When his wife dragged him to a ceremony run by a Hindu guru from Jaigapur, Antonov steeled himself for a tedious evening and he wasn’t disappointed. The old fart with the yellowish beard spoke in the most exalted tone but Antonov sensed that Swami Baba didn’t believe in his nonsense about the power of imagining any more than he did.

It was a subject Antonov was no novice at. Indeed, when it came to imagining himself rich, famous and handsome, he was a pro, but none of his fantasies had materialized so far, though he was reasonably content with his job, friends and attractive wife.

Nor did the Baba explain the place of (and remedy for) fearful or morbid imaginings. His only relief as the lecture droned on was to thrash the guru in an imaginary debate, but that gave him no satisfaction either.

Eyes glazed and knees aching from his lotus posture, Antonov was about to storm out and provoke a fierce marital argument, when the master gave everyone the old hands-clasped bow and was hurried off to a hidden precinct by his fawning disciples.

“We better go before we miss the last bus.”

“And miss out on the treats!” (said his wife).

The spread of aromatic canapés, all strange but delicious, soothed his annoyance and suddenly became so much mush in his mouth when he noticed the young Indian women who were serving them.

Amidst the grating sound of New Yorkers at the feeding trough, their English-accented voices rang out like a celestial choir and he was overwhelmed by their cinnamon skins, graceful postures, glistening braids and soft supple contours. They made the other women look like cackling, scrawny hens.

With his wife alongside, outright flirtation was forbidden, but a conversation about spiritual themes would be harmless and it was then that attraction turned into head-spinning love, because far from being crude, Antonov was exigent about women and, however comely she might be, a woman who lacked intellect, refinement and sensitivity would leave him cold.

Demure yet seductive, cultured yet down to earth, proud but not arrogant, they were like angels descended to earth and, at the same time, the embodiment of an eroticism far beyond his wildest wet dreams.

Nevertheless, when his wife pointed at her watch, he had to accept the guru’s warning about the futility of desire.  What good had a lifetime of lusting after women done him in the end, the millions glanced in passing who, once past, only aggravated a despair tinged with remorse, because his wife was affectionate and kind.

And so to bed. But as he was falling asleep, he was seized by a rancorous envy of the kind of man they were probably making love to at that very moment: some third-rate actor or rock musician naively thought to be an “artist.” Not that he could blame them for taking advantage of their only chance at a fling before their families shipped them back home to an arranged marriage to the pious, paunchy dauphin of a steel-mill baron, as befitted upper-class Brahmin girls.

Or one in particular. The more he writhed, the sharper her image became: taller than the rest, willowy like…well, a willow, and beneath her cultured exterior, smoldering with unsatisfied desire. Imagined or not, it plunged him into a sexual fantasy so heated it would have made his wife suspicious, had she been beside him, but, having noticed his restlessness,  she’d gone to the kitchen to prepare a comforting cup of hot chocolate.

Sure he was alone, he gave a free rein to his imagining, in a state which, while neither wakefulness nor dreaming, gave it an unparalleled edge. He caught the scent of sandalwood, saw a gleam of braids, and felt the press of naked breasts on his chest like an electric shock which stiffened his rod into cast iron as her teeth bared in a savage smile and all notion of selfhood was lost in a cosmic orgasm.

Though only a few minutes by the clock, it was an eon before he surfaced again, alerted by the creak on the stairs of his wife, which forced him into a split-second calculation of whether to shove his oriental princess into the closet or hide her under the bed: unnecessarily, because she instantly vanished in a purple puff of glitter dust.

“Are you feeling alright, dear?”

“Fine, it was only a strange dream.”

It was the logical explanation just then, but when he awoke the next day, he was as certain she´d been real as he was of his strong urge to piss.

Confirmed, first, by a smudge on his thigh of lipstick (which his wife never used), then a few ebony hairs on his wife’s pillow (oops!: quickly brushed away) and finally, as he bent down for his slippers, a fragile silver chain, holding one jasper bead, with a broken clasp and a tiny “Bombay” stamped on it.

But it was shameful to act like a detective about a transport so sublime. Some experience of the matter had taught Antonov that a peak orgasm did not end then and there. It left a residue that would linger for days: a warm tingling pleasure which suffused the body with ease and lifted the spirit over the quotidian annoyances of life.  And that’s how it was now.

But the loftier his love for that exotic creature, the more frustrating his doubt that he had truly possessed her. Being capricious by nature, a goddess might bless him once and then go on to others.

At that pessimistic point, he shook himself and invoked the guru’s power of imagining and a few nights later (for he needed to rest after such a paroxysm of pleasure), Antonov put it to work again when his wife was watching a late-night movie on the t.v. downstairs.

And lo and behold, she appeared. But perhaps because he was nervous, their love-making was a little less exciting. True, the goddess was just as savage, but Antonov was a shade below par. And when she again vanished once it was done, her dust was a duller purple.

And, so it went during the following weeks: imagining, expectation, excitement and a gradual waning of potency. Was it a lack vitamins? A voodoo hex by his savvy wife? Krishna’s curse on the infidel?

Instead of despairing, however, he secretly consulted the guru, but all he got was the same blather about imagining.

Well, he said to himself, if imagining is desire, I can do it, so, focusing on his lust, he wrote, directed and starred in a mental movie of carnal release.

Then came the night when all was ripe: his wife at her mother’s, he well-rested, a gentle rain mellowing the atmosphere and an effortless exercise of imagining. Like magic, the goddess materialized and snuggled alongside him: her heavy breathing near, her perfume overpowering.

But when he embraced her, eager as never before, something went wrong, seriously wrong, for, after much huffing, puffing, sweating and Kama Sutra positioning, he utterly failed to rise to the occasion and she, losing patience, dematerialized into a noxious grey cloud.

He, like any man in that situation, felt that there was no hole deep enough to hide in. But when his mortification passed, Antonov reckoned that since the guru was an ascended soul high above censure, he would certainly absolve him and then smooth out the kink. With that, Antonov would resume his love-making, with more vigor than ever.

And, indeed, the old man heard him out with a benevolent smile, but after much inquiry into the details and just when he was about to offer a solution, it seemed, he fell into a pitying, world-weary frown.

“Very few Westerners have learned the science of imagining. You need to meditate for decades to just get an inkling and even then, if you fail to be righteous and, above all, concentrated, it won’t work. In your case, the mistake was to focus on the pleasure, instead of the mechanism which triggers it. Like many, you had beginner’s luck, without realizing it was a trick of Kundalini. To put it bluntly, your focus was up here (touching his brow), when it should have been down there (pointing to Antonov’s crotch). And so the energy which should have gone downwards went up to your head and out of your mind and dissipated into the ether. You apparently forgot the title of my talk: “Beware of the perils of incomplete imagining.”