Tuesday 18 August 2015

The love song of the dark lady XI

Chapter 11

There was an odd tension between David and Galina over the next days, but nothing fundamentally changed. I saw however, that he was getting more and more tired. He wasn’t sleeping well in his room. He hadn’t regretted getting a room of his own. I, too, was glad that there was a place that we could sit and drink late at night and smoke cigarettes without standing outside. But when we sat there, we kept on our coats and it still felt cold. He wasn’t eating very much and the whole experience was grinding him down.

In essence, everything was a repetition. Just as they repeated the mantra endlessly, so they repeated everything else. The songs were repeated. The little ceremony with the Krishna idol was repeated. The guru repeated what he had said before with slight variations on the theme. The dancing was repeated. The group assembled to debate with David was always the same. It was relentless. People were friendly, but they were most concerned, not so much with him, as with how he would continue his relationship with Krishna when he went back to Scotland. He was vague about it just to get them off his back. He said that there were lots of Indians in Britain, perhaps, he would find out about these things from them. But this was met with incomprehension.  Above all, he should avoid Indians. Their form of religion had been corrupted long ago. He had to find a Hare Krishna group. People offered to put him in contact with others like them in Britain. David thanked them, but hoped they wouldn’t bother. He was struggling. The line that he had been taking that he was just there to see Galina, that he was a Catholic who was curious about eastern religion, had been beaten down. They had begun to make him engage with the actual beliefs. They had seen him taking part in the dance. Perhaps, they sensed his weakness.

I think David sensed it, too. It is so easy to get caught up in cult-like hysteria. Even I, who knew a lot more about some of the cult–like aspects of this particular group of Hare Krishnas, found myself caught up in it. This is after all, a part of human psychology. I know that if I had been a German at one of their rallies in the 1930s I, too, would have been shouting “Sieg Heil” or anything else everyone there was shouting.  Even when I knew the truth, I had still felt myself going along with the dominant view in the Komsomol meetings and also for that moment believing it. It is perfectly possible to believe something we know not to be true.

The moral superiority some of us feel about the SS or the NKVD is wholly misplaced. Given the choice between self-preservation and doing something awful that everyone else is doing, few of us part from saints choose self-destruction. The best we can hope for is to go along with the crowd and contribute as little as possible. Given the right circumstance all of us are equally guilty.

While I had arrived at this gathering of followers and devotees fully aware of its cult like status, fully aware of the real nature of the guru, I, too, found myself swept along in the dance. Part of it was just to be able to stay undercover without giving myself away, but not all of it. It wasn’t only an act. I sang the mantra “Hare Krishna” and I meant it, even though I knew the truth. This is why all this group psychology is so dangerous. It is very powerful and when a person is weak, when he is unhappy, it can be easy and so delightful to drown yourself in that dance which washes away all other thoughts.

There can only have been a couple of days left when David rebelled. He asked one of the people, who looked after the building, to arrange a taxi. He was packed and waiting. The word went around very quickly. Suddenly, everyone was very kind to him; suddenly, everyone was very gentle, telling him how much they would miss him if he went. He just kept telling everyone that he was tired, he was cold, he couldn’t eat. He was quite determined. Perhaps, he sensed the need for self-preservation. Perhaps, he was fully aware of his own weakness and felt the need to get away or else, give in.

I had guessed that something like this might happen. I didn’t disapprove. He had done all he could. Galina had not really changed in any way towards him. She had spent a little more time with him than before, but she was still fundamentally only involved in her own mantra. She had gone back to being Garudi. Her eyes had glazed over. A smile continually spread across her face as if she was high. She was high with her mantra. He had been able to break through to her on the snowy path away from the building, but when they had come back to the warmth, she had more or less gone back to blanking it all out from her mind. She kept repeating Hare Krishna, until David no longer entered her thoughts.

