Journey to the Himalayas – books available

​Journey to the Himalayas is a 108-page pictorial travelogue of the journey of two brothers and their 18-day stay in the Himalayas and trek upto 14600 feet. The travelogue will take you through their journey and land your mind into the Himalayas.

The book is a fundraiser for the project ‘Chinmaya Pradeep’, and outdoor multimedia multi-medium exhibition on the teachings of Swami Chinmayananda.

Now the book is available for purchase online as well as in select Chinmaya Mission centres in and outside Mumbai. Refer attachment for more details.

 

J to H available

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Journey to the Himalayas – an elevating experience

Have you ever set foot on a journey to the Himalayas – Alone? or may be with just one companion? Did you ever know that travelling can teach you much more subtle lessons of life than any other school, college or university? ‘Journey to the Himalayas – an elevating experience’ is one such journey..

A coffee table book which is not just a travelogue with lot of beautiful pictures that can tell you how to reach a particular place and what to buy and what not to buy or specifying places of visit. ‘Journey to the Himalayas’ is a book that can spiritually uplift you through the 18-day journey undertaken by two brothers in the wilderness of the Himalayas. The book promises that the reader will be tempted to make an attempt to visit, if not scale, the Himalayas at least once in his lifetime.

Take up the journey…and discover yourself.

For pre-order, contact:
Vinay Nair – vinay@sovm.org or +91 9820 509 484
Follow us on http://www.facebook.com/JourneyToTheHimalayasTheBook
Journey to the Himalayas Cover Final

Jaipur – the city of Palaces – Part 2 | Travelogue

From Jantar Mantar we moved to the City Palace also known as the Jaipur Palace. That was one of the most awesomest (if I can use a word like that by combining two superlatives) things I had ever seen. There were many halls and rooms all beautifully painted on the walls and ceilings. I was stunned when the tour guide told me that the colours used to paint not only included naturally extracted colours from fruits and vegetables, but also the paste made out of gems like ruby, emerald, sapphire, etc. It was really hard to believe that the paintings I was seeing on the ceilings were 200 years old. In few of the rooms, there were guns used for fighting and hunting. They were beautiful. There were also knives and swords of different shapes and sizes. One of the swords weighed 5.5 kgs and was even studded with precious stones!? (I mean, who would think of fighting with a sword studded with gems?) But a king had fought and won a lot of battles with this stone-studded sword. In a showcase was displayed the body armour and helmet used by the king. It weighed 35 kgs. Some guns that were used on camel backs weighed 25 kgs.

Inside, we went to the Diwan-e-khaas (the auditorium for private audience). It was being arranged for a wedding. Today, Diwan-e-khaas is also rented out for weddings. Inside the Diwan-e-khaas, there were three huge jars made of silver. Each of them weighed 345 kgs and were made of 14000 silver coins and could contain 900 gallons (4091 litres) of water. One of the kings used to drink only Ganges water which was brought and stored in these jars. Once when the king went to England, he took the jars along with him (now this is what we can call ‘to live like a king’). From there, we went inside more rooms where there were exhibits of dresses and stuff used by the kings and queens. One of them was a 9 kg sari used by a queen that was made of gold and silver. The cloth which was bundled into a turban was 12 metres long. But when folded into a square feet, the height of the folded turban wasn’t over 6 inches. Since camera was not allowed inside the City Palace, we missed the opportunity of capturing the pictures of the beautiful artifacts those were used by the royal family.

There was a king by the name Sawai Madho Singh under whose name a cricket stadium is there in Jaipur today. Madho Singh was a very huge king (probably that is why the title ‘Sawai’ suited him too, even though in a different sense). He was 7 feet tall and weighed 215 kgs. His chest was 4 feet broad. His breakfast would ‘weigh’ 10 kgs comprising of milk, jelebis and badam. His dresses were showcased inside the palace. Looking at it we could imagine how big he was by looking at the clothes he wore and his portrait. It did not come to a surprise for us when we were told that he died of diabetes at the age of 39.

There was another room, Diwan-e-aam (hall for public gatherings) filled with the portraits of the kings who lived in the palace at different times. There were rooms over the hall with grilled windows for the queens that enabled them to see the happenings in the hall but the people in the hall could not see the queens because of the grill. Diwan-e-aam also has a chandelier which was one of the largest of its kind. There were many life size portraits of the kings in the big hall of Diwan-e-aam. One of the paintings (if I remember it correctly, it was Raja Man Singh’s) was a special one. The eye, thumb and shoes would point at us from whichever direction we look at the painting. We were told that there was a time when 22 kings lived in the palace. So you can imagine how big the palace must be! The part of the palace that we were seeing was just a portion of the whole palace. The other parts are still used by the royal family.

Jaipur was named after Raja Sawai Jai Singh. He had 27 queens. The royal flag carries five colours which were the colours of the flags of five kingdoms that Raja Man Singh had conquered. After his conquest, he made his national flag as a combination of strips of those five colours. When we visited the palace, there was only one flag on the top of the palace. It means the king is out of town. If one sees two flags on top of the palace that it indicates that the king is in the palace. The present king is just 15 years old (a school going boy). After the end of monarchy, the royal army which comprised only of ‘Rajputs’ (a particular clan/caste in North India) joined the Indian Army under the name ‘Rajputana Rifles’.

From City Palace we went to a Govt. authorized art, handicraft and textile showroom where they showed us how they use natural colouring processes to dye clothes. They extract the colours from fruits and vegetables, and the water used for processing is also said to be brought from a particular river/lake which contains a lot of salts and minerals. After explaining to us the colouring procedure, they took us to their rajaai (blanket – a multi-purpose blanket in fact. They can be used in all seasons and also used as carpets.) section where the rajaai collections started from Rs.750/- onwards. It was hard to believe that a blanket that would make us warm weighed just 100 grams as we held it in our arms. They make it out of Australian sheep wool. There were other beautiful silk blankets costing from Rs.1,250 to Rs.1,850 which was quite cheap as compared to its quality. It came with a 4-5 years ‘guarantee’. So did the saris. Since I wouldn’t be using rajaai in Mumbai, I proceeded to the sari section. They showed me a few saris of Rs.1,250 which were printed with bright (natural) colours and looked beautiful. I bought two of them and stepped out of that section into the kurta section. There was a salesman pulling me to the ‘precious stones’ section but I didn’t go there. Kurtas started from Rs.650 or Rs.750. I bought one for me and one for my son. They had an option of sending the purchases by post to our address if we pay 50% of the price. The balance could be paid at the time of delivery. If I remember it correctly, there was some nominal (or nil) charges of delivering at home. I opted for this option and left the shop for the next stop – Nahargarh.

