A Review of “The Collected Stories of Saki” by H. H. Munro

H. H. Munro (Saki)

I do not know how popular Saki (Hector Hugh Munro) is nowadays. During my college days, short stories by him and O. Henry were mandatory in almost all college textbooks. I think “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry and “The Open Window” by Saki might be two of the most anthologised stories. The difference between the two authors is that while O. Henry directly appeals to our emotions and the twist at the end strikes with the power of a jack-hammer, Saki is more subtle and his stories appeal to our intellect. Saki’s stories are more enjoyable in retrospect, the mull over; whereas O. Henry can become jaded after a while.

I had been on the lookout for a collection of Saki’s short stories, and stumbled upon this cheap edition quite serendipitously. I believe it contains all of his work; I had read quite a few of them in my teens and twenties, and savouring them again along with many which were fresh to me was a rare treat. I took this book very slowly, relishing the taste, like a single-malt whisky on a rainy evening: you get a pleasant high which stays with you for a long time.

Saki writes humorously; but he does not write humour, like P. G. Wodehouse whom he influenced. Bizarre would be a more fitting word. In this, he is akin to Roald Dahl, as his stories move from the funny to the bizarre to the uncanny to the truly horrific. Saki could be classified as a writer of black comedy, but he would not have recognised himself as such, because the term was coined almost twenty years after his death.

Many of his stories are indeed humour, though of a satirical nature. As is the case with most Englishmen, Saki revelled in ridiculing the hypocrisies of his fellow countrymen – notably those of the well-heeled, aristocratic lot. Two of his creations, Reginald and Clovis Sangrail, are young-men-about-town who do not do anything other than flit about from one country house to another, getting into scrapes and helping others to get into scrapes. They are the prototypes of the “drones” popularised by Wodehouse. However, his humour frequently slips into satire and a darker kind of fantasy, which never happened with Wodehouse.

This volume comprises six collections: Reginald, Reginald in Russia, The Chronicles of Clovis, Beasts and Super-beasts, The Toys of Peace and The Square Egg – more than a hundred stories. They can be roughly divided into the following categories:

  1. Humorous pieces which cannot be called stories – they consist of a character (usually Reginald or Clovis) soliloquizing or in conversation with somebody (mostly an aristocratic member of the opposite sex), expounding unusual views on English life in a matter-of-fact way. They are classic examples of underplayed British humour.
  2. Stories of footloose young men and women, out to wreak havoc in straitlaced English society. I think these escapades are the ones which mostly influenced Wodehouse.
  3. Strange tales bordering on the fantastical which walk the fine tightrope between horror and humour: the kind of stories at which we have to laugh to prevent ourselves from shivering.
  4. Out and out fantasies. These may be satirical, darkly comical, or outright terrifying.
  5. Bizarre stories which are frightening without any supernatural element.

One common thread that runs through all stories is a child’s delight at cocking his snook at authority. Many of them actually feature children getting their own back at unfeeling grownups. Even if the children are not there, the author’s tone is one of the delighted rebellion of a naughty child at an orderly universe. Saki had been raised by a number of aunts, rather like Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster, and the rancour of a restricted childhood shows – because whatever be the case, like Bertie says: “Aunt’s Aren’t Gentlemen!”

A few of the stories require special mention in my opinion:

The Open Window: An excellent character study, the story develops from a normal enough premise and suddenly moves into a twilight zone, again to come back to the normal English drawing room. The story is simple and plausible, yet on rereading, one is able to glimpse a dark world residing in a young girl’s brain.

The Interlopers: Two men, out to kill each other because of a blood feud, are trapped under a tree. They settle their age-old quarrel, just to see fate arrive as the interloper.

Sredni Vashtar: An accident or the frightening wish-fulfilment of a cruel childish fantasy? This tale could be right out of “Tales from the Crypt” or “The Twilight Zone”.

The Hounds of Fate: A man, living a lie in a case of mistaken identity, finds somebody else’s fate catching up with him.

The Story-teller: A most unusual storyteller, with a most unusual story, manages to keep a group of children entranced during a train ride, even though their aunt doesn’t approve.

The Penance: A story of childish revenge which could easily have become a horror story.

Mind you, these are my personal favourites. Others may choose differently. The fact is that most of the stories are way above average.

One caveat: whoever did the proofreading for this book has done a horrendous job. The book is littered with typos, like stones in freshly cooked rice (to translate a simile from Malayalam).

