Yoga Hotel

Yoga Hotel

by Maura Moynihan

View All Available Formats & Editions

In the 1970s, Maura Moynihan moved to New Delhi with her mother and father, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who at the time was U.S. ambassador to India. She wasfascinated by the country's contradictions: ancient religions amid urban chaos, the staggering disparity between rich and poor, and Indian familial tradition and the lure of Western novelty.

From three


In the 1970s, Maura Moynihan moved to New Delhi with her mother and father, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who at the time was U.S. ambassador to India. She wasfascinated by the country's contradictions: ancient religions amid urban chaos, the staggering disparity between rich and poor, and Indian familial tradition and the lure of Western novelty.

From three decades of deeply sympathetic observation came the inspiration for these stories, in which the characters' beliefs are challenged as they interact with those outside their culture. British and American expatriates mingle with Indian friends, colleagues, and servants, and the stories follow the change, or failure to change, that results. Hari, a young Indian servant, hopes for his amiable British boss's help in escaping a prearranged wedding. An American embassy worker named Melanie becomes disillusioned when her married lover uses her to get a visa. At a Himalayan retreat, a wealthy group gathers to seek spiritual enlightenment, but their altruism is tested when they are asked to buy dowries for a poor Indian family.

Through witty dialogue and engaging scenes, Moynihan examines how both easterners and westerners struggle for dignity. Replete with humor and poignancy, Yoga Hotel is a stunning literary debut from a writer who understands the complexity and universality of human hopes, fears, and desires.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
The six stories in Yoga Hotel cast a witty, unsentimental eye on the complex transactions between East and West. For every mystically minded American eager to penetrate the subcontinent's heart, Moynihan gives us an Indian maneuvering for a ticket out. — Mary Park
Publishers Weekly
East meets West in Moynihan's wry, knowing debut collection, so evocative of modern-day India that readers can smell the temple incense. The six stories feature bungling Westerners, whose insensitivity and ignorance of Indian customs stir up trouble wherever they go, and status-obsessed Indians, who at once mock and emulate their foreign visitors. "In the Heart of Braj" recounts Lila's retreat to visit Shyam Sunder, a rich American who abandoned his life of ease to take orders with a Hindu mystic. Though impressed by the peace and solitude of Shyam's religious existence, an unpleasant surprise awaits the na ve foreigner when she steps outside of his protective care. In "A Good Job in Delhi," Hari works in the home of a wealthy British rake whose unexpected benevolence saves the servant from a bleak existence and an undesirable arranged marriage. Most engaging are the stories that offer insight into the country's social mores, such as "Paying Guest" and "The Visa," which present a humorous look at the jockeying for position that occurs in India's upper castes. Moynihan's stories are full of sharp wit ("Lucy collected gurus like furniture"), but they rarely deviate from a fixed character blueprint: Western visitors are boorish, and their Indian hosts seek to exploit them. So many tiresome foreigners make an appearance that the stories become a warning for potential travelers. (Aug.) Forecast: Moynihan moved to India in the 1970s, when her father, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was the country's U.S. ambassador; she still lives part-time in New Delhi. Her rich knowledge of India should make her an appealing interview subject. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The daughter of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former U.S. ambassador to India, Moynihan learned the Tibetan and Hindustani languages and acquired deep insights into Eastern culture. This first collection focuses on the uneasy relationship between Indian people and wealthy Westerners who come to India for diplomatic/economic work or spiritual quest, with the clashes that inevitably erupt depicted in amusing and thoughtful ways. The centerpiece, a novella titled "Masterji" (holy man), typifies this situation. Visitors have gathered at the home of their spiritual leader, an aged man dying of cancer, to learn which of them will be chosen to carry on his teachings. Like children, they clamor for his attention as he listens, watches, and finally sets them off on various quests that for some mark the beginning of a new vocation. Moynihan, a rock musician, clothing designer, founder of a multilingual radio show, and co-creator of a comedy duo, writes with rare clarity and mesmerizes the reader. This literary debut will be published along with a CD of music, also called Yoga Hotel. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A first collection from screenwriter-singer Moynihan, daughter of the late New York senator, chronicles the cultural clashes between India and its Western aficionados. In "A Good Job in Delhi," house servant Hari is pulled between traditional customs and the lure of his English "master's" World Bank-supported lifestyle. With luck, Bob Thompson will take Hari back to the West, presumably every Indian worker's dream. Hari busily sidetracks his mother, who has recently chosen his bride, with lies that will keep him among Bob's extravagant parties and beautiful lovers. Although the story is politically aware and rich in description, it fizzles with an ending rushed to an ineffective, teary departure. "High Commissioner for Refugees" focuses on two American friends who catch the Dalai Lama speaking in Gangtok. Leyton works for the UN, Davis for a congressman, and both are fully versed in the Chinese invasion of Tibet. After helping a Tibetan monk who'd been tortured, Leyton is asked to contact his government in hopes that five arrested monks might be freed. Though brief, the tale successfully explores the fine line between idealism and reality. "The Visa" charts the higher echelons of Indian society, where travels to Disneyland provide powerful social clout as visas remain hard to secure: Melanie Andrews, a naïve embassy official, discovers to what ruthless extent people will go to acquire them in this dead-on dark comedy. In "Paying Guest," a nicely written story that doesn't know where to end, an American Hindustani vocalist is housed by one of two artistically feuding families, eventually taking advantage of everyone who wishes to take advantage of her. In the novella "Masterji," Moynihan'smost penetrating look at East/West collisions, people chosen from all over the world attend the Masterji's teachings at the Himalaya Guest House. Awaiting instruction from the dying spiritualist, the followers spend their time arguing civil liberties, enlightenment, and clothing. Finally, "In the Heart of Braj" follows a young woman who, searching for isolation and meaning, discovers that being infatuated with a culture is different from understanding it. Not always in balance, but engaging, sympathetic, and capably done.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sold by:
File size:
501 KB