Jaipur – the city of Palaces – Part 1

27th Nov 2013
It was my first visit to Rajasthan and I was pretty much excited about the Jaipur city tour that I was going to take the following day. My friend Shridhar (Shridhar is what he’s called by his dear ones…his real name is Hariharan) and I had come to attend a 3-day ‘International Conference on History and Development of Mathematics’ at JECRC University in Jaipur which was to start on 29th Nov. It had been almost a year that I travelled for the sake of travelling and I had decided that since I was coming here all the way to Jaipur, I should take out a day see the city. For the same reason, we got our tickets booked for arriving in Jaipur a day prior to the conference. The convener of the Conference, Prof. Dr. Ramprakash Sharma, was kind enough to arrange for our stay in Rajasthan University’s guest house – a pretty good place to stay. We had early dinner tucked ourselves into the rajaai (blanket, as it is called in North India) early and called it a day.

28th Nov 2013
Morning woke me up at 6 am and we both got ready to leave for the city tour by 7:30 am. We had thought of having breakfast and then making a move immediately. The receptionist had told us that we would get a bus for the city tour around 8:30 am from the Govt. hostel. The previous night, Prof. Sriram (Retd. Prof. from University of Madras whom I had met at a couple of occasions) had arrived in our guest house. He too was keen on seeing around the city. Hence we three decided to leave the place together. In the morning, I got a call from Krishna Panda, a young chap (whom I had met in another Conference at IIT Madras) who had also come for the Conference gave me a call saying that he too would like to join us and will meet us at Govt. hostel. So, Shridhar, Sriram Sir and I finished our breakfast and we took an auto to Govt. Hostel. There we met Krishna and we booked a ticket for the full-day city tour which was from 9am – 6pm. Luckily we reached there right on time. There were half-day tours also for 3-4 hours. The buses were run by Rajasthan Tourism. A full-day bus tour costs Rs.300/- per person and half-day (3-4 hours) costs Rs.250/- (both excluding entry tickets, camera, meals, etc. Basically, it is the normal bus charge that we pay). Since we four were the last to reach there, we got the seats at the back. However, the journey was quite comfortable (thanks to the good roads).

9:20 am: We started off from Govt. Hostel to our first spot – Birla temple (situated close to Rajasthan University) which was a 25-year old Lakshmi Narayan temple made of marble. We had a quick darshan (visit to the temple) and moved to our next spot – Jantar Mantar. On the way, the tour guide in our bus showed us Jal-Mahal (Jal – water, Mahal – palace. It is a palace in the midst of an artificial lake), which used to be the summer palace of the king. We were not supposed to stop our vehicle there so the driver just slowed down and allowed us to click pictures from the bus before we moved on. On our way, we saw a Golf Course constructed by Raja Man Singh, a very handsome king, who was a Polo champion. His queens also played polo. Unfortunately, when he was 59, he fell off the horse while playing polo in England and died. We also saw another palace on the way which was taken up by the Taj group of hotels. There were few other temples, Vidhan Sabha, cricket stadium and some more monuments that came on the way.
Our vehicle slowed down at the entrance of Old Jaipur. The tour guide told us that till now we were in New Jaipur and beyond the gate is Old Jaipur. The city of Old Jaipur is surrounded by walls from all sides and can be entered through nine gates (Indian scriptures talk about nine openings in the body – navadvaara. This was probably kept in mind while constructing these nine gates that lead into the city). As we entered, we saw uniformly coloured, designed and same sized buildings on either side. All of them had the peculiar shade of pink which is the only shade that we see for old buildings in Jaipur.

On our left side came Hawa Mahal. Hawa Mahal is not a palace, but a structure with a lot of windows. The vehicle slowed down but didn’t stop here. In a short while, we reached Jantar Mantar – what I would call as a Laboratory for learning practical Trigonometry! Jantar Mantar is really famous for its sun-dials that are exhibited in a huge open ground. We took a composite ticket of Rs.70 which could be used for entry to few places at a discounted rate. We were told that we could spend 45 minutes or so in Jantar Mantar. As we went in, the tour guide started explaining about every sun dial. But we went so crazy seeing such large sun dials some as big as a three-storied building, that we didn’t listen to him much and started exploring on our own (a mistake that we did for, we missed the explanations). We took some pictures and came back to our tour guide who was explaining about one of the sun dials that had a big arc with its ends facing north and bisected by a rectangular block in the middle. The arc had time measurements written on its left side for morning and right side for afternoon. When the sun rays would hit the block in the middle of the sun-dial, its shadow would fall on the arc (left or right side, depending on the time of the day). The spot where it falls will show a particular time. We need to add 15 minutes to get the present IST. We asked him why to add 15 minutes. He said, ‘In 1905 when the Govt. decided to give a standard time for the whole country, the time of Allahabad was chosen. Since the actual time of Jaipur was 15 minutes behind Allahabad, we had to add 15 minutes to the time shown on the sun dial. This was the case with every sun dial in the complex for the obvious reason that Jantar Mantar was built much before this rule was passed by the Govt. There were other structures on every star sign which we didn’t get much time to check out. These structures on star signs can be seen only in the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur and not in other four Jantar Mantars situated in Delhi, Mathura, Ujjain and Varanasi.

The history of Jantar Mantar is really interesting. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh-II (1688 – 1743) was the founder of Jantar Mantar. Jantar comes from the word ‘Yantra’ (instrument) and Mantar comes from the word ‘Mantra’. Jai Singh was a great scholar, especially in mathematics and astronomy. The title ‘Sawai’ was bestowed upon him by the Mughal ruler Aurangazeb. ‘Sawa’ in hindi means, one and a quarter. By this title he meant that Jai Singh was 25% more intelligent than a normal man. Mostly the rulers of Jaipur were allies of the Mughals which allowed them to rule peacefully and enjoy the royal life. Jai Singh had become the king when he was just 11 years old. He discussed with Portuguese scholars in 1729 CE for construction of Jantar Mantar. The first one of its kind was constructed in Delhi (probably offering it as a token of love to the Mughal emperor who stayed in Delhi). The work of Jantar Mantar started in 1728 and was completed (in five different cities) in six years. There are 17 or 18 instruments in Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar:

