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Nagabodhi - Jai Bhim

by Nagabodhi

Jai Bhim!
Dispatches from
a Peaceful Revolution
by Nagabodhi (Terry Pilchick)
Windhorse Publications
Published by Windhorse Publications
11 Park Road
b13 8ab
email: info@windhorsepublications.com
web: www.windhorsepublications.com
© Terry Pilchick 1998 The right of Terry Pilchick to be identified as the author
of this work has been asserted by him in accordance
with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 isbn
Available in print under
0 904766 36 5 Acknowledgements
This book is credited to a single author, but without the help and support of a great many people there would be
no book – and no author to credit. Whether they gave time, money, advice and encouragement, or simply
groaned and wept in appropriate places when regaled with readings, it is they who have made this book possible.
In particular Rosy Anderson, Judy Child, Marlene Halliday, Chris Krupa, Hugh Mendes, and Dhammacaris
Dhammarati, Subhuti, and Shantavira enabled me to make two extended visits to India by sharing a number of
my responsibilities. Allan Miller, Woolf and Jean Pilchick, the Windhorse Trust, and Dhammacaris Bodhiruci and
Satyapala generously sponsored my travels. As the project neared completion, Virabhadra tracked down some
important errors and omissions, and Shantavira checked, corrected, and prepared the manuscript for publication.
Lokamitra offered a warm welcome at all times of day or night, information and advice, a key to every door, and
more of his time than I should ever have hoped for. Sangharakshita provided inspiration, a large part of my story,
and the encouragement to tell it.
I cannot hope to thank personally those hundreds of people in India who shared their lives, memories, and aspi-
rations with me. For months on end they gave me shelter and food, drew me into their world, and offered among
so many other gifts that of their friendship.
Things have progressed apace since I wrote those first drafts in Panchgani. New public centres, educational pro-
jects, and Right Livelihood schemes are being established all the time; thousands more people have become
involved with the Dhamma Revolution. Bodhidharma, Vimalakirti, Chandrabodhi, Chandrashil, Mr Agaley (now
known as Maitreyanatha), and many more of the people whose stories and lives aroused and nurtured my enthu-
siasm are now substantial, leading figures in a movement that has become very much their own. May they and
their work flourish.
Terry Pilchick (Dhammacari Nagabodhi)
Padmaloka, Norfolk
Summer 1988 These pages are warmly dedicated to the people
who live in them
Part 1: Visions
At four o’clock this afternoon, Subhash and Madhu Parthay made an offering to the bizarre deity who has taken
up residence on their land: they brought me a table. I think they are going to let me stay here after all.
‘Here’ is the box-like holiday bungalow the Parthays are building in a corner of their estate, a couple of miles up
the road from Panchgani. When complete, the structure will boast another floor, but the delivery of my table sug-
gests that that part of the project has been shelved until next year.
Balasaheb took it upon himself to accept my offer for one of the ground floor rooms at a time when construction
work had come to a respectful halt. Old Narayan, the master of ‘Parthay Sadan’, and of the twenty-five souls who
live in it, was seriously ill. When, just a week later, he died, a couple of his more canny sons allowed themselves to
hope that I would not appear on the appointed day. That way they would be able to get back to their building
work. My arrival therefore came as something of a blow and, so far as I can see, the family has been locked in dis-
pute ever since.
Balasaheb must have saved me. But I doubt whether he could have prevailed without his mother’s help.
Narayan’s grieving widow saw my arrival as an omen of unknown significance, and insisted that it would be reck-
lessly impious, so soon after a death, to turn me away. Who was to know, perhaps I had been sent by the gods?
Luckily for me, her view seems to have carried the day. It doesn’t seem to bother anyone, or their gods, that I have
a Buddhist name – Nagabodhi. The four brothers show every sign of finding it hilarious rather than disturbing,
and call me Mr Terry.
* * *
From where I stood on the sidelines, the initial negotiations for my room seemed terrifying. Heads shook dismiss-
ively, contemptuous exclamations split the air, and eyes flashed death. But as we strolled back to his downtown
fish-stall, Mr Nizar assured me that everyone was quite happy with the deal.
