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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"


Unexpected Visit by Two Togis—Pilgrims and Shrines in the Himalayas—
Power out of Stillness.

MY solitude has been invaded. The first visitors have arrived. And
their unexpected visit provides me once again with ample proof of
the smallness of this sublunary world. Wherever one goes, whether
among the boulevards of crowded continental cities or into the single
narrow street of a poky little Oriental village, one must ever be pre-
pared to run into someone one knows, or else someone who swears
he knows you. Three times I have been stopped in Central and
Northern India by humbly-dressed wayfarers, who call me by name
and salute me with such ceremony, although I know neither their
faces nor their own names. In Delhi I lunch unexpectedly with a
retired major who is revisiting India on a sudden whim after an
absence of fifteen years, and with whom I had last lunched in his
cosy London fiat eighteen months before. In Dehra Dun I pick up the
threads of an old conversation, again, unexpectedly, with a scholar
of Oxford University, where I last met him. And so on.

Here, in the isolation of the heart of the Himalayas, until today
it has seemed to me possible to obtain absolute seclusion. Now I know
better. Do what you will to run away, invisible hands are tying all
sorts of threads between you and the world which you have left.

For while I sit late this morning on the small patch of stone and
grass next to my bungalow, with the fir branches hanging over me,
trying to sort my medley of papers, notes and letters into some kind
of order, the servant appears suddenly, grins broadly, and announces
two visitors!

I look up—and there they are, immediately behind him, having
ascended the short bank which runs up to meet the building.

The midday sun stares down at two men who wear the yellow
robe, a garment which proclaims them to be either Yogis, monks,
ascetics, holy men, tramps, vagabonds or thieves, for in modern
India anyone who does not want to work for his living can put this
convenient garment around his lazy body, no less than a sincere,
world-scorning saint who wishes to devote his life entirely to real
prayer and deep meditation. Both may then beg for their food and
so on, or if they are lucky, find some patron who will undertake the
entire burden of supporting them.

The two men before me seem to be of a superior type. The elder