The Arrival of Global CHYK campers at CIF

January 1, 2011

I had reached Chinmaya International Foundation (CIF) (at Piravom, near Ernakulam in Kerala) on New Year Eve and settled in by late afternoon. We were expecting a group of 45 NRI CHinmaya Yuva Kendra (CHYK) members from Coimbatore who were coming for a Kerala tour after a week-long residential camp in Chinmaya International Residential School (CIRS), Coimbatore. One of the Yuva Veers (trainees who are on a service period of one-year after they complete their 3 months Youth Empowerment Programme -YEP), Prashant, had gone to pick the campers from the famous Krishna temple at Guruvayoor. As usual, there was a big queue in Guruvayoor temple which made them late for leaving the place. They started off in a Volvo bus, 2 Tata Innovas & a Mercedes by 10:30 pm.

Meanwhile at CIF, Meera Amma had made all arrangements with the help of Yuva Veer Srudhi. Meera Amma is a man-machine combination kind of a person (some what like the one in Terminator 4) who just keeps on working on & on & on. I haven’t seen even youngsters working so efficiently and quickly as Meera Amma does even after crossing 60. Sidhu (a Yuva Veer and also the PRO of CIF) had returned that evening after a Tour with Swamiji Mitrananda (a Mentor for many youngsters in and out of India) from Mathura to Dwarka, which they called – ‘The Journey of Krishna’. Manisha (another Yuva Veer), who had also gone for that tour, followed Sidhu and reached CIF by 10:30 pm. Both of them were tired like hell, for they were driving almost 500 kms every day, for the last 10 days in their Tour. Taking no time to rest, they got into action for the final touch with on the arrangements of the Global CHYKsters.

To freshen herself up, Manisha thought of having tea. She went to the kitchen and kept a packet of milk for boiling. It was taken from one of those packets that were kept in the refrigerator to prepare the welcome drink (Drinking Chocolate) for the camper when they arrive late at night. It is then we all got the shock of our life. The milk got spoilt. We tried boiling half of the other packets and all of them got spoilt. It was 11:15 at night and our location was almost inside a village. Usually in Kerala, shops close latest by 8 pm. We decided to get Milk Powder from some where in Ernakulam, which is again an hour’s drive from CIF. We were sure we had time to go to Ernakulam and be back before the campers reach here. Sidhu & I dressed up to go. But how? Sidhu’s bike didn’t have much fuel and it wouldn’t start either. So we went to take another bike which is there at CIF. Sidhu searched the office but couldn’t get the keys. It was then we remembered that the bike keys were with another Yuva Veer who took it home that day by mistake. Lady luck seemed to go farther away when we tried calling that guy but could not get through. “What to do now?” – was the only thought we all had in our mind. Time was running out and on top of that we got a call from Prashant saying that they are traveling faster than expected since there is no traffic on the way. Sidhu rang up the driver at CIF and took the car at CIF. It was past mid night and we had no clue if we could find Milk Powder anywhere in Kerala at that time. Actually, the campers wouldn’t have felt anything even if there was no Drinking Chocolate. (In fact, they just wanted to go tot sleep after they arrived.) But, we as hosts would feel it as fall on our part in organizing a camp. It is here I remembered a few words of wisdom by a Great One – Have an ideal! A noble one! And don’t give yourself up at tempting moments by compromising on the ideal. We had decided on keeping Drinking Chocolate as the welcome drink, and we were in no way ready to compromise and look for an easier alternative.

Somehow, Sidhu got some packets of Milk Powder and was back before the campers reached CIF. The campers arrived around 2 in the morning. We welcomed them with Drinking Chocolate and showed them their rooms. Their eyes looked terrible and body was drooping due to tiredness. Before retiring to their rooms, we gave them the next morning’s schedule. In a few minutes, we could hear their snores. We retired to our rooms by 3 – 3:30 am.

Next morning breakfast time was kept flexible instead of the usual time of 8:15. We (I, Meera Amma & Yuva Veers) finished our breakfast on time. The campers woke up late, as expected, and had their Continental breakfast somewhere between 9:30 & 10:30. I got the opportunity of arranging breakfast for Swamiji Swaroopananda (the Director of CIRS, one of the Directors of CHYK, and also the camp Acharya who had come along with the campers to CIF) and Swamiji Advayananda (Acharya, CIF) and later escorting both of them for a walk around CIF. I took many candid photographs of both of them.