If you have not discovered Saki yet, I urge you to do so. It will definitely be worth your while.

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The Mythical Roots of Election Symbols (A Whimsy!)

The Worthing Malayali forum gifted me the beautiful Book of Symbols for writing them a play: and I must say that the gift is out of all proportion for the services rendered (it was chosen by my brother-in-law, a member of that esteemed organisation who knows my tastes inside-out). This book, published by Taschen Books, is a compilation of musings on universal symbols in art and myth, and for a Jungian like me, a veritable treasure-trove. The book is not scholarly or psychological – the focus is on the artistic and mythical, and stimulation of the imagination, not analysis, is the aim. I am keeping it by my bedside, dipping into it now and then, savouring the beautiful images and allowing my mind to ruminate.

In this context, I suddenly found that almost all the symbols used by the major political parties of India had deep mythical roots. Was it just coincidence or had the subconscious guided the powers that be in choosing those symbols? I was on a whimsical ride suddenly, trying to dig up the possible connections between Jung and the political parties of India! What follows is the result.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)

I will start with the BJP because their symbol, the lotus, is connected to religion – purposefully. Being a party which consciously promotes Hinduism as the guiding principle of India (rather than the secularist principles enshrined in the constitution), they could not have chosen a better one: because the lotus is a symbol which carries a depth of meaning for Indians. A lotus originates from the navel of Vishnu, as he lies asleep dreaming the universe into being: Brahma sits on it, continuously engaged in Srstih (“creation”). The Buddha sits in it, untouched and untouchable, as he surveys the world. According to yoga, the highest chakra (vital energy centre) in the subtle body is a thousand-petalled lotus seated in the brain.

According to the book in question, India is not the only culture which connected the lotus to myth: in Egypt, the sun god Re is symbolised by this flower rising from the primordial ocean. The blue lotus of the Nile is sacred to the goddess. There is also the photograph of a beautiful sculpture of a Mayan god emerging from the folds of a water-lily, a flower of the same genus, thus proving that the sacred nature of the lotus was prevalent in Mesoamerica also.

What makes the lotus so special?

From the book:

…its roots sink into the murky soil of a pond or river bottom. From there, stems rise above the water surface to present bright flowers to the sun… As a poetic image and visual icon, the lotus symbol evokes the realisation that all life, rooted in mire, nourished by decomposed matter, growing upward through a fluid and changing medium, opens radiantly into space and light. The mire and fluidity symbolize the grosser, heavier qualities of nature, including the mind’s nature. The flower, beautifully multipetalled, symbolises the array of subtler, more lucid qualities, with the golden hue, the radiance of spirit, at its center.

Not a bad choice for a party which plans to promote a pan-Hindu culture.

Indian National Congress

India’s oldest party, the Indian National Congress (or just Congress for short) is a hoary old man on the Indian political scene, having been in existence much before India gained freedom from British rule – in fact, it was originally a movement to promote self-rule for India in a peaceful way, created by an Englishman! The advent of Gandhi changed all that, and the Congress became the spearhead of the Indian Independence movement. After gaining independence, however, the party has not had a consistent or coherent platform – officially they are socialistic, but in practice leaning to the liberal right.

The Congress adopted the symbol of the “Hand” in the early eighties and has stuck with it since. Although on first glance, the image is bereft of any mythical significance, there is more here than meets the eye.

Again, from the book:

In religions throughout the world, the Hand of God denotes supreme, inexorable agency. As primary instruments of the creative, the hands of the homo faber imitate the mythic shaping of matter into discriminated being by deities who chisel, mold, sculpt, weave and forge creation. Hands signify the sovereign, world-creating reach of consciousness; they embody effectiveness, industry, adaptation, invention, self-expression and the possession of a will for creative and destructive ends.

The book talks about the language of hands – the ‘mudra’s – in Indian dance, and a possible reason for the Congress’s choice of this particular symbol seems highly likely: the raised hand, palm outward, is the standard posture for conferring a blessing. Many gods, the Buddha, and various godmen are frequently shown in this pose. The Congress tries to similarly project omnipotence with regard to Indian politics: this symbol was chosen at the time of Indira Gandhi, who is almost a demigod in the party’s canon.


