There’s something about handmade products that always attracts me. So, I happen to have a lot of handmade products kept in different corners of my room. Little did I know, that when I clicked on the  basket icon on amazon to purchase a morpankh handmade diary, it was to change my entire perspective on what they were- a mere notebook, or a beautiful memory? Let’s steer our wheels to two years back to figure it out.

It was, I believe our third visit at the ashram, and I was a weensy little 11 year old cavorting about  swamiji’s meeting area a couple of minutes before our personal meeting with him. I was nervously excited, only they were the kind of nerves you get when someone opens the gift you gave them, in front of you. Only this time, it wasn’t just someone, it was swamiji, after all. And this wasn’t much of a gift, it was a little diary. A diary in which I had written in my neatest cursive writing a few of my best poems, all based on Swamiji, the Ashram and the Giriganga. I had prepared it like a proper school report, after neatly pasting swamiji’s picture (with caption!) , drawing an om, and a ‘to and from’. I think the only thing missing would have been my school nameslip. I wanted it to be perfect. After all, this was much more important a submission than a random school report.

I flipped through it to check for any final errors half a minute before our alloted time. Swamiji is extremely particular about timing, so I needed to make sure I was up and in on time. Not a second of the three-minute time slot must be wasted.  Just a quarter of a minute before we were ushered in, a tiny spelling error caught my eye. By the time I had realised the mistake, we were already sitting inside.
‘Sri Hari,’ I wished. ‘Please correct this little error!’

Everytime I go into the meeting room, there’s something about it that immediately makes me feel at ease and extremely excited at the same time. And I start beaming immediately. It’s like there’s some sort of switch that immdeiately makes you flicks on your best grin. My cheeks hurt, but I can’t stop. This day was no different. A smile made it’s way all the way to my ears as soon as I walked in.

Looking at swamiji in the meeting room is truly an unearthly experience. He quite resembles Gautam Buddha as he sits majestically on the asana, with his hands in his lap, crossed legs and his beautiful padukas surrounded with fragrant little flowers on a neat white cloth on the ground. A radiance ever so bright is emitted from him, and his voice is soft like the gushing of the giri and delicateness of a rose petal. The room is filled only with his huge presence as he sits there, ever so divine.

I took a deep breath. I’m sorry if I’m not able to write or summarise this part that well. It’s just that I’m never able to express what I actually felt back then and there. It’s way too ethereal to express.

‘Pranam Swamiji.’ We bowed down on all fours.
‘Pranam.’ Swamiji’s soft voice made its way across the room.
My insides were screaming like crazy. I swallowed hard.

Kaise hain aap?’ Swamiji asked with his ever beautiful countenance. Everyone whispered (I almost squeaked) their replies.
After a few random exchanges, my father brought up the diary.
“Swamiji, my younger daughter Hemanya has compiled a few of her self-written poems to gift them to you. Please do accept it.”
‘Really?’ Swamiji’s beautiful smiley eyes looked at me. In reply, I inched my smile further up and as gracefully as I could, handed him the diary. I imagined how a minister gifts a velvet covered sword to the king, bowing down to him. This strange bubble of imagination had probably popped up because of  the amount of Chota Bheem that I used to watch earlier. He softly flipped through it, all the while his expression becoming brighter and brighter.

To date, I remember only one word out of many. Beautiful. The very word which summarised that experience. Or perhaps, more apt is the word ‘the’. It was ‘the’ experience for me. I could not leave the sight of his lotus pink hands turning about the pages so artistically, so delicately.
After a few other exchanges, swamiji asked me, “Will you please sign it for me? I’d like you to do it’ with my very own pen. I have never asked anyone to it for me before, you know.’
My signature at the time happened to be my name written in my neatest handwriting.( All the more neater for Swamiji’s diary!) At first, I didn’t believe my ears. Me, a creature, not much bigger than a speck of dust to sign a diary with the pen of the universe? I gulped. It was one of the sweetest moments of my life. Every single time I remember it, I smile.

Well, what else? By now my brain was filled with some strange liquid which constantly demanded me dancing on the roof. It’s a moment I’ll treasure forever. In a long, long time, I felt truly happy, not the short pangs of laughter and enjoyment that one experiences. It was one where every inch of your body feels so good, so wonderful, so blessed. Your brain repeats the moments again and again and you break off into peals of laughter or even happy tears. The feeling was amazing, nothing like what I’d experienced before!

Coming out of the meeting room, I felt truly elated. I found laughter in everything, a green leaf, damp mud, or even a cotton pillow. But little did I know, the day’s surprises were hardly over. The diary had caused twice its own worth of excitement.

Clad in a few woollens, in the evening, we made our way towards the temple and found ourselves a good seat from where we could comfortably see both Sri Hari and Swamiji. Right beside the carpet on which swamiji used to walk to enter the mandir. It is my firm belief that those are one of the ‘prime’ seats of the mandir, they are alloted on a first come, first serve basis. Someone started chanting a mantra and the rest of us took it up.  After a few minutes of chanting, Swamiji entered. Everyone shifted about in their seats, as swamiji walked down gracefully. He looks so ethereal when he walks in, like light flooding a dark, damp room. I prostrated and muttered a pranam to him as he passed by. Suddenly a familiar rectangle of paper crossed my eyes in swamiji’s hand. My diary!

After he settled down comfortably, and after the few daily chuckles the discourse began. I hardly remember anything of the day’s discourse, my mind was too preoccupied with the fact that swamiji had brought the diary into the temple. Was he using it as a lucky charm? No, I decided. That just sounded too weird.

10 minutes before the Aarti, he stopped the discourse. He gently picked up the morpankh wad of paper.
‘I wanted to show this to everyone. A little girl gifted this collection of her poems to me today. Hemanya Vashishtha?’
Mumma patted me back to my senses and I stood somewhat still dazed.
‘It’s done so beautifully,’ he said. ‘She’s even pasted my picture and all.’
‘There are four poems, and I’ll be reciting two of them. Actually the other two are about me, so I can’t..’
The other two he was talking about were all in praise of him. Just like our humble swamiji to never ever praise himself.
He took the time to recite every word, every syllable of the poems I had written. It was heartmelting to see how he had taken care to see every single detail of the poems that I’d written so quickly, without much thought. He took care to point out every detail, every border I’d drawn, every little thing.
Midway the poem Badrika Ashram, I suddenly remembered the little mistake I’d made. I mentally framed an impressive dialogue for what I was to say when he asked what I meant there.
Lo and behold!
He said the exact word I meant without ever batting an eyelid, without stopping, without any reaction at all! And trust me, it wasn’t one that somebody could just guess.  Although I’m quite convinced I saw a playful smile on his lips at the end of the poem.
His grace is limitless. Endless. Infinite. What am I, a little mortal, to say!

All glories to Swamiji. 🙏🏻

-Hemanya Vashishtha


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