It is well known that south Indians have long names. I like to say my full name whenever possible. But when my friends call me Amby and I do not object. Sometimes they say would say Amby with a different tone, implying I had traditional tastes, particularly in clothes. (You know, Amby is an old-fashioned car model in India). Priya used Amby with a special southern tone, meaning a "traditional kid brother". She did that when I did not approve of her selection of clothes or jewellery. I would laugh with her on such occasions.
As for Priya I called her Chinna which roughly translated as petite. This was because Priya was about 5 feet 4 inches tall as against my six feet. Her weight was about 60 kgs as against my 75 kgs. She had a v-shaped pretty face and a lovely figure as against my square jaw and somewhat hairy and muscular body.
Often, people wonder what brought us together. On surface, we were quite opposite. Left to herself she would go out wearing a mini-skirt and a tight fitting top and deal karate chops to anyone who tried to get fresh with her. It took some time for people to appreciate that she was as beautiful from within as she was from outside. While we were together at the university, we realised that our interests in reading, travel and food were similar. More than all that, we both were not so career-minded as to enjoy life in many different ways. We worked hard at our professions but never allowed it to run our life. We also knew to laugh at our own shortcomings and that of the world around us.
After three years of married life, we had just one regret. Maybe I felt it more than Priya. I wanted a child in our life. Priya had suggested adoption, but I proposed that we visit Babaji's ashram one last time before we finally gave up the attempts to get our own child. Some of my westernised readers may laugh at such an idea but most Indians can easily balance the rational and the super-natural in their lives.
Babaji ashram is located on a hillock about 100 kms from the southern city of Bangalore. No motorised vehicle is allowed within five kms of the ashram. Except for the sick, the rest are expected to walk the last five kms carrying their own luggage. Priya would have loved to wear her jeans for the walk. But knowing my fixations, she wore an embroidered salwar kameez. I was dressed in a black terewool pants and cream coloured full-sleeved Shirt.
After registering ourselves at the gate, when we reached our simple room at the ashram, it was nearing sunset. A cool breeze blew across the garden in front of the rooms and the dahlia plants and the rose bushes swayed gently. In the distant valley the sun was moving towards its resting-place. We stood close to each other as we watched the scene. We just stood there holding our hands until the sun finally set.
Our reverie was broken by one of the ashram inmates who apprached us with customary salutation of "Jai Radheshyam". The young sadhu smiled at us and told us that we had been granted audience with Babaji in an hour.
Though the ashram did not insist on it, we always met Babaji in the traditional south Indian dress. For today, Priya had changed into a green kanchipuram silk saree, which had maroon borders with gold thread motifs. She was wearing a matching blouse. She was wearing traditional gold jewellery. Her hair was in a single plait. There was a red bindi on her forehead and her face had a glow of good health. I had worn a dhoti (a white cloth with coloured border with gold thread work, tied at the waist and covering the legs fully) and a kurta (traditional shirt). We carried some fruits and a donation cheque on a silver plate as we walked bare foot on the marble pathways to parlour of our spiritual guide.
Unlike many spiritual gurus of our times, Babaji shunned publicity. He produced no books, CDs or DVDs. He did not undertake national and international tours or seek coverage by press. There are about 100 families who made up his flock and he was content to deal with them.
When we entered his chamber, Babaji smiled at us from the raised divan on which he was seated. We bend down to touch his feet and he raised his right hand to bless us. Then he asked us to sit on the chairs placed at right angles to his divan.
" My children! I am happy to see you! My daughter, you are looking as beautiful as ever. Has the lord granted you your desire".
Before Priya could say anyhing, I said," No not yet Baba. I think we need you to intervene on our behalf."
" Priya, I feel Amby is becoming impatient. Even people like me cannot change the Lord's grand design. But we can do things which will make it easy for him to help us?"
Priya said," Baba, We believe in you. We will follow anything you tell us to do".
I knew Priya was saying it more to support my wishes. Still I liked her for saying it.
I confirmed what Priya was saying," If you feel we need to sacrifice something or change our life-style to reach our goal, we will be willing to do it".