A secular image which still conveys a powerful mythic message.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)

Aam Aadmi (‘Common Man’) Party is the joker in the pack. It came out of nowhere in the Delhi Assembly Elections and dethroned the ruling Congress – worse, relegated it to third place. The novel thing about this party is that it consists of a bunch of mavericks from various walks of life, who have been fed up with the corruption and decay in the world of the career politician. They plan to totally change the system by rooting out corruption and changing the country so that focus is shifted to the common man, rather than the moneyed and influential. The sweeping changes they intend to make to the system are also reflected in their election symbol: the broom.

Does the broom have a mythical significance? It appears that it does.

From the book:

Throughout the world, the sweeping of house or shop with a broom is one of the first acts in the ordering of the day; it is reality and ritual. Zen Buddhism embraces the broom as an emblem of the sage, signifying contact with the world that must accompany pureness of thought. Broom suggests simplicity through the elimination of what is unnecessary – the sweeping away of the illusions, strivings and attachments that clutter consciousness – and alludes to the emptiness in which unforeseen possibilities of enlightenment can spontaneously emerge.

I do not know whether such deep thought has gone into the choosing of this particular symbol, but I am sure another thing, mentioned in the book, has: the association of the broom with the woman, and in India, specifically with one of lower class and caste. Because in India, the broom, though it cleans, is itself considered unclean: so are its wielders. Hitting somebody with a broom is the ultimate insult. So in a way, the AAP is consciously projecting its lower status – as well as the power of its weapon, which the higher class cannot counter.

Will it work? Only time can tell.

A Review of “Holy Hell” by Gail Tredwell

Mata Amritanandamayi is a household name in Kerala. Her devotees adore her: her detractors hate her: and the general public, even if they hold neutral views, cannot help being overwhelmed by the multimillion dollar industry that she has become: hospitals, engineering colleges, software companies – her empire spans a huge area. Devotees cross the seven seas regularly to sit at her feet; she crosses the seven seas to meet them at their homes across the world. And she hugs all and one who come to her – known as the “Hugging Saint”, she is Amma (“Mother”) to all her devotees.

The rationalists, leftists and radical Islamic groups hate her with a fervour matching the love of the devotees – because Amma is a magnet who is often used by Hindu groups to further their ends, as a “Bhakti” movement is always a potential political goldmine. There have been determined efforts to dethrone her from her lofty perch, allegations of financial and other misdeeds at her ashrams, but so far none have been proven. It is hardly surprising, because in a multicultural democracy where religion is always a touchy subject, no government will foolishly go against such an institution without solid evidence.

So one can imagine all the hell which would have broken loose by the publishing of the potentially incendiary memoir, Holy Hell: A Memoir of Faith, Devotion, and Pure Madness by Gail Tredwell (aka Gayatri), an Australian national and former devotee and inmate of Amma’s Ashram for twenty years, in which she claims that she was physically and mentally abused and sexually exploited by her so-called guru during her tenure. She also makes serious allegations against the saint like financial misappropriations and sex with many male followers. Kerala has gone into verbal overdrive with shrill accusations from both sides flying across the media and the internet. As with all such cases, there is very little rational analysis of the book since the emotional barometer is near the breaking point.

This is why I decided to read the book, to find out for myself what the hell (!) this was all about.

***

A disclaimer in the beginning: I am a sceptic. I do not believe in god as a concrete entity, but only as a human concept: a valid concept, but a concept all the same. So for all practical purposes, I am an atheist. I do not hold any brief for the so-called “godmen” or “god women” – as far as I am concerned, they are making a living on a gullible public. All the so-called “miracles” I consider to be outright lies or cheap magic tricks. So my loyalties are firmly fixed on one side of the debate. Just so that you know.

That said, I do not mind somebody constructing an ashram and attracting devotees. Good luck to them, I say. The people who flock to these gods on earth are mostly educated people gifted with rational minds to think things out. The fact they do not do so means that deep down, they want to believe – it is a strong spiritual need. As long it is fulfilled by anything, and gives them happiness, why should I bother?

While reading this book, however, I was adamant that my prejudices should not inform my view. Whether I agree with the author or not, the review should be impartial, analysing the book on its own merits. Gail Tredwell has already been almost deified by the anti-Amrita group (John Brittas of Kairali TV, a channel sponsored by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), flew over
to the US to interview her!) and vilified as an agent of atheist-Christian-Islamic mafia by the Hindu right-wingers. Both views are informed more by the political leanings of the proponents than the merits of the book, I’m sure – as is always the case with such issues.

