Well-behaved women seldom make history. – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
When I read that quote in this time’s editorial, it reminded me of an experience with Swami. This life story of mine is from my first visit to Sri Badrika Ashram. Yes, it was the time when the name Aveksha appeared.
“I’ve got a gift for you,” I said to Swami in a private meeting with him. At that time, I was unaware of Swami’s no-gift policy. Currently, I don’t carry anything (including flowers) with me when I meet him because he prefers it that way.
Back to my story, Swami took my gift and courteously looked at what I had given him. He then said, “Can I take this for Vidya Swami? He loves sweets.”
“Sure, Swamiji,” I said. Once again, I was unaware that I’d be amongst the rare few who had enjoyed the privilege of giving him gifts. He accepted my hotel bookings, my hospitality at my home, the food I cooked, and all the presents I offered without hesitation. Today, I feel immensely blessed that Swami considered me worthy of that.
“Tell me, how’re you now?” he said as he mindfully set aside my gift.
“In pain, Swamiji. I’m menstruating for the second time this month,” I said. After a pause, I continued, “Can I request you for something?”
“Sure,” he said.
“Please exempt me from Sadhvi Vrinda’s morning meditation session. The calendar says that event is mandatory. My pain is worst in the mornings.”
“Definitely. Please rest,” he said with care. Then, Swami added, “By the way, I have no problems with women entering the Ashram temple during menstruation.”
“I don’t believe in such things myself, Swamiji,” I said, wondering why he chose to give that piece of information to me. As is, I find most rituals baseless. Hence, I don’t follow any of those anyway.
Furthermore, at that moment, my monkey mind immediately got to work. I developed some doubts – If Swami could read my thoughts, he would already know everything about me. So, why didn’t he know that I disliked such norms and rituals? Given that, can he really read my mind?
I brushed aside my thoughts and bid farewell to Swami. Battling with my separation anxiety, I walked towards the Ashram Temple. My body ache had made my life miserable. Therefore, I sat quietly on a chair near the side exit. That facilitated me to leave whenever I felt terrible.
A while later, Swami’s speech commenced at the temple. Two days hence, the Ashram saw a record number of attendees, but it was a small audience that day. A few minutes into the speech, I got bored and restless! As they say, even Amrut (nectar) feels tasteless when we are unhealthy. And, I was getting a firsthand experience of that.
I cribbed quietly – Why is Swami speaking like a turtle today? Maybe I should leave the discourse.
Suddenly, something changed about Swami’s speech. He started speaking at the pace of a bullet train! Taken aback, I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming. When I had confirmed that I wasn’t, I talked to him in my mind. I said, Swamiji, why are you running like this?
Swami immediately went back to speaking like a turtle. My pain and frustration gave way to a smile. Forgetting about my troubles, I focused on having some fun. I chatted with him again in my mind. This time I said, Can you do medium pace now?
No prizes for guessing what happened next! Yes, he started speaking at an average pace. It seemed like I was playing my audiobook that had different speed options. My world lighted up from inside.
I played with Swami four or five more times after that. Each time, he altered the speed of his speech according to my silent request. Finally, I felt pity for the audience. Swamiji, what are you doing? People will get irritated, I said silently to him.
Precisely at that moment, Swami looked straight into my eyes. Without altering his eye contact, he said, “Do you know? You and I are going to be in history! This Ashram is going to be in history.”
What? You and I are going to be in history? Why did he say that looking into my eyes? Swami had caught me off-guard again. For the rest of the speech, I just sat there as confused as ever! I didn’t know what to say or think.
When Swami’s speech ended, I walked out with mixed feelings. Should I cry because I was in pain? Or, should I feel irritated that he read my mind when I was off-guard? Should I smile because he cared for me despite his commitments? Or, should I wonder what he meant by you and I would be in history?
Nevertheless, my pain won the battle. As I dragged myself to my room, I thought, history or no history! Who bothers? Not that I’m going to be alive to see it happen! All I want is to end this miserable state of mine, here and now.
Upon entering my room, I found it empty for a change. Since the facilities were limited back then, I had shared space with 6+ roomies. As I lay down on the floor bedding, trying to sleep, someone knocked on the door. It was Simran, a beautiful devotee from California. She happened to be visiting Ashram at the same time as me.
“You seem to be in pain. I’m here to give you a massage,” she declared.
“No! I’m not letting you do that,” I protested.
“I’m not asking for permission. I’m informing you that I’m giving you a massage,” the kind-hearted Simran insisted.
Before I could say anything further, she sat beside me and started massaging my legs. I felt a bit intimidated, but her kindness gave me great relief. My eyes teared slightly. Feeling relaxed, I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. My condition prevented me from sleeping on the floor. It was painful, to say the least.
Sri Hari, thanks for sending over this super kind person to help me. But I’m struggling to sleep on the floor. I didn’t anticipate any of this when I came here. Well, if this is your wish, I’ll live with it, I said to the Divine in my head.
After Simran left, a man knocked on my door. He announced, “I’m moving a cot into this room. An elderly woman is coming to stay here.”
Interestingly, the older person stayed for about an hour. However, the cot stayed on for the rest of my stay!
“Can I please use this cot?” I asked my roommates.
“Sure,” all of them said in unison. Not just that, one of my roommates, the lovely Sylvia, taught me a Yoga posture for relaxation.
“Henceforth, I’m going to call you my menstruating Kamakhya,” Dr. Chetana Om quipped. This amazing person, who was my roommate, was almost my gynecologist for the entire trip.
I felt soaked in the goodness that day and realized that kindness truly matters!
Despite my pain, I feel like royalty. If I had my way, I would get these kind people a place in history! Gratitude to Sri Hari, Swami, and all of these beautiful people, I muttered as I dozed off to sleep.