1. Laghu Samrat Yantra (small sun-dial)
laghu samrat

2. Chakra Yantra (circle instrument)
sri yantra

3. Nadivalaya Yantra Dakshin Gola (equatorial instrument southern hemisphere)

DSCF0440
4. Nadivalya Yantra Uttar Gola (equatorial instrument northern hemisphere)
5. Ram Yantra (altitude instrument)

Ram Yantra

6. Brihat Samrat Yantra (large sun-dial). In this sun-dial, local time can be known accurately upto 2 seconds. The reason they didn’t think of constructing one where the time could be accurately calculated upto 1 second is because human eye cannot see such minor change. Hence, it would be useless to do so. This is the largest sun-dial.
Brihat Samrat Yantra

7. Yantra Raj (the astrolabe)

Yantra Raj

8. Rashivalaya Yantra (zodiac sign instrument)

rashi valaya

9. Digansha Yantra (azimuth instrument)

Digansha Yantra

10. Dhruvdarshak Pattika (pole star viewing plate)

Dhruva darshak Pattika

11. Jai Prakash Yantra (the Master instrument constructed by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh himself)

Jai Prakash Yantra

12. Krantivritta Yantra (the ecliptic circle instrument)

Krantivritta Yantra

13. Bhitti Yantra (meridian wall instrument)

bhitti

Close up of Bhitti Yantra

14. Kapali Yantra (hemispherical bowl instrument)

Kapali Yantra

15. Palabha Yantra (horizontal sun-dial)

Palabha Yantra

16. Unnatansha Yantra (altitude instrument)

Unnatansha Yantra

17. Sashthamsha Yantra (sextant instrument)

Sasthamsa Yantra

One can spend 2-3 hours easily if he’s interested in mathematics, trigonometry and the working of sun-dials. But our time was limited. Time flew and I could see my group walking out of Jantar Mantar. I quickly called out Shridhar and Prof. Sriram (who was trying to find the place where he could see the declination of the sun on the biggest sun-dial, the Brihat Samrat Yantra). As I walked out, I looked back at all those mathematically crafted artwork which would bring a lot of sense and purpose of practical implementation of trigonometry that is usually dumped into our heads in high school. How I wish I could bring a batch of students for a study tour some time to this place and explain something on trigonometry and astronomy!

Travelogue | MY TRIP TO NAGAPATTINAM – Part 3 (Last part)

…contd from My Trip to Nagapattinam – Part 2

I could see a lot of difference in the attitude and behavior of the people as compared to the people from the cities. As compared to the city dwellers, village folks are very loving. The children and teachers were all anxious to see what Vedic Mathematics is all about because they couldn’t get the knowledge easily from Nagapattinam. Even non-Math teachers attended the classes because of their yearning to learn something new. The children looked forward at the classes as a source of entertainment. They were far away from any negative influence that the kids in the cities are affected with. They were so shy that once when I uttered the word ‘Pair’ while explaining a topic in Math, they shied away their eyes. When they heard ‘Pair’ it reminded them of the word ‘couple’. And they were SHY! Which was a surprise for me. Because in the cities, we see children from lower classes exposed to all infatuations and school-love and relationships. But here, it was far beyond their imagination. I was told by Ganesh Sir that the total population of Nagapattinam itself was only 100,000. So, they could easily identify any outsider. If the children would be seen roaming on the roads after school hours, any onlooker would call up the school and inform about such an incident and the student would be warned. To them, internet was a taboo and talking of email ids and facebook was a hush-hush. All the while I enjoyed their village innocence and their love they showered over me. There would not be a single student who would pass by without greeting their teachers. The way of greeting in Chinmaya Vidyalayas was ‘Hari Om’ and I had to keep saying Hari Om as a return greeting every time I walked in school. The teachers too were very loving. Sometimes, if the lady peons who would serve me lunch would not be at the table, the teachers themselves (once even the vice-principal herself) would serve lunch for me despite my pleading requests of not to do so. In almost all alternate evenings, Saravanan Sir would call or come by the school just to ask me if I need anything from the market because he was going to the market. I experienced hospitality at its best over there. Their love gave me the spirit to take classes for long hours.

As usual, I enjoyed the classes very much. The children enjoyed too. We did techniques on faster subtraction, multiplication and squaring for all classes. For 9th & 10th, we did cubing and a few more techniques. For every batch, I enjoyed doing sessions where I could ask a lot of WHYs for everything they say. For example, while doing the concept of area they said, “Area of a square is side x side, area of a rectangle is length x breadth.” And I tried to bring all innocence to my face and asked them, “Why is it so?” They would reply, “It’s the formula Sir. If we don’t use that, then how will we get the answer?” I asked them again, “Who made these formulae? Why are they not different? Why area of a square is only side x side why not ½ x side x side?” They would give a puzzled look on their face. In every school where I’ve done workshops, I’ve faced the same reaction. I then have to lead them to get the thought of deriving a formula. Some would still say, “Area of a square is side x side because all sides are equal.” I then would ask them, “In that case area of a rhombus also has to be side x side because all sides of a rhombus are also equal.” Suddenly someone would come up with their logic saying, “Because in a square all sides are equal and all angles are right angles.” It is a strange thing how we derive a logic behind a statement. When our ‘mind’ is convinced on some idea (irrespective of the fact that it is backed by reasoning or not), it automatically tries to find logic behind the idea to satisfy the ‘intellect’. Say for example, for a person who is convinced that ghosts exist, he can come up with so many reasons to back his statement. These reasons may not sound logical for others. But for him, it is. Because he is sure of the idea and hence whatever reasons he finds is apt for his intellectual understanding. When others wonder and label him illogical, he must be thinking the same thing about others!

So, for children too, they are convinced by these formulae without even questioning its derivation to their teachers. Sadly, we do not get an opportunity to question or think and try to find the reason ourselves behind Mathematical formulae in school. Most of our teachers are taught to teach, not to make the minds to question. When I was in school, our Mathematics tuition teacher Sri P.P.Raman Sir would ask him so many questions which would make us think and derive solutions to problems. This enabled his students to get the exact reason and find the proper logic behind a proof. Unless and until students get an opportunity to think and discover the science behind every working in Mathematics, how are the supposedly to ‘understand’ mathematics? Many of them score, but very few understand mathematics.
While I was taking class here, it was raining outside. I said, “If I ask you why it is raining outside, then would you tell me – It is hot in Mumbai. Mumbai is 700 kms from here. And hence it is raining here!” They all laughed. I went on, “That is how it sounds to me when you say – All sides of a square are equal. All angles are right angles. Hence area of a square should be side x side.” There was complete silence in the class. They understood that their statements did not have logic behind it but still they thought it had logic. That was a thunderbolt to them. Till now they never thought that formulae have to be questioned or they can be derived. This was nothing new for me because in most of the schools I receive the same answers. Very few of them understand the concept of area. That when we say area of a figure is 50 square feet, it means the shape when divided into smaller squares of size 1 foot each, we will get exactly 50 squares.