In the interim, Sidhu & Manisha took the campers for a CIF tour and explained the significance of the place and that it is the birth place of Adi Sankara, and how CIF has preserved the very home in which Adi Sankara was born. The campers were taken inside the Melpazhoor Mana (the Ancestral house of Adi Sankara’s mother). Like anybody else who visits the place for the first time, these CHYKs were also full of stuff like “Oh my God! Wow!! Awesome! Inspiring!”

It was 12:20 in the afternoon when both the Swamijis finished the walk. By that time, the campers also finished touring the place. The next session was mine – a demo on Vedic Mathematics. Everybody entered the hall at 12:50 and I could see them not ready for some session. They were in a picnic mood. I greeted them (and a few even greeted back) but most of them were hardly looking at me. They were merrily chatting amongst themselves. Usually, the biggest challenge for a demo is to get the audience attracted towards you in the first few minutes. If one succeeds here, half the battle is won. I started off with a small intro and saw that still few of them weren’t paying much attention. I quickly shifted to some practical problems. And in no time I got everybody’s eye balls on the board. Again the different words used for giving surprising emotions could be heard which was followed by an applause for doing some calculations in seconds on the board. I felt better when they all started looking at me. In a few minutes, both Swamijis and Rishiji came into the hall and sat in the front row. I continued my talk for 50 minutes and could see their eyes wide open with bewilderment (except 2 or 3 of them who were still in the hang over of the earlier day’s travel). I explained how the subject helps in discovering new techniques of calculation on our own. And how it can improve the way our brain functions. As soon as I finished my talk, they thanked me for the demo. Swaroopanandaji put in his few words as to how Spiritual Scientists of ancient India ‘discovered’ various streams of knowledge by Meditation & Contemplation. He also connected the text (‘Tattiriya Upanishad’ that was taken for the campers) to pattern observation that is said in Vedic Mathematics. The session concluded with Advayanandaji’s words on the vision that CIF had towards promoting such rare branches of knowledge like Vedic Mathematics.

After lunch, the campers were given resting time. I had good discussions with few of the campers on Vedic Maths and could throw some light on the subject. It’s a great feeling I get, that can’t be expressed, when perception of people towards Mathematics, as a dry & boring subject, is totally changed in a few minutes of demo on the Vedic Maths. If a demo can bring such a difference, just imagine how much difference will learning the subject bring about?

At 6:15 pm, the campers went to the Ayyappa temple at CIF in traditional dhoti (for guys) and Settu Mundu (traditional off-white Kerala Saris for girls). They weren’t comfortable in those clothes but they looked happy. Girls couldn’t walk fast and guys literally tied the dhotis to their waists. It was funny to see some girls wearing white T-shirts as blouse. There was a Chuttuvilakku (a pooja when all the lamps of the temple can be lit by us) which was followed by Shinkari Melam (a performance by Classical Instruments of Kerala). The campers loved the performance like anything and it is usually so for any spectator. I heard a few comments like, “Man! Those guys literally did sit-ups with those huge drums.”

Sinkari Melam was followed by a quick dinner after which we all proceeded to the Illam (maternal house of Adi Sankara) to watch Kalari payatu (the traditional form of warfare of Kerala). The performance was given by some youngsters and a few middle aged men from the academy called ‘Cochin Kalari’. It is said that a Chinese monk mastered this art and spread it across China with a few modifications. This modified form turned into Karate & Kung fu. The senior person among the artists explained many facts about the martial art. It usually takes atleast 6 years of sincere practice to master the art. The day of a student begins very early in the morning when he has to undergo extensive physical training (twice a day) supplemented with mental training techniques of Pranayama & Meditation.

They displayed the use of various weapons like knives, swords, daggers, long & short sticks, flexible swords (that could be rolled into a circle and hid under garments or in the long hairs of ancient warriors), wrestling, etc. The fights were so real that every time their metallic weapon scratched on the rock-floor of the Illam, sparks flew and we almost thought the weapon will injure one of the performers. The display lasted for almost an hour after which the valorous performers proceeded to have dinner.

I got an opportunity to serve them meals and it is then I saw something I didn’t expect. All these artists seemed so aggressive while they fought in the arena but, when we spoke to them in person, most of them were very shy & timid. It is so strange – a person’s behavior changes so significantly when he identifies himself with different ego-states and plays different roles in life.

I enjoyed every moment of the day. To some extent it is because of the atmosphere that was spread around. But more than that, I guess, I was totally in the present moment all the time during the day. As said towards the end of the movie ‘Peaceful Warrior’

Master: Where are you?
Student: Here.
Master: What time is it?
Student: Now.
Master: Who are you?
Student: The present moment.

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