Babaji smiled enigmatically,"My children! Now I understand how much you desire a child. If you wish to achieve what you desire some changes have to take place in your life. But before that I would like to do a small experiment to test whether you can do what you need to do". Saying this Babaji took out a silver container from the writing desk on his left and said,"This contains a special kheer (a dish of rice, milk and sugar) prepared over scared fire to the chanting of vedic mantras. Each of you should place roughly half of it in the palm of your right hand. Then you will stand in front of each other at little more than arms length and stretch your right arms sideways with palms continuing to face skywards. Now you should move sideways and forward so that you can bend forward and eat the kheer from each other's palm at the same time".
Seeing us puzzled, Babaji laughed," Children! You are both intelligent. You will figure it out. Oh! One more thing! While you are doing this you must wear clothes which have been exposed to the sun recently. You can wear what you wore during the day today. Then without changing your clothes just go to bed and sleep well. When you are ready in the morning, come over and meet me by 10 o'clock. My blessings to you." Saying this Babaji once again smiled at us.
" Now go and visit the temple and the gardens. That should give you a good appetite. The cook just discussed the night's menu with me. I think you will love it. As far the dessert, you have it with you already. Jai Radheshyam." Babaji raised his hand to bless us and the interview was over.
Despite the mystery surrounding his instuctions, we were able to enjoy the evening. We met a few families whom we had met on previous visits and dinner as expected, was superb.
We returned to the room; rather excited like children to do our experiment. Priya changed into her dark salwar kameez and I wore my black trousers and the cream shirt. We even wore the undergarments in which we had travelled. Then we divided the kheer into two parts and placed it in our palms and stood in front of each other giggling like school kids. Quickly we figured out a way to eat from each other's hand. The dish was really delicious and we did not stop to contemplate the powers built into it.
When we washed our hands, brushed our teeth and slipped under the sheets we were once more excited about the direction the experiment would take and it took us some time to find sleep. I had the additional discomfort of sleeping in my trousers.
I do not know how long I must have slept. I felt half-awake as I felt the need to use the washroom. I slipped out of the sheet, swung my legs to side of the bed so that I could stand up. Surprisingly, my legs did not touch the floor and I had to jump to reach the floor. As I became a little more awake, I realised I was no longer wearing the uncomfortable trousers but a loose fitting garment.
I made my way groggily to the washroom, entered it, closed the door and switched on the light. I slowly opened my eyes, and was so shocked to see Chinna standing in front of me that I blinked a few times. But the rush of adrenaline drove away my sleepiness and made me fully awake. I opened my eyes fully and I realised I was looking into a mirror. With another rush of adrenaline, I realised that I was in Chinna's beautiful body. I forgot the purpose of my visit to the bathroom and opened the door just a little to check the bedroom. There was a large man breathing heavily and sleeping on the bed.
As I had never seen myself as others saw me, it took me a little while to realise that it was my body on the bed.
By now I was once again aware of the pressure on my bladder. I shut the door, calmly walked up to the toilet, put down the seat, undid my salwar and sat on the seat to relieve the pressure. I realised that the abstract person in me was unchanged but I would now be visible to the world in the lovely body of my Chinna. This body had retained all its learnt responses to internal commands by me and external stimulus by the environment.
Still there were many unanswered questions.
Despite that I felt a delicious sensation being inside the body I had always admired. Maybe I was even envious of Chinna for having a nice soft curvaceous body, a glowing skin and an easy laughter, which brought a hungry look in the eyes of most men. At those times I had felt proud that I had a special relationship with her and her body. Will Chinna have similar feelings looking at me because I was sure the form sleeping in the bed carried Chinna within it. Maybe Chinna would be displeased on finding herself in such an ugly body. I had no way of knowing but had to wait till she woke up.
So I decided to go back to bed and pretend to sleep until such time that she woke up and understood the situation. But when I went back to the bed, I realised that the task of climbing on to the tall conventional bed was not easy as it used to be. I had to rest my palms on the bed behind me and haul myself up. But as I did it, I found it to be fun. Somewhat thrilled with my achievement I slipped under the sheets and pretended to sleep. As for the many unanswered questions I was sure Babaji would give us the answers. Then I realised that soon I would have to go out in broad daylight in the form of a beautiful woman. My feelings were a mixture of fear and excitement.