Well, onto the book.

The Story

Thousands of Westerners came to India in the seventies. I still remember seeing a lot of white men and women, dressed in what could be termed rags, walking around with backpacks. When asked, my mother told me that they were “hippies”, her mouth turndown in disgust at the word. For the average Keralite, a hippie meant a person who did not wash, smoked pot, and indulged in loose sex: however, now I feel that many of them were searching for something which was unavailable in their country, and which they (erroneously) believed was abundantly present in the “mystic” East – a way to the realisation of God. Gail Tredwell was such a naïve teenager.

After spending a relatively peaceful time at Tiruvannamalai at the Ramanashram of Ramana Maharshi, Gail’s quest for a personal guru brought her to Vallikkavu near Kollam in Kerala, where a young girl named Sudhamoni was earning a name for herself as a saint and miracle worker. She immediately took up the post of “Amma”‘s personal assistant (and going by the account of the things she did, valet and slave), attaching herself to the self-proclaimed godwoman for the next twenty years.

According to Gail’s account, the relationship was a totally sick one. Amma treated her as personal property, working her to death and verbally and physically abusing her whenever the mood for a tantrum came upon her. The control she exerted over the young Australian was not physical but emotional: the slightest hint of disagreement, and Gail would be dismissed from her guru’s presence for an unspecified amount of time, with the threat of permanent dismissal always hanging like a Damocles’ sword over her head. At this time, Gail was footloose in India without a penny to her name: no contact with her family in Australia (hints of some serious problem back there, though not elaborated): and also, she had undergo a hysterectomy to remove a massive tumour from her uterus. It is easy to see her being preyed upon.

Well, all of us know the history of Mata Amritanandamayi. The ashram grew and expanded at tremendous speed, becoming the multimillion dollar corporate behemoth it is today. A lot of men and women joined as Brahmacharis and Brahmacharinis (meaning to be in a state of celibacy – a sick joke in the light of Gail’s later revelations). Gail got elevated to the position of manager, and was accompanying Amma constantly on her trips. Soon, she was officially ordained and became Swamini Amritaparna.

However, during this temporal ascent, Gail was on a downward spiral spiritually – because she was discovering that her idol had feet of clay.

Being Amritanandamayi’s personal assistant, Gail was in her room constantly. Once during a visit to the US, she was asked to stay in a closet in Amma’s room, from where she witnessed a shocking incident: the guru having sex with Balu, one of the chief Swamis. This soon became a commonplace affair, and the disillusioned acolyte began putting two-and-two together: Amma’s partiality to males and the hours she spent cloistered with them. The lie Amritanandamayi perpetuated – that she was free from the “curse” of monthly periods – Gail already knew to be false. So the truth finally dawned – the guru was nothing but commonplace woman, carrying out a massive spiritual fraud on a gullible public. The amount of ashram donation money she smuggled out to her family in iceboxes did nothing to enhance her reputation in the eyes of her disciple.

Added to these facts was the personal trauma Gail suffered, because she was repeatedly raped by Balu, the sex-maniac swami.

So one day, the worm turned. During a trip to the US, Gail finally burst her spiritual shackles and absconded.

Analysis

Holy Hell is not a well-written book; moreover, it writes of disgusting things. I would not have touched had it not been for the controversy – and I believe it is the same with a thousand other people. So no doubt it is the sensationalism which sells the book. Now comes the million-dollar question: is it a true account?

As far as I am concerned, there are three possibilities:

  1. Whatever Gail writes is the gospel truth, and Mata Amritanandamayi is the charlatan monster she is made out to be.
  2. Gail is a seasoned liar, perhaps on the payroll of a Christian-Muslim nexus, and this is a deliberate attempt to discredit a saint.
  3. Gail is a disillusioned woman, who was once caught up in a cult and bears the spiritual scars of the same: whatever she writes is true from her point of view, which is necessarily relative.

I find myself plumbing for the third.

Throughout the memoir, Gail’s voice comes across with great veracity: it is clear she believes what she says. And it is frighteningly similar to what I have heard and read of other guru-cults, where the guru exerts total control over the disciple. It is typically a dominant-submissive relationship, sometimes with sex involved. From the beginning, it is clear that Gail suffers from an extremely negative self-image: she is a dog waiting to be kicked. The fact that she chose of her own volition to stay in practically what was a hovel (initially) and defecate into the canal while perched on a pair of wooden planks, just to be near her guru, speaks volumes for her mental state. There is obviously some deep-seated trauma in her childhood which forced her to leave her home country and come to India, I am sure.

