whose story this is, was born in 1911 in Germany. His long life
has been an odyssey through his own and the last century's dark
ages. He railed against his time and place, a protest that culminated
in his war-time betrayal of Nazi Germany, when he risked his life
and effectively ensured his rootlessness. His search for root as
well as freedom took him to the East, first to India and then Nepal
where he became a Buddhist monk. Returning to live in his adopted
country, Norway, he gave lectures evangelising Buddhism, and at
the same time he slowly began the process of unravelling the suffering
of his past life, an unravelling that continues to this day.
Aged 93, Sugata is still travelling
to the East, attending retreats, and climbing mountains; despite
a parallel desire to detach himself, he is fully engaged in examining
Rachel Kellett was born in England
in 1957, the year Sugata returned from the East to the West. She
met Sugata at her first Buddhist retreat in India in 1998 and travelled
with him for three years, retracing his steps, writing this book
with him. She has co-written with Robert Edwards, Life in
Plastic, a book about the environmental impact of the material,
plastic, in India, published by the Other India Press in May 2000.
The short prelude is told by Rachel, who, at 41,
meets Sugata, 87, at her first Buddhist retreat in Bodhgaya, northern
India, 1998. Breaking the silence during the retreat, Sugatas
first words to her are: What is your nationality? It was a curious
question from a man who, for the last 60 years, had adamantly and
successfully avoided answering such a question himself.
(Part I told by Karl Hendrick/Sugata as the first
 Germany, 1931: Karl Hendrick, aged 20, is one
of the mass unemployed in the dark climate that will give rise to
Hitler as well as to Karls rage against him. After a futile
attempt to become free as a wandervogel, a bird of passage,
Karl crosses to Switzerland, where he seeks a remote mountain hut
in which to remove himself from the madness around him. Despite
a flicker of identification with the Götti, a hermit, amid thunderous
avalanches and with no future hope, Karl is resigned to give up
his young life. In his purging mind he relives images from his past
that have led him to this point: while the back-cloth to his childhood
born in 1911 was the lengthening shadow of the First
World War, he countered the bitter compound of resentment and sentimental
self-pity by embracing the contrary ideas of Gandhi and found friendships
with fellow outcasts. As Germany fragmented into bleak uncertainty,
his own outsiderness was intensified by his parents
announcement that they were not his parents, that he was a shameful
Karl is awakened back to life by a fellow outcast,
Krishna. Together with an old lover of Krishnas, Radha, the
three of them (two men and one woman), after a period of innocence,
establish a deep and honest relationship in an idyllic pasture hut
where they explore each other both intellectually and sexually.
These feelings of belonging and happiness form the cornerstone of
Karls life. Driven away from this Garden of Eden
by righteous, bourgeois village locals led by the priest, they are
all separated: Radha lost, Krishna captured, Karl ejected back into
 Karl makes several more escapes from the meteoric
rise of Hitler and National Socialism. First he goes to Copenhagen
and Sweden, to a comfortable life of cockaigne and contentment,
taking in a new love affair, before being discharged back into Germany,
a reprisal against the new Chancellor Hitlers expulsion of
foreign nationals from German soil.
 After a brief experience as a backwanderer
in a growing climate of fear,  Karl flees to Istanbul, which,
in 1935, was the last escape hatch to the East. As a result of the
first stages of Aryanisation made legitimate throughout Europe,
Karl meets escaping refugees, mainly Eastern European Jews on their
way to Palestine. But Karl himself returns to the Berlin frying
pan to train in a profession in order to survive in this climate.
 The institution of Art and Work
in Berlin, where Karl enrolled, was an oasis for Jewish students
in 1936, yet a sense of foreboding pervaded their lives as if waiting
for a trap to fall. From Berlin Karl directly witnesses the period
of unbloody battles leading up to the war: seeing face
on the cruel and humiliating processes of Aryanisation; driving
through the night of Reichs-kristallnacht; visiting Austria two
days after the Anschluss; passing through Czechoslovakia and Sudetenland
as they dismally accept subjugation.
 With the outbreak of war in 1939, Karl is unwillingly
conscripted into the German Wehrmacht. Because of his street-learned
Scandinavian in wandervögel days, he is sent to recently-occupied
Norway, where, employed as a telephone and radio listener,
he becomes captivated by mellifluous Scandinavian voices. As his
friendship with the gentle Norwegian people and love of the landscape
grows, his hatred of his German army uniform festers.
 His growing boil of bitterness finds an outlet.
In the freezing winter of 1943, Karl meets an old friend in Berlin
who, after a nerve-racking conversation establishing his equal antipathy,
tells Karl of his work as one of Hitlers chief scientists
developing the V1 bomb in Peenemünde. Together they agree to sabotage.
