Four sisters. One brother. An assortment of spouses. That’s all it took to organize a perfect family get together, a super-hectic four day event in Goa last week. Family members joined from all over the world, some meeting after an interval of four years or more. We did sightseeing, we walked on the scenic beaches, and talked about everything under the sun. We experienced the joy of re-union like never before in our lives.

There were happy moments and sad moments, there were discussions, but underneath everything there was a powerful  bond of love. In short, our family gathering was symbolic of everything that happens in the world. It was a powerful spiritual lesson on how to live in this world of endless diversity.

We were indeed  a diverse group. One family member was a  retired bureaucrat from the Indian civil service, another had retired from the private sector. Another was a retired school teacher.Three were from the Canadian public service, mostly retired; the rest were homemakers, perhaps the hardest working of the lot. 

None of us are spring chickens anymore. We are all in our sixties, seventies and even eighties, and we all have serious health issues. My wife has major eye problems plus aches and pains all over. I am a stroke survivor. Others have had bypass surgery, some wear stents. Yet the power of love unites us and gives us the strength to travel far distances for this get together. 

It’s just the same with the world at large. The strong bond of love has kept the planet together, in spite of all our issues and differences. 

Every one in our family group has opinions and these were  expressed freely  during the four days of vacationing together. At times it seemed that I was watching a TV talk show, without the benefit of a remote. Half a dozen people were trying to make their voices heard, at exactly the same time.

Eventually, I found a remote that always worked: it was called humour. If I made a funny remark loud enough, it would change the channel. Mullah Nasruddin jokes worked like a charm. Thank you, Om Swami ji, for giving me so much good material. A few jokes backfired, but that’s a risk that all jokesters take.

We did a bit of sightseeing, and everyone’s response to the same situation was very different; this, again, is typical of the real world. 

We went to see a famous church; I found it to be a very profound spiritual experience. The interior of the church was very cool, calm and quiet, filled with a mystical spiritual energy. A famous Christian saint was buried there and  I could sense the love emanating from that space.

Some others simply compared the church to other places they had seen; unfortunately, our group is widely travelled and has seen far too many places like this around the world. 

All the beaches that we visited were wonderful, including our very own Miramar beach. At Bagga beach I was lost in my own little world, enjoying the luxury of a foot massage while reclining on a beach chair, listening to Bollywood music from a nearby restaurant. Shanker, my massager, was a great guy, he did his task with boundless energy, for very little reward. He was truly a  karma yogi.

The hotel provided us with a sumptuous breakfast buffet, catering to every taste. In the evening, each  couple in our group was required to  host one dinner each.  Every morning there were lengthy discussions about where to go. 

When it was my turn to be the host, I remembered what Om Swamiji had said about Sadhana; do it in secret, and let the results speak for themselves. I used the same approach. I consulted the hotel staff, took their recommendations and talked to only one or two people in our group to sort out the logistics.

However,  it remained a surprise for most. We just went to the restaurant in the evening and had a great time. Everyone loved the Indo-Chinese food. I learned another life lesson: things go really well when countries co-operate with each other.

I learned one more lesson during our family vacation: we are totally dependent on the service industry.When we travelled,  people helped us with our luggage. Taxi drivers took us wherever we needed to go. Hotel staff take care of all our needs. People cooked food for us and brought it to the table. Sanitary workers kept the area clean and liveable. We would be lost without the service industry and we need to be more thankful to those who provide these services.

In short, the entire trip was a lesson in gratitude: to our family members, taxi drivers, support staff and most of all to Shanker, the massager, who relieved all the aches and pains in our aging bodies for a short while. 

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the people who help us live in this beautiful paradise called planet earth.