'The Yogini' Breaks Away from the Conventional Novel and Captures Spiritual Crisis Like Never Before

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Editor's Note: The excerpt below has been taken from 'The Yogini', by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay. The book chronicles the journey of a modern woman, Homi, who is one day approached by a yogi who is visible to only her. In a manner that can be described as surrealistic, the book depicts the story of a woman desperate to prove that her life is ruled by her own free will.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

Several days had passed, and the brief discussion about fate had slipped from Homi’s mind, which was entirely natural. While any incident instantly turned into news on this 24-7 TV channel, unceremoniously bursting in on viewers, it wasn’t long before the ripples of excitement died down, some other newsworthy event competing for viewers’ attention by then. These occurrences often raised deep ethical questions in the reporters’ minds, even causing distress at times, but everyone had to throw themselves at whatever news was breaking the very next minute. There was never

any time to absorb what happened – incidents took place, the bulletin was made and presented, analysed and debated, but you couldn’t stop there.

‘Can you tell me the difference between literature and news?’ the CEO of the media company had asked Homi when interviewing her three years ago. Perhaps he had posed this particular question because she was a literature student. Homi had not had to grope for an answer.

‘If news is the rain, literature is the water that gathers underground,’ she’d replied. ‘The rainwater falls on the earth and seeps slowly through each of the layers underground before eventually becoming pure.

News is what happened a moment ago – it has to pass through layers of time before it can become literature. When time and philosophy are added to news, what

you get is literature.’

Rishi Patel, the CEO, had stared at her for half a minute. Homi remembered him telling her they would talk more about this when they could find the

time. But she didn’t remember how many days had passed since the conversation in the corridor. She’d left the office around 10 pm and was attempting to cross the busy main road when she saw a hermit standing directly opposite, impassive in a haze of light cast on the pavement by Jimmy’s Kitchen, the Chinese restaurant.

Even from a distance it had seemed to Homi that his piercing gaze was trained on her. But she had to look away before she could register what was happening. He was gone by the time she crossed the road. Curiosity piqued, Homi went up to the entrance to Jimmy’s Kitchen and looked for him. Was it possible a literature student. Homi had not had to grope for

an answer.

But she didn’t remember how many days had passed since the conversation in the corridor. She’d left the office around 10 pm and was attempting to cross the busy main road when she saw a hermit standing directly opposite, impassive in a haze of light cast on the pavement by Jimmy’s Kitchen, the Chinese restaurant. Even from a distance it had seemed to Homi that his piercing gaze was trained on her. But she had to look away before she could register what was happening. He was gone by the time she crossed the road. Curiosity piqued, Homi went up to the entrance to Jimmy’s Kitchen and looked for him. Was it possible she’d made a mistake, that there hadn’t been anyone there at all?

A mistake? But his sharp, terrifying glance had embedded itself in her consciousness in an instant. She had felt a distinct stab of fear. At that moment someone whispered to her from her left, very close by.

‘Empress?’

Goosebumps prickling her skin, Homi turned to look at him. A chill coursed through her veins. Bitingly cold.

He looked fearsome, his matted locks and beard framing his face like a spider. His eyes blazed, and his body gave off a mild stench. She thought it could be

marijuana.

Homi recoiled.

‘Who are you? What do you want?’ she wanted to say. It was possible that an unimaginable fear kept her from uttering the words.

‘Don’t you recognise me, Empress?’ He adjusted the blanket draped haphazardly around his shoulders.

Again, she retreated as he approached her, holding out a hand with tongs in it. A hermit’s usual paraphernalia. It was obvious no one else could see him, since it was impossible for such frightening man to advance towards a lone woman, especially at this hour of the night, without anyone intervening. She realised quickly that she wasn’t able to seek help from any of her colleagues, many of whom were milling about on the opposite pavement. She would have to deal with this man all by herself.

Coming to a halt, she asked in Hindi, ‘What do you want?’

The hermit brought the two arms of his tongs together repeatedly, making a series of clicks. His tall, lean frame stiffened, and Homi saw obsession and

desire come to life in his glowing eyes.

‘Come closer.’

A cruel but frantic voice. Barbaric diction.

The man signalled to her again.

‘Come. Come closer.’ He made an obscene gesture.

‘You don’t recognise me, Empress,’ he said after a brief silence.

‘I am your fate,’ he continued – and disappeared at once.

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