Wednesday, September 30, 2009

my birthday eve

Tomorrow it will be exactly one year since I first met, saw, hugged and cried in the arms of a Paramhamsa.
'I am always with you, Ma. Always.' He had reassured me.

I remember a story, read in a big fat hardbound book, based on the life of an old timer marathi saint, Gondawalekar Maharaj. When Maharaj was seven years old, he met a strange old man sleeping in the village temple. (Those days villages were small and a passerby was immediately noticed). Maharaj gave him some food and asked him,

'Where are you going, old man?'

The old man was so old, he couldnt even walk without a stick. He finished his meal, had a glass of water and stood up, balancing himself with the stick.

'I am seeking my master.' he told the little boy.

'I see. And who is your master?'

'I dont have one, that is why I am seeking him, no? '

'But why now? You are so old, you should stay put. You might die on the way.'

'Death is certain. The next birth is also certain. What I dont know is this: It took me all my life to come to this conclusion that I must seek a Guru. God knows how many births I will have to go through before I get this yearning again. So it is better I seek him now. If I die on the way, maybe God will have mercy on me and make me a seeker in my next life.
Nice talking to you, but I must be on my way. Goodbye, Salaam, Namaste.' And he was off onto the next village.

This incident did the job of waking up Gondawlekar Maharaj, at the tender age of seven.

Why should I wait till I am seventy? Why not start now? If this is what it comes to, better I dont waste time.

And off he went, walking all over India. From Mahrashtra to Bengal to kashi. Later in the book, he even meets my ex-ex-boyfreind, Ramakrishna Paramhamsa.

'Kill yourself. You kill yourself. You can do it.' Ramakrishna told him. (!) They knew what to say to whome and who can take what, these greats. Not like us who get reassured, and our tears and noses wiped.

So how did I celebrate my first birthday eve? By starting a meditation and healing center in my home. Three people had come for the satsang, two of them had brought along their little pigtailed daughters, so my boy had his own party in Papas room. We did Nithya Dhyaan and then some healing.

I even got a birthday present. For the past one year I have been doing this same meditation alone, and its almost always been a bit of a struggle, a little boring, legs going to sleep and all that. But today, I was not sitting. I was flying. My whole body participated in the process. All my cells were singing different, independent songs. So this is why they meditate?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Creative writing workshop on 3rd and 4th October

(The next workshop will be conducted probably on 31st Oct and 1st Nov, a weekend, at Protospace, Sanjay Nagar, Bangalore. We shall also be open to online teaching, for anyone around the world. )

Soulpen: Writing for happiness

How do I define creative writing? All our lives, we write for others, because writing is a means of communication. However, writing can also be used to communicate with ourselves, to find out who we are. Before it becomes an art, writing is intrinsically a therapeutic process. It can heal our uncertainties.

Creative writing, therefore, is that writing in which the writer is more important than the reader. It is a beautiful process of turning within.

The next Creative writing workshop in Bangalore is scheduled for this weekend, 3rd and 4th October' 09.

Timing: Saturday 3rd October : 10 am to 6 pm.

Sunday 4th October : 9 am to 3 pm.

Fees: Rs. 1,500/
(Lunch and Tea included)

Venue: 1st floor, Times of India Building, MG road, Bangalore.

Eligibility: Preferably over 18yrs old and a love for writing or reading or both.

Focus: The aim of the workshop is to fuel the love of writing towards an intense and natural discipline. It will help the beginner as well as the writer who is stuck in the middle of a book.

Call : 9945192862

Here is the feedback of the last batch at TOI.

Flow chart:

Why do we write? Because we need to tell the story.
As toddlers, we were all creative with the use of words. The neighbor who had a dog was bowwow. The little boy who played cricket was katakata. The kite which flew in the sky was whoosh.
When we started pre-school, our talents grew to huge proportions. We came back home and told granny, 'Today I climbed a duck. Tomorrow our teacher is going to die. So school will be closed.'
And then the devil struck. We were given a pencil and a rubber and asked to memorize spellings and all the love for words and thoughts was lost with the wind.