I must have dozed off, when I suddenly heard a loud thud. Quickly I realised that Chinna must have hit the ground faster than what she was used to and tripped. I felt like giggling but managed to suppress all sound and continued my pretense of sleeping.
Soon I heard a gruff male voice say, "Oh my God"! followed by a deafening silence. I wanted to open my eyes to check whether anything serious had happened. I started counting up to ten before I would get up to check. Before I reached seven, I could hear shuffling feet followed by banging of the bathroom door. My dear girl, I said to myself, learn to control your manly muscles or you will end up breaking things.
Ten minutes must have passed. The feet shuffled along towards the bed. I could sense her standing near me. Then a pair of strong arms lifted my head up and my lips met her rough lips and I experienced my first kiss as a woman.
The hug and the kiss woke us up fully. Chinna told me that the fall on he floor had not hurt her badly.Actually it woke her up real quick and she was fast to understand what had happened. When she had gone to the bathroom she had been confronted with a vicious hard-on. She had to wait for it to go down before she could relieve herself. For the first time in her life, she did that standing up. Then she had stepped out of the bothersome trousers and the shirt. She had then stood in front of the mirror, arms akimbo like a wrestler and let her muscles become taut. She had then wrapped a towel on her waist and walked into the room to kiss me.
Having kissed me, Chinna got into the bed, placed one arm under my head, put the other arm over me and hugged me. "Chinna you are hurting me" I cried out. She apologised, loosened her grip and kissed me to make up. We could have just gone on from there, but we stopped because we were unsure whether it was allowed during the experiment.
As we heard the chirping of birds as dawn approached, we left our bed reluctantly. Still the sexual heat had not gone out of Chinna. She virtually lifted me up and kissed me full on my lips as my feet dangled helplessly in the air. I said, "You brute" in mock anger and pounded her chest until she let me go. "Well looks like I am going to be the beast and you are going to be my beauty", was her response to my mock anger. Actually she did look huge as I looked up at her!
While we brushed our teeth, Chinna remarked that I should wash my hair. Previous night she had noticed that it had become dull and listless and she had planned to wash it today. Now it was on me and I had to do it. The hair in question was rather long and was currently plaited. The night in bed had made it somewhat disheveled. "But Chinna it will take time and we have to meet Baba by 10 oclock," I said trying to wriggle out of the job. Chinna knew the answer; " Ok, we do it like this. You bathe first and dry your hair in the sun. I will bathe quickly and go get our breakfast from the dining hall. Then we will eat. By then your hair will dry and I will help you to get dressed quickly". She even anticipated that I will have some difficulty with dressing up. I just pouted for want of a better option and said,"Ok you slave driver!" Chinna laughed and slapped my bottom. It stung but felt good!
Chinna took out a fresh pair of bra and panties from her suitcase for me to wear. She also took out an ankle-length blue petticoat and a white knee length house-coat and kept it on the bed. " You can wear the outer garments after you come out" she said. I blushed at the thought of coming out of the bathroom wearing only bra and panties and facing Chinna and so I said," No way"; and took the housecoat as well and went into the bathroom. Chinna laughed and said, "You may have my body but you are still my dear old Amby." In the special south Indian tone she added," You should now start listening to your husband and be a good Indian wife." I just put out my tongue as an answer to that and went into the bathroom.
After undressing I was about to start the shower when I realised there was something in my vagina. I probed and took out a fairly clean tampoon. Chinna's periods had got over two days ago but, for the journey she had inserted a tampoon as a precaution. Though there was no discharge, the tampoon was wet because of the morning's hugging and kissing. I was amazed at how normal my responses were as a woman. I smiled as I recollected the events of the morning. I could even feel my nipples hardening. I looked at my naked body in the mirror and realised how attractive I was as a woman. I became a little narcissistic about my 34-24-36 figure.
Not only that; I had lovely long hair which brushed my curvaceous buttocks, my face along with its pointed nose was glowing, my shoulders were rounded, the skin on my body was smooth, my breasts were firm, my stomach was flat and my legs were shapely. I also noticed a few things, which needed attention. My eyebrows needed some threading, the nails on my slender fingers needed polishing and of course my hair needed shampooing!
