She, and other colourful personalities, turn up in these unpunctuated pages, and Bill describes all of them with his usual good humour, including the Gandhian lady who ran a school for girls and employed him as an odd-jobs man, on one occasion forcing him to wear a sari and shoot a monkey. I’ve seen him wear a kilt but not a sari. And I doubt if he’d shoot a monkey today.
That Bill survived the Gandhian girls’ school, and a number of years at the Mirtola Ashram, says more for his Scottish upbringing than ashram life. He came out of it with his sense of humour intact. I met the good Swami Ashishda (an Englishman) just once, and was impressed by his fine baritone and dominating personality. I’m afraid he was not impressed by me; I think he felt I was a somewhat frivolous character, unworthy of the spiritual life.
Bill is at his best in his lively account of his tramps in various parts of the Himalaya, for he is a true lover of the mountains, delighting in the challenges they offer; observant, humorous, self-effacing. He reminds me in a way of Lawrence of Arabia—mentally tough. May he continue to tramp the highways, ride the ranges, with his travelogues and make lousy porridge.
The book is enlivened by charming sketches by Anuradha Roy.