Friday, February 11, 2011

Encounter: Boris Nikolaevich Verzhutskii

“Hi!” and the usual conversation ensued. “Please be seated,”“What is your name?” “Where are you from?” and all that mundane stuff. But little did we know that this time it was all going to be with a new refreshing twist.

We were checking out a guest house in Auroville which we heard would cost us 10th the price of what we were paying in the premium place we were at with food included. It well deserved a visit so we hopped on to our bikes and wobbled up to “The Aspirations”. Note the wobbling was because we rented an old bike, most people think it was because I am learning how to ride and had met with a major crash that left me severely wounded less than 48 hours before wobbling to “The Aspirations”.
So there we were, in the middle of small huts with roofs made out of dried coconut leaves and a huge eating hall in the center.

He offered us tea. Then he said that the food was finished because most people had already eaten but he could cook some for us if we were hungry. I refused politely but I was astounded. He offered to cook for us. Such kindness! It wasn’t that he was waiting for a refusal and “thanks, that is so nice of you.” He was genuine, almost ready to cook with the spatula in his hand. But we insisted that tea was good enough. There were another couple of guests finishing their breakfast at the table. I liked Boris instantly. I thought I would have to fight for Boris’s attention with the other guys on the table. But they were not half as impressed with the awesome creature that presided the gathering. Boris was the only one who talked and I was this teenage girl fluttering her eye lashes and animating everything he was saying.
To not be rude, we asked about the other people who were on the table. They were Indians who left India and came back to travel through and “cover” whatever they had missed in their miserable years in the country. Two Indians on a quick 15 day trip around South India and then flying back to UK. Not interesting! A 71 years old Russian sitting in a small town in South India who asks you your name to test his skills in numerology, darn interesting!

Boris & Madman

What a stark contrast was Boris to those people (and to be fair, to all of us)! They gave up India to find prosperity in another land while he gave up all the prosperity to find peace in India living in a small hut with a big collection of books. He eats very little and wakes up at 1:00 AM to do Tai chi and yoga. He uses newspaper to learn French, Hindi and Tamil. He owns an old bicycle, a few clothes and lots of books. He was an entomologist in his past life and knows the name of every plant, scientific and colloquial, in Auroville.

So back to his initial question: “what is my name?” Ishwinder Kaur was the answer. He did some numerological examination to tell me about my personality. I don’t remember what exactly he said, but it must have been something about me being extremely ferocious and stormy (and the man without the pants being very calm). It always boils down to that each time.

And then we returned to see him, again and again and again. But now I cannot return soon enough. I still remember how he looked the last time we saw him. He wore his hat. We rode to some thickly forested area in Auroville called "Two Banyans" where his friends lived. I asked him if we would stay in touch. He said, “Yes, of course my friend.” I knew he would but I knew I wouldn’t. I have come too far from writing letters and he doesn’t carry the modern sickness of mobile phone and email accounts. He is too shy to talk on phones. It would not be the same. Before I left, I touched his feet and what next? Well, he touched mine.

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