Thursday, 1 October 2015

Extraordinary Actions by 'Ordinary' People

Most often, we have stories of mishaps, robberies, corruption, etc., doing their rounds in print and other media. It is rare to find stories of good samaritans, and yesterday I was face-to-face with one such samaritan.

My nephew, Aditya, who is waiting for his final call from the airlines for the post of a Pilot after a wait of 5 years, had just got his Pilot’s license renewed at Santacruz, went to Churchgate on some work, and took a cab to where I live. While offloading the luggage he had carried from Churchgate, he overlooked the fact that he didn’t pick up his bag from the cab.

After about 10 minutes or so of coming into the house, he jumped from his seat with the sudden realization of having the handbag in the cab, and went out looking to see if the driver was yet waiting for the next customer. He wasn’t there!

Almost all of us at home had faith that the cabbie would come back with the bag!
We then took the next step and went to the nearest police station. It took about an hour to get the formalities of lodging a ‘missing bag complaint’ and getting a relevant certificate with which to apply for duplicate copies of the license and other documents. The police were very cooperative and friendly – another appreciable point needing highlight. :)

On our way back, we saw a cab with parking lights flashing, waiting outside our building. On checking, the cabbie told us that he had taken two ladies to Prabhadevi, who had noticed the bag in between the front and rear seat. He then returned and kept circling around our building till we met him.  He had such a calm face and a pleasant smile when he narrated his side of the story. When we told him that we were just returning from the police station, he was the one to remind us to take back the complaint, which we did.

No reward could ever compensate the gratefulness that Aditya (who actually fell at his feet by way of thanks) and all of us felt at the goodness that prevails in so-called ordinary people.  Is there not much for us to learn from them? Or do we continue to complain about taxi-strikes and non-performing politicians?!

And you know? The cabbie’s name was Mahesh Kumar. Mahesh was also the name of Aditya’s late father! What a sweet coincidence! I remembered to take pictures of him. It was dark at about 9.30 PM, and this is all I could get.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Being Present in the Present

There are many times when I have something in front of me, and I am searching for that very thing everywhere, including where it actually is, and not finding it! This could probably be the nadir of absent-mindedness or not being present in the present. Something to contrast this will explain what is achieved by ‘being present’. And who better to take as the role model for such an experience, than Pujya Gurudev, Swami Chinmayanandaji?

Based on his instructions and direction, the Mumbai Chinmaya Yuva Kendra (CHYK) had put up a show called CHYK Soul-Song Nite, a light-n-sound musical of Bhajans, in 1981. Some youngsters, helped by some seniors, had put up a precious collection of photos collected from various temples, libraries, etc., into ‘slide’ format. Making a slide involved a process of converting the photo into the 35mm slide that would be slotted into the carrousel projector and manually pushed forward as per need, for projection on the screen. Gurudev, on seeing the entire program, gave instructions to delete one of the slides from the next repeat program. On checking the slide, it was found that the photo had a lizard in the background wall!!! And, no one else had noticed it – not the one who clicked the photo, not the one who made the slide, and not the one who projected it on the big screen!

On another occasion, he made a comment on the accessories of Meerabai. The song was ‘Shyam Piya Mori Rang De Chunariya’. A special photo shoot was done with a girl modelling as Meerabai, and there were many pictures that were projected. Everything was beautiful. No one else noticed that Meerabai was wearing Rudrakshas instead of Tulsi beads! He did!!!

The Chennai CHYKs were given the project by Gurudev – Kamba Ramayana. With as many as nine stage set ups, it must have taken real effort to put it together. There were 2 shows every day for 10 days, and after a few days, there was a repeat of this schedule. Each show was a sell-out.  In one of the shows, Ravana, after a court scene, had to visit the Shiva temple in another scene. Post the show, he was reprimanded, saying, how could Ravana wear shoes to the temple! No one else would have noticed that!

Let the hands be where the head is, and let the head be where the hands are. This is equally applicable to all organs of perception and action. When the head is unavailable, perception and action are warped. That is why Present is a Gift, because that is the only time we can ‘ACT’. Time to open the Gift – NOW…  :) What a learning from Pujya Gurudev. 'At Every Breath, A Teaching'!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Foreign Stamps on my Passport!

