My first full day at the ashram dawned bright and cold. Hailing from Chennai where 26 degrees Celsius normally had me turning off the fan and snuggling under the covers, this Himalayan winter needed some getting used to.
I had a personal meeting with Swamiji that morning. I had filled out an application a few months earlier, excited at the prospect of meeting another living Master. Now that He’d granted me His time though, I had no idea what to do with it. What was I going to say when I met Him?
Fresh off a volunteering stint at a children’s centre in Rishikesh, the kids’ parting hugs and tearful kisses had given me a gift I wouldn’t easily forget – lice. Dozens of lice shampoo and hair-combing sessions later, I had made my peace with the fact that these pesky little creatures loved my curls.
This caused some mild horror among the ladies of the dorm who tried inconspicuously to move their pillows away from me. I tried to reassure them that they were almost gone and it was just the eggs I was working to get rid of, but really, what did I know?
So, there I sat outside the meeting room, about to meet a realized Master, subtly scratching at my scalp. Would He able to see the lice? Should I ask Him how to get rid of them?
Not exactly the life-altering question I was hoping to ask.
The door opened and Vidu Swamiji, a renunciate and Swamiji’s PA, called out my name. I stood up, heart beating fast and hands damp. I walked to the door and smiled at him. I didn’t know Swamiji had another brother, I thought absently. To anybody seeing Vidu Swamiji for the first time, the resemblance to Swamiji is striking.
I entered, smiling nervously at Swamiji and sat on my haunches. As I looked up at Him, He smiled softly.
The meeting lasted barely 90 seconds, most of which was spent in silence. I felt sadness beginning to gush forth, all the feelings I’d ever felt of loneliness and abandonment bubbling up. It was not a new state, it was expected even.
Slowly, as I got up to leave, I whispered, “It’s all I want. Liberation. Whatever that is.”
Even as Swamiji nodded with an expression of concern and care, I stood up, flung my shawl over my shoulder, turned my back on Him and pulled open the door to leave. Would He have said something more? I don’t know. All I knew was that I had to get away before I broke down completely.
I made my way to the temple, barely making it in before the tears broke free. I cried and cried and cried, sobbing like my insides would tear apart.
Why did Nature make me wait like this? The yearning to walk the path, give up everything and surrender was so strong, it was pulling me to pieces. Atom by atom, I felt myself disintegrating and crumbling. It was too much.
Where did I go from here? I had booked my stay at the ashram for six days with no idea of where I was going after that. Maybe I’d go back to the children’s centre. Or maybe I’d go higher up the Himalayas. I could find a cottage, spend some time in solitude.
But everything seemed pointless. In the absence of my Guru, my life felt meaningless.
I cried, clutching my head in my hands, praying, praying like my life depended on it. And it did.
Eventually, an hour later, I had calmed down. Getting up and brushing myself off, I walked out, wondering what to do now. I needed a distraction. I’d go to the library, I decided, and read for a while. I found my way there and upon entering, found myself dumbstruck by the view. The mountain valley stretched as far as the eye could see. The river glistened and twinkled shyly, leading the sun a fine dance. The sky was a blue I’d only read about in Enid Blyton books. It was beautiful beyond description.
And smackdab in the center was a construction site.
Raghu Swamiji, another renunciate and Swamiji’s long-time disciple, oversees all major construction work at the ashram. Sometimes, I whine to him about how the new building is beginning to block the view from the library. His response always is, “Iss liye kar rahe hain na. Jab tak aapka view poora bandh nahi hota, hum chodenge nahi.” (“That’s why we’re doing it no. We won’t stop constructing till your view is completely blocked.”) 🙂
Until that day comes though, the view is spectacular.
I made my way over to a bookshelf and realized that it was a shelf dedicated solely to Swamiji’s books. I browsed through a few before my eye fell on “Om Swami: As We Know Him.” Instantly, I knew this was the one I wanted to read. Taking a copy, I made my way over to one of the comfortable blue chairs and settled down.
Over the next two days, I devoured the book, greedily soaking up every word, every incident. At the time, I didn’t realize that I was getting to know my Master, that He was showing me a glimpse of who He is. It simply felt like I was fervently reading about the life of a monk I saw every evening at the temple. It was merely giving me context about the space I was in.
I didn’t know that the book was how He welcomed me into His fold.
Occupied as I was pondering about where I would go next and what route my life would take, I didn’t pay heed to the part of me that was falling in love with Him. While the mind planned, the heart had begun to sing. And this was a song that came to play every evening, refusing to be silenced, forcing out words onto paper that became the seeds of my reverence. I was writing not as an expression. I was writing myself back to life, writing love letters to someone I didn’t even know.
Or so I thought.
And it was through the last medium I had ever expected to channel – poetry.
Dark as thunder
Light like lightning.
Your embrace, of a feather.
the coo of a pigeon
the streak of rain on a Himalayan day.
You reach across,
You reach towards,
to pull me into You,
filled with raptures of Love, Ecstasy
Can there be a greater service
This was my second poem. And without knowing it, I had just written out my own destiny.
Day after day,
I gaze upon
Hands so strong, they created millions.
Lips so soft,
they carry the dew of the morning.
In Your vastness
we come forth;
a world unto our own
a life not lived.
the Grace of your gentle footfall
can keep us safe?
This yearning, this longing
is no longer just so.
every atom, every little inch.
My being throbs,
suffused with the ache of Your Radiance.
Melting, gleaming, glowing
Waiting for the day I realize –
the ache to Know You
Has been Revealed
it has been there all along.
And I was never alone,
You and I have
Meri sab raaz, kal-aaj tu hai
Maahi ve, Maahi ve 🙂
Thank you for taking some time out to read Part 2. I’m very grateful! And in case any of you are wondering, Swamiji got rid of the lice 🙂