”
“Something happened to her one summer a few years ago, she went from looking like a model to more or less looking like she does now. She went from being someone who wanted to attract a man to someone who wanted to repel all advances.”
“She does that with me, too.”
“No, David, I suspect you are closer to her than any man alive. You are the one chance she may have of ordinary love. She is very close indeed to loving you intensely.”
“Do you really think so?”

I said I did, but I wasn’t sure. But I thought there was a chance. He was the best card I had to play. Otherwise, I would have to play the last card. I thought he could save her. Anyway, I had seen that she, too, sometimes glanced at him. She was less indifferent than she sometimes pretended.