Papaji Dresses Like a Gopi
Excerpt From Nothing Ever Happened Volume One
By David Godman
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Life in the army meant keeping up an outer front of normality and military sobriety. Open exhibitions of love for a Hindu god would have been frowned upon to such an extent that they would have jeopardised my career. This caused me to lead a dual life. By day I played the officer-sahib, complete with stiff upper lip. At night, behind locked doors, I would transform myself into a Krishna gopi [female devotee]. I would dismiss my orderly, telling him not to disturb me with the usual 5 a.m. cup of tea. That gave me the whole night with my beloved Krishna. The British army officers were very strange: they had servants to do everything for them. Some of them even made their orderlies put on and pull off their trousers. I didn’t make much use of mine, so no one thought much of it when I told him that he didn’t need to come during the night or early in the morning.
I was not content with doing japa of Krishna’s name, or with worshipping an inanimate picture or statue. I wanted Krishna Himself to appear before me, as He had frequently done when I was young, so that I could pour out my love to Him directly.
I pretended I was Radha, the consort of Krishna, because I thought that if I imitated her in every way, Krishna would come and appear before me. I dressed myself in a sari, decorated my body with bangles and women’s jewellery, and even put make-up on my face. I used to spend most of my spare cash on women’s jewellery so that I could dress up and please Krishna.
Wearing all these props, I really convinced myself that I was Radha, pining away for her divine lover. It worked. Krishna would appear and I would pour out my heart to Him. On the mornings after Krishna had appeared to me, my face would be lit up with the happiness of divine love. One of my superior officers mistook my state for drunkenness and gave orders to the barman in the mess that I should not be given more than three small drinks a day. He was told by the barman, quite correctly, that I never drank at all, but he didn’t believe him. He simply couldn’t understand how someone could look so radiantly happy without having had any alcoholic stimulants.
Though my nationalist ambitions withered and died during my brief spell in the army, my passion for Krishna increased to the point where I could think about little else. The army was not a congenial place for a bhakta who only wanted to indulge in his obsession for Krishna, so I resigned my commission. It was a difficult thing to do during wartime, but with the assistance of a sympathetic commanding officer, to whom I explained my predicament, I managed to free myself from my military obligations.”