By Neha Kirpal
Author, poet, activist and former aid-worker Natasha Scripture’s intriguing memoir Man Fast: How One Woman’s Dating Detox Turned into a Spiritual Reckoning Across Four Continents (Piatkus, 2021) takes us through her romantic trysts and spiritual quest as she travels the globe for work and self-discovery.
Addicted to her job as a writer, producer and editor for several organisations, Natasha’s career graph was made up of lots of short-term stints at refugee camps, war zones and natural disaster areas, including in Ethiopia, Haiti, Libya and Pakistan. Her erratic lifestyle had led to her dating numerous men, but the romantic liaisons that resulted were short-lived and went nowhere.
A lesbian encounter with an emotionally unavailable older woman, who had children and was divorced, led her further to heartbreak and also made her question her sexuality. While dedicating much of the book to being single, unmarried and childless, she also confesses that she is a fiery, commitment-phobic feminist and a restless free spirit whose freedom and wanderlust was always important to her.
Devastated after her father’s death, Natasha realised that she needed to dig deeper into herself and grasp the meaning of her life’s purpose. “Women are always asking the world what we want or need – measuring ourselves against the masculine measures of success, our quiet wants buried under the behest of the dominant social order – instead of asking ourselves what will fill us up,” she writes.
This was what prompted her to give up on her fruitless search for the ‘perfect man’ and go inward to fill the void that was missing in her life. Thus, she plunged into an inner journey of the mind, body and soul.
At the age of 38, she opted to switch from a full-time position at the UN to that of a consultant, which offered her more work-life balance and flexibility. She first decided to spend three months in India, where she met a shadow reader in Mumbai, indulged in the age-old practices of Ayurveda and mindfulness at an ashram in Kerala as well as visited several temples in Madurai, among other occurrences.
Her soul-searching path of self-discovery took her next to a sprawling 18th-century farmhouse in Sicily, where she was part of a kundalini yoga health and wellness retreat. She spent time with nature, working on a farm and a vineyard as well as hiking up to a volcanic crater. Meditative and therapeutic, she found that monotony can offer a certain sanctuary.
Her self-imposed self-help project took her thereafter to Tanzania, where she decided to go on a solo safari and connected most strongly with the women and children there.
She decided to learn how to play the sitar as well as read in detail the Bhagavad Gita as well as some lesser known Sufi mystical poetry. Though still longing for intimacy and companionship, it was here that she also decided to marry herself.
Finally, a writer’s residency at Martha’s Vineyard gave her a chance to go on a complete digital detox, which gave her immense mental peace. Natasha also found that putting her thoughts and feelings down on paper was cathartic and helped her make sense of the world.
Through free-flow journaling, she also began practising gratitude – creating a long list of things she had to be grateful for. All of these varied experiences enabled Natasha to awaken a divine feminine energy within her and birth her inner child.
While the prose is peppered with many quotes and pearls of wisdom that the author picked up during her soulful journey, its conversational tone makes you feel like you are talking to a friend.
Reading the book is somewhat like doing a crash course in all things spiritual – Ayurveda, meditation, yoga, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, minimalism, yin and yang – seen through the author’s perspective.
To some extent, Natasha’s story – which has parallels with Elizabeth Gilbert’s hugely successful 2016 memoir Eat, Pray, Love – is also easy to relate to at many levels, since many young people often reach a point of burnout, whether in their jobs or relationships, and seek new inspiration and a spiritual awakening. Natasha’s learnings may be of significance to those who are looking for meaning in their own lives.
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