I boarded my train to Ernakulam from Mumbai on 5th Oct 2012 with all excitement in mind. This was the biggest workshop I was going to do. Nagapattinam Chinmaya Vidyalaya had enrolled all students (385 of them) from 6th – 10th standard for Vedic Mathematics workshop.
Nagapattinam is a small town (almost a village) in the coastal side (towards the Bay of Bengal) of Tamil Nadu. Since there was no direct train from Mumbai to Nagapattinam, I had to do a break journey at Ernakulam. I reached Nagapattinam by 11 am on 7th. It was a hot sunny Sunday and three male school teachers – Ganesh Sir (Senior Math teacher), Saravanan Sir (IT) and Madhavan Sir (Physical Trainer); had come to receive me at the railway station. With their pleasant smiles on the faces, they welcomed me to the port town, Nagapattinam. Together we went to the place where they had arranged my stay. All of them were very friendly and loving village folk. In our earlier communications, I had asked Ganesh Sir if I could stay in the school but was given to understand that the school had no guest rooms. Hence they arranged my stay at ‘Swamy Mansion’ where people who come to the place for business purposes, stay for a long period.
The roads weren’t quite good and there was hardly any traffic on the road. Being a Sunday, the whole town was very silent with hardly any shops open. We reached the Swamy Mansion very soon. It was a lodge. I was taken to my room on the first floor which was pretty small. The very moment I entered the room, the question that came to my mind was, “Where’s the laterine?” I asked them and they showed me few common bathrooms and laterines. “Oh no!”, I said in my mind. That was not what I expected. Of all things in the world, I was never able to compromise on bathrooms. I somehow hid my feelings inside as we continued our conversations. Suddenly I realized that I was feeling hot. When I looked for the switch, my neighbor in the next room appeared before me and said with a smile, “There’s no electricity.” I smiled back and said, “Oh, Ok. When will the power be back?” He replied, “No idea. The power cut is for 10-12 hours.” “WHAT!!!!!”, I cried out. “No, no. This cannot be. I must be dreaming”, I thought. But in a few seconds, my mind convinced me that I was in the waking state and whatever happening was relatively real. All my excitement got washed away. Ganesh Sir kept talking about the schedule we were going to follow from the next day for the workshop and I could hardly listen to that. All the sound I could hear was of my mind telling me, “Buddy! How are we going to survive for another 18 days in this place? You are going to die out here without even getting to say good-bye to your dear ones.”
I interrupted Ganesh Sir and said, “Sir, how far is the school from here?” “2-3 kilometers”, he replied. “If I can stay in the school, I can save my travelling time.” Ganesh Sir said, “Sir, we don’t have a facility to stay at the school. We thought you would be more comfortable here and get some privacy. Hence this was arranged.” I replied, “Okay…Sir” and gave back a smile to console his confused look when he observed the uncomfortable feeling on my face.
In some time, two of them left and I went with Madhavan Sir to have lunch. All the hotels were closed the day being Sunday. Luckily we got a hotel and I carried my lunch back as parcel. As we reached back, there was no still no electricity. I went down to the back side of the lodge near the bathroom area to wash my clothes and have a shower. The bathroom floor was not clean. Washing was done on a hard stone made for the specific purpose, as it is usually done in Indian villages. That was my first experience of washing clothes in that fashion. I had a shower and went back to my room. I called up my wife and explained to her my plight. She almost hit the floor with laughter. I said, “Yeah! Laugh. I too will laugh upon this after a few days. But now, happiness is a feeling I can’t experience at all!”
I had my lunch. It was good. Packed in the typical south Indian way, in a banana leaf. After I finished, I looked for a dust bin in my room. I couldn’t find one. I put all the waste in a plastic cover and kept it outside the room. The room had two windows. When I opened one window, I could see another room’s window just three feet away. So, I closed it for my privacy. I opened the other window next to the door which opened towards the common verandah for all the rooms on the floor. I could see every passing person staring inside out of curiosity. I closed that window too and lied down on the bed. Luckily for me, Ganesh Sir had bought a new cotton mattress, bed sheet and pillow for me. So I had a good bed to sleep on.
I lied down, sweating from head to toe, thinking what to do, feeling some self-pity. Suddenly it was taken back to thoughts of my Guru, whom I adore the most, Swami Chinmayananda. When he started travelling all over India, way back in 1950s, how things would have been in those days? How he must have travelled through the villages facing challenging situations at all times, with least of comforts, ever ready to face whatever life offers him; how he must have lived during those days and how much he must have struggled and built a worldwide organization? And here I am, totally low with a few issues like common bathroom, no electricity, etc. How pathetic is this state of mind, I thought? As I lay with those thoughts, the power was back and I slowly dozed off.
…contd in My Trip to Nagapattinam – Part 2