Read an Excerpt

Yoga Hotel

By Maura Moynihan

Harper Collins Publishers

Copyright © 2003 Maura Moynihan All right reserved. ISBN: 0060559322

Chapter One

A Good Job in Delhi

The house where Hari worked was in the center of New Delhi, near a lot of government bungalows and embassy residences. Hari got the job through his fattier's cousin whose son-in-law was the driver. Every day Hari dusted the shelves, washed the floor, arranged whatever papers had accumulated on the tables. There wasn't much to do; his employers, the Calloways, never had parties. Hari had initially looked forward to wearing a white suit and proffering drinks on a silver tray, as did his cousin Ranjit who worked for the French consul general, but that never happened. Once in a great while two or three people came for dinner or drinks, and when they did the Calloways paid no attention to the servants' clothes.

Mrs. Calloway was a journalist for an English newspaper. She preferred Pakistan. She said people in Lahore gave better parties and "didn't talk from both sides of their mouths." Hari couldn't figure out what the husband did; he told dinner guests he was writing a book about the Punjab, but he never went up to the library, neither did he use his typewriter. Hari knew this because it was his job to dust the library, and the typewriter never came out from under its plastic dustcover and there was never any paper inthe wastebasket. From what Hari observed, Mr. Calloway spent most of his time reading magazines and eating grilled cheese sandwiches on the bersati.

Hari lived in the dormitory behind the house with the other servants - a chowkidar, a dhobi, and Harmeet the cook. Over the years Harmeet had worked for various embassies and high commissions, and thus claimed to speak Italian, French, Danish, and "Brazilian," which he had putatively studied during his four-year tenure at the Brazilian Embassy. One night the Calloways had a Brazilian demographer to dinner. They summoned Harmeet from the kitchen so the two could have a conversation. Hari watched from the doorway. He knew Harmeet didn't understand what the man was saying, but Harmeet invented a story line which was well received by the guest. When Harmeet was finally released, he ran into the kitchen, sweat streaming down his forehead, and yelled at Hari to get the dessert trays ready.

Harmeet was willfully obsequious in the Calloways' presence, but when alone with the other servants, he recounted calumnious tales of Mr. Calloway's sexual habits. Hari consequently studied his employer with fierce curiosity, but the only noticeably peculiar thing Mr. Calloway ever did was to entertain a middle-aged Australian woman when Mrs. Calloway was out of town. Harmeet muttered about what they did when they were alone, but as far as Hari could see nothing much went on; they sat in the living room, smoked cigarettes, and drank whiskey sodas. The woman always left promptly at 12:30 P.M. Mr. Calloway turned out the lights in the living room, locked the front door, and went to bed. It was strange that the woman never came when Mrs. Calloway was there, but it was also strange that Mrs. Calloway was always traveling. Hari soon gave up speculating about Mr. Calloway's private life, and concentrated on pilfering chocolates and liqueurs, fishing European magazines out of the trash, and staying up late reading and eating in his room.

After Hari got the job in Delhi, his mother stopped pestering him about marriage. But when a year had passed she sent a photograph of her candidate. Hari was disappointed, the girl had huge eyebrows, a double chin, and bulbous cheeks sprinkled with acne. Hart calculated he could forestall the inevitable for another year and a half.

After two years Mrs. Calloway was transferred to Jakarta and a new tenant moved in. His name was Bob Thompson, and he worked for the World Bank. He was, Hari supposed, quite handsome, with thick blond hair, pink and white skin, and very pale blue eyes with long eyelashes. The staff under the Calloways had adjusted to a pleasantly dilatory routine: Hart hadn't bothered to clean behind the shelves and couches for over a year. But Bob wanted everything washed and polished and maintained at the highest level of cleanliness and order. He had the living room painted pale blue, the bedroom yellow, the bathrooms beige; he brought in a team of tailors to reupholster all the furniture; he bought curtains, rugs, paintings, lamps, deluxe air conditioners, tablecloths. He bought new uniforms for everyone, put Harmeet's son Balban on the staff, and gave Hari lessons in mixing drinks and setting the table.

Bob had at least three dinner parties a week, a large cocktail party every fortnight, and a dance party once a month. Harmeet boasted to Bob of having worked twice as hard at the German Embassy, but when Bob dismissed them on late nights, Harmeet moaned that keeping long hours hurt his eyes and how his uncle had always warned him that the English were terrible masters. Hari was also daunted by the amount of work Bob's social life exacted; he'd grown accustomed to going to the cinema, sleeping late, playing cards in the garden at Khan Market. Now he was up at 6:30 and in bed at midnight.

But by far the most perplexing aspect of Bob's routine was that he saw several women in the course of a single week. Hari soon discerned three regulars. The first was Gerta, a stewardess from Lufthansa who always arrived at two in the morning in her flight uniform, pulling her portable luggage cart. The second was Joan, an English journalist who smoked and drank a lot and was always rude to the servants. Hari didn't think she was attractive at all - she wore round glasses and short skirts, which exposed thin, unshaven legs. Hari fantasized about spilling oil on her dough-colored thighs when he bent down to hand her the specially prepared gin and tonic she demanded ...


Excerpted from Yoga Hotel by Maura Moynihan
Copyright © 2003 by Maura Moynihan
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

Maura Moynihan has worked for many years as a refugee consultant in India and Nepal, inspired in part by her childhood residence in Asia as the daughter of a U.S. ambassador. Andy Warhol launched her musical career and placed her on the coveted cover of Interview magazine. Her first collection of fiction, Yoga Hotel, was a Washington Post bestseller. This is her first novel. She lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >