It was on the 6th of January 2003. I was just about to complete my participation in a theatre production by the Madras Players of Chennai. It was a play written by the renowned author Mohan Narayanan called, “Ashwaha”. I was already feeling restless in Chennai and had a great passion for yoga and I wanted to be under a Guru, who could train me under the ancient system of training – the Gurukul, which was once upon a time, a “way of life” in India. After spending a year in the Bihar School of Yoga in Munger, which is in the state of Bihar, I had collected a lot of information about how vast the knowledge of yoga was and the various traditions existed in this limitless field with their respective Gurus.
Among one of them was a tradition started by T.Krishnamacharya who was a great yogi himself. He had students with the likes of Shri K.Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar and T.K.V.Desikachar, his son and Jiddu Krishnamurti. I had met a few students in the yoga school from New Zealand and U.S.A. who were already practicing Ashtanga Yoga which inspired me to research further. I read a few books, and also spoke to a couple of more people, and they all had great praise for Father Jois…..that’s what they call him with love.
I called him on the 6th of January and the phone was ringing for a while and I didn’t know who would answer it. But to my surprise Guruji answered! He spoke in a very feeble voice, and asked me something in Kannada. I reacted, “Sir, I don’t understand Kannada, can you please speak in English?” He repeated his question in, English, “Who is speaking?”. I gave my introduction after which informed me the dates of registration were on the 11th, 12th and 13th of January, while the classes were beginning on the 16th of January (2003).
I asked again, “Can I come on the 20th of January?” He replied sweetly, “No problem”. I continued to clear my doubt regarding course fees to which he was patient enough to extend his valuable time and I realised it was well within my budget which my father could afford to pay. I was so excited I was looking forward to seeing him and starting my lessons.
I finished my production commitments in Chennai and departed for Mysore on the 19th of January. I boarded a train in the morning for Bangalore and reached around 1:30 p.m. and had to board another passenger for Mysore, two and a half hours from the capital city of, Karnataka. I was not only excited but also worried about finding a reasonable accommodation…. and wondering what my meeting with him, would be like. I had a feeling, we were sensing and mentally communicating already. The imparting had commenced! A lot of questions and thoughts were running randomly across my head while I continued to enjoy the lush green fields and rivers. Especially, when you travel by this route one gets to notice farmers ploughing and picking crops, and the nature carved rock structures and also the small mountains and cliffs are just captivating.
I reached Mysore in the evening, and I immediately looked for a room in a lodge right next to Parakkal Mutt and the night rest was long. The next morning, after a nice shower, I got myself readied for a meeting with Guruji. I reached his old home, (they call it old shala) which I wasn’t aware he had vacated long back and moved to a new and bigger place which was now the original institution.. The old home is much smaller, which is where he had started teaching. He was a simple Sanskrit scholar making two ends meet and teaching yoga to the locals, until one day an, American knocked his door – doorway to his glory!
I was waiting at the door step when his driver invited me to have a seat. He said, Guruji was upstairs and would be coming in a few minutes. A soon as I noticed him, I just stood up with respect and he gave me a stern look and asked me again something in Kannada which I couldn’t understand. I reminded him of our phone conversation we had and then he immediately recalled that I was from Chennai. He was silent for a few minutes, and as he was about to leave for the day putting on his sandals, he said, “Come on, Thursday”. That’s it. It was done. I said, “okay” and immediately started looking for an accommodation. I found one just about two kilometres away from his home – which was satisfying. They were a wonderful family.
I started my first day of practice on a, Thursday, 24th of January and I was enjoying every bit of my experience with him. He just behaved exactly word to word, as described in the book, “From here to nirvana” by Anne Cushman and Jerry Jones. I rang the bell which never worked properly, but still it managed to ring audible enough. I think it was more with the switch than the bell. He came and opened the door and looked at me and exclaimed, “Yeah, come”. Then he asked me to follow him upstairs and offered me a seat beside him, and requested me to enter the details in the register, pay the registration fee and the monthly course fee.
He then spoke in his usual ways, ‘You go down and wait.’, which I did! Within a few minutes, I could hear his hands gripping for support, against the concrete wall of the staircase and his slow footsteps. There was nobody except me and I was all alone that day. It wasn’t like the Bihar school of Yoga anymore, where we could practice yoga wearing anything. His strict orders were to remove my shirt and wear shorts, for easy stretching and mobility.
to be contd…