This workshop will erase whatever scars our education inflicted on our imagination.
We will write and read out and no one will laugh.

We shall begin with an exercise, a ritual for overcoming the writers block, or to get started. Participants will be given blank papers, with a manageable word limit. Lap tops will not be needed.

We shall do more exercises to stretch the mind and work the writing muscle.

The class will read out a couple of their favorite short stories and we will analyze the story-line and compare it to the structure. Then we will work on a short story structure. To begin with, we will write a short story with a straight narrative, and then we will play with the structure.

Those who have a story in mind will write their on their own. Others can follow a guideline.

Everyone has a novel inside. Lets write ours. How does one write a novel? The masala formula. Or, the nine rasas.

The kind of education we have had, the information overload, the media inputs, have made intellectual zombies out of us. We think with our brains, not with our minds.

Which is why, the first step is to become aware of what 'rasa' one goes through when writing something. Writing is a lonely job. Words have to become alive, they have to gain the power, a power more intense than a human ear, a sense of fulfillment more satisfying than an orgasm.

Where do novels come from? What is the essence of the novel?

Characterization: The back bone of story telling. Class will read out the characters and discuss their difficulties in creating an imaginary human being from words.

Exercises: Three different approaches to creating your character.

The purpose of all these exercises will be for all the participants to complete a short story.

And to fuel the love of writing towards a natural and intense discipline of sitting with a pen and paper.

Call me at 9945192862 for further questions. To enroll, write a comment on this post that mentions your email address. Do not expect an answer. We will answer only if and when the class is full and we have to ask you to attend the next workshop.

Author's profile :

I am a recently published novelist of A Grasshopper's Pilgrimage. This book should be available in most of the Crosswords and Landmarks. You can read reviews of this book on this blog. Just type the title in the search box.

I am also a film maker. I was trained at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune in Film Editing. I have made several documentary films, and taught the various aspects of film making at NID (National Institute of Design), Ahemedabad and also at the FTII. I have conducted a creative writing workshop at the Srishti School of Art and Design last year.

I write for the creative outlet, deep fulfillment and clarity of mind that sometimes comes as a gift with a good session of writing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Thank you, Ramesh

I was at Swami Nithyananda's ashram yesterday morning, around eight am, sitting under the Banyan tree in front of the dark and beautiful Dakshinamurthi, when I got an sms from an old friend, 'Are you awake?'

Suddenly, I was afraid. My friend is a Guru- Bandhu, someone I met in Ramesh Balsekar's Satsang. Ramesh had been unwell ever since Sharada passed away two months ago. I looked at Dakshinamurthi and felt my eyes go wet. I got up, hugged him (yes, you can hug this form) and drew the strength to make the call.

'Good Morning, Manju', she said cheerfully.

'Oh, Thank God. I was scared its some bad news.' I said.

'Bad news we have to prepared for, no? After all, he is not talking, he is very unwell, and his mind is alert, it must be so hard for him. For his sake, I hope he leaves the body soon.'

'I disagree. He is enlightened, he can take it. It's not just by talking that a master does his work. If you go and sit near him you will still feel the silence.'

'Yes, you are right. In fact, I am thinking of going to Mumbai to see him. One last time.'

'Do go. And give him my pranam.'

'I will.'

This was around eight in the morning. Around ten, I was sitting in the Anand Sabha of the Ashram, in front of Swamiji's photograph, waiting for a class in meditation therapy to begin. I looked at my silent mobile once again. There were two messages.

'Guruji passed away at nine this morning.'

'Ramesh Balsekar passed away at his residence at nine am. The funeral is at 4 pm.'

I covered my face and wept. I remembered Ramesh's feet, how I loved to look at them, to touch them.

I went near Swami's photograph and did a full prostration.