Memorising important information, Karl impartes it to his Norwegian
radio technician (who had always known Karl as a Jössing,
friend to the Norwegians), and he in turn transmitts it to Britain.
(Three months later, Peenemünde is bombed, effectively delaying
the Germans V1 programme by three crucial months.)
   Being openly known as a Jössing,
he feels the trap closing on him, and commences his escape in December
1943. Entrusting himself to the courageous Norwegians, his escape,
prickling with fearful moments, is a journey through the different
lives he encounters a Norwegian from the Troll Fjord who
had rejected his certain, secure life for Quislings call,
the Kriegsbrichter (war correspondent) revolted by the mix of ice-cold
sadism with sentimentality among the Germans in Leningrad; the nameless
Norwegian loggers; Axel the Lap as well as through Norways
winter landscape, with the threat of death through freezing or Germans
round every corner.
 Across the border, he quickly discovers that
neutral Sweden does not offer the expected asylum and
his fate is uncertain: all German deserters prior to Leningrad were
returned to the German authorities in Norway to face certain execution.
After almost dying, he is sent to a Swedish prison. Here he attains,
paradoxically, a kind of liberation. Secure in a no-mans land,
he paints the portraits of his fellow inmates, other misfits and
deserters with various stories.
 He is released from prison in 1944. Hungry
for food and mad for sex, with a surfeit of cream cakes and keen
women, it is a time of indulgence, although, to his chagrin, he
is often judged as a German Nazi. With such prejudices, he finds
easier comradeship amongst refugees arriving from Europe. When peace
comes in 1945 and shakes the tree of refugees, allowing
many to return to their homelands, Karl by contrast has no where
to go, but gives refuge to two Norwegian girl friends, so called
military mattresses, who were escaping from post-war
recrimination and humiliation in Norway. The survivors from Auschwitz
and Buchenwald, transported on Bernadotte buses, outwardly healed
in Swedish hospitals, start arriving in the bourgeois drawing rooms
of Stockholm. Here Karl meets Ludmilla and gives her sanctuary that
Christmas. But she, like others, opts for South America where, after
a short correspondence, Karls last letter was returned, across
it written: dead.
In the spring of 1946, adamantly refusing to apply
for the renationalised German passport, Karl sets off for Paris
with his refugee Framlings pass. Journeying briefly
through the still smouldering ruins of a grey and downtrodden northern
Germany, he feels the satisfaction of revenge, a kind of self-righteousness
as well as a more pragmatic contentment of having warm, dry feet
and being a stranger looking out of a bus window. Outside the complexities
of defeated Germany, he experiences a resurgent hope: for the global
citizen and nations without frontiers. He feels that he is that
new global citizen, without a nationality, and certainly without
a German nationality: if anyone had the impertinence to ask where
he is from, he replies, I am a fish.
(Told by Rachel. Sugatas post-war past and
the present are interwoven: Sugatas story is sandwiched between
his and Rachels contemporary travel, often told in the form of a
conversation between them. As the story and time progress, the emphasis
on the present increases, and alongside the present, unfold reflections
of the past.)
[Prologue] 1999 2001: A series of letters
between Sugata and Rachel results in the birth of their working
relationship. They discuss the writing the of the first part of
this book and float the suggestion to include his post-war life
(this part of the book). Finally a disagreement seals the deal.
 In February 2001, at the end of a Buddhist
retreat, they are in Bodhgaya, India, preparing to follow in Sugatas
post-war footsteps. The backdrop is India and the convergence of
their paths (leading to Bodhgaya in 1998).
The seeds of Sugatas journey East already
having been sown (rejection of fatherland, Hitler and anything Western;
embracing of Gandhi, Theosophy, and anything Eastern), a visiting
Indian artist, Kanwal Krishna, helped bring the plan to fruition.
Overland they went, Karl and his Swedish wife, Ingrid, in 1953,
dawning on them half-way that the Arabs travelling with them were
right: So you are pilgrims! Arriving penniless through
the Gateway of India (Bombay), they were welcomed by the Sarnath
Mahabodi society, where Karl ran from one Eastern ecstasy to the
next, stumbling over Indian paradoxes and Buddhist ethics. Lama
Govinda, the bridge between East and West, helped to unravel a few
mysteries, and through him, a dog fight and a book on Lenin, Karl
began nurturing the possibility of becoming a monk. Amritananda,
a Therevadan monk, cleared the remaining obstacles to monastic life
and Nepal and swept Karl and Ingrid away from the dusty plains and
increasing heat of India to the clear mountains of Nepal.
