In Praise of Heritage
My Tryst with Yoga
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
It was in 1986 once again I was back to the National Academy of Administration to find it renamed with the name Lal Bahadur Shastri* prefixed in memory and honour of the second Prime Minister of India. On becoming the 22nd State of India and being inducted into the Indian Administrative Service cadre (from the State Civil Service I opted for in lieu of the Indian Audit and Accounts Service for which I had undergone two-year course as a Royal Sikkim Civil Service probationer from 1972-74) I was there with three of my colleagues Palden Tsering Gyamtso, Lal Bahadur Rai and Lobzang Bhutia for a month-long refresher course. We had a good time together right from boarding the North East Express at New Jalpaiguri railway station when two of us (me and Palden Daju, who did a stint as Rajya Sabha M.P. after his retirement and wrote The History, Religion, Culture and Traditions of Bhutia Communities, 2011) found ourselves left back as we were on the platform for some errand as the train suddenly started moving and could get into a coach later reaching the compartment to join our friends. It was a summer season and we enjoyed eating mangoes and other fruits buying from the platform wherever possible a bit more careful now about the train. From Delhi we travelled by a taxi for Mussoorie where we were put up in the Indira Bhavan (renamed as it was earlier Indra Bhavan in 1972 very much like the Indira Nagar out of the Indra Nagar a Delhi suburb we pass through while travelling to Dehradun.) I do not know if the changes came during the Emergency clamped down in the country forty years ago on 25/26 June 1975 which is termed as the Black Period in the annals of Indian Democracy. This course too had an early morning session of Yoga class to make us more familiar and to practice it better acquainted. Lobzang, my room-mate in the hostel, used to complete his own daily practice of Yoga early hours before going for the Yoga class as I found him doing it whenever he got the opportunity even in the flight, train or drive during the journey. Palden Daju was fond of running and he made me buy a new pairs of running shoes. Every evening we used to go to the town running and were treated with snacks there. Lobzang, an avid practitioner of Yoga, is heading a section of followers under the banner of the Vihangam Yoga here presently. A junior colleague was also known as Bhotey Kainya for his shrewdness to some of his friends but Lobzang could be Bhotey Bahun for the Yoga he practised, we then talked about him. The best Sarvangasana/Sheershasana amongst us there was done by LB Rai, who is now devoted to his church nearby. I believe my first friend in Sir Tashi Namgyal High School now Tashi Namgyal Academy to share the desk in 1956 Krishna Prasad Khati too follows Vihangam Yoga. He came to see me having enjoyed reading my article on our schooldays in the local news-daily and is now spending his days practising Yoga at his residence in Development Area. This school of yoga has quite a number of followers here and one is Ramesh Kumar Pradhan with literary nom de plume Badal is known for his active participation in the Nepali language movement of 1980s. After his long innings with, Ramesh took voluntary retirement from the National Insurance Company Ltd. and dedicated himself to the Ashram fulltime now engaged helping in day to day affairs posted at the headquarters Allahabad. He often drops in to my place to collect his copy of Uday Nepali literary quarterly from me whenever in the town. I am not sure if the same faith Subhash Deepak too is still following who used to dedicate a space regularly for quite a long time with a shloka on Vihangam Yoga with a picture of Sadaguru Sadaphal Dev in his weekly Wichar. He found it no longer possible to continue its publication more due to his other pre-occupations rather than advancing age or lack of readers that scattered all over the Nepali literary world. He has a number of books to his credit and quite a few in Hindi as well. He has popularized Nepali writings translated to the Hindi literary world. While I was posted for the second time as the secretary in the Department of Cultural Affairs and Heritage, recognizing his lifelong dedication to the Nepali literature in spite of it not being his mother language, I suggested him why not a compilation of the best articles in the twenty-five years of its publication and he brought out Wichar Rajat Jayanti Visheshank (1981-2006 that also had a full page advertisement for our Karuna Devi Smarak Dharmarth Guthi.) It gives us a good account of the major events and writings documented all these years for those interested and well recorded for the posterity. He said it finally a day for the Wichar in its 30th year closing down his establishment by December end in 2011. He too is an Uday subscriber and of late associated with editing the Hindi news-daily Anugamini published from Gangtok.