Thank you, Ramesh. For being the bright and beautiful light in a seekers life. Thankyou for welcoming me in your home day after day, year after year. Thank you for answering my questions, for treating me with so much respect, for cherishing my spiritual self. You gave us a space to sit, and that means so much for lost souls. You connected me with the sangha, the fellow seekers. All we had in common was you, and we became freinds.

Thank you for Ramana, for his photograph on your wall, which you pranamed every morning before the talk. Although you never spoke much of it, there was another photograph in your house. A fresh, sunlit mountain. Arunachala, Ramana's abode. Arunachala, Swami Nithyanandas spiritual incubator.

Thank you, Swami, for holding me in your lap when Ramesh passed away.

What a life! What a ride! Where Masters and Mountains, like mothers pass you on from one to another, watching over you as you play, until the time you can learn to fly.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Crunchy peanut Butter

After three hot methi ke paranthe with tomato ki chutney, my not very slim hubby makes for himself a toast sandwich of chunky peanut butter on one slice and orange marmalade jam on other.

And then runs into the bedroom when I ask him for a small bite.

Will someone please give him a lesson on healthy eating?

Its not my fault, I buy these things for the kid, who plays the whole day and needs rich food.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Painless deliveries in a remote village

Words from my master

Swami Nithyananda

THERE is an interesting incident from my spiritual wandering days that I want to share with you. I was once with some tribal people in Madhya Pradesh. I was living in a small temple in the center of the village.

Suddenly one day I noticed a pregnant lady entering a small hut. After about half an hour, she came out with a small baby in her hands! No pain, no doctor, no nurse, no medicine, no cries. I was shocked! Of course, I could not ask anything because I did not know their language. After a month, I saw another pregnant lady do the same thing. In half an hour she came out with a baby. I asked the local priest who came to the temple, ‘How does this happen? Don’t they have any pain?’ He asked, ‘Pain? Why pain?’

I was amazed. The very idea that women should have pain at the time of delivery did not exist in their society! Not only that, nobody suffered from gynecological issues like menopause problems either. I started inquiring about their lifestyle. I understood that in their tradition, they respect women a lot. The moment a girl becomes physically mature, she is acknowledged with respect that she is now qualified to become a mother. People fall at her feet and she touches and heals them!

Just because of this different conditioning, the women don’t suffer the usual pains that women in other cultures do. When you are faced with physical pain, just observe the feeling of pain in that part of your body in a relaxed way. You will see that first, there might be a surge of pain, but soon the pain reduces to a spot and disappears. If we just understand this, we will not resist and suffer the pain — we will cooperate with the natural healing energy of the body.

Read rest of the article here.

Now I understand why there is no discrimination in the ashram between men and women. In fact, the women priests pray inside the temple on all thirty days of the month. All the meditation techniques, which include certain pranayamas and Yoga asanas, are also to be done every single day.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I dont like the idea, but I respect your wish

This is for you, Aai.

It took me a long time to write this for you.

When we met this summer, we had an argument.

Subject: Your beautiful and divine body.

You: I want to donate my body for scientific research. I trust you to respect my wishes.

Me: But why Mom?

You: In fact, I have made a declaration to the effect. I have lived all my life with utmost respect for science and its achievements in the medical field. I have given eyes for donation of all our relatives, including both my parents.

Me: Eyes, I can understand. They give sight. But why body?

You: Why not? Anyway you are going to burn it. So why not give it for someone to study?

Me: Because....because they cut it up, the thought itself is awful.

You: And burning it is pleasant?

Me: Burning the body has religious sanction. It is supposed to help the soul to carry on its journey, to not get stuck.

You: I am not in the least worried about my soul getting stuck.

Me: How can you be so sure?

You: When I had that accident when you were just eight years old, I remember looking at the stars and feeling so free and light.

Me: Well, I am not so confident. (Pause)

You: But its my body. I have the right to decide how I want to dispense it.

Me: No you don't. You are our mother. We have the all rights on you. Its my responsibility to make sure I do the best for you.

