Invocation: Neelima/Gopal

Dear Gopal,

It was a pleasure having you stay with us last month. And please stop apologising, you were not a ‘riotous burden’ as you keep saying. We greatly enjoyed your company and your constant stream of jokes kept us all in good spirits. Especially papa whose hasn’t been keeping well for a while.

I fondly recollect our discussions and long walks. Do you remember the time we found that tiny village on the other side of the river? I have been  here for almost six years now and had never noticed that path before.  The fruit we plucked there is some of the best I have ever eaten. Papa loved them as well, but he has forbidden me to return just in case ‘they’ kidnap me and sell me to a band of gypsies. Poor papa! I think a lifetime spent as a narcotics officer has etched a permanent suspicious streak in his nature.

Surprisingly he had very few reservations about you. Maybe this is because of the frequent name dropping you indulged in. I am quite sure all those connections you mentioned are figments of your imagination. I cannot imagine how someone like you managed to become acquainted with the head of police in Dehradun and is the Chief Justice really a distant cousin?

Speaking of your lively imagination, I think your assessment of my stories was quite unrealistic as well. Are you sure they are good? I know we have had this argument before, but every time I read my stories the same doubts return. In fact they have become rather overpowering to the point where I cannot write anymore. Which is why I am going to begin that exercise you mentioned. I know I should have done so much earlier but I couldn’t bring myself to begin. It was quite painful to think of anything remotely related to you for a long time after you left.

I remember your instructions, they seem quite abstract and difficult when I read them now. I don’t think I am up to it. Can you please write them down on a piece of paper and send them to me? I will see this as sign of encouragement from you and will try my best to succeed.

I hope to hear from you soon,

With love,



I can see your mind has begun another one of its long and painful journeys. How can you possibly find anything strange in my instructions, they were quite straightforward.

I am in the middle of something at the moment, and will send them to you later. In the meanwhile I suggest you calm down. If you cannot perform the exercize just take a quiet moment or two for yourself everday.


PS There are quite a spelling errors in your letter, please see attached note for corrections.

Dear Neelima,

I apologize for my earlier reply.

About the exercise, I don’t see why you should find it strange and difficult. You are extremely competent and will manage very well. Remember the time we tried it together? You showed so much potential. It doesn’t matter that you are alone. Just keep trying and you will succeed.

Close your eyes and sink within. Do not look for the conventional cubby holes. What I mean is, don’t begin to look into your heart or any of that sentimental drivel. Try this instead, sit still and stare at what is in front of you. I think the edge of your bed will be a great place. Sit on the side which faces the wall and not the window. Continue staring at the wall, without blinking, till your eyes begin to water. Once you are acutely aware of the discomfort, close your eyes and use the intensity of your gaze to look within. You will pass all the usual sights, skin, bone etc. Then there will be a point where everything might go dark. Don’t panic. This is the thin veil that guards your consciousness from the outside world. Unfortunately it is opaque because it is clouded by the many, many doubts you have.

Anyhow, spend a few minutes here and you may find that despite the inky darkness this space pulsates with its own rhythm. We will get into that later. Once you are comfortable, open your eyes. Not literally of course, open yourself to this space and you may begin to see your thoughts.

I suspected they will be a terrible mess. The first time I tried this exercise all I could see was a giant ball of woolly thoughts strung together by disconnected narratives. It took me several visits to make sense of this mess. I kept staring, looking for a coherent sliver which would help me unravel this mess. Then it happened, one day I noticed this funny word sticking out. I grabbed it by its tail end and around a 100 words came loose. Ironically the first word I noticed was ‘soporific’, so there you go. But the memory of the first 100 words I unraveled remains with me till this day.

Naturally I don’t expect you to succeed with the first attempt, but I have confidence in your abilities and look forward to reading the first 100 words from you.



Dear Gopal,

I was out by the river enjoying the view of the distant mountains thinking about the plans we had made when Lakshmi came running down the path asking me to sign for a special delivery. I knew it was a letter from you, no one else holds the post office in such contempt to send a simple letter by registered post.

I am glad papa wasn’t at home, it would have been awkward to explain the arrival of your letter. He does not know that I write to you and I think it is best if he doesn’t find out. He would be very upset if he read your letter. After mummy left to live in the ashram in Varanasi, papa has developed a very strong dislike of any discussion which strays from the tangible.

Thank you for writing down the instructions, I was thrilled to read about your first experiences with the exercise. I am quite nervous now, I hope i can meet your expectations.

I shall write to you as soon as I begin,

With Love,


Dear Gopal,

This morning when I shut my eyes something tugged me from within and the next moment I was in a dark space similar to the one you had mentioned. But there was an oppressive stillness, like the heavy silence that builds up towards the end of summer when the anxiety of the rain bearing clouds sits heavy on your chest.

