A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
tapped the keys of a portable typewriter and sipped hot tea from a
vacuum flask strapped over his shoulders!"
The*elder man is so overcome at my trifling sally that he roars
out suddenly with tremendous laughter, which continues for a full
minute* Apparently his vow of silence permits laughter. Whether
laughter is not really a kind of speech is a fit problem for hair-
splitting philosophers, upon which they might well engage them-
selves. But I have not finished questioning them. Whilst we eat the
slices of delicious fruit I ask:
"But how did you know that I was staying here?"
"We did not know, but we were guided,'* comes the calm reply.
The spokesman smiles and points upwards. And with that I have
to be content,
I make one last attempt, nevertheless.
"If you are going to Gangotri you know this is not the usual
pilgrim route. That way lies up through Dharasu and Uttarkashi.
Here you are being taken out of your route and making it un-
"But we wanted to meet you," is the gentle smiling response.
And then they rise to take their leave. They are going off to
meet their coolies and to eat their lunch. The teacher, through the
medium of a pencil and paper, invites me to have evening worship
with him and to be his guest at dinner, as he intends resting here for
one day and then to get off before dawn. This time I express my
gratitude and feel impelled to accept. I realize that he is honouring
me by thus sharing his necessarily limited supplies.
Some while after lunch the younger man pays me a second visit.
His name is Bhandu Sharma. I suggest a walk and take him towards
the top of a peak about a mile off, where yellow astetfs grow brightly
against their austere background. On the way, as we creep along a
narrow rock-shelf, which pants up the mountain-side as though eager
to get to the top and be done with it, we talk of higher things and he
drops into an autobiographical mood. Fragments of his life-story
drop from his lips.
For six years he has wandered the length and breadth of India,
amid the seething crowds of bazaars and the lonely huts of the
jungles, in temples whose altar shrines reeked with rancid butter
and in pure-aired mountain valleys, studying the wisdom of the
Spiret and the art of Yoga at the feel of different teachers. We com-
pare notes, for some of the latter are familiar to both of us. He says
that the Mystic of Tiruvannamalai is the man who has made the
profoundest impression upon him. "In his presence I instantly felt
peace," says the Yogi, "and during the four days I stayed in his