Slowly, I had to take them to discover the formula for area of a square and rectangle. Once they have understood these two formulae, they gradually start thinking and deriving formulae for area of a triangle and parallelogram. That’s it! My objective is achieved if the slightest thinking process is set during the 8 – 10 hours workshops. In this school, there was one boy of 8th standard, Kamlesh. When I asked their class the derivation of formula for area of a rectangle, he thought for a while and said, “Sir, I can try proving it using an example. Suppose there are a certain number of bottles in a rectangular box, then I can get the total number of bottles when I multiply the number of bottles in a row by the number of columns.” That boy had got the idea. He could try proving a formula by associating it with another example which he might have (perhaps) solved or observed previously. This is a process that has to be cultivated in the children right from a young age – ‘how to get it solved?’ In his book How to Solve It, George Polya, a famous Mathematician says, “Look at the unknown (what is to be found out in a problem). And think of a similar problem having the same or similar unknown. This suggestion advises you to do whatever you would do anyhow, without any advice, if you were seriously concerned with the problem. Are you hungry? You wish to obtain food and you think of familiar ways of obtaining food. Have you a problem of any kind? You wish to find a certain unknown, and you think of familiar ways of finding such an unknown, or some similar unknown.” This is a very useful tip that can be used by teachers, parents or anyone for that matter, who wish to train children in problem-solving.

Two and a half weeks flew like anything. And it was the last day of the workshop. We took class-wise group photos and some casual photographs with the 10th standard students. The 10th standard students were asked to sit casually engaged in some conversation with me so that some candid photos could be taken. They were again shy. Finally I engaged them in another discussion over Pi and when they were engrossed in it, the photographer did his job.

Immediately after the photo session, I bid good-bye to all the students, teachers and staff and left for the railway station to catch my train. Two male teachers came to the railway station to bid me goodbye. For three weeks, with all the love I received from the village-folks I never felt I was away from my family. And there I was, on a train, continuing my journey back to place where I came from – my home, my family.

MY TRIP TO NAGAPATTINAM – Part 2

…contd from My Trip to Nagapattinam – Part 1

I woke up when the power went off (again). At around 5 pm, Saravanan Sir picked me up and we went to the beach. The Chinmaya Vidyalaya, where I had to take class, was hardly a kilometer away from the beach. When I saw that, I was happy thinking that atleast on a few days I could go to the beach in the evenings and spend some time chilling. He explained to me how Tsunami had hit the place badly a few years back. There was a stadium near the beach which entirely disappeared when Tsunami hit. He said that when they came to the beach after the disaster and felt as if they came to a wrong place because they thought ‘How could a stadium just disappear?’ It was moderately crowded, the day being a Sunday. We spent some time on the beach and I was finally dropped at Swamy Mansion.

I went out at 8:30 to get my dinner. It is totally dark. No street lights, no lights from homes due to the power cut. I used my mobile torch to get some light so that I won’t slip my feet in the uneven roads. I reached the hotel where I had taken lunch from. I could see the curiosity of the hotelier’s eyes. They understood that I was new. The pony tail in my hair always caught attention, especially in such remote places.

In Tamil Nadu, they don’t have rice for dinner. They have Idli or Dosa or something similar to what they have for breakfast. They call it ‘tiffin’. I had some Idlis and went back to my lodge. Again, no power. My neighbor in the lodge had told me with a sarcastic smile that at night the power goes out every alternate hour. He was right, full night the power came and went off every alternate hour. I applied mosquito repellent cream all over my body and tried to get some sleep. And I did get good sleep except for the times when the power came and went off. At those points, I was woken up for a few seconds and then I snoozed off again. Finally I woke up at 6 am. After which the power was continuously cut. I had my shower and went to the school with Saravanan Sir who picked me up at 8 am.

I met the Acharya of the Chinmaya Mission Centre in Nagapattinam, Swami Ramakrishnananda, an excellent teacher of Sanskrit. His peculiarity is that anyone who would attend his workshops on Sanskrit for 6 hours, would be rolling on the floor with laughter for 5 ½ hours. At the end of the workshop, they would learn beautiful Sanskrit. He would teach Sanskrit with quick caricatures he drew on the board which would imprint the topic in our minds. I had attended his classes and knew him in person. When I met him, I gave him a packet of sweets. He jokingly asked, “Why sweets? Is it your birthday?” and started laughing. Swamiji is a very jovial person. For the people who know him, even his look is enough to make them laugh.

He asked me, “Is your stay comfortable?” This time it was a serious question. I smiled back thinking how I should say NO with a smile. He repeated the question again. I said, “Swamiji, can I stay in the school? I think I’ll be more comfortable here. I find it a bit risky to lock my luggage, laptop, etc. in the lodge which has got no security and even the lock is a small one.” He thought for a second and said, “Ok. Let me see.” I felt a bit relieved. We went ahead for the school assembly. Following that was the first class of our workshop. It was 6th standard students. Really sweet and loving children from the village side. I enjoyed all my sessions – 6 hours in total, 4 ½ for 6th standard and 1 ½ for 10th standard. The time duration was the same for the following days. On some days, we had a session more which resulted in 8 hours classes. I was used to 6 hours back to back classes but was doing 8 hours for the first time. Anyways, I enjoyed each and every bit, thanks to the attentive & enthusiastic children and teachers who wanted to learn something, just for the sake of learning it.

On the first day evening, the Principal, Mrs. Geeta Bennett, said that they don’t have a room in the school. But if it is ok with me, I can stay in the Computer lab. She showed me the lab. I was so happy and relieved. I told her that I’ll be very much happy staying in the school premises. She was looking a bit hesitant for having asking a guest to stay in a classroom. But I told her that as compared to what Swami Chinmayananda had to go through, I haven’t tasted hardships anywhere near that. I assured her that I’ll be perfectly fine. She said that I could use the bathroom outside Swamiji’s quarters. I felt lucky that I didn’t have to use the school bathroom. Immediately me & Selvakumaran Sir (maths teacher) went back to my lodge to bring my luggage. I had already kept it packed for, I had dreamed of this move to the school. Thus began my stay in the school.