‘But we’ve got nothing in writing! They wouldn’t even take any money in advance. How am I to know it’s defi-
nite? I could come back in a couple of weeks and find they’ve let the place to somebody else.’
Mr Nizar – ‘Nizar’ to his friends – fresh and trim in blue jeans and designer shirt, leaned against the iron frame of
his stall. Removing Hollywood sunglasses he squinted manfully, observing my anxiety with god-like amusement.
Behind, an old worthy in white robes and white fez, drowning in a sea of white facial hair, squatted on the coun-
ter, fanning tubes of silvery fish meat and launching fists of angry flies into the clammy air.
Nizar offered an indulgent smile. ‘This is Maharashtra! Here it is enough that a man gives his word! Of course
everything is definite!’
At a neighbouring stall, two women argued with the merchant while prodding a fat brown hen that sat, abristle
with indignation, in one dish of a set of scales. In this country one never knew what was waiting round the corner.
I was not to be placated easily.
‘But what about that extra floor they want to build on the place? Are they really going to hold that over until next
In his impatience, Nizar was prophetic: ‘Listen! Nobody is going to do anything with that building until after the
rains. You will be all right.’
And so it was that, some weeks later, I rattled through the burnt Maharashtran landscape in sympathy with the
old bus that ran the haul from Pune to Mahabaleshwar. I was returning to Panchgani, this time to stay.
I was not alone.
‘What is Knowledge without College? What is Life without a Wife?’
My fellow passenger, and self-appointed guide to India’s mysteries, was one Abdul Farouqui, a youthful,
leather-jacketed 41-year-old, who worked in the shareholders’ department of the ‘Bombay Dyeing and Suiting
Company’. We had met at Pune bus station, where he chided me in the way that strangers often do for straying
more than six feet from my suitcase. He had spent the first stage of our trip trying to convert me to Islam, and the
second urging me to try for a job with an Indian advertising agency – if only to satisfy his curiosity as to whether
such a thing might be possible. Now he was concluding, with some rhetorical flourish, an hour-long sermon on
the delights of the married state. Hearing that I intended to spend my three months in Panchgani alone, he had
seen it as his urgent duty to talk me into getting myself a spouse – if only for the duration.
‘You will walk there, and you will see, in the evening at sunset, so many couples. They are going there for their
honeymoons. And you will also want to enjoy!‘
Abdul had a way with the word ‘enjoy’. He could take hold of it, stretch it between his tongue and cheeks, roll it
around his mouth, throat, and stomach, smooth and lubricate it, until it carried a hint of every form of pleasure,
vice, and titillation know to man, woman, or beast.
But to be honest I was hardly listening. My mind was on other things. Above all I was noting that the closer we
came to Panchgani, the fuller the bus was getting. Beyond the dust-grimed windows stretched an unbroken vista
of rice fields and mango groves, sleepy villages, and the grey-gold slopes of looming ghats. Inside, things were dif-
ferent. The bus was packed to capacity with a boisterous cross-section of Indian society, squeezed onto the torn,
green plastic seats, standing crushed together in the gangway. From here and there came the bleats and clucks of
stifled animals; children moaned.
And I was thinking about my bag.
I had managed to stop worrying about the suitcase, rammed precariously into the luggage rack above, and now
had every faculty free to ponder the exquisite problems posed by the voluminous travelling bag stowed under my
seat. It was too bulky to come out of its lair any other way than sidewards, straight into the gangway. But taking a
look at my fellow passengers, assessing their various qualities and temperaments, I wondered how many of them
would understand the situation when the time came for a hurried exit. Would they get out of the way? Would
anyone help?
Considerations such as these tend to mar one’s experience of travel in India.
Creaking with effort, the old bus heaved its way round and up the dizzying hairpins of the final ghat. I tried to
distract myself from my cares by taking in the panorama of baked hills and fields that danced in at me through the
window. I had almost succeeded when a young girl bent forward, almost casually, and was sick on the precise
spot in the gangway over which I would soon be dragging my holdall. Ice-cold sweat erupted from the pores of
my back.
‘An Indian girl! An Indian girl! You will see her ...

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