Though I may have been denying it within my mind, it has always been my dream to visit a foreign country. Friends in the USA had been inviting us for a visit from some years. While some had offered us even the tickets, some had offered me good concert opportunities.

With no particular reason, we had not taken the offers, and had applied restraint on our desire, which never became strong. Fortunately, I have great faith in destiny and Gurubala, and felt that if we were destined to go, something would take us there!

My first visit abroad turned out to be an incentive tour to Malaysia from the office. 4 days of motivational sessions and sight-seeing, at the cost of the company, in 2003! I quit the company in the same year.

My passport validity expired in 2009, and I had foolishly not bothered to renew it, thinking that my Vasanas for foreign travel were exhausted, and there would be no need now to travel, as I was cozily settling down in Chinmaya Naada Bindu in a remote village called Kolwan near Pune!

In 2010, Pujya Guruji invited Himanshu and me to Jakarta & Singapore, to accompany him in Bhajan Sandhyas there. When he got to know that my passport was no more valid, he insisted that I get it done on fast track, and thus, I was fortunate to accompany him to Indonesia & Singapore on what was a very memorable trip.

In 2011, I was invited to conduct a Bala Vihar Sevaks’ training course in Dubai along with my sister-in-law, Shyama. We were also to do a concert, so my husband, Chittaranjan and niece, Ujwala joined to accompany me on the Tabla and on vocals, respectively. 4 days of work by way training and, some good sight-seeing was in store for us, and we were provided for fully by the Dubai Chinmaya Mission. We also brought back donations to Chinmaya Mission Mumbai as well as to Chinmaya Naada Bindu!

In 2012, I was again asked to go with Guruji to Jakarta for a Bhajan Sandhya on the invitation of Lakshmi Hiranand. This time, Guruji had some health issues, and gave me more time to sing on my own. I loved it when he remarked with a twinkle in his eyes that I sang the Sindhi song, Damadam Mast Kalandar, very well!

In 2013, we were busy with fresh activities of Chinmaya Naada Bindu, and did'nt travel abroad. However, talks about our US visit began in December 2012.

In December 2013, we were given an impromptu invitation to visit Chinmaya Mission South Africa in February 2014 for Bhajan Sandhyas in Johannesburg and Durban. So, on absolutely short notice and under great pressure for our host Ishwar Beesunlal, he got us over for 4 days. The Durban concert in the temple hall in the presence of Swami Abhedanandaji was memorable for Himanshu, Kalpana and me. Some sight-seeing time was available, and I met this gentle giraffe then.

While our US tour was being finalized, Chinmaya Mission Kuwait sent an urgent request for a CNB concert there. So, Ramaa Bharadvaj, Chittaranjan and I visited Kuwait for 3 days in September for a concert much appreciated by them. 

And then began the 48-day-long tour of the US…. But that is a separate story!

Between 1999 & 2008, I was not part of mainstream Chinmaya Mission. And there was one foreign stamp on my passport. After joining Chinmaya Naada Bindu in 2008, there are multiple entries in the new passport! Jai Gurudev!

I reiterate what Guruji once said… “Jab tak bikaa na thaa, kucch na thaa; Guru ne kharid liyaa to anmol ban gayaa” (Till the time I was not sold I was nothing. Since the time my Guru has 'bought' me, I have become priceless).

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Wondering about Wonders!

The angle of the photo above is such that the building behind looks smaller. That, in fact, is an auditorium (Sudharma in Chinmaya Vibhooti) that can seat 1008 persons in all. 

The picture also offers a perspective with reference to the vast sky. How many beings can just the sky in this frame take in its embrace?! 

Wonder how the sky holds up without support from below! Wonder how the sky changes colours! Wonder what paints the painter uses! Wonder where the Sun hides during monsoons! 

The final take home knowledge is that you and He are one! WONDER!!!

**Photo courtesy: Asha Sukumar. This was taken when we found the Sun peeping out from the clouds for a wee bit of time after dark clouds had covered the skies for almost a month! Oh, what joy to sight the Sun!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

In the Face of Death!