I wanted to leave immediately and was about to open my eyes when I saw them. I thought they were birds, but when I looked closer they turned out to be words. Thousands of them. It was quite frightening. Do you think these are my thoughts? Why couldn’t I feel the comforting rhythm and will the silence go away? Otherwise I don’t think I can try again.

Please write soon,




I notice you did not include the usual bulletin about your father, Lakshmi or the ‘majestic mountains’. Maybe this is the first sign of progress?

I was impressed with your description of the silence . Where did that sentiment come from? I have attached a photocopy of your last letter. Read it aloud to yourself.

Don’t give into the clouds of despair, keep them at bay and let your thoughts take flight.



Dear Gopal,

I feel rather low today. That oppressive silence still clings to me. I can feel it, dark and molten, eating me from within. I don’t want to try again. I feel terribly low today.

With Love,



Dear Neelima,

I see the man of sorrows has come to rest upon your shoulder. Let him dwell for a short while if you must, but he has to leave.

Your first foray into the world within has certainly stirred things up. The misery and fear lying dormant for so long has been disturbed! As this darkness rises upwards it seeds clouds of despair which rain down upon you afresh.

Consider yourself lucky! Very few get a second chance such as this. Don’t let this negativity fill the nooks and crannies of your consciousness. Like oil and water you must not allow this negativity to mix with your consciousness. These dark and molten masses will soon rise to the top if you continue to reject them. Then you can skim it off once and for all.


P.S. I look forward to your 100 words


Dear Gopal,

My senses are dulled by this heaviness inside, but as you said, the man of sorrows must take leave.

I shall try again very soon,

With Love,




I see that you are back to gazing at mountains for inspiration. Your writing certainly suggests that. What on Earth are ‘dulled senses’?

Don’t be scared of going into the details. Explore your thoughts and confront these demons. Why do you waste your energy by indulging in so much melodrama? Nothing can happen to you whilst I am here.


PS. Waiting for the first 100 words


Dear Gopal,

Until yesterday I was unable to bring myself to try the exercise again. There was a constant fear that I might not be able to lift the heavy veil of depression for the second time. Then your letter arrived and your words goaded me into action. To protect myself I made a slight variation and instead of staring at the wall as you had suggested, I stared at your previous letter before closing my eyes.

When i opened them again the first thing I saw was an enormous bird in the distance. Just as I took notice of it, it turned around and began moving towards me with great speed. But I wasn’t scared, even when it exploded and I was cocooned in a fabric of thousands of shining words.

This is when I noticed that this place, I mean this space inside was no longer dark but a beautiful cold shade of blue. A bit like the first light during the winter months. When I looked up I saw the sky. It is quite absurd to think of a sky inside me, almost as if this place is another world. A very empty world inhabited by my thoughts. I could feel their presence in these thousands of words which had settled by now and were calmly reflecting the shining light of the morning sky.

I felt a curious warmth growing inside me. The moment I became aware of it the shimmering blanket underneath took to the sky once again and unraveled into a flock of birds. In its place I saw a river. Wide and gentle, it was the color of molten amber, making its way to what looked liked mountains in the distance.

As I stood by its edge I could feel your presence next to me. We sat by the river for a long time. Then you got up and finally walked away, taking my leave.

I am very happy that I tried again,

With Love,



My dearest Neelima,

Finally you begin to succeed. There is no reason to be afraid, just continue to look within and slowly my presence will begin to fade. The journey so far has been difficult but I promise things will get better if you continue to explore and write about the world inside you. The memories of the time we spent together may cast the occasional shadow but you shouldn’t let this bother you. The dark clouds will blow away, your ‘heavy veils’ have been cast asunder, and if there is any other euphemism you used, consider it banished or destroyed.

I am sorry I was taken so abruptly, there was a lot that was left unsaid. The time we spent was precious and such was the intensity of our love that every moment we were together seems to be a cocoon waiting to be unraveled to reveal another world within. To try and recapture these moment would be tedious and tiresome. I suggest you distract your mind which is constantly seeking to do this. Let these thoughts lie dormant for now. In time these hidden worlds will reveal themselves to you.

You should rejoice! Your world is coming to life once again. As you described so yourself, there is a sense of awakening, the darkness has melted into a beautiful dawn, a new beginning. You are very close to finding the rhythm I had mentioned in one of my early letters. I won’t say anything more about it. It is important that you don’t stop writing.

This is my last letter to you my sweet love. Maybe we will cross paths again, after all there are many more lives to live.



Neelima signed this letter as Gopal and placed it aside.  She picked up all the letters and placed them on her lap. It was time to let go. She bundled all the sheets and scraps of paper and walked down to the river. As she scattered them to the wind she felt light and weightless. Just below the skin lay the door to the formerly fractured universe. She folded herself inside out and was cocooned in this universe. The gentle tide of her thoughts was breaking as warm, luscious waves on the invisible barrier where the outside world meets her universe. This steady rhythm reminded her of life, of which she was a part and which is a part of her.

