394 Bobby PapasLesley lost a husband, but she found a friend: Bobby Papas, the Master’s Representative in White River was in a curious sense Anton seen through a distorting lens. A man of roughly Anton’s age, he too came from Ermelo, had a continental look and a dark moustache. But where Anton was masculine and assertive, Bobby was self-effacing. If Anton was an alpha male, then Bobby, kindly, attentive, light and jokey, weighed in somewhere near theta.

For about ten years from 1969 onwards, Lesley and Bobby were inseparable friends. They were both in love, giddy with love like teenagers or twenty-year-olds, but not with each other. The common object of their love was the Master, Charan Singh, and perhaps they loved their own love that they saw reflected in each other. They cast themselves as brother and sister of the same beloved father. The two of them effectively ran the affairs of the sangat during that time, and the seal of their characters made a strong imprint on that small community. Some have speculated about how a man and a woman could be so close for so long and nevetheless steer around the shoals of the erotic, or suspected that there was an ingredient of the erotic in their relationship.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty puts it like this:

‘Sexuality, without being the object of any intended act of consciousness, can underlie and guide specified forms of experience. Taken in this way, as an atmosphere, sexuality is co-extensive with life. In other words, ambiguity is of the essence of human existence and everything we live or think always has several meanings.’ 

396 bobby papas wedding

This is no doubt what those who were curious about the relationship were sensing, but once sexuality becomes ‘life itself’ then, no longer able to be disentangled from the rest of existence, sexual expression can be transcended, transmuted or submerged in the more general drama. As I read it, Lesley and Bobby were friends, even lovers in a sense, companions on a spiritual pilgrimage, who had no physical contact and always maintained the proprieties as they understood them. Besides, I believe Lesley was enjoying the calm of an emotionally simplified existence – the phase from which she had emerged had had enough charged sexuality in its atmosphere to last a lifetime.

Bobby got married and left the area in the early 1980s; his farm and engineering works between White River and Plaston were sold. His departure marked the close of a chapter for the local satsangis, and without his easygoing and charismatic leadership, the local group never recovered their former cohesion and sense of united purpose, although they still continued to meet for several years in the Satsang Hall that he had built there, and still meet in the area to this day.


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