And this is why I say her viewpoint is relative. For I am very sure Gail was not fully rational (initially, at least) while she was with Amma. Her periodic rapes by Balu smacks more of consensual sex while she was not in full faculty of mind, rather than forcible. As she grew older, her vision cleared and she saw the ashram for what it was: a money-making enterprise. This disillusionment caused her to leave. The trauma she suffered while in the ashram may have coloured her vision, so she might not be a wholly reliable narrator – but the gist of what she says, I think, she believes to be true. And I concur.

All said and done, this memoir will not change anything. The Amritanandamayi Ashram will go on minting money. Sceptics will go on scoffing, while believers will go on believing. This storm in teacup will die away as soon as the media gets fresher scandals. However, if this book forces future fence-sitters on spiritualism to have a rethink, it will have more than served its purpose.

Lastly, let me quote from the Upanishads as Gail herself does, on the Guru – Shishya relationship according to Indian culture:

Let us together be protected, and let us together be nourished by God’s blessings. Let us together join our mental forces in strength for the benefit of humanity. Let our efforts at learning be luminous and filled with joy, endowed with the force of purpose. Let us never be poisoned with the seeds of hatred for anyone. Let there be Peace in me! Let there be Peace in my environment! Let there be Peace in the forces that act on me!

Here, the guru is a fellow-traveller and guide, not a dictator who demands absolute surrender. This is the lofty concept of the Indian guru. Please do not be fooled by charlatans who twist Indian culture and the Hindu religion for their own ends.

A Review of “Kwaidan” by Lafcadio Hearn

I first encountered Lafcadio Hearn in an Anthology of American stories, in a weird little story: The Boy Who Drew Cats. It was a creepy Japanese fairy tale about a boy whose artistic productions (which were solely of a feline persuasion) came to life and did away with a goblin rat. As a short story, it did not possess much of a literary quality (IMO), so it was filed away somewhere in the back of my mind as a curious little oddity and forgotten.

But Mr. Hearn’s name being very unusual, I remembered the story immediately when I saw this book, almost thirty years after I read it. In the meantime, my interest in myths, legends and fairy tales had become something of a passion. Moreover, I still carried my adolescent love of horror stories and had relatively recently been introduced to Japanese horror, more subtle and frightening than the American variety. So this book was something of a godsend.

Lafcadio Hearn was something of an outsider in the West: his only talent, it seems, was writing gory newspaper reports. As with maverick Westerners in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, he found refuge in the mystic East; in this case Japan. It is the great fortune of all of us that Hearn decided to translate these creepy gems (which might have remained confined to Japan) for the rest of the world.

***

“Kwaidan” means “Ghost Stories”, which the first part of this collection contains (the second part contains “insect studies” from a “folkloric” standpoint which is not very interesting). These seventeen stories are the traditional “around-the-campfire” type, part and parcel of a people living in tune with their environment not yet spoilt by the encroaching monster of urbanisation. Being from a country full of wood-spirits and water-sprites myself, I could relate.

There is Hoichi, the blind bard who is enchanted into playing for a company of ghosts and who is protected by the Buddhist sutras written upon his body (“Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi”); people turning into trees and trees, into people (“Ubazakura”, “Aoyagi”, “Jio-Roku-Sakura”); and goblins and ghosts galore (“Jikininki”, “Yuki-Onna”, “Rokuro-Kubi” etc.). There are also a couple based on the Japanese belief (now made famous by The Grudge) that a person who dies in great anger leaves behind an angry ghost. I was struck by the similarity of many of these tales to the stories I heard as a child in Kerala – one (“Mujina”) is an exact copy of an urban legend (well, with a different type of ghost) prevalent during the late eighties.

    

In the second part, Hearn tries to compile legends, myths and beliefs about butterflies, ants and mosquitoes. These make mildly interesting reading, but lacks depth.

A fast read, and a worthwhile one for readers who are interested in the beings which inhabit the primordial depths of our psyche.