17 Responses to “Invocation: Neelima/Gopal”

  1. Radhika P. Says:

    Bhay… As I mentioned, the letters could do with a bit more details. Like the flow of the letters now. Dont like Neelima’s character tho! Shake her up!


  2. debayan Says:

    bahut accha, bahut accha…fine, fine!

  3. Rupanjana Says:

    Hmmm…that makes more sense now. And just as interesting as the garbled version. Looking forward to reading more.

  4. Coos Says:

    That is beautiful Abhay – The ending is very good I think, it rounds the correspondence off in a very good way. Like Neelima I hope you’ll be writing a lot more (‘coz I’m sure Neelima wrote many books after these letters!)

  5. Rupanjana Says:

    Very good. Perhaps not totally my cup of tea but your use of language is very beautiful. Normally I hate this kind of language but a few writers get it right for me. Arundhati Roy is one. You’ve managed it too. Would you prefer a Booker to a Big Brother win?

  6. Sue Says:

    Abhay – loved the letters and the characters! Loved the arrogance of Gopaldass and the comparative innocence of Neelima – and the fact that Neelima became so damned eloquent, despite the put-downs of Gopaldass!

    I wasn’t quite so keen on the end bit – it seemed a bit too “pat” and too easy after the spontaneity and conflict of the earlier bits – as if you got tired of it all and wanted to tie up the loose ends in a hurry???

    In any case – I think you write beautifully!

    huggypoos, Sue

  7. Sue Says:

    Oh crikey…. I just had a thought…. re the last section – suppose you took the first sentence, about Neelima signing the final letter as Gopaldass – and put that as the last sentence of the story… something like….

    “Neelima knew that the correspondence had finally come to an end. She picked up all the letters that had accumulated over the past few months and placed them on her lap. There were so many letters she had written to Gopaldass and just a handful as replies. There was a lot more which could be said but this was the time to let go.

    She bundled all the sheets and scraps of paper and walked down to the river. As she scattered all but one of them to the wind she felt light and weightless herself as a stream of happiness flooded her veins. She no longer carried the burden of mechanical organs straining to sustain life. But just below the skin lay the door to the formerly fractured universe. She folded herself inside out and was cocooned in this universe. The gentle tide of her thoughts was breaking as warm, luscious waves on the invisible barrier where the world meet her universe and this steady rhythm reminded her of life, of which she was a part and which was a part of her.

    She signed the final letter ‘Gopaldass’in a bold hand, and laughed as she flung it into the wind.”

  8. Kislay Says:

    Loved the intriguing correspondence between Neelima and Gopaldass.I think the story winds up beautifully.
    Keep writing Abhay,you are great at it.

  9. […] influenced by my remarks and critical analysis of Gopaldass’ correspondences with Neelima. Just click here and start reading it. I hope you will like […]

  10. jude Says:

    Beautiful story Abhay! You are a great writer indeed. Although I agree with Radhika….you could add a lot more detail. This story could be a lot longer and a very pleasant read. I was not expecting it to end so suddenly and was slightly disappointed as I would have liked it to carry on and develop. It’s a very special story! Please continue…

  11. M Says:

    I want it to continue. I want to find out what Gopaldass is really up to, and what becomes of their relationship as Neelima matures. Have you read Les Liaisons Dangereuses? (Sp?) This story has all the compelling tensions of the early novels that were written in letter form. The honesties and evasions of the voices are very powerful. More, more. To me the story has just begun!

  12. Clarissa Says:


    I liked the dialogue!! You have a way with words, very beautiful imagery. Thank you for sharing it.

  13. Andi Says:

    Nice work! I love your way with words. And
    I love the way you bring out the characters through their writing. But explain Neelima’s final realisation (the “why” of it) if possible.
    Intriguing and simple story. Very well done!
    The discourse on writing and words reminds me of the last part of “Bee Season” [have you read that?] where the author talks about the (Jewish mystic) incantation of words as a way of communing with God.

  14. Kaymalini Says:

    Will reserve my comments, although i must say that you have a way with words and images through your words. I guess there’s a lot more within you awaiting release, so let’s cheer you on young man.

  15. Peter Says:

    I hear your voice a lot more in Gopaldass than Neelima. Lovely story though and as someone above said, your use of language is beautiful.

  16. Kumar Luv Says:

    I like. Beautiful.

    Reminds me of my college days somehow. Back then I wanted to “experiment” a lot, even managed to make some of my friends participate in one.

    One friend was trying out gibberish, and fell asleep while he was on it. He kept on gibbering louder and louder behind a closed door, and his family got really worried.

    We had great laughs later, but he never ever tried anything that I suggested.

    On a different note, have you read The Red Book by Jung? It’s a slow, but fun read.

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