The campus was very peaceful and serene. There were a lot of trees inhabited by different kinds of birds and squirrels. There was a small water body in the neighbouring compound which brought in kingfishers. All this I could see from my computer lab. Sometimes the squirrels would come inside the lab and even in classrooms. It was fun to see them play. Every morning I would go out and watch them play as I had my morning tea or coffee. I could taste the nature at the start of every new day. The school had a small open area which was surrounded by the rectangular school building on four sides. The sand inside the school compound was the beach sand. I used to get tempted to play in the sand very often. The open area also had an idol of Lord Ganesh and a small temple of Lord Shiva. Every morning Swamiji would come and do a small pooja and offer prayers. It was good to see many teachers and students beginning their day after offering their prayers at the temple.

They had a small ground where the students, teachers and Swamiji would play volleyball every evening after school. I was really surprised to see that the students didn’t leave the school immediately after school. They would hang around, play in the ground, run around, small children would play with the beach sand and leave after an hour or so. The junior college boys formed a team against the male teachers and Swamiji. This school had around 11 male teachers, which was too big a number for male teachers in schools I’ve come across in India. Owing to the low salaries offered at schools, men usually don’t take up teaching in schools. Colleges give a good pay and hence we find more male professors in colleges. Anyways, the school used to get over by 4 pm but the teachers and students would play in the evening atleast till 6 pm. Swamiji would enjoy playing volleyball with them. Under his guidance, I could see a lot of bonding amongst all the teachers and a good bonding between the students and teachers.

There was a caretaker in the school; they called him ‘Thatha’ (grandpa in Tamil). He took care of my food. He used to bring food and tea for me from the hotel. The watchmen were also very friendly. They watched me with all awe and wonder as they saw me talking in English over the phone. And they were all the more surprised when they came to know that I knew a few more languages. For them, they knew only Tamil. If someone of them could talk a few words in English, it was a great thing. Among them was Anandan, who could speak and understand English little bit because he had worked abroad for a few years. He would keep singing Tamil songs at the top of his voice. Even though I didn’t understand it much, I enjoyed the melody in his voice.

Luckily for me, here, there was no power cut between 11 pm and 6 am. That ensured my good sleep. Day time power cut was taken care by the generator. I just had to bear 2-3 hours of power cut in the evenings after 6. After a few days, Swamiji had to travel and his quarter was locked. And the pumproom (for the bathroom that I used outside his room) had its switch inside Swamiji’s quarter. So, they allotted a latrine in the boys’ wash room, for me. It was locked for others and only I could use it. Good that it was allotted to me or else, I would have had a tough time to find a suitable place to wash my clothes. Initially I was a bit hesitant to use the school washroom as it is not usually very neat. But that was not the case here. It was clean.

Morning power cut and mosquitoes would wake me up at 6 – 6:30. The children started coming to school right from 8 am. The school timing was 9:20 but owing to the lesser number of school buses, each bus had to do two trips. Hence, few students had to come early to school. Our classes on Vedic Mathematics began at 9 am for the first batch, followed by three 1 ½ hours batches throughout the day with a 15 minutes lunch break. If there would be a special session for teachers, or something for 10th standard, we would continue till 5 pm. After the classes, I loved watching the volleyball matches. My mind was pretty good with calculations, but my body never followed my mind. That’s my understanding of why I never did well in any physical sport. So, I stood apart always and enjoyed watching.

I would enjoy my evening walks outside when there would be cool breezes, thanks to the sea coast. The time during power cuts was spent over the phone and evening walks, or sometimes in star gazing or sometimes with the watchmen when they would try their best to make me understand what they are trying to say and I too would struggle to express my thoughts in my broken Tamil. Once I was trying to make them understand something and I wanted to say ‘man and woman’. Later I understood that they mistook my words for ‘sex’.

…contd in My Trip to Nagapattinam – Part 3

MY TRIP TO NAGAPATTINAM – Part 1

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

My trip to meet Him at Sidhabari | Days 2 & 3

28th Dec 2011

Morning woke me up at 5:20 am. Had a bath and went to the Samadhi for morning Aarati. After the Aarati, I didn’t feel like going elsewhere. So I stayed inside the Samadhi Mandir for 30-40 minutes doing Japa and chanting stotrams. I could feel a thousand-fold impact on whatever I was doing there. When I came out, I saw the sun’s rays hitting the mountains on their face and then onto their bodies. The sky was clear and there was a small cloud at the peak of the tallest mountain, as if it was covering the mountain’s head like a cap. I stood there engulfed in the nature’s beauty.

After breakfast, I bought some old books (those were out of print today) from the bookstall. I also got the privilege of meeting two Swamis – Swami Ramananda, an old Swami who was in Sidhabari since 1985; and Swami Gangeshananda, the Acharya of the present 3-year Brahmachari course that was going on in Sidhbari. I was so fortunate that when I visited the Ram Mandir, Ramcharita Manas chanting was going on. Few Brahmacharinis were chanting it so beautifully that one could see Ram & Sita standing in delight listening to their own story. I too gave them company and enjoyed the chants with them.

My mother had told me to go to the back side of Ram Mandir and see the view. So I did. The view of the valley was yet another beauty I saw in Sidhabari. Green farms in the ground below, alongside a stream flowing gurgling with water and the Himalayas in the background. Once again, the deep silence brought to my ears the sounds of the water bubbling in the stream.
I had to return to my room to have some rest for my back which was aching again due to the cramped muscles. Probably, the 8 hour bus journey and 1.5 kms trek with my luggage was a bit too much for my muscles in this cold weather. I took this opportunity once again to read Tapovan Prasad.

After lunch, I went to Chinmaya Organisation for Rural Development (C.O.R.D.), the NGO wing of Chinmaya Mission, where they have undertaken the project of upliftment of many villages. It was just 100 metres away from Tapovan. There I met my friend Sheetal who greeted me with great joy and a fractured leg. She was limping in bandage but still showed me around the place. There was a room where the people who were vocally impaired (from the local villages), were making Kangra paintings. They were really beautiful and with what concentration they did using a zero numbered paint brush with just one or two bristles. I told them that the paintings were beautiful. They gave a pleasant smile and said something that sounded like ‘Thank You’ and ‘Hari Om’. There was a dispensary where the doctors did free checkup for the villagers. CORD also had a training centre for weaving where many young girls worked and sold bags, purses, woolen clothing, outside in the market at a cheaper cost. CORD facilitates and helps these village folks in earning their livelihood. Another room was for the children who had ‘Special Needs’, who could not even sit or stand properly. These children and their mothers would be trained in this room. With years of training, the child would be able to stand and sit erect. The people working at CORD were so cheerful; their eyes showed the satisfaction in the work that they were doing. A nurse I met there cheerfully told me that she had 28 Panchayats under her and in them she was nursing 400 children. When she said this, I could see pride in her eyes for the work she was doing. A normal person from the city who lives a selfish materialistic life would feel ashamed of himself if he sees these people in their eyes.