What if you spend your landmark birthday at the crematorium? It is a great reminder for you to start packing your bags wisely. Everyone has to go on this bus of death, but not all of us are well prepared to take the journey. Packing for this journey has to happen in advance because none of us know when the bus will depart. We will be forced to get in, whether we are packed and ready, or completely unprepared.
I am not a worldly person waiting for occasions to party & socialize, and I was looking forward to spending my 50th birthday in the presence of my Guru and getting blessed by him. The wish got fulfilled, but not in the way I expected. 

My dear brother-in-law was summoned to board the ‘bus’ in the early hours of the morning. It was a sudden and rude shock for all. Everyone who saw him in the late hours of the previous night, however, felt that he had prepared himself well – he had come to meet the Guru and be with him for a few days – he had received the blessings, and was all smiles when he left for the last time to his room within the Ashram premises.
He received an audience of innumerable friends, associates. They came from near and far. Resident students of the Ashram took time from their busy schedules and chanted the Bhagawad Geeta by turns, joined by all those who were present. It was a whole day and night of chanting that enveloped the room with his mortal remains. The send-off on the next day from the Ashram was done by the Guru himself.

I prayed and hoped that I would exit in this manner, when the bus called me. It was a divine experience. I didn’t want to miss facing my most dreaded experience – that of visiting the crematorium. Ladies are not allowed in our tradition, but it was my 50th birthday, and I had to see where I would go to, finally. I asked my Guru for permission to go, but didn’t wait to get it! Participating in all the rites till the end, I kept looking at my own death in the face. This was not my brother-in-law, but my own death. And, it felt good. It was my special day. Exactly on this day, last year!

Friday, 5 April 2013

The take-off

Organizing Bala Vihar camps for children has been an unforgettable learning experience. Here, we were a group of young enthusiasts, who had gained a lot from attending Bala Vihars or conducting them every week, and wanted to share the joy in a community-living style. About a 20-member volunteer force would stay at the Powai ashram (Sandeepany Sadhanalaya) with about 200 to 250 children for 5 days, and get them to think of things other than wanting a dress, a bike, a mobile phone, extra marks in the exams, etc. In other words, we would create role models for them, who they would wish from their heart to emulate.

The hectic activity of planning such camps began at least 3 months in advance, and the after effects remained for 1 month later! But our batteries stayed charged for the rest of the 8 months!

In the position that I am now, annual events are not activities that I can choose not to participate in. I am thankful for this, as this pushes me to do the good things in life. However, given the responsibility of ensuring the take off of each event, as one of the prime pilots, the joy of participating in the event as a volunteer is veiled by the fear of the possibility of a glitch in the take off. 

May Gurudev bless me with the right understanding that this is only an activity for my growth. The growth is more important than the activity. 

Am I growing?

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Music and Peace

When I take up a musical instrument as my medium to translate music in me to the listeners, I need to know the instrument well. What material are the parts made of and bound with? How tight should the strings be? What happens if the resonating valve is blocked? And, not to miss the maker!

When we think of an instrument, it becomes easy to answer most or all of the above questions. However, how many of us, who use our voice boxes, ever wonder what our instrument is made up of; leave alone the rest of the questions? Like a child who is given a toy, we use our voices, without a thought about its intricacies. How many good Gurus have the maturity of bringing the subtler aspects of the voice box instrument to the notice of the students?

The human voice is capable of a variety of tones, based on where the voice is emanating from. From the guttural voice to the head voice, the quality of each sound is perceivable by a trained ear.

The voice box is just a part of the infrastructure to create a musical piece. Singing involves more than just this equipment. Physically, the nasal tract, the respiratory organs, the entire mouth with its varying expressions, etc., are required, besides the vocal chords. Effective delivery of the voice is rendered on maintaining a desired posture of the body. It does not end with the physical body. If the mind is not present while singing, the singing lacks warmth. If the thinker, i.e., the intellect, goes for a walk during a performance, the singing is immediately rendered soulless and unskillful.

When all the three aspects of the personality are integrated, it generates positive energy in the performer as well as in the performance, which is automatically transmitted to the audience. Integrated singing, therefore, can always be distinguished from casual singing. Such a performer feels closer to his creator, and the benefits derived by such a singer are transparent to the audience.

The next time you are singing, or are listening to music, whatever kind – instrumental, vocal; Indian, Western – look for the soul of the piece, which is the integrated personality. J