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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

A   HERMIT   IN   THE   HIMALAYAS

that on some occasions he announces lunch only to find himself
disconcertingly waved off, while on other occasions I announce my
hunger when he has no meal ready yet to satisfy it!

I receive the news with commensurate seriousness for I see that
his plaint is a just one. A little pondering and I decide to improvise
a rough sundial solely for his benefit. In the forest I select a narrow
piece of straight wood which is smoothed and planted firmly in the
ground behind the bungalow. Then I wait till the following day
when, at sunrise, noon and sunset, I make my first markings by
setting up three stones in the ground along the line of the stick's
shadow. It is then an easy matter to shift the shadow marks so as to
correspond roughly with the desired hours for breakfast, lunch and
tea. So long as we have sunny days we shall have our primitive clock
in perfect working order, allowing for variations in the length of
shadow cast as the season advances.

How time is our tyrant! We have made its measuring and
figuring a necessity of our existence. And yet man, in his inmost self,
is a timeless being.

There is little agriculture in this kingdom of Tehri and little
space for it. The earth does not yield itself docilely to the cultivator's
plough, for nearly everything is either mountainous wild forest or
barren rock and stone. Hence the pasturage of goats and cattle,
which climb and descend the mountain-sides in a surprisingly
nimble manner, is an important occupation for the few inhabitants
who tear their scant livelihood from the reluctant bosom of the
ranges.

A mountain goatherd who is wandering with his flock of squawk-
ing goats in search of pasturage reaches my vicinity. His clothing is
ragged, consisting indeed of the usual costume of these men: a round,
fiat-topped stiff cap, a tight tattered jacket, a loose ancient shirt and
a loin-cloth. A stubby growth of black beard fronts his strong jutting
chin. His eyes, from long habit, are screwed up in defence against the
sun-glare. His skin is the colour of burnished bronze. His arms are
folded akimbo upon his chest, a large curved dagger in one hand.
His whole face is rugged and weatherbeaten. His naked feet are
covered with dust.

I am typewriting letters and sit out in the open air in mellow
sunshine whilst I work. The man observes me and stands for about
twenty minutes at a respectful distance. At length he breaks his
silence and reveals his thoughts, for he approaches closer, touches his
brow with both hands closed, and utters a low "Salaam!" and bows