 Amritananda gave no formal teaching but left
Karl and Ingrid to learn through looking (and being looked at),
listening (to incomprehensible three hour diatribes in Nepali) and
living. But Karl did find a teacher the Sivapuri Baba, aged
128 at the time, who immediately understood Karls aloneness,
and his present preoccupation: his hatred of his white skin. Within
six months, Karl and Ingrid became monk and nun, taking the Buddhist
names Sugata and Amita. They were the first European husband and
wife ever to be ordained in Nepal. With news from Amita, who had
returned home, that Sweden was hungry for Buddhism, the fervent,
yellow robed monk, Sugata, hastened back to the West to awaken it
to the wisdom of the East.
 Sugata returned to Nepal in 1960. As a monk
with a difference three Leica cameras around his neck
he was invited by Sham Sherchan, a merchant from an old Tukuche
salt trading family looking for a new trade in tourism, to photograph
Devil Dancing (Buddhist celebrations to reinact, with
elaborate dances and masks the victory of good over evil). In April
2001, retracing his steps up the Kali Gandaki valley, Sugata is
as much an object of interest, now aged 90 (his birthday us celebrated
half way up the Annapurna trekking route in Tatopani hot springs)
as he was in 1960 being the only white-skinned monk. He and Rachel
find the once lively Gompas (temples) to be abandoned relics of
their former glory: the Chhairo Gompa had been robbed and Tukuche
lies in ruins. Because he took umbrage at their mercantile use,
Sugata never handed the photographs over in1960, so the thousands
of images of the dances, Thanka paintings (now waterlogged), and
many carved Buddha statues (since stolen), lay unseen in boxes.
Until now, that is. At the end of the trip Rachel and Sugata meet
by chance Sashi Dhoj, the son of the Thanka painter Sugata photographed
in 1960. Sashi was earnest in wanting to restore the Gompas
the photographs will be used to preserve.
 In Norway 2001, Rachel arrives on a June white
night, visiting Sugata in his adopted country, driving up a dirt
track to his isolated hut on the edge of Europes largest uninhabited
plateau Sugatas protected loneliness.
Returning to the West from Nepal in 1957, Sugata,
as monk in yellow robes, began giving public lectures. Crusading
mostly against the West, his promotion of Buddhism had to be tempered
and packaged as travelogues to placate the local priests,
fearful of heathen competition. Thus his slide show titles: The
Hidden Kingdom of Nepal, Pilgrimage to Mt Everest.
But Sugata was never really happy in Sweden, and in 1967 he returned
to his beloved Norway. Here he continued to give lectures (disrobing
after 15 years as a monk), until attendance declined with the advent
of television. At the age of 60, Sugata began retraining in what
is probably his final profession, Rose Painting, reawakening his
life-long interest in art but, more importantly, fulfilling an ambition
he has long harboured, to become more independent so that he can
bask in increasing aloneness and anonymity. With savings from his
lectures and a steady income for the first time in his itinerant,
wandervögel life, he bought a piece of land and built his first
home, a hut. He was 65 years of age.
Sugatas and Rachels time together,
their day to day living in the hut writing the book, walking,
sparking memories and seeing the shifts and finding reconciliations
is interrupted by two telephone calls with sad news: Rachels
aunt had died and Sugatas ex wife Amita was dying. They both
set off to carry out their respective death rituals, Sugata reflecting,
sometimes painfully, on Amitas life and their life together.
Amita died two days after Sugatas return to her, as if she
were waiting for him, and Sugata describes the final death ritual,
part orderly Scandinavian and part shockingly Eastern Buddhist.
 Having successfully secured his independence
and aloneness, what will happen to Sugata when he gets old?
Discussing this and toying with the idea of living in a like-minded
community, preferably Buddhist, Sugata recalls a community he visited
fifteen years ago that was being established in Bordo, northern
Italy. He and Rachel travel there and find a community of young
Aryan Germans with plenty of children two groups
of people Sugata has assiduously avoided throughout his later life.
For the first time in 40 years, he responds honestly: #German,
to their question of what nationality he is, and his candour allows
him to open up to other questions of his war time past.
 In the last chapter, Rachel returns to Norway
in autumn 2002. Together they talk of winter in the hut; there is
acceptance of Sugatas staying on here. He is preparing for
the peace of nirvana, the giving up of desire,
yet at the same time he realises he is still fatefully attracted
to the endless samsara (comings and goings) of this
life. He is the reluctant participator, battling to attain and protect
his aloneness, yet at the same time not wanting to be left alone.
Has he finally found what he wanted, first glimpsed with the Götti?
One thing he is sure of (with a strong taste of the evangelist):
that his longevity is finally his most effective point of influence
yet, and so it is; he will continue to travel to Bodhgaya and choose
to sit on an uncomfortable floor for three weeks.
Rachel Kellett October 22, 2002 / June 2003