Sheetal then took me to the top floor where that day a special programme was going on. It was called – Panchayati Raj; where CORD played a role in social work where Govt. cannot reach much. Inside the hall were around 150 people who comprised of – CORD volunteers of different villages, CORD’s Mahila Mandal (Self-Help groups), various Govt. officials…heads & district of Panchayats, etc. There they discussed the problems that the common man was facing. I was taken aback when I heard many of their issues. Some of them had problems because of stray dogs biting their cows that resulted in death and hence a loss of around Rs.16000. Stray cows that grazed into their farm land caused them heavy losses. Monkeys and pigs also destroyed their crops. While they were addressing these problems, I was really surprised how those people presented it to the Govt. officials. They didn’t complain or crib about them, but were discussing on how to overcome such problems. It was a good discussion and in the end, a Panchayat head added one line on the dog-menace issue. He said, “Hame in kutton ko ‘aawara kutte’ nahi kehna chahiye; balki inhe ‘besahara kutte’ kehna chahiye”. I was so moved when I heard his words. That was the first time I felt so much respect for some politician. Their culture was so good that they used such respectful even for animals. And look at us!!

Panchayati Raj was another wonderful experience for me. Outside the hall were a few local girls who were selling New Year greetings for Rs.5 & Rs.10, which were made by the local children. They had decorated the cards with sketch pens, drawings & colours. Some of the artists were so innocent that they wrote their own names on the New Year cards. I bought a few cards. Every card sold brought so much joy to the girls who were selling them. I stood there for a minute and took delight in seeing their happiness.

I left CORD by 5:20 and rushed to Tapovan for Aarati. Aarati had begun at Samadhi Mandir. I quickly went into the Gurudev’s Kutiya, spoke a few words to Him and came out. I then attended the aarati at Samadhi, followed by aarati at the temple and then Hanuman Chalisa chanting at Hanumanji’s statue. After that I spent some time chatting with Sheetal listening to her work which she was doing in CORD with contentment. Later I spent time reading in my room and trying to absorb the teachings of the Great Masters.

The night was very cold and I was almost shivering despite using the best, and the maximum, woolen wear possible. That made me wonder – How Gurudev, Tapovan Maharaj and other saints like them must have lived in those extreme climatic conditions and that too with the least of clothing? How powerful indeed must be the Knowledge of the Scriptures they had for which they came to Himalayas, and which they taught and discussed at the holiest of holiest places on earth – the Himalayas!

I don’t remember what time sleep took over my mind. But I do remember my last thoughts – When would be the next time that I’ll get to come to this heaven on earth?

29th Dec 2011

I woke up at 5:30am, had a quick shower and rushed to the Samadhi Mandir. Like the previous day, I savored the sunrise and spent some time in Samadhi Mandir bidding goodbye to my Master. I couldn’t wait for breakfast because if I would leave at 8am then I could catch a bus that would stop right outside the ashram and I wouldn’t have to trek down 1.5 kms to Sidhabari. Offering my prayers, I walked towards the gate. My legs were going forward but my heart was pulling me back. With a heavy heart, I left the ashram and got on to the bus for Kangra. From Kangra I got a bus to Hoshiarpur, and from there to Ludhiana, and from there to Patiala (where I had to reach finally). The 10 hours journey was spent in the best possible manner because I was carrying the biography of Tapovan Maharaj – ‘The Himalayan Hermit – the lofty life of Swami Tapovanam’.

This was my first to Sidhabari and one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever made. Going there in winter was a difficult, but a good choice, for; I got to understand how the saints live in that severe climate. I could enjoy each and every moment very well because I went alone. A journey taken, all alone, especially to the Himalayas, is a very unique experience. Atleast once in a lifetime, everyone should do such a trip where one can enjoy Solitude and also do introspection to a great extent.

Looking forward when He would call me to the next level of Heaven – Uttarkasi!

My trip to meet Him at Sidhabari | Day 1

27th Dec 2011

I woke up at 4:45 am and was pretty excited about my first trip to Chinmaya Tapovan at Sidhabari (Kangra Dist, Himachal Pradesh). My friend Gaurav & Br. Suvirji dropped me at Ludhiana bus stop where I had to get my bus to Dharamshala. I was 30 minutes early at the stop and the temperature was one degree. Tea was like Amrut for me throughout my stay in Punjab since the past two weeks when the temperature was always in a single-digit number. I had a nice hot tea that kept me warm for a few minutes. At 6:30, our bus started. I was well-equipped physically (and mentally too) with an inner thermal wear, a sweater, another thick sweater over it, a pair of gloves, a muffler, woolen cap, double pair of socks and a shawl. While I sat in the bus, I took as much care to keep every part of my body inside the woolens. Despite the windows being closed, the winds managed to squeeze in through all the possible gaps. I had three rounds of my muffler over my ears and also had my woolen cap to cover it. Still, the cold air penetrated inside upto my spine. I felt very uncomfortable due to the freezing climate and struggled really hard to wrap myself up inside the woolen shawl to keep me warm. Finally, I realized that nothing’s going to change and I better divert my attention for the remaining 7 hours of travel.

I dozed off couple of times during the journey. Until we were in Punjab, it was very foggy. By the time we entered Himachal, the climate and scenery were different. Mountains started to appear from a distance. We had four halts of 15 minutes each at the Hoshiarpur, Dehra, Kangra and another stop before finally reaching Dharamshala at 2 pm. The place is more populated by monkeys than by humans. At every 5 feet on the roads of the ghats, we could see monkeys. This continued for many kilometers. They would stare at every vehicle, their eyes hoping for some throw away food. These many number of monkeys on the roads showed how much they must be falling short of food in their natural habitat that they all have to come on the roads.The landscape that we saw through the window cannot be described. The mountains just stood there to show their majestic look. The mountain sides adjoining the roads looked really strange (for me). They were full of round stones and they were protruding from the sides. These stones looked like the round stones that we usually find in streams. At Purana Kangra, we came across a stream (a river probably) that gushed with clear water over the grey stones. Kangra houses were roofed with black coloured slate which is a specialty of Himachal. At some places, we could see green fields bordered by grey stones, and in between there would be some huge trees. The beauty of that scenery was indescribable. Sometimes there would be a lot of trees together which had leaves in different shades of green, orange and brown standing erect with the magnificent mountains at in the background and clear blue skies above them. Mother Nature looked very blissful on all sides.