I thumbed my mangalsutra (gold lockets attached to a gold chain worn around the neck to denote married state) as I looked at myself in the mirror. The diamond rings on my earlobes glittered in the rather strong artificial light of the bathroom. The pair of gold bangles on my left hand clinked, whenever I moved my hand. I had a delicate looking ring on the finger of my right hand. I also had a silver toe ring on my right foot.
Alternatively making faces at myself and smiling shyly, I started un-plaiting my hair. The released hair almost fully covered my back. I gathered it at the back of my head and brought it over my shoulder to the front of my body. Even then the end of it was able to reach up to my navel.
I really had to pull myself away from the mirror and get under the shower. Shampooing such a lot of hair was really a major task. The even more difficult thing was to wipe the hair to reasonable state of dryness. The thin towel, which we normally use, was saturated in no time. I wrapped the towel around my forehead and head and twisted it along the length of the hair. I also managed to form a bun of this twisted hair on the back of my neck. For wiping my body I had to use the discarded kameez. Wearing the panties was easy. The bra posed a challenge, but I remembered how Chinna did it. I hooked it on my chest and then slid it to take the hook behind. Then I put each of my arm through the straps and gently squeezed my breasts into the cups. Then I wore the house-coat. I checked myself in the mirror before I went out. My face was shining and I looked every bit a young wife that I had become.
" I thought you had gone to sleep in the bathroom" was what Chinna said as she saw me," But the sight of you coming out is lovely. It has made all the waiting worthwhile".
I smiled and said, "Oh, shut up Chinna. Go bathe quickly".
" No kissie before I go ?"
" No chance! And remember to shave properly."
After she went in, I picked up a fresh towel and wiped my hair again. I wished the Ashram rules would allow us to get hair-driers. When I was somewhat done I heard the sound of the toilet being flushed. Soon I heard a loud exclamation. I knocked on the door and and when it opened, I found Not only Chinna's beard but the entire wash basin was covered with shaving foam. She had pressed the Gillette shaving gel with a little extra force and result was there for all to see. I laughed and helped her clean up. She had become so much of a man she tried to hug me even as I cleaned up the place. Again I had to wriggle out of her grasp.
I came out and wiped my hair as much as I could, I wore the blue long petticoat under my house-coat and went out in the sun to dry my hair. Just then an elderly lady from the next cottage came over to me. I smiled at her and said "Jai Radheshyam" in greeting. She responded to my greeting and asked me my name. I said "Amby" and bit my tongue. Quickly I corrected myself, "Aunty, that is my pet name. My real name is Priya."
"That is a nice name. Actually you remind me of my daughter. She is now in the US. Three months ago she delivered a baby girl. I just returned after her delivery. How many children do you have?"
"None so far aunty".
"Don't postpone too much, my dear. You must talk to your husband and make him agree."
I felt I had to defend my husband,"No aunty. That is not the problem. Maybe Baba will help us." I left the issue unexplained.
"Oh! I am sure Baba's blessings will make it happen? Can I comb your hair Priya. I like doing it. It looks silky and nice."
I knew aunty was feeling uncomfortable about our childlessness. So I smiled and let her comb my hair. Soon she had plaited it beautifully. She even put in a small knot at the end to prevent it from coming apart. I took the plait to the front and was admiring it when aunty whispered to me,"I think your husband is looking for you". I said, "Oh" and turned towards our room. Sure enough, Chinna was standing at the door, dressed in sparkling white shirt and equally white dhoti. Her hair was combed backwards, making the forehead look broader than I had known.
"Jai Radheshyam" Chinna greeted aunty as she came near us. "Thank you for helping Priya. Her plait looks very neat" Turning to me she said," Try to get ready while I go get our breakfast. Aunty! Shall I get you something as well.." Just then aunty's husband came out saying he was also ready to go get the breakfast. So Chinna and uncle set out towards the dining hall leaving me and aunty. As I watched them go I felt proud of my Chinna, because she looked so agile and handsome.
