In the photo I can’t be more than a few weeks old. I have the pinched, compressed face of a newborn and I’m loosely swaddled. Holding me is my uncle Allan, and he’s perhaps 21 years old, holding me up close to have a look. The photo is a washy, bright hueds of 70s paper and I can clearly see the daubed paint between his eyes, the soft tones of his robes. His head is shaved, which in itself stands in stark contrast to the wild hair characteristic of the age, and he has the slightly goofy grin I have always associated with him.

After leaving New Zealand permanently Allan has somehow found first to Sydney and a job as a postman, a tale for another day, before making his way to India.  I think that like so many young people of the generation he went seeking the alternative to the conventional, tinned, artificial, medicated and sterile lifestyle of the post-War consensus. And, like so many young people of his generation, and to a degree mine, he finds himself in what was then the faded glory of the British Raj, seeking ashram and enlightenment. And there, it seems, he discovers Krishna consciousness.

While today the Hare Krishna movement has a particular association in the popular mind, in 1971 it had barely started, and Allan found the in founder of the movement, Sri Prabhupada, the guru he has been looking for. Tying himself closely to his variety of Hinduism, Allan took the name Achurya Das and became a disciple of the movement, as he continues to be today. Although, naturally, today he is the guru.

This strong tendency towards non-Christan religion among my uncles was a profound influence on me, and though I can critically say that it was in all likelihood a product of their rebellion against my grandmother’s selfish Catholicism, and the treatment they were meted at the hands of the Catholic school to which they were sent, it was also a constituent part of their own counter-culture rebellion. In point of fact, “alternative” religion blossomed in this generation, and permanently reinforced what had previously been the token agnosticism of Western political culture. No more the lip-service paid to separation of Church and State. With there now being no one true religion in the West, how was one to dominate?

Of course, in 1970s the zeitgeist was consuming the cultures of other lands as fast as it could embrace them, and Allan, again like so many young people, brought his religion back to the West, finding his way to again to Sydney in the mission to bring Krishna consciousness to the lives of other members of the British diaspora. And inadvertently, to care for my mother and I.

F,FLP

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