Thursday, January 12, 2012


Sheer coincidence took my mind  back to the week I spent in the Vivekananda Kendra in Kanyakumari, and what more fitting day could I have hoped for than Swami Vivekananda's 150th birth anniversary! It was 12 years ago when they announced a competition in my school, conducted by the Vivekananda Kendra. And for this, we had to read a book and then give a test. I think it was compulsory for everyone to take up this exam, but this was least of the reasons that I read the book hundreds of times! The first time I read his words, I was awed, inspired and transformed. I enjoyed the read so much that I went back and read the book again and again. I do not remember reading any other book that many times. The Chicago address enthralled me, with passion and pride. The man, his words and his actions inspired me endlessly! Needless to say, I aced the exam and as the prize, won a week long stay in the ashram in Kanyakumari. With 3 of my best friends also in the same league, I was very excited to go on this trip, even though this meant I missed  a really important family function. For us, from a school which did not have school trips, this was the biggest gift!

The trip started off with a train journey to Kanyakumari, where we met the rest of the prize winners and all the bhaiyas from the ashram. The one week there was not just a trip, it was an experience. Getting up at 4 AM to do prayers and then some yoga, followed by recitation of the Bhagavad Gita. This  followed by breakfast(where we had to wash our own plates - something I had never done before :P) and then shramadaan - where we helped in small tasks around the ashram. Bhajan sessions every evening that I never thought I would enjoy but thoroughly did, it somewhat was a mind cleanser of sorts. Bonding games and some more yoga and then dinner. The food itself, so plain yet so tasty. Hikes, visits to the temple, museums, beaches and games alongside of insightful lectures and discourses made it a very wholesome experience. I distinctly remember being awed by Nivedita didi when she gave us a talk - she was so austere and yet there was a glow about her, I can almost swear it was an aura! To see such simple living, in such simple surroundings and live amidst all the greenery of the beautiful kendra which had deer and peacocks aimlessly roaming around was simply astounding for us city-breds. Long, strenuous, fun days followed by long nights of dance practices and  teenage talk - I am amazed that I managed the week with such less sleep! And in that week, we actually learnt a Mallu dance as well, which we performed on the last day, pathetic though I was! I can hardly remember all the names now - but I can never forget Siddu, for he was the first guy friend who was an older brother to me and took such care! I still have the friendship band he mailed me, I can never throw it away! I also remember Rajendra and Sudarshan bhaiyya - who would constantly amaze me with their amazing yoga skills and irritate me with their antics. And  of course Gangadhar bhaiyya, who was the head of the Kendra in Bangalore. Aah, Kanyakumari, that was the place where I first learnt to do a proper Suryanamaskara! A myriad of emotions and thoughts filled me through the week, for everything was such a novelty there.

It was a week in my lifetime unlike any other - a week that I probably can never relive again, because I am no longer the same person anymore, for I have grown up and my ways and beliefs and mindset have all changed course, but  the thankfulness for Kendra for giving a naive teenager that opportunity and my deep respect for Swami Vivekananda are things that I know will never change, ever!


Fawkes said...

Its written so well Ash .. I am inspired to go to kanyakumari and experience this! :) Btw when did u go?

Ashwini said...

Haha, thanks Ranj! :) This was just before Deepu's remember I missed Doddappa-Doddamma's 25th anniversary?