As the sun was fully up by then and it was getting hot, I invited aunty to come into the room with me. On the bed in the room Chinna had kept out a saree and a blouse. There was also a note written by her. I picked up the note very casually, and put it in the pocket of my housecoat before aunty could see it.
The saree was a lightweight Bangalore silk in a rich blue colour with a gold thread border. The sleeveless blouse was of the same colour but made out polycot material.
" These sarees drape beautifully. You have a good figure and you will look very beautiful in this saree"; aunty said and added, " My Rumi hardly wears sarees.. She needs someone to help her with them" .
" I too normally wear pants"; I said quite truthfully.
Aunty probably misunderstood," You want me to help you wear the saree?" she asked me.
I nodded my head thinking I could certainly do with some help.
When I went into the bathroom to take out the housecoat and wear the blouse, I read Chinna's note: I know you have to wear silk today; this will be a bit easy for you. I think you will look good in it. That is what you always told me when I wore it! I was touched by the concern of my wife who was now my husband!
I had often felt that Chinna paid her tailor too much money. But when I wore the blouse, I felt he deserved what he demanded. The blouse was totally comfortable yet no folds were formed even when I moved my arms or turned my body. The fit over my breasts was so perfect that I could almost see the shape of my nipples. It was a work of art and in a moment of vanity I felt that a beautiful body such as mine deserved such attention to details.
Nothing much can be said about the petticoat but that the soft linen was easy on my waist and clung nicely to my ample buttocks.
As I looked into the mirror, I realised that I needed a bindi (colour dot) on my forehead. I looked around and found Chinna's toilet kit. Not only did I find the red bindi, I also found some basic makeup and a pearl jewellery set. I removed my ear-rings and bangles and kept them inside the toilet kit. Then I pushed the mangalsutra below the fabric of the blouse. After applying light makeup, I wore the the three strand pearl chocker around my neck . The pearl danglers on my ear reached halfway to the chocker and felt good. I wore the pearl bracelet on my left hand leaving the right hand free for my Gucci watch.
Before leaving the bathroom, I brought my plaited hair to the front and let it rest between my breasts. I think I felt shy to go in front of aunty showing off my large firm breasts with their erect nipples pointing straight ahead. How could I help it if I was feeling good and somewhat sexually aroused? Before going out I wanted to empty my bladder and then I noticed that even my panties were a little wet.
Aunty smiled at me when I came out. "You are a smart girl. White pearls will go very well with this blue saree. Come here! Let me tie the saree for you."
"No aunty! I will try. You correct me if I go wrong". It was not a question of ego. The body in which I now lived was used to a saree. Could it have lost its skills due to my entry? I wanted an answer.
When I did tie the saree, I found that if I did not think about the process, I can do all mechanical tasks which my body was used to. Problems could come up if I interfered with my own inputs. When the job was done, I had no doubt that I was looking ravishingly beautiful. I had a doubt that maybe I was overdressed to meet Babaji. I was also a bit worried about the sleeveless blouse. I expressed my doubts to aunty.
"Don't be silly, my girl. Babaji is beyond all this. He knows that the body and all that we put on it are all passing things. What is permanent is the soul. And the soul has neither form nor gender. Your husband in this birth could be your wife in the next one. Certain rules and restrictions are there in the ashram to protect us from our own instincts. That way, you are well within the norms of our group here. Only thing you have worry about is that someone may mistake you for a goddess and start worshipping you".
" You are right auntie", Chinna said as she and uncle joined us, "sorry about eavesdropping on aunty's last sentence. We always offer flowers to our gods, so I have brought some jasmine garland for your our goddess here. You know, this is the only flower which Babaji allows to be plucked and maximum length allowed is one foot as a garland."
"Now my son", uncle added his bit,"Though we offer flowers to goddesses, for wives we put it their hair. So priya, why don't you turn around so that Ambalavanan can put those flowers where they belong?
I felt both happy and bashful with all the attention that I was getting as a woman. I turned my back to Chinna and let her place the flowers in my braid. She let the thick garland of Jasmine pass through a few stands of my hair at the back of my head and adjusted the garland to equal length on both sides of the plait.