At Dharamshala, the bus conductor guided me to the bus that would go to Sidhabari where Chinmaya Tapovan ashram is located. I took the bus and got down at Sidhabari which was around 8 kms from Dharamshala. A man at the bus stop ¬¬¬¬guided me half the way to the ashram. I didn’t know that it was 1.5 kms walk from the bus stop. With my luggage and laptop, it was a walk indeed where I sweated (for the first time in this climate).

Finally, at 3:30, I reached the abode where my Gurudev rested (Swami Chinmayananda’s Samadhi). The giant Hanumanji’s statue stood in the ashram as its guard. I was very excited to go to him, meet his Master (Shri Ram’s temple at the ashram) and my beloved Gurudev. But before that, I had to satisfy my stomach so that it can supply enough energy to my mind and senses to enjoy the place. Luckily I got a room in the ‘Hanuman block’ which was just next to Hanumanji’s statue. My balcony faced the east where the deodar trees forested the land.

After lunch and a bath, I visited Gurudev’s Samadhi. As soon as I entered, I could feel Him. In His presence my mind calmed down and it was so easy to contemplate. I had wished for this moment since quite some time. After some time, I came out. Outside was the scene of the setting sun’s golden rays on the mountains that stood beside the Samadhi. As I write this now, I cannot recollect what was going on in my mind at the time. It was as if all thoughts had vanished and my heart was relishing the sight that was in front of me.

As I turned around, I found that Gurudev’s Kutiya (room) was open. When I had come, I realized that they keep it closed except for a few minutes before the evening Aarati at the Samadhi. I was so overjoyed that I even forgot to take off my shoes while I started walking towards His kutiya, until a lady told me. When I entered, I saw Ganesha’s big statue and a small Hanumanji’s statue next to him. I prayed for a minute before I turned to the right to see Gurudev’s photo placed on the chair where he used to sit. The photo was so alive that I could see Him talking to me. The whole room was filled with His presence. The experience was totally indescribable and if I attempt it that would be nowhere near to what I felt. I sat there as if I was sitting in His lap and I knew that He was there, looking at me, talking to me, asking me something…

Very soon Lakshmiji, the incharge of the Kutiya, called my name because it was time for Aarati and to close the Kutiya. I left the room with tears (of joy) in my eyes and went to the Samadhi where the Aarati was about to begin. After the aarati, there was aarati at the Ram Mandir and then Hanuman Chalisa chanting at Hanumanji’s big statue. But I skipped both of them because my back muscles started getting frozen and stiff due to cold. A volini cream came to my rescue and I lied on my bed covered under the blanket reading the Dec 2011 issue of Tapovan Prasad (International Spiritual monthly magazine of Chinmaya Mission). This issue was dedicated to Swami Tapovan Maharaj (Swami Chinmayananda’s teacher) and featured many of his articles and letters. Reading them at this great place had a different impact.

At 8:30pm I went (shivering) to Annakshetra (Dining Hall) for dinner and was back in 20 minutes or so. All the while, I could experience a deep silence as though I’m the only person in the whole ashram. No sounds…no movement of the trees…no winds…it was not a dead silence, rather, a silence of peace.

With Gurudev in my mind, I slept early around 10.

Lakshmanji – one of the forgotten heroes

…contd from the earlier article ‘Trip to Kanyakumari’

Lakshmanji – one of the forgotten heroes

I reached Vivekanandapuram and saw a picture exhibition of Swami Vivekananda. How much ever I had read about him would not fill my stomach. So I went inside to see the exhibition. It was a good one which gave a brief history of Indian Culture and Civilisation as well. After I saw the exhibition, I asked a worker of Vivekanandapuram where Lakshmanji stayed. I had heard from my father and one of the earlier Pracharaks of the Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh (RSS) about Lakshmanji and that he had a major role in the initial days of struggle for building the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari. The worker showed me Lakshmanji’s room.

The door was open. It was a small room, with a smaller space inside (supposed to be another room). “Lakshmanji?”, I called out. An old man came out coughing and looked at me. “Come in”, he said. “Sit down. I’m sorry, I cannot recollect who you are”, he said. I introduced myself giving the reference of Gopi Chettan (Chettan – elder brother in Malayalam) who was a Vibhag Pracharak of RSS in Kerala many years ago. I told Lakshmanji that I have heard about him and wanted to meet him in person. He asked me where I am from, what I do for my living, about my family, etc. After talking to him for some time, I could see a smile on his face. A smile that we could see on a lonely person’s face when somebody has come to meet him after a very long time. I asked him about his role in the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. And the words that will be flowing next are what I heard from the horse’s mouth. For the next 30 minutes or so, different kinds of emotions gushed through me – of pain, anger, sympathy, sorrow, patriotism, and what not.

It was in 1962. There was no Vivekananda Rock Memorial at that time. People knew about the rock but it was just another part of the history. One day, Christian Missionaries who were very active in Kanyakumari, fixed a Cross on the rock. This news spread out to the RSS. A senior Pracharak of RSS, Shri Madhavji, who was one of the earlier dedicated workers of RSS in Kerala came to know about this. He met Lakshmanji (who was just 23 years old then) and explained that there is a situation we are facing. Since the Missionaries have kept a Cross on the rock, very soon they are going to come up with a church there. But it is a place where the great Swami Vivekananda had sat for three days continuous and contemplated on the agony he had seen throughout the country. It was there that he got the idea of going to the West and asking their help for our country. “We need to build a National Monument there, not a religious one”, he told Lakshmanji. “Can you go to Kanyakumari and work for this cause?” he asked. Without any hesitation, Lakshmanji gave an affirmative reply. “Good. Let me go and talk to some more people and seek assistance. But let me warn you, when you are going for this cause, keep in mind that you may have to sacrifice your life in this process. Are you ready for that?” Lakshmanji replied, “I am”.