This day I also remember Dai Durga Prasad Shrestha, editor/publisher Uday that his father Kashi Bahadur Shrestha* started in 1937, more for his devotion to the Yoga than his dedicated efforts in keeping the Uday flag fluttering high in its 78th year with 156th issue recently. His contributions have been recognized by the Nepali Sahitya Sammelan, Darjeeling and Nepali Sahitya Adhyan Samiti, Kalimpong besides by the Sahitya Akademi, which he is closely associated with for quite a long time now. It has published a number of his books as he is a quite popular literary figure in Nepal as well. He is regarded as a bridge connecting India and Nepal in the Nepali literary world. He has been awarded for his contributions to the Hindi literature early in life. His simple lifestyle as reflected in this single instance I wish to share with all the readers here. Some years ago whenever I tried to talk to him, he was often unavailable on the phone even during his Kathmandu sojourn. On my enquiry with the family member on the line I often used to hear him to be either in some Ashram at Ranchi or at Budhaneelkanth, whenever in Nepal. It was for over two years and it was not until one fine day finally he reached here at Gangtok to meet us on 30 October 2006. It was a pleasant surprise to receive as a token of love from him a copy of the just released Nepali edition of An Autobiography of a Yogi by Sri Sri Paramhansa Yoganand that he came out with all those days he so dedicated in seclusion. Naturally I hurried through the title pages to find his name as the translator of the book Yogiko Atmakatha (ISBN 81-89536-21-8 paperback 2006 650+ pages) and lo to my utter surprise there was no mention of him as such at all – not even in the customary foreword ! Trying to understand the reason thereof he was simple enough to let me share his feelings that the work was done as a humble service dedicated to the Yoganandji and his Yogada Satsanga Society of India founded in 1817. Known to be “The Book that Changed the Lives of Millions” has sold more than 40 million copies and counting. It has been published in 34 languages and has been designated as one of the “100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century.” Now a Nepali edition added, it is really a great contribution to our society and Durga Dai thus to be associated with the book belonging to such an esteemed institution and the utter satisfaction one gets dedicated to the cause making it a lifetime experience, indeed. Subhash Deepak shared with me once that he enjoyed reading this book a chapter every morning like the Gita, it is so captivating!
It was in 2006 on our way back from the Divine Life Society Ashram at Rishikesh we also took the opportunity to visit Patanjali Yoga Peeth of Swami Ramdev at Kankhal, Haridwar to see the activities and purchase some of the publications useful for practising Yoga back home. Baba Ramdev played a pivotal role in popularizing Yoga through his live demonstration at different places the country and abroad by relaying the facility over the television network for his ever growing number of innumerable followers to learn and practise looking at the programme even from many of his books and CDs brought out by the Society. By that time we too had been quite familiar with his outstanding contributions including some of the most useful publications that we could benefit of staying in the comforts of our home. For quite a number of years I have consulted Vaidyas including Dr. Vibha Mishra at Siliguri where I used to travel often those days when such facility was not available here in Gangtok. I recollect a funny incidence when visiting one such Baba Ramdev’s outlet near Singtam. I asked at the counter some medicine for the anal itchiness and he wanted to know if it was for a child, usually to have such a problem. He was taken quite aback when told it was not for a child but this old boy who then suggested me to see the doctor inside. Vaidya gave me some oil to apply and within a few days that relieved me from the problem, which could be due to diabetics than many confronted in this age and we should not be shy of as such. A range of household products right from your toothpaste and shampoo in the morning, the fragrant dishwashing soap made of ash and foot cream to heal cracked heels at night - all have well entered into our life beside the spiritual cleansing we get as many of us now following religiously the lesson Baba Ramdev gave to the world all these recent years!
It was much later in life that we could visit Belur Math in Kolkata though I had been to the city many times before. It was during our stay there while attending the 67th Presiding Officers’ and Secretaries Conference of Legislative Bodies in India that the host West Bengal Legislative Assembly included in our itinerary a trip by motor launch down the Hooghly and Howrah Bridge enjoying the Baul Sangeet. It was a rare opportunity to pay tribute to Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekanand, who established the Ramakrishna Mission with headquarters there. Earlier in 1982 we had been to Vivekanand Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari.