cover image BABA: Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Yogi

BABA: Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Yogi

Rampuri, . . Bell Tower, $23 (256pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-8038-0

It is 1969 in Beverly Hills. After experimenting with mind-altering substances, a 19-year-old dropout leaves his prosperous family and heads for India to find himself. Cartouche, a fellow traveler, recommends an English-speaking guru. The young man renames himself Rampuri and begins an apprenticeship involving deities, servitude, ceremonies and a fair amount of cannabis. After two years, he is initiated into the Great Renunciation and becomes a yogi. After his guru falls ill and dies, Rampuri is horrified to discover that the guru has possessed him. Cartouche reappears at just the right moment, gives Rampuri a stiff dose of language philosophy and helps him interpret his quest. By the mid-1980s, India's first blue-eyed yogi has founded an ashram. Rampuri mixes his story with fanciful tales of deities and holy men, gurus who converse with crows and people who fly out of their bodies at night. Linear thinkers may be perplexed by his conflation of myth and autobiography: "The line separating mythology and this Extraordinary World in which I was now living became blurred, and increasingly I couldn't see it at all." But readers nostalgic for magical mystery tours who don't mind frequent Hindi-laced sentences ("The microcosm of the twin dhunis mirrored the beehive activity of the akhara, which in turn reflected the electricity of the mela") may enjoy this exotic tale of enlightenment and self-realization. (Jan.)