Merchant of Venus
This is the story of an American merchant banker’s intimacy with a sadhu in Haridwar. She calls their togetherness ‘Krishna-lila’
Georgia (name changed) is a merchant banker in her late 30s who lives in the US, in New York to be precise. She made so much money in the first five years of her career that she doesn’t need to work for the rest of her life. She was in a fulfilling relationship for 10 years. She had all the reasons to be happy — being successful was just one of them. But then all these positives in her life started to nag her to a point that she had to break free.
A tall girl, she’s slender, with high cheekbones that underline her big bulging eyes. Curious as she is, she can stare at you without blinking for minutes. She walks slowly, and is never in a hurry. Uttering words reluctantly, she describes a “phase of blankness” that lasted a year, when she didn’t feel the need to work to accomplish anything; the future was a burden that she was disinclined to carry. There was nothing that really excited her to spur action. She wasn’t clinically depressed, but despondency had set in like “a viral infection.”
She travelled widely for months, but couldn’t stop being confronted by her own self — there was no respite and she was unhappy. Finally, she came to India for the first time in 2016. “I felt like I was transported to a wonderland that had a lot of people, and was dirty and dusty. I was lost in the crowd. But getting lost in India, helped me rediscover myself.”
In Delhi, she stayed with the family of an old Indian friend in New York. It was a family of lawyers. One of them became a good friend, and introduced Georgia to one of her many gurus, who resides in Haridwar during summer, and travels for the rest of the year.
She visited the ashram of the guru (she doesn’t want him to be identified), who doesn’t have a big following and leads a fairly austere life away from hustle bustle. The ashram is along the Ganges at a desolate spot, not very far from the city of Rishikesh. She stayed there for months and learned yoga. “Yoga is about self-enquiry, control of mind, not some stretching exercises and postures,” Georgia explains, “it did wonders for me. I felt my ego is not the real me. I became witness unto myself.”
Georgia was at the Kumbh in January. She sponsored her guru’s stay there with five of his disciples. She spends hours meditating on the banks of the Ganges. We had conversations over many cups of sweet tea. She told me that she has rejoined work back in New York and makes more money than she needs. But she’s not held captive by worldly ambition. She looks at this material engagement with the world as a pastime.
“Do you have a partner?” My enquiry enters her personal life. She smiles. “I’m in an eternal and ethereal relationship with Guruji.”
On her way back to New York, she stayed in Delhi for a week. We met again over a cup of coffee in Khan Market. She was far more communicative about her time in Kumbh and with Guruji. “He’s a young man with black curly beard that covers a good part of his chest. He is a short man with a sculpted body, wears stitched clothes, eats only one meal a day, his sweat has the fragrance of flowers; heat and cold are sensations his body doesn’t register,” she describes Guruji without a pause.
There was not just admiration but more. She is obviously enamoured by him. “Are you in love with him?” “Of course, I am,” she says without the slightest hesitation. “Not because he taught me meditation, yoga and various occult practices, but because he made me love myself. And when I started to love myself, I realised how much I love him.”
But it all took time to happen, Georgia was resistant at first, “My American mind would analyse everything threadbare. I had a need. Things should make sense. I should be in control of my life. It was Guruji who taught me that neither do we control anything nor things ought to make sense.” Initially, it was something difficult, but she allowed herself to give in and stopped questioning too much. “I have full trust in him. My love for him is in the form of trust. I feel I owe this life to him,” she says adjusting her curly hair.
Talking about how love manifests between the two of them, she ponders for a while and says, “I don’t like the word sex. It’s not a correct description of what happens between us — it’s intense, involves contact, but is not sex in the way we understand the word.”
She describes her interaction with Guruji akin to ‘Krishna-lila’. She can spend days with him in a room without exchanging a word. She feels his presence is soothing and his touch has a magical healing power. Sometimes they stand in embrace for hours in the middle of the tent. “He doesn’t kiss, if you were wondering,” she qualifies. His embrace is a panacea to her. “I have never seen him have an erection, but his touch makes me ecstatic, my body throbs with pleasure,” she describes.
Guruji applies a paste of turmeric and sandalwood on her body. She lies naked next to him for hours on a straw mat, Guruji constantly in physical contact with her, resting his index finger on her navel while he sits on his haunches next to her. He’s naked as well. “I don’t see desire in his eyes. A feeling of empathy, perhaps, is hard to describe. It feels like he’s entered my subconscious. We are two bodies with one soul,” Georgia describes with her eyes closed.
She feels attracted to him, likes to “play” with his body. He volunteers his mortal self to her, unconditionally. “I touch him, feel him, try to tantalise parts of his warm body, which is fairly inert to my touch,” she says. And the fact that his body doesn’t react perceptibly to her touch, arouses her. She employs all her sense organs – like smelling every nook and cranny of his body and counting the strands of hair on his chest. She sometimes plants her blond hair in between his dark curly body hairs. “His warm body reminds me of the arid Yucca Valley in California,” she says as a smile brightens her face.
“It’s very intense and intimate. Yet he’s so distant, unperturbed. He doesn’t participate, but he never stops me, either. He’s not happy when I come, he’s not sad when I leave. His inertness has filled the vacuum inside me. I feel complete.”
She has not been able to persuade Guruji to travel to the US, nor is she aware of any other women in his life who deals with him as intensely as she does. “It’s of no consequence,” she says, adding, “Every time I leave him, he makes me feel, without saying so, that it might be our last meeting in flesh and blood.”