Transitions

working through life transitions


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Workshops–Kabir, Square Foot Gardening and Salad Making

It’s been a really long silence this time! And not because there was nothing to write about but because too much has been happening and in between I was too ill (severe congestion, fever…) to post anything. There are unfinished drafts that I am now tying up.

Attended quite a few exciting workshops, starting with a Kabir workshop at Navadarshanam in August.

Navadarshanam is an organisation started with the aim of exploring ecological and spiritual alternatives to the modern way of living. To learn more go to http://www.navadarshanam.org/. The site hasn’t been updated for ages but you will learn about the mission and the principles of how the place functions. It is a village around two hours drive from Bangalore and is a lovely place with a lot of natural beauty and fresh air.

I had last been to ND on an art retreat for around five days I think with some close friends. The place is run on solar power and I think it was the end of summer. In the afternoons it was a little difficult in our cottages without fans but the place is generally cool and so it was otherwise quite pleasant. So this time in the middle of August it was naturally very pleasant.

This time what brought around 30 participants together was this workshop on Kabir, where Ananthu, one of the founders of Navadarshanam, expounded the meaning of select bhajans of Kabir and the experienced singer and educationist Tara Kini taught us how to sing the bhajans of Kabir and also took magical early morning sessions on the rudimentary aspects of the Dhrupad style of Hindustani music.

Although I was not quite well, it was a transporting experience thanks to so many factors–the serene and natural ambience of Navadarshanam, the lovely and varied participants drawn to the workshop by a common love for music, Kabir and all that Navadarshanam stands for, the wonderfully meditative quality of Tara’s singing, especially in the hushed early mornings, Ananthu’s insightful discourses on the meanings of the bhajans, the delicious food… whatever it was, it was amazing.

my room at Navadarshanam

my room at Navadarshanam

Kabir workshop hall

Kabir workshop hall

on the way to the hall

on the way to the hall

participants' children

participants’ children

And one thing led to another. At the workshop among many people I connected to Anil Kapoor of whom you can learn more by visiting his website http://anilkapur.org/ I noticed that he did not take the food served at Navadarshanam but had brought his own food. I learnt that he has been a raw foodist for many years. In the brief intervals we also had some conversations that made me aware of his deep connection with nature, which intrigued me.

Visiting his website, I found the link to the book by his mentor Dr Norman Walker, which had almost as powerful an influence on me as it had on Anil I think. Soon I had bought almost all the books by Dr Norman Walker on my kindle and started acting on his teachings too. I had started pestering Anil with various questions on how to practice the diet recommended by him. And Anil patiently kept guiding me like he has been doing for so many others.

So when I learnt that Anil was about to conduct a square foot gardening workshop at Bangalore I jumped at the opportunity and managed to enthuse a couple of my friends to join in too. And two weeks after that two of us went back to his place for his salad making workshop.

Those lovely transformative workshop days at Anil’s place (he generously offered to host us at his house) were about not just square foot gardening and salad making. They were days of bonding with my best friends at another level, being drawn together by common pursuits and the fun of exploring and discovering.

my friends Raji and Sharada in the train

my friends Raji and Sharada in the train

Raji in our room at Anil's house

Raji in our room at Anil’s house

Sharada

Sharada

My diet has now gained more variety and flavour thanks to my workshop insights and I am working towards finally using my terrace for square foot gardening which, along with its many advantages, is space and water saving.

A bonus was that my friend Sharada and I stayed over an extra day and visited Anil’s farm. Lunching at his compact farm house and strolling through the rain drenched trees, plants and flowers all around, we learnt so much about gardening and farming as Anil shared his experiences and knowledge.

square foot garden at Anil's farm

square foot garden at Anil’s farm

My friend Sharada studying square foot gardening tools

My friend Sharada studying square foot gardening tools

Anil's farm

Anil’s farm

Anil at the farm

Anil at the farm

Sprawling tree at Anil's farm

Sprawling tree at Anil’s farm

To know more about square foot gardening you could go to http://www.squarefootgardening.com/. Anil and his friend Viswas who conducted the workshop (you may check out Viswas’ site too here http://squarefootfarmers.in/) have adapted the ideas of Mel Bartholomew, the found of square foot gardening, to India and have also supplemented the technique with insights from biodynamic farming.

