In mid-December, I visited Ganga, a friend from old times, at her newly acquired abode. Besides being a top executive in a very large organization, Ganga is also an Art of Living (AOL) teacher, and is rather unrelenting when it comes to making excuses for not attending AOL courses. When I thought I had reasonably convinced her that I couldn’t go to the ashram at the time, she called them and registered my name and gave me the course fee. No way out.
So off I went to the Art of Living ashram in Bangalore. I did the 3 day residential Basic Course at the ashram, during which time I had the opportunity to meet Sri Sri Ravishankar (a.k.a. Guruji). The highlight of the course is the Sudarshan Kriya. During the stay at the ashram, I had several unnatural experiences. Maybe unnatural is not the appropriate word here. Try unusual. These experiences came with the Sudarshan Kriya, meditation, satsang, and at the time of meeting Guruji. The kriya was particularly unnerving the first couple of times.
On day 2, I lost my sandals, and couldn’t find anything comfortable in the one store at the ashram. I was told that this happens all the time at the ashram, and that the sandals were probably stolen, or exchanged with somebody who couldn’t find theirs in a hurry. I felt no anger and quite calmly told myself that whoever had my sandals probably needed them more than me. And probably in a trance, I decided to, and within just about the outer limits of bearable physical distress, managed to stay bare feet for the rest of the 2 days. At the end of day 3, I took a bus home, walked home from the bus stop, and rode the bike to my cousins place for dinner, bare feet. And I was enjoying it. Until my cousin noticed that I was leaving her apartment that way, and got the “Are you crazy! They got to you, didn’t they?!” talk. I must say that the 3 days not only took my mind off the low, but made me feel way better. The low comes from sustained loneliness and unemployment, and makes me think crazy things.
Naveen and Monali came visiting their motherland in December. On Christmas-eve, we drove down to Mysore, Naveen at the wheel, for what was supposed to be a day trip. We had breakfast at Kaadu Mane, where Monali totally freaked out at the monkeys. And how can I forget the search for a Shell gas station, not for the gas, but for the cleanest possible public toilet. I tell you, these 2 have stayed in gora land too long. I played along merrily, but inside, I was feeling restless.
Mysore was a lot of fun. We visited the Mysore Palace and spent good time admiring the paintings and artifacts and figuring out if we could find the existence of our previous births in any of those paintings. Yes, we actually did that. At a spot, I even wanted to lie flat on the floor so I could get a good look at the paintings on the ceiling.
Lunch was at Kamat Yatrinivas, a typical unlimited meal. I ate so much, I couldn’t believe myself. I think all 3 of us ate beyond our known capacities. We later hooked up with Mamata at her office, and that’s when, against my wishes, it was decided that we stay overnight at her place. Naveen and Monali went shopping for handicraft gift items, stuff that the gora people appreciate very much. And I got a haircut, the shortest crop ever. It was so close to a clean shave, it’s only now, after 3 months, that I have to use a comb. I despise using a comb now. There was a time when I had longer hair. That was the time I had plenty of hair on my head.
Naveen was very enthusiastic about getting a beer, so we all drove around town to Purple Haze, the hippest pub in Mysore. On Christmas-eve, the hippest pub in Mysore had all but 10 customers, and that’s including the 4 of us. Anyways, I having quit alcohol, had forewarned the gang that I’d be sipping fresh lime, something they didn’t approve of at all. And when we finally sat down at the table, I let myself become weak, and ordered a tequila shot. One led to the other, then another, and when someone had paid the bill, I had had 6 shots.
After that, my memories are blurred. I vaguely remember climbing down a lot of stairs, eating yucky noodles, and then getting off the car in the apartment basement, and somebody scolding me for shouting. Then I remember lying on my back on the carpet and mumbling something non-stop. I’m quite sure I was walking on my own, because none of the others, or even all of them put together, would have had the strength to carry me around.
The next morning, we ate idlis and dosas for breakfast, and then I drove us back to Bangalore. The highlight of the drive was that I got stuck on one song and played it over and over again, and in fiddling with the mp3 player, nearly rammed into another car in front of us.
तू ही तो जन्नत मेरी, तू ही मेरा जूनून,
तू ही तो मन्नत मेरी, तू ही रूह का सुकून
तू ही अखियों की ठंडक, तू ही दिल की है दस्तक,
और कुछ न जानू में, बस इतना ही जानू
तुझ में रब दिखता है, यारा में क्या करूँ, सजदे सर झुकता है, यारा में क्या करूँ
ना कुछ पूछा, ना कुछ माँगा, तूने दिल से दिया जो दिया
ना कुछ बोला, ना कुछ तोला, मुस्कुरा के दिया जो दिया
तू ही धूप तू ही छाया, तू ही अपना पराया
और कुछ ना जानू, बस इतना ही जानू....
तुझ में रब दीखता है, यारा में क्या करूँ, सजदे सर झुकता है, यारा में क्या करूँ