You: And if what you think is best for me goes against my wishes, would that be right?

Me: Yes. You are my mother and I will not let anyone touch you. And you are the least complaining mom I have ever known, you have no health problems, you are so cheerful and chirpy, so there is no point in this discussion.

You: Why don't you ask your Guru?

Me: I know what my Guru will say. He has in fact taught me the value and importance of rituals and traditions.

You: But I want to ask him. Can you at least ask him for me?

Me: Ok, I will ask.

I must admit here, Aai, I met Swamiji three four times since I came back to bangalore, but I didnt ask him. But I think Swami might have a thing for you. Because finally, he grabbed me by the neck and told me.

"I completely acknowledge, encourage, welcome, any organ donation....It does not affect the journey of the soul if the body is not properly burnt or buried....Just look at the possessiveness, it goes on after death also..."

I still don't like the idea, but I respect your wish, Aai. You have raised us with too much freedom and respect.

Just bless me that I may touch your beauty, your grace and your guts. Always and forever.

your loving daughter,


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Housemate required

This is for a very dear friend of mine.

1Bedroom available For 1 female working Senior executive - in a 3BHK fully furnished independent spacious house. Its 5 minutes from Raheja arcade & forum mall koramangala (Bangalore). All basic amenities like TV, cable, fridge, geyser, 24Hrs water, newspaper, functional kitchen, washing n cleaning maid, etc. Rent inclusive of over heads of water & electricity.

Landmark: behind sharma travels / FabIndia koramangala / next to ayyappa temple madiwala

Rent 6500/- + 2months security deposit + utility
Call - 9743100430

Friday, September 11, 2009

Growing Down: Songs of Childhood and Play

Sick of growing up? Sing about growing down!

Are you a young musician in spirit (or body) seeking out new musical forms to marry poetry with rhythm? Are you seeking patient listeners who don’t shy away from raving and ranting and expect the world from you? And finally are trying to figure out your place in this world?

We want your music.

Calling all musicians to submit their tracks about kids, play, growing up, remaining a child, kids, play, play spaces, growing up, remaining a child, education, neighborhood, child rights, games, childhood friendship, nostalgia, wonder, innocence.. Win an opportunity to have your song released in an album which will get a wide-range of critical and peer exposure!

SUBMIT NOW!, go to:

Growing down is a compilation of music inspired by the fragmented conversations we have with the child within us. As adults the disconnect we feel from the people and spaces around us often suffocates our spontaneity. Cultivating the spirit of wonder and giving it opportunities to guide us can be an enlivening experience. Have these ideas crossed your mind?
The selected 15 tracks will be compiled into the ‘Growing Down’ album which will be released online and on a CD along with our partner labels. The album, besides receiving insane amounts of attention, will reach music lovers nationally and internationally. And, of course, you can expect lots of love from us.

CitySpinning (CS) is a series of urban and community interventions, which look at expanding the nature and use of public and unused urban spaces. Spaces which have the potential of playing a discursive, social and playful role. This album compilation exercise is an outcome of our engagement with children and the city, and the curatorial theme of the Spirited Caravans project. The project is looking at reimagining urban neighbourhood for children and play. This invitation is an initiative of Prayas Abhinav and Tanvi Srivastava at CS. More about them here:

Submission guidelines

> Please send us your own music only. Piracy is cool, plagiarism is not.
> Send us mp3s, we will ask for a CD later
> Don’t forget to license your track under Creative Commons India Share Alike by ticking the box in the form.
(This means your music if selected to be on the album, can be shared and remixed freely as long as it is for noncommercial purposes and as long as your band is attributed as its creators. The creative commons license works within the scope of the copyright law and just seeks to expand on the range of “fair uses” available for the world to build on.)

Deadline: September 30th, 2009

Prizes and Judges

> A Party
> Love
> Peace
> Album (of course)

The judges will be us (Prayas + Tanvi) and our friends. And we are not really corruptible.


Phone: 9035285996 (Tanvi)