At the salad workshop we got to make and eat divine dishes but more importantly, we learnt the health principles behind them and how to combine ingredients accordingly. While the recipes were drawn from various sources, the presentation on health principles and ingredients to use in salads was largely based on the teachings of Dr Norman Walker. To learn more you could read Dr Norman Walker’s book Vegetarian Guide to Diet and Salad.

salad making workshop hall

salad making workshop hall

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Anil, Poonam, Smrithi

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delicious soups and salads

Starting another blog on my experiments with diet and maybe will start another on terrace gardening.

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Coming out of the Cocoon

There has been a long silence at my end and as is usual, not because nothing is happening but because too much has been happening. A major event in my life just took place (feels like that) and much as I wanted to write about it, I was confused how to write about it and also my energy was sapped by all that was happening.

Well, after a long period of hybernation theatrewise, I finally ended up directing a play– our senior school play. It happened because our theatre resource person got too busy to handle things and the school and he mutually decided to part ways. With barely six weeks to go for the show, after much persuasion I decided to step in and take charge.

Despite my apprehensions, I got lucky. The students that I mentored for the script turned out to be brilliant, especially one of them, and they came up with a playscript that really had potential to be developed into a good production with ample scope for acting, music, dance, costumes, props, lights… the works. And there was a great team of teachers backing me. There were moments of lows but the highs were more and rewarding. And yesterday we pulled off quite a show that got a good response.

For me, the significance of all this was that it finally brought back my appetite for playwriting, theatre and performance. I also got to interact with the very happening theatre group Crea Shakthi whose members were directing the primary and middle school plays and there is hope of me getting back to the stage and associated aspects in a satisfying way. Still feel iffy about it all, but definitely this has been yet another milestone for me.

Why do I often use that word ‘milestone’? I guess it is the intensity with which I sometimes throw myself into a project, makes it feel like a big event. Nice to know I can still feel like that sometimes.

Hope to post photos and who knows, maybe even a video of the play soon here.


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Yoga class for the Police

Yet another Upa Yoga class and this time for 250 policemen and policewomen! I have talked of Upa Yoga in an earlier post but to know more you may read this article at http://www.ishafoundation.org/blog/yoga-meditation/demystifying-yoga/classical-yoga-upayoga-understanding-your-body/.

Yesterday I got up at 4 am, got ready and left the house at 4.45 am to be picked up by another Isha volunteer at the corner. In the dark we made our way to the Olcott Memorial School. The hall was dark too as other volunteers turned up to help in the arrangements. A set of volunteers had come the last evening and swept and cleaned the place, and set up the projector for the class DVD to be played out. Around 6 am many police men and women started gathering. Dressed in white for the occasion, they had loud voices, except maybe some of the women. (Sorry about the stereotype, but that’s what I observed!) They had their procedures– giving ‘statements’, reporting to the DC before we could start the class. All of them sat down in the huge hall. Finally the DC arrived, dressed in khaki. And after finishing the formalities, we started the class. As a volunteer, I was happy to note that once the class started they were all quiet and attentive. They followed all the instructions diligently and found only one of the postures difficult, one that most people do find difficult. They were all keen on collecting the handouts distributed after the class with instructions and a link to go to if they needed revision and they all filled the guest cards with details that would help us update them. Their desire to learn more and stay connected to this experience that had come their way was obvious.

It is easy to criticise the police for their roughness or inability to protect us. But I have heard that their lives are really stressful. We do hope this class makes a difference. And it was a moving experience for me to be part of it.


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Gone are the days of Sleeping in the Open

My airconditioner has conked out and last night the heat was killing me. I longed to climb up to the terrace and make my bed there. But I dare not as these days it is not safe.