At what point does someone give up the search for love? Some people are willing to wait years in the hope that a best friend will become a lover.  Who has not come across the case of someone who loves without getting anything back? It is common enough. That person frequently thinks if I’m just a little bit nicer, if I wait just a little bit longer, then she will change, she will come to love me. But it rarely works out that way. Once the path has been set that one party loves and the other does not, then it normally continues that way. But usually at some point the person who loves without hope realises this and gives up. David had with Galina in Kaliningrad. He had realised that the relationship was going nowhere and so had said goodbye not expecting to see her again. It was she who had resurrected things. Now as he sat waiting for the taxi to arrive, she chose to resurrect things again.

Was it her choice? I think, it was at least in part. Yet a sort of panic had spread through the building with the news that David was packed and ready to go. I saw many people talking to Galina. I even saw the guru and his wife in a little group with Galina. It may be that they were persuading her, or it may be that they were giving her a dispensation. I didn’t really understand how they dealt with human relationships. There were few obvious couples except the guru and his wife. Everyone slept in separate dormitories. But after a time Galina came to where David was sitting and everyone else left, and left them alone.

“I hear you’re planning to leave,” she said. “Weren’t you going to say goodbye?”
“Yes, of course. I’m sorry, Galina, it’s just I can’t take it anymore.”
“Can’t take what?”
“The food, the cold… I’m tired.”
“That’s not the real reason though, is it?”
“It’s not what I expected. I’ve given it a good try, but there doesn’t seem much point. I didn’t come here to listen to these lectures.”
“I wanted to you to find out about something that is important to me.”
“But for what, Galina? For what purpose?”
“Well how else can there be a relationship without understanding?”
“But we don’t have a relationship, Galina.”
“I’m not ready for what you want. I can’t make any promises and at the moment I have to focus on this. It’s important to me, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something important between us.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It means a lot to me that you came here and I want us to continue writing and seeing each other.”
“I don’t think I could bear another of these retreats.”
“It wouldn’t necessarily have to be that way. It’s just I was a little scared of meeting you alone in Moscow. You have to be patient with me, David.”
“You’re scared?”
“Yes, I’m scared.”
“What happened to you?”
“It doesn’t really matter, does it? Perhaps, nothing happened, or else I just realised that I didn’t like how I had been living. I looked for something else and found this.”
“But can I fit into this?”
“That’s what we’re finding out. There may be the chance to find out further.”
“What chance?”
“I may be able to go to India again. You could come, too. We could find out a lot that way.”
“And would we be together?”
“In a way. Let’s not rule anything in and let’s not rule anything out.”
“I’ve never been to India. I never had any desire to go. It was never a culture that particularly interested me and people say it’s dirty and you get ill.”
“It’s tough, David. It’s much tougher than spending a few days in a large building outside Moscow. The food will be worse, too. If you can’t pass this test, how could you pass that one?”
“I have my own beliefs.”
“That’s fine. They are more or less the same. Just so long as you are open to new experiences.”
“You want me to stay?”
“Yes, I do very much. I’m sorry, I haven’t spent as much time with you as you would have liked, but why don’t you sit with me today? Everyone is so glad that you are here, and everyone is happy that I have someone special with me.”

Of course, he stayed. What else could he have done in the face of such persuasion? He could see that she meant it, too. The eyes were the same as they had been on the snowy path. They were the same as on their first afternoons in Kaliningrad. She was like she had been when they had first met at the airport, happy to see him and to be with him. The tenderness was real and the caresses while not physical, were felt as if they had been. He saw that there was feeling in her eyes. It wasn’t quite the same feeling that he felt, but it wasn’t so very different. He felt there was a chance and a man in love will endure much for a chance.

I, too, was glad. David had become quite dear to me, but he was also my best chance of rescuing Galina. If he had gone, I would have had to act alone and that would have been harder. I was still ready to do so, but I knew that my course of action, while powerful, might also do harm. I was very aware of the responsibility, especially the long-term responsibility.

I wondered what she really felt. I think, Galina really did feel something. She loved David in her own way. There was some sort of problem she had about doing something about it, but time and patience could overcome that. If he could only get her on her own for a while, I thought he had a pretty good chance. Love and spending time alone together will usually result in two people finding a way of expressing that love. The problem was that when Galina retreated into Garudi, when she focussed on herself and her mantra, it wasn’t clear that there was any room for anyone else. There wasn’t even any room for Galina.