India: : A Love Story (Paperback)

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I'm riding a late-night taxi through the streets of Bombay, sidewalks littered with hundreds of bodies, all the way to the curb. This must be some kind of plague, but nobody told me. Deep down, I'm possessed, despite my fear. So begins my love story with India.

This narrative records the complex, sometimes funny, sometimes agonizing relationship of two Americans, each drawn deeply by Vedanta into a marriage of East and West on many levels. Their love affair and marriage, in which a passion for India is the driver and fulcrum, opens a wide window on American life, culture, and counterculture, beginning in the late Sixties and extending into the millennium.

In Part One, during a Fulbright year based in Malwa studying khyal with the master Kumar Gandharva, I enter an underworld reflection of life in America, immersed in India's smells and sights as well as the inexhaustible sound-world of North Indian vocal music. My newly awakened sexuality is swallowed by the mythic substratum of Hindu goddess figures during a period of instinctive celibacy. Intrigued by an invitation from Maurice Frydman to "join the fellowship of the undeceived," I begin a lifelong effort to practice Advaita through self-inquiry as taught by Ramana Maharshi.

"I expect to reach enlightenment in this lifetime." She tells me this the week I meet her. In part two, I return to India with my wife Judi, a medical doctor and yoga teacher who is skeptical, reluctant to share the India experience with me. But as we hop between ashrams, she, too, falls in love with India. In the end, we are banished by the head swami, who tells us to go home, have children, fulfill our work, and serve our parents. We can return after we complete our householder duties.

When we return to India in the Nineties, the tables have turned. I, once totally smitten, am dismayed by modern India, whereas Judi is ever more deeply enthralled, throwing herself into Sanskrit and taking a teacher, who names her Geeta Jyothi. As our sons leave the house, she begins long winter ashram sojourns, contemplating vows of monkhood which threaten our marriage.

This memoir has the potential to interest a wide audience of seekers: those who throng the "spirituality" section in the West - especially "India freaks," their children, and the burgeoning readership of South Asian writers, particularly middle-class Indians who remember the curious phenomenon of the "Amreekan hippy-saddhu." I believe it will appeal to the followers of Ram Das, Ramana Maharshi, Swamis Chidananda and Krishnananda (Sivananda Ashram), and Vinoba Bhave-characters all-but especially of Kumar Gandharva and Sunderlal Bahuguna (Chipko), remarkable figures with whom our lives become intertwined.

About the Author

Robert McGahey is a long-form personal essayist, ranging from ecospiritual pieces to vignettes to memoir. His former life was as a humanities educator, crossing disciplines as needed. At the millennium, he resigned a tenured position at Moorhead State University (MN) to dedicate himself to climate change as facilitator and activist, training with the Buddhist philosopher/activist Joanna Macy in helping others face overwhelming possibilities like catastrophic climate change. A committed Friend (Quaker), he has led several workshops on climate change at the annual Friends General Conference Gathering, and is currently presiding clerk of Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting. He has twice been arrested for civil disobedience over climate issues, once at Duke Energy headquarters over a new coal plant, and once at the White House, where he joined Bill McKibben’s call to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. Robert is a longtime member of Celo Community, the oldest non-sectarian community land trust in the US. He is emeritus staff and former board chair at Arthur Morgan School, a boarding junior high following the principles of Gandhi and Montessori, where he now hosts two grandsons escaping the pandemic and shuttered public schools. Robert is author (former life) of The Orphic Moment (SUNY), and recently, “The Blade of Wheat at the End of the World,” in Dark Mountain 17. He blogs at

Praise For…

Robert McGahey’s India: A Love Story is three things in one: an exhaustive spiritual autobiography, a compelling Asian travel narrative, and the epic saga of a difficult marriage between two pilgrims in love with India and each other. McGahey is a worthy guide. Adeptly limning Hindu mythology, Jungian archetypes, and India’s kaleidoscopic hyperrealism, his long journey in search of “the fellowship of the undeceived” is itself, in its way, an archetypal Boomer pilgrimage, literary kin to Bob Dylan’s musical trifecta, “Isis,” “Idiot Wind,” and “Sara,” in which a "mystical wife” serves as lodestar, symbol and finally a version of Plato’s cave. Good stuff. — Alan Davis, author of So Bravely Vegetative and co-editor of Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan

In India: A Love Story, one can just follow the road paved in the Table of Contents to get the gist of what one can expect while turning the pages of this arresting and heart-warming autobiographical story: Meeting a Guru; Encounter With the Goddess; Struggle; Kudzu Kastle and a Wedding; Inauspicious Honeymoon; Mary and Joseph In the Deep South; The Siren’s Call; Kodaikanal; Shiva Has Stolen My Heart... From Harvard to Bombay to the mountains of rural North Carolina, McGahey takes us through the steps of his dance of love. In the end, it is his love for love that puts him behind the wheel and guides him along the road to a Higher Love, taking us more than willingly along the way. -Thomas Rain Crowe, author of Learning To Dance (Selected Love Poems); Zorro's Field.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781734620009
ISBN-10: 1734620005
Publisher: Dancing Elk Press
Publication Date: June 28th, 2020
Pages: 350
Language: English