I remember my childhood when we would sleep under the stars on string cots, on our terrace, sprinkled with cool water to beat the heat. We settled for bedtime talking to each other, telling jokes or stories, or sometimes listening with fascination to my father pointing out the stars and planets in a freewheeling lesson on astronomy. The Great Bear, The Dog Star, the striking patterns that stood out in the night sky, the stories behind them…Sometimes while staying over in friends’ houses that had a yard in the front or back, we would settle down on string cots lined in the yard, drifting peacefully into sleep with the stars and the sky for a canopy.

Somehow, I don’t remember being bitten by mosquitoes then. Is my memory playing tricks? Nowadays that is another reason why I hesitate to sleep in the open. I have to go armed with mosquito repellent.

When my parents lived here, they would leave the terrace door unlocked and I would often come along with a friend and go straight to the terrace without disturbing them. We would have long conversations while gazing at the sea view till it got too dark. Now as I spend a lot of time away from home I keep the terrace door locked.

Things are no longer safe. Our windows are lined with grids. I miss those days that in my memory shine as relatively safe and carefree.


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Upa Yoga class at my house

Finally it has happened! I have always wanted this house to be used for gatherings, to share with the community, as the hall is so conducive to that. And what better way to get started– On the occasion of International Day of Yoga, Isha Foundation is conducting free Upa Yoga classes worldwide and I am one of the many, many volunteers. (To know more about Upa Yoga you may read this article at http://www.ishafoundation.org/blog/yoga-meditation/demystifying-yoga/classical-yoga-upayoga-understanding-your-body/.) Today I took an Upa Yoga class at my place supported by a wonderful Isha volunteer Prashanth. Despite my many tensions and anxieties (The session is heavily dependent on a DVD and I have to do hardly anything. So…What if DVD does not work! If DVD player does not work?! If hardly anyone turns up or too many people turn up….), finally all went smoothly. 11 attentive people of various ages–my sister, a colleague who brought her children, friends and neighbours, one of them an elderly man, turned up punctually in the morning and went through the session. Some who were not sure they could make it managed to come and were happy for it. I thought of my parents often as they would have been happy that their space is used to share such things.

A personal milestone for me. I hope to have many such wonderful occasions of sharing in this space.


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Holidays with Family

I am back from a great holiday spending time with family in Bangalore and Delhi. And I am once more convinced of the invaluable benefits of taking a break and spending time with those you are comfortable with. At least for me, it always works wonders. I learn new things, some of which I can get back to my life and apply, meet interesting people and get fresh perspectives, and the best part is– all this at my own pace.

My first stop was Suvidha, a premium retirement village, where my aunt and uncle have recently settled down in. You can visit their website http://www.suvidha.co.in/ to learn more. Their son, my cousin, was also visiting from Connecticut when I was there.

View from my aunt's sit out

View from my aunt’s sit out

Then I spent a few days with another cousin of mine and his family who live in Bangalore city. And then went to Delhi to be with my brother and his family. I saw quite a few movies, shared books and of course, had long conversations as we were all catching up after so long.

My sister-in-law's living room

In Bangalore, my sister-in-law’s living room

My brother and family in Delhi

My brother and family in Delhi

Would love to share my experiences, but haven’t been able to post as I was swamped by the host of things to do that came up as soon as I reached home. Also the first day at Chennai was incredibly hot and I spent a couple of days readjusting. Luckily for me, I had escaped the heat till then. Bangalore was cool and pleasant and Delhi was also cooler than usual and my brother’s place is quite cool being in the ground floor of an apartment complex. Now, thank God, Chennai has also once more become cool.

I need more than one post to share my experience; decided I will get at least get started. Plan to write soon on the things I saw and learnt.

 


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On the Verge of a Holiday

Getting all packed and ready to take off on a vacation trip to be with family in Bangalore and Delhi. Arming myself with books to read, a sketchbook and a journal but open to whatever may turn up (or not!). It is the first time I am visiting Suvidha, a lovely retirement home on the outskirts of Bangalore, where my aunt and uncle live, and Delhi has always been good to visit and spend time in. So let’s see how it goes…