Saturday 22 August 2015

The love song of the dark lady XIII

Chapter 13

The meeting in the end had not been difficult to arrange, but it had required some thought on my part.  I could stay out of things, more or less observing, from the side but with a little bit of direction, or I could act. I chose to act. I had been pondering all along this action, but the night before had determined my course. I had to act. The alternative was just too uncertain. I didn’t think the alternative really had a chance. Galina wasn’t going to change. It had been worth seeing how things had played out. But I had to make a judgement call, and there came a moment when I realised that I had to play my card. It may be that I was wrong to do so. But there is always a moment when a choice has to be made. I had reached that moment the night before when I left David and Galina. It’s a terrible responsibility we have sometimes when our actions can have outcomes that are unforeseen and affect lives in ways that none of us can guess. But failure to act is also an action so there is no ducking the responsibility. What right did I have to act? I had been asked to. Galina’s mother had been desperate. I promised to do all I could and I kept my promise.

Galina came into the guru’s rooms. She had a look of bewilderment on her face. She just did not expect to be there. She could think of no reason why she might have been called there. No-one ever went to the guru’s room. It just wasn’t done. Here was where he needed to prepare and relax. She looked around her shyly. She took in some of the luxurious décor. She noticed me. Our eyes briefly met and I saw a mixture of confusion and hostility. Above all, I saw the question what are you doing here?
The guru spoke and as usual his wife translated. I don’t think I said a word.

“Please sit down, Garudi,” the guru said.
“But what?”
“Don’t worry, you’ve done nothing wrong. It’s just we need to have a little chat.”

Galina sat in such a way that it was as if she was trying not to touch the seat with her bottom. It was obvious that she felt intensely embarrassed to have been chosen to come here. I understand she had been performing her usual tasks, helping serve lunch when the message had come down to her that she was wanted in the guru’s room that instant. Again the whispers went round the community. There were one or two smirks from some of the men. But these immediately received glares. It was unheard of for the guru to meet someone in his rooms, but there were occasional whispers. But then again, the whole morning had been unusual. Some of them remembered how I had approached the guru after the lecture and spoken a few words in English to him, very quickly. I heard later how this had excited some gossip, especially when soon after Garudi had been summoned to see the guru. The Hare Krishnas were just like all of us, just people who talked about each other and speculated about those in the group. Where would any of us be if we couldn’t talk about our friends a little maliciously now and then, especially when they are not there?

Galina bowed her head and made a sign of reverence.

“What can I do for you?”
“I have been your guide for some time and I’ve come to think of you as one of my best, one of my most devoted followers. You have always done what I said, without asking too much, knowing that I have a reason for asking what I do.”
“Are you willing to do what I tell you now?”
“If I can.”
“I want you to go with this woman right now and fly with her to Kaliningrad. I understand a flight will be arranged as soon as you get to the airport. You are only to take with you what you have here. We will send someone to gather together what you have at your flat.”
“What am I to do in Kaliningrad?”
“You are to live with your parents, get a job, live normally.”
“And what about those things we have been learning together. What of India? What of the next trip that we are going to take together?”
“I’m sorry, Garudi, but we are going to have to part now. I have been called elsewhere and my services are needed far from here.”
“But why? Why so suddenly?”
“I’m unable to tell you all of these things.”
On her face was a mixture of anger, confusion and even betrayal.
“But you yourself told me to leave my home and to come to Moscow and to follow you.”
“And now I’m telling you to go back. Garudi, I tell you these things because I am further along the path and can best judge what is best for you. That is why you follow and I lead.”

Galina looked at me with hostility.

“What has this to do with you? What have you done?” she said in rapid fire Russian.
When this was translated for him, the guru answered as I had not said a word.
“Evgenia Ivanovna was kindly sent here to observe. She is a friend and most highly respected in our community. She was sent by people who guide me.”

Galina looked absolutely dumbfounded at this new revelation.

“I don’t understand. I have known her for years. She hasn’t been involved. We used to talk, she always rather disapproved.”
“There are many things you don’t know, Garudi. For the moment you must simply accept. Will you?”
“I will reluctantly.”
“Will you go with Evgenia Ivanovna to Kaliningrad and then agree to stay with your parents?”

I saw Galina hesitate. It was all too sudden. A few minutes ago she had been lost in her trance and dreaming of India. A few more weeks of hard work and she’d be able once more to forget the snowy pavements of Moscow and she’d be once more in the din and the crowds of India. She’d find her cell in the nunnery and the old lady who was her friend. They would communicate more or less with their hands, but they would communicate. All day long she would have peace and quiet to say her mantra. But then she remembered that David would be along, too. She had agreed, or more or less agreed. Wasn’t that where they had left things last night? Where would he fit into the nunnery? It was this, above all, that had caused her to rebel the night before. And yet another part of her wanted to be with him. She wanted those talks they sometimes had. She remembered even in the beginning how even with broken Russian he had been able to get some idea across that she had never thought of before. She liked the idea that he loved her, she wanted that to continue. It made her feel, but then she shook of the idea of what it made her feel.

