The Mango Lassi

It was 1919. The British, having recently triumphed in the First World War, had given all schoolchildren a one-month holiday so that they could join in the victory celebrations. They even gave us a little badge to wear to commemorate the victory. My mother decided that this unscheduled vacation would be an ideal time to go and visit some of our relatives who lived in Lahore. The visit must have taken place in the summer of that year because I distinctly remember that mangoes were in season at the time.

One evening, while we were all sitting in my relative’s house in Lahore, someone started to prepare a mango, milk and almond drink for everyone. It should have been a mouth-watering treat for a boy of my age, but when a glassful of it was offered to me, I made no attempt to stretch out my hand to receive it. It was not that I didn’t want to drink it. The truth was, I had just been consumed and engulfed by an experience that made me so peaceful and happy, I was unable to respond to the offered glass. My mother and the other women present were[“were both astonished and alarmed by my sudden inactivity. They all gathered around me, trying to decide what had happened and what to do. By this time my eyes were closed. Though I was unable to respond to their queries, I could hear the discussion going on around me, and I was fully aware of all their attempts to bring me back to my usual state. They shook me; they gently slapped my face; they pinched my cheeks. Someone even lifted me up in the air, but nothing elicited any kind of physical response from me. I was not being stubborn. The experience was so overwhelming, it had effectively paralysed my ability to respond to any external stimuli. For about an hour they tried everything they could think of to bring me back to a normal state of consciousness, but all their attempts failed.

I had not been sick, this had not happened to me before and, just prior to its commencement, I had not been exhibiting any strange symptoms. Because of the suddenness of the event, because it had never happened before, and because no amount of shaking could wake me, my family came to the conclusion that I had suddenly and mysteriously been possessed by a malevolent spirit. In those days there were no psychiatrists to run to. When something like this happened, the standard response was to take the victim to the local mosque so that the mulla [Muslim priest] could perform an exorcism. We even used to take our buffaloes to him when they got sick or failed to give milk in the hope that his exorcisms and mantras would somehow remove the affliction.

So, even though I came from a Hindu family, I was carried to the local mosque and shown to the mulla. He chanted some words while simultaneously running some metal tongs over my body. That was the standard way of performing an exorcism. The mulla, with his usual optimism, said that I would soon recover, but his efforts, like those of my family before him, failed to bring me out of the state I was in. Still paralysed, I was carried home and put to bed. For two full days I stayed in this peaceful, blissful, happy state, unable to communicate with anyone, but still fully aware of the various things that were going on around me.

At the end of this two-day period I opened my eyes again. My mother, who was an ardent Krishna bhakta [devotee] came up to me and asked, ‘Did you see Krishna?’

Seeing how happy I was, she had abandoned her initial idea that I had been possessed and had substituted for it a theory that I had had some kind of mystical experience involving her own favourite deity.

‘No,’ I replied, ‘all I can say about it is that I was very happy.’

As far as first causes were concerned, I was as much in ignorance as my family. I did not know what I had been experiencing or what had precipitated this sudden immersion into intense and paralysing happiness.

I told my mother when she pressed me further, ‘There was tremendous happiness, tremendous peace, tremendous beauty. More than that I cannot say.’

My mother would not give up her theory. She went and fetched a picture that portrayed Krishna as a child, showed it to me and asked, ‘Did you see anyone like this?’

Again I told her, ‘No, I didn’t’.

Although it did not tally with my own direct experience, my mother somehow convinced me that the happiness had been caused by coming into contact with Krishna. She encouraged me to become a devotee of Krishna, saying that if I meditated on Krishna and repeated His name, the experience I had had of Him would sooner or later return.

Excerpt From Nothing Ever Happened Volume One, pages 24-26
By David Godman