When I turned I could see that the three of them were quite struck with my beauty. I felt a bit embarrassed and broke the spell by saying," I think I am hungry!"
" My children! I think there are enough questions in your mind. Let me try to answer them for you. I realised a few days ago that it is not possible for Priya to conceive during this birth. Only way to overcome it was by switching your souls. This technique has been handed down the generations to a few of us. One of the important conditions for the success of this procedure is that is that the couple should not tell anyone about this. Still what has happened to you is only an experiment. If you do not want to go on with it, by tomorrow morning you will switch back and continue on with your life. But if you decide to go ahead, you must consume a bitter paste from each other's hand by the time the sun reaches the zenith today. Then you must remain outdoors in sunny places till the sun goes down. The sunlight is the source of energy for this process".
While we looked at each other in amazement, Babaji smiled and continued, "In the olden days, couples using this method remained in the ashram till the child was born. That way they were saved the problem of dealing with switched identities in their normal life. You can do it that way. But if you think that is not possible, I will allow you to go back to normal life, if you promise to spend at least ten days away from your normal environment. You must spend these days becoming absolutely adjusted to your new role as well as teaching each other everything about your job, colleagues, friends and relatives. Your personalities and expectation from each other will also change. You need to resolve these. Despite this no one outside should see changes happening too quickly. The risk you run if someone suspects something or starts probing, is that the child will not be born and you will be switched back in a painful way. You could also become insane. But if you go through without any problems, you could come back to me before the first birthday of the child. Then I will switch you back. You could also decide to continue with your changed identities for the rest of your life. But you will get those diseases which were imprinted on your adopted bodies at the time of birth. Discuss all aspects and if you decide to continue your changed bodies then take the paste contained in this box before mid-day today."
Saying so he handed over a wooden box and blessed us.
"What do you say Amby," Chinna asked me when we had reached our room. During the walk from Babaji?s parlour to our room we were lost in our own thoughts.
I replied, "At least for one year, we have to be each other. You know my job as a product executive involves a lot of travel and you may get tired doing it."
"With this body I don't think travel will be a problem. Another advantage of travel will be that I can move away from those of your colleagues who know you too well. But will you like my job as a hospital librarian? Wouldn?t it be boring for you."
"When I become pregnant, that will be the ideal job. Added benefit will be that I will have a whole hospital to fuss over me. Tell me ; do you feel sad that you are not the one who will bear the child".
"No Amby! It does not matter. I love kids but we know that you are more keen than me about having a child. I think you will be much better mother than me?"
"But after the child is born we will switch back or are you thinking of something else?"
"Well we do not have any secrets between us. I love being a man. It is still a man's world. I think I would love the challenge of making it to the top in this world " Saying this she tried to adopt a karate posture. Since her current body was not trained for it, the posture was not quite right. "Well I need to train this body with my mind". She said resignedly.
I smiled at my Chinna my husband and said,"You have been observing me. Do you think I regret being a woman?"
Chinna laughed, "On the contrary. I think you love all the attention. You are looking lovely today. But sometimes you can also be bit sexy. There will be many private occasions when you have to dress provocatively. How else will you get pregnant... What do you say?"
"Now I can understand what a dirty soul can do in a male body. But I understand what you are saying. I will be as fashionable as girls around us. No more and no less and we will not discuss what happens in private..."
I almost blushed thinking of what could happen in private. I had no doubt Chinna would come up with unique ideas.
Chinna gathered me in her hands and said, "You blush quite nicely." And then she kissed me.
After a while I pulled away and said," You know Chinna! As a man you can wear jeans and shortest of shorts. I was always preventing you when you were a woman."
"Even now I don't know whether you will really allow me to wear shorts. Suppose I went for a swim with short tight trunks, don't you think some girls may get interested. Have you looked at my thighs now". She dropped her dhoti so that I could see for myself how muscular her legs were.
While I cried out,"Shameless creature;" I had to admit her legs were strong. Anyway I did not want to discuss this subject.
"Don't you worry my pet. I propose to be loyal to you." Chinna laughed and hugged me. Yesterday I could not have felt so, but now I felt safe in her arms.
So when we ate the bitter paste to continue as woman and man we were fully confident that we can make it work.