Very soon, 12 – 13 dedicated workers (more like warriors) came forward from Calicut district (northern Kerala) for this Mission. Four of them went to Kanyakumari and stayed there for a couple of months. They studied the situation. They moved secretly in the town but still the Christian Missionaries came to know about this. They Missionaries even warned them. These guys knew that they were no match in number for the Missionaries so they kept mum and didn’t argue with them. After two months they came back with their team of 12 – 13 members. Soon, the Missionaries again came to know about the plan and were on constant vigil. One night, as the other members kept watch on the shore, four of them swam across the sea to the rock. They couldn’t use a boat lest they would be noticed by the Christian workers. They reached the rock and tried to remove the Cross. But it was deeply rooted on to the rock. They could break its upper part but could not take out the base out of the rock. They realized that they needed some heavy tools to do it and hence swam back to the shore the same night. Next night, they swam to the rock with heavy tools in their hands. (When I heard this, I was imagining, how on earth could anyone swim across the sea that was filled with big rocks, in the darkness of the night and that too with heavy tools in their hands? What must have been their dedication towards their Mission? What a great source of inspiration they must have had that gave them so much of strength? Of what material those fearless lions must have been made of?) They reached the rock and successfully removed the whole Cross. Next day, the Missionaries came to know about this. They started planning their next move. The Svayamsevaks were also alert. They expected attack on them at any moment. And they did face an attack by a mob at night. But lions, they were. How could some weak-hearted cowards try to kill them by a surprise attack? These men were so dedicated for their work that they breathed patriotism every moment. For them, every breath was for the nation. The Svayamsevaks drove those foxes away.

Within a few days, the Missionaries planned that they would fix up a Cross again on the rock on one night and the next day they would bring the Police to the rock at 7 am, show the Cross and once the Cross is there on the rock, the matter would go to the Court to decide whether the Missionaries can get a permission to build a Church (which they normally do get with this modus operandi). If the Svayamsevaks were spotted there, the Police would arrest them under Section 144 of the Indian Constitution. The Missionaries had sought the help of the present Police Commissioner who also happened to be a Christian. Somehow; their plan was leaked by a senior Govt. official to the Svayamsevaks. The Svayamsevaks knew that it was the final call. The day had come for them to fulfill their purpose. That night they went to the beach and were about to go to the rock. But suddenly they saw some white clothes in the sea. They understood that people were guarding the rock in boats. They waited till early morning on the shore. When it was 6 am, Lakshmanji said, “We should not wait any longer. It’s a do or die situation. I’m going in. Those who wish to join me can come with me”. Three others went with him on a boat towards the rock. The others waited on the shore for giving them signals.

They reached the rock at 6:30 am. To their luck, when they reached the rock, the guards went to the nearby waters for fishing (since most of them were fishermen by occupation) thinking that they guys will not turn up since they didn’t come all night. Lakshmanji’s task was to remove the Cross as soon as possible and the others’ duty was to protect him from anybody who would prevent him from doing so. It was 6:45 am and the comrades on the shore signaled them about the time. Lakshmanji took the name of the Lord and swung a heavy tool with full force. In one shot the Cross came out. They threw it into the sea and shouted with joy on top of their volume, “Bharat Mata ki Jai!”. Together they sang one of the patriotic songs of RSS, in Malayalam. The fisherman realized their stupidity and turned their boats towards the rock. Around one thousand supporters of Christian Missionaries arrived on the shore and came towards the rock in boats. Now, these guys were only four in number. Surrounded by water on all sides, there is nowhere to go. The sight before them is of a huge angry army coming towards them with weapons in their hands. Lakshmanji gave the command, “Svayameva Mrugendrata! We all stay together like lions. We will not run away. If we are attacked, we will kill as many as possible and die”. They had their danda (big bamboo stick used for self defense) in their hands and stood still – Fearlessly. The boat reached the rock. Seeing these four youngsters, standing in such a way that they have not known what fear is, scared the army. They all stood at a distance of fifteen feet. Nobody had the courage and go forward. They stood in the same posture for a few minutes and it was as if time stood still. By that time, the police arrived and gave a call using the speaker to avoid violence and return back. But the Father who was on the rock said, “No, we will not go back unless we kill these people. Kill them!” Still nobody moved. After a few moments, the attackers decided to throw stones Lakshmanji and others. The warning from the police came out again, “If you don’t start returning in 10 seconds, we will open fire.” They knew that nothing could be done now and they started getting back to their boats. Lakshmanji’s and his comrades’ faces were shined with smiles, smiles of having won a war, of having achieved their aim, of having done a great thing for their Motherland, of a great sense of fulfillment.

For many days to come ahead, they stayed in Kanyakumari under the risk of attacks. Very soon, the great Visionary – Shri Eknathji Ranade, came up with the plan of building a National Memorial on the rock and the work began. The rest is history. How he collected one rupee from every individual to build the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, how he fought against but finally got the Govt. support in building the Memorial is known to us. Eknathji had requested Lakshmanji, Balanji (another comrade) and others not to leave Kanyakumari till they die and to safeguard it all the time. For he knew, these were a few lions amongst the ones who are getting extinct. And it is only these few people who could lay down their life happily, who knew no fear, who were inspired from their role models – Guruji and Doctorji of RSS, they are the ones who could protect the Memorial. All of them agreed to Eknathji’s request and stayed there till their last breath. Some of them took seva work in the Rock Memorial and some worked in the boats that ferried people across the sea to the rock. Lakshmanji took up the job of driving the boat taking people across the sea to the Great Rock. And he is still doing that job at the age of 72. He has appealed for retirement and pension so that he can take rest now, for his health is failing. However, his appeal has fallen on deaf ears and he still has to work for a living. With his meager salary, he got his daughter married off and his son is doing a small job. Since he couldn’t make a good amount of savings from his small income, he still has to work from 7:30 am to 6:30 or 6:45 pm six days a week. He is the last one in the batch of those 12 – 13 men who served the cause.

For reasons unknown, in the pages of history, Lakshmanji’s and his companions’ names got disappeared. How many Lakshmans and how many Balans must have fought for such noble causes? This is one of the stories that luckily we came to know. How many stories like these disappeared without getting any notice? With such questions in my mind, I went to bed.

Next day morning he asked me for my name and number again saying that he might forget it due to his old age. I gave him my card. He put me on to a bus and bid me farewell with a silent smile. I could read a lot of feelings in that smile. With tears in my eyes, I left.

The purpose of this article is not to show any dislike or hatred towards Christian Missionaries. What is said herein above is a fact and even Christian Missionaries know about it. So, there is no need to be mute about it. The intention of this article is to inspire the readers with stories of such men who lived their lives like Lions, who created History, who didn’t wish for any recognition or fame, who loved their Motherland like their own Mother. All our country needs is a few men like these, who can make a big difference. The question is – “Are you one of them?”