Some Thoughts on Valentine’s Day

I have been absent from the blogosphere for about three weeks now: this is what happens when life intrudes on the virtual world, where many of us who pursue the intellectual pleasures are more comfortable! However, we have to come down to earth once in a while. The reason for the hiatus was our College Alumni annual get-together, which took place on Valentine’s Day on the 14th of February: my wife and I were in charge of putting up two stage shows for this themed event (the theme was Love, as can be easily guessed). Most of my creative energies were channelled in that direction. Afterwards, my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and their daughter visited Abu Dhabi for five days, and we were having great fun gallivanting all over Abu Dhabi and Dubai, so the blog took a back seat again.

I thought I will signal my return with some thoughts on the significance of Valentine’s Day. This is a controversial subject nowadays. In conservative theocracies (Saudi Arabia for example), Valentine’s Day is attacked with a ferocity which is surprising. Even in a country like India, where sex is traditionally celebrated as an art, both Hindu right-wingers and leftists have targeted this poor saint as being against Indian culture and a consumerist import from the capitalist West, respectively.

Why this anger against love, when it is an essential ingredient for the propagation of the species on earth?

Love is unconventional. It is against the status quo. It does not respect the state institution of marriage: as Joseph Campbell said (quoting the example of Queen Guinevere and Lancelot), the emphasis in mythology is on amorous love. St. Valentine himself is a legendary figure shrouded in mystery. Most sources state that his identification with romantic love was an invention during the Middle Ages. In my opinion, he is a product of the unlikely marriage of a mostly celibate Levantine religion with a pagan tradition rich in amour. This is why Valentine’s Day upsets the powers that be, the minions of organised religion and the totalitarian state: it allows the soul to rebel in its own mythical space.

So it was fitting in a way that the themed dance choreographed by my wife was based on Krishna, the ultimate rebel.

***

The image of Krishna is multi-faceted. Even though he has been appropriated by the Hindu establishment as a spokesperson, he is too mercurial a figure to be concretised thus. As M. T. Vasudevan Nair once said, Krishna is the child every mother wants and the lover every girl wants. Across the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent and psyche, this dark god with his mischievous smile strides like a colossus. The poet Yusuf Ali Kechery wrote: “Even though countless writers have dipped their quills into the inkpot that is you, you still remain full!” True.

Krishna is the ultimate lover: sixteen-thousand and eight wives, apart from the unnumbered gopis (cow-maids) whom he cavorted with during his teens. Most of these girls were in amorous relationship with him; some were elder to him and some were married. The Rasa-Kreeda (literally, “sex-game”) celebrated by Krishna and his loves in the sylvan landscape of the mythical Vrindavana is a Bacchanalian revel which has no comparison anywhere in world mythology. No wonder the puritanical West initially saw him as a lecher, a proponent of sin. No wonder the flower children of the seventies adopted him, in part at least. There is something heady about Krishna’s no-holds-barred sexuality.

But there is also something inherently spiritual about Krishna: I am reminded of the old story, told to me by mother, about the jealous Indra, who went to see Krishna cavorting with the gopis. It seems Indra saw a Krishna with each of them! Thoroughly confused, he looked again, and saw one Krishna in the centre, eyes closed in meditation. Apparently, this was the real man, aloof and untouched – the others were illusions.

The gopis’ love for Krishna, in metaphorical terms, is interpreted as the longing of the atman (soul) for the brahman (the universal soul): this is epitomised in Radha, Krishna’s favourite lover, whom he is always pictured with. Many a time, he is known as Radha-Krishna (contrast with Sita-Rama, where Sita is Rama’s wife). Radha loves Krishna with a careless abandon, expecting nothing in return; rather like the troubadours with their lady-loves, whose faces inspired them to hopeless battles. It is this giving without any intention of taking that gives love its spiritual strength: here, the boundary between the physical and the platonic is erased. This is the Indian tradition, where god is love in all senses of the term and nothing but.

***

In Indian aesthetics, vatsalya (love of a child), prema (amorous love) and bhakti (love of god) are considered to be different forms of the same base emotion – Meera Bai, the sixteenth century devotional poet who sacrificed herself for the love of Krishna is thus considered an incarnation of Radha by many. Keeping this in mind, the dance was split into three parts – the first showing the mischievous child Krishna with his doting mother Yasoda, the second, the teenage Krishna in the company of his loves and the third, showing the starry-eyed devotee Meera singing a famous hymn to her celestial lord. It was well received, but I do not know whether we succeeded in conveying the whole message to the audience.

But a dance about Krishna on Valentine’s Day in an Arab country – being a fan of Joseph Campbell, I could not help feeling thrilled at the mingling of cultures and mythologies.