Now she was faced with going back to Kaliningrad in January. She knew exactly what it would be like, with much of the harbour frozen. She would find some dull job, but this time there would be little to look forward to. There would be her parents and some friends she had dropped some years ago, but what would happen to all the things she had valued these past couple of years? What would happen to Krishna?

“You are asking me to give up a lot?” Galina said.
“I am doing what I think is best for you.” I could see that the guru was looking just a little desperate.
“Can’t you explain a little?”
“No, Garudi. I can’t. But I can tell you a little. I have to go where you cannot follow. I have other work to do. I want you to listen to Evgenia Ivanovna. I want you to treat her as your guru”

Galina looked at me with surprise again. How could the guru be saying this? What did it mean?

“But she’s not.”
“You don’t know what she is, who she is. But if you have any respect for anything I have told you over the past years, you must do as I say. Will you?”

I saw the struggle even in the slight pause, but in the end, she had no choice and so she said the word.

“Now goodbye, Garudi. I doubt that we will see each other again and I won’t be able to write to you. I have to take a different path.”

I saw the relief on his face as Galina agreed to go with me. For one brief moment I’d seen doubt cross his face. Would she obey? Everything had depended on that.

A few hours later I was on a flight to Kalingrad. Galina was sitting next to me. I had helped her gather her things together and we had ordered a taxi. We sat more or less the whole way in silence. She was still in shock. What had happened to her was the equivalent of a car accident. She had been on a path, everything had been more or less planned. Her future had stretched ahead in a known way. That path had been set by her guru and knowing she was tending towards her goal had helped her over the bumps along the way. It had been difficult for her to leave her parents, but she had done what her guru had told her. When she had explained to him how they had tried to persuade her from the path, he had shown her why she must drop all those with views that differed from complete devotion to Krishna. It had been difficult to leave, but really life was easier surrounded by those who also were on the same path.  But why then had the guru told her to go back to her parents? She kept looking across at me. She thought it must have had something to do with me. But what could I have done to make the guru act in the way that he did?

At around this time, the guru was on a flight to London. He had quickly assembled everyone who was still there and told them that he had been called away. When someone asked about his return, he was vague. He told them to keep saying their mantra, but I understand that he wasn’t that bothered anymore about keeping up the guru act. He had washed his face and was dressed in western clothes. He just said ‘I’m sorry I don’t have time for explanations’.

I understand his wife went with him to the airport. I’m not quite sure what he told her, but I doubt that it was the truth. She obviously could not join him immediately as she didn’t have a visa. In fact, she was unable to join him at all. I’m not sure at what point she realised this. It may have been at the airport, when he looked into her eyes and said goodbye. She might well have sensed that this was the last time that she would see him. Would it have been then that she began to first feel doubts about the guru? Or would she have kept waiting for “un bel di”. She had been picked out from the crowd of followers because of her face, but above all, because of her eyebrows and her eyelashes. For just such a reason Lavrentiy Beria would pick someone he came across in passing. She would be taken to him in the Lubyanka and if she was lucky, she would emerge later not too much the worse for wear from the experience. She had been chosen because the way she had looked had satisfied the demands of the day, but really she was a victim of her beauty.

I wonder sometimes whether the long blonde lasted after the departure of the guru. His wife had been very beautiful indeed, but I wonder if later she looked in the mirror and rather regretted that beauty. I wonder if she might at some point cut it with dress making scissors, or if she would just move on to the next guru. Either way, she was just one more casualty of the power she no doubt most valued when growing up, the power to attract.

Names, too, have a power that people don’t always realise. I had approached the guru earlier and asked to talk to him in private. He had been dismissive and arrogant. 

“I’m afraid, I don’t talk in private. If you have something that concerns you there are many people here who can help. They can convey a message to me.”
I approached him closely and whispered.
“I think you really ought to talk to me in private, Robin. Otherwise, I might have to tell everyone what I have to say.”

He turned pale and looked at me. I gave him my special look that I had refined over those years. The look and the slight nod, said ‘yes, I do know who you are and I do know what you have done’.

It had needed a few weeks of work both in Russia and the UK. I had travelled to Cambridge to discuss things with old friends and colleagues. I’d been put in touch with some other people who were remarkably helpful. I did the same in Russia, sharing what I had found out and comparing it with what they knew of the guru. I gathered together a dossier. There’s no need to go into it in any great detail. Suffice it to say that it included financial irregularities, visa irregularities, the use of false names and multiple aliases around the world.

It seems that Robin had rather a number of wives who were sometimes also translators. Some sort of ceremony had usually taken place, but it wasn’t always a legal ceremony and even if it had been legal according to local practices, it would have been illegal anyway as he had a living wife in the UK. He travelled the world and received donations from the faithful and he lived rather well. I had no idea what he really believed. Perhaps, he actually did believe in Krishna, but he also had holidays from all that, which involved him living as plain Robin somewhere near London, where he had the sort of fun that his friends did. During these times he never once mentioned Krishna, nor said any mantras.

