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.
As regards the books on Yoga I have the earliest one by Sri Swami Chidananda Practical Guide to Yoga published by the Divine Life Society obtained while at Shivanandanagar in Rishikesh) of Tehri-Gharwal then in U.P. and thereafter Yoga Secrets for Extraordinary Health and Long Life (1982) by Frank Rudolph Young was from Rachna Books. Besides the handout on various Yogasanas with techniques, notes, limitations and benefits under Pawanmuktasana Series and Anti-Rheumatic Exercises, these two books helped me and my Buba a lot on the subject and later on the Divya Prakashan books by Swami Ramdev have also been found quite useful. As for the movies I best remember, besides for its music remember the jubilant Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai juxtaposing life sung by none other than the living legend Melody Queen Lata Mageshkar for Shailendra’s* lyrics with music by maestro S. D. Burman*, award winning (Academy Award, 8 Filmfare Awards and a National Award) Devanand - Waheeda Rehman starrer Guide (1965) who turned into a Swami. Its story was from R. K. Narayan* while for the English version Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck* had penned it.
There is a saying in Nepali Kaam garne peerle Jogi bhayo, Jogi bhayeko bholipalt Bhokkai maryo - ‘afraid of working became a vagrant/ascetic, but died hungry the very next day,’ which means you have to earn for yourself your life, i.e., livelihood. I take this proverb in the present day context, more on this International Day of Yoga that to live a Life you have to practise Yoga which makes it meaningful by way of your health thereby of wealth – saving a lot from falling ill and spending chasing after your Health. After all, we know from our early days that Health is Wealth. A healthy and wealthy Nation is made possible by its healthy population. All our life we had been running after wealth often at the cost of our health and in the long run you find that quite a lot has been lost of your health in the process. It could be with the age as well that I realize it more with years advancing. Here the Yoga comes handy readily. It is, therefore, better to start early in life very much like investing in your life to get more dividends at the end. It reminds me of the slogan connected to insurance sector to promote and sell their product urging to start early and save a lot as they promise Zindagi ke Saath bhi, Zindagi ke Baad bhi – With you always when alive and thereafter as well. Who is bothered of things beyond life as many believe all is here in this world heaven or hell and it depends on your deeds to face the music while you are around here. So why not be wise and be into it well in time by sparing and devoting some part of your daily life to practise Yoga and reap rich benefits. It costs nothing extra nor have you to spend your money on fuel for reaching the gym, where for a workout too you have to shell out some money as well as wait for time standing in a queue to get your turn, if the place is crowded. Yoga does not need much space either to practise your Asanas and is possible in homely comforts at the command of your sweet will. What more you need to get started is only your determination and once you are into the Yoga you would only be addicted to it like you were addicted to sleep once. Readers may not find me preaching as I am sharing this time what I am practising.
By the year 2005 when visiting the US five years ago addicted to Yoga I could get up early just to complete my daily dose well in time to be ready by 6’o-clock to join my family members leaving for the Niagara Falls. There was a change in me from sleeping till late in the morning to going now to bed early in order to get up early next day. It was one vital change in my lifestyle which has of late adjusted well to set biological clock in me accordingly. Thus, it was set to routine to follow things religiously right from doing things at right time right from the morning round of your drinking water cleaning your bowels practising Yoga regularly and timely right kind of food for meals thereafter at right times are the things the Yoga has taught me. To be frank enough following Yoga religiously is easier for me than following the religion, if I am permitted to share it in the wake of controversies people making out of Yoga and Religion on the occasion of the International Day of Yoga. Someone wrote it as the day of United Nations of Yoga for the overwhelming support it could garner worldwide uniting the people. As for me, I have left the religion part of my life to my wife, the better half as Ranja
It is up to you how far you wish to go with the Yoga – sky is the limit as they say but I have set my limits to certain boundaries, may be due to my weaknesses as I am not a saintly person either. You would learn yourself as your age is the best teacher – with the passage of time you learn a lot by way of your experience to well understand the ways of life and with advancing age as you too turn out to be wiser in the best interest of yourself and your life, I believe. Otherwise following a set routine, as I mentioned above, is also the right thing what the Yoga teaches us to follow as someone wise was telling so on the television on the occasion of the International Day of Yoga. If it so, Yoga is not so difficult to follow and practise since it is as simple as it could be. It was only our inhibition that the Yoga was perceived and made to be so - difficult it is not, if you follow your heart to be with it. It will be a life-long affair as you get acquainted with it well flowing with the time and age passes off quite well as well!
This is author’s personal account of memories updated to cherish and treasure often on a detour here and there en route to share the joy of the journey called life. No wonder if some narratives are found read earlier also. Some names (*asterisk for those no more), places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 9434022677 / 03592-202677 and at Rachna, opposite Manan Bhavan, Development Area, Gangtok 737 101 Sikkim India.