In his room, when we were alone, I had described some of this evidence. I told him about the various names he had used in various places. I told him about the bank accounts, the false accounting, the bigamy and the children who had been deserted. I told him, moreover, of the laws of the Russian Federation that he had broken. I saw that he was scared and so it had been hardly necessary for me to point out that these might be rather unpleasant consequences. Russian jails are not exactly pleasant places to stay in.

We made a deal. He would get out of Russia that day and he would persuade Galina to go with me and stay with her parents. He would try to persuade her to listen to what I had to say. He would keep up his act as that would be the best way for him to influence her. A confession that he was a charlatan would hardly help Galina. Quite the reverse, then he would have no leverage on her at all.  Finding out that the guru is a sinner, even a charlatan does not after all mean that the devotee ceases to believe. How many reverends have been found to not exactly practice what they preach? How many have cooked the books? Some many fall away from the path, but most forgive the sinner, especially if he shows the least sign of tearful repentance. I knew that Galina’s faith did not depend on the guru, but I also thought he was the one person who could get her to do what otherwise would have been impossible. 

He was remarkably pragmatic. He didn’t even try to fight it. Most likely, he had been in this position before and he was simply grateful for a way out. I told him it was highly unlikely that he would be given another visa to visit Russia, and, indeed, that if he had any sense, he would break all contact with those he had met here. I think he was only too grateful to do so.

He knew, of course, that he might have to face some of these charges in the UK. But better there than in Russia. Who knows, perhaps he could manage to get off some of the charges or else maybe he would just find another name. As long as he could find another name, all would be well. It’s only when someone whispers in your ear your real name that you need to worry.

That day I took Galina home. Her parents were delighted. They thanked me profusely and Galina understood that I had been sent to rescue her. But she had no idea whatsoever how I had done it. Nor indeed did her parents. It wasn’t my business what happened to the guru. I didn’t care. My mission had been to get Galina home. I had succeeded.

But I already knew that it would probably fail in the long term. It was for this reason that I had encouraged David. Only he could have saved her. I could get Galina home, but what could I do to make her stay. She would stay for a while, because her guru had told her too. But as the weeks passed and there was no word from him, she would look for another guru. I doubted very much that it would be me. I just might have been a high level Hare Krishna in deep cover as the guru had suggested, but I don’t think, Galina ever really believed that. Once the guru was gone, his authority, too, was gone. She had no reason to follow me, not least because if I hoped to influence her, it would be in the same way as before. Could I have argued for existentialism from the deep cover of the Hare Krishnas? That would indeed have been deep, all too deep. Galina knew very well what I believed and she knew that I was on a different path to hers. So I had little enough influence. She had rejected what I had to say long ago. Meanwhile, I reflected she would keep saying her mantra. She would keep learning her Sanskrit. She would keep singing her songs and reading her stories about Krishna. Within a short time she would be off again.

But I had given her a chance. I had given her parents a chance to talk to her. I had also given David a chance. Perhaps, he could meet her once more in Kaliningrad. There was something that joined them, but there was also something that separated them. I had seen both of these things. Galina loved David, or at least she loved him as much as any living man except Krishna. She wanted David to love her. It made her feel like a woman. Perhaps, it was the only thing that made her feel that way. He made her feel beautiful in a way that didn’t depend on how she looked. He didn’t care at all about her clothes or her hair cut with pinking shears. This was already a lot. It was more than many couples have and yet when he had embraced her, even though their embrace was close, even though there was practically no physical barrier, yet there was an infinite distance, because she could not quite bear to be held so. He felt this also even as he felt the hint of her desire that was unable to compete with her slight shudder at being held.

Could Galina love David back? He had been patient with her. More patient perhaps than any man she was likely to find. He was probably her one chance of really being rescued. I could do nothing further. When I returned home that night exhausted, I already knew that I would never see Galina again. When I had left, there was a look of hatred in her eyes. She didn’t know what I had done, but she resented it. She resented me.

“Who are you?” she had said to me. “David called you Effie.”
“Some people do.”
“But who are you? What do you do? Where are you from?”
“I’m from here, Galina. You know that.”
“What right did you have to interfere? I was happy.”
“Your mother asked me to.”
“What right did she have?”
“This looks like rebellion, Galina. Your guru told you to come back here.”
“But he did so because of you, Effie.”
“I think Zhenya works better in Russian. Don’t you? I simply told your guru that your parents wanted to see you. He’s a reasonable man and he agreed. Why don’t we meet for coffee some time? As I recall, he appointed me to take over.”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “When I see that look in your eyes, I rather tremble sometimes. Goodbye.”

She said the word that means goodbye forever in Russian and so I knew that I would not see her again.

“I’ve failed,” I told my husband. “This won’t last.”
“You have done all you could. You achieved more than I expected. Besides there’s, David. There’s still a chance.”