Mind Fe(A)st Diaries- Part I

I’ve been sitting at the laptop for a while, yesterday’s events are running through my brain speedily and that’s giving a lot of energy to my fingers. Had I known the words I want to type, I would be typing like a professional, owing to the energy, excitement and the experience I’ve had yesterday, which cannot be enveloped in words.

A lot of people have begun to encourage me to write more. As someone who is responsible to manage this VEDH Gujgoshti blog series, I am, at a certain level, compelled to write about the fest. Had I chosen to be free of moral obligations, I would never write about it. I don’t like writing about experiences that mean a lot to me. I believe words are not symbols enough to carry the intensity and depth of the sanctity of such experiences. You generally tend to hide something from people and keep safe, that which is precious, sacred. That is the protectiveness I feel towards this experience. As sensitive as I generally am towards life experiences, I shy away from sharing them with everyone. There is a psychological barrier, that tells me the experience will lose its sanctity if I put it out there. Today, I’m behaving against my usual beliefs, hoping that even if I remove the experience out from the walls of my brain, words will do justice to it and keep it just as pure.

I wont give a blow by blow account of what Nadkarni Sir said and the importance it holds in the kind of lives we live today. The program, when it releases on the YouTube channel AVAAHAAN, would do that a thousand times better than I ever would be capable of. I would rather love to share what the Fest did for me.

I’ve fit the quaintessential ‘nerd’ category quite well for the past many years now. Reading books, discussing their nectar with like minded people and just that intellectual stimulation is my idea of a time well spent. Its been a few years now since the ancient Indian texts, their teachings have intrigued me. The Fest offered three of my favourite things on the platter, a fantastic combination- intellectualization, a discussion about the ancient scriptures and psychology. Totally my idea of a perfect weekend!

After a long day of lectures and getting things done in college, I reached the venue with tired eyes that cursed all technology and its blue light that I didn’t want to bear anymore , a back that hurt from the heavy sack, but a mind that was as fresh as I’d just woken up from a deep slumber.

I always love to reach early at venues. Looking at the team prepping up for the event instantly makes me feel involved and included. It kind of sets the mood, I would say. The beautifully designed stage, hustle of the people happy to meet each and other excited faces, did just that for me!

The program began with the Shanti mantra, and I felt like I was home at dusk. The recitation of the mantra in that typical tone reminded me of my beloved mother, practising the stotras she has learnt form her pourohittya class. I was shocked at how the shanti mantra accurately spelt out my biggest anxiety about the Fest- “Let the listener remember what is told”, it said. And so began a journey of looking within myself and beyond.

Its been a while since I read the Bhagawad Geeta or attended a class for it. Do i miss it? Definitely! I miss the specific tone of chanting; the aura that is created when ten people in the room chant the same shloka; I miss breaking down the sanskrit words to understand their root, only to realize that the words mean a lot more in their context than their linguistic meaning; I miss being overawed and appalled at how two lines could carry so much meaning and still impart wisdom ages after they were written? When I experienced all the above yesterday, it made me nostalgic. Why do we stop doing that, which we love?, I thought. How do mundane insignificant nothings overpower that, which is the very path to happiness? These questions, even as I type them, create a sense of disappointment and frustration.

After quite a detailed discussion about the meaning of distress, growth, development, going back and looking at the evolution of emotions, the interval was announced. I casually looked at my watch, it was a little before eight. I became restless like a helpless Cinderella, who had the obligation to leave on time for home. I had to leave at eight thirty so that I could reach Dadar before it was too late in the night. That angered me on some level. The dire wish to stay for the program told me, lets leave at 8.45 instead, lets walk a bit faster than usual, catch the fast train instead of slow and walk home super speedily again.

Trying to find peace in the decision, I let myself be engulfed by the discussion on neocortical emotions like empathy, compassion, forgiveness…. again a favourite topic. My sense of invlovement in this topic was accompanied by sadness at having to leave early. In an attempt to shut out those unwanted worries, I unconsciously covered my watch with the palm of my other hand and got engrossed in the beauty of neocortical emotions again. A cold breeze reminding me of the night brought me back to my senses… it was 8.45 already! “Two more minutes”, I told myself.

A good five minutes later, I forced myself to get up from the seat. Walking slowly to let a few more words of wisdom fill my ears, I reached the steps of the ground, descending which took more energy than usual. The moment I climbed down the last step, Sir’s words could no more be heard. Reality was unwantingly filled with noise, traffic, pollution and I was suddenly poles apart from the Fest taking place right behind my back. I was more sensitive and irritable than usual on my way to the station. The immense anger of having to leave early aided me in walking quickly.

In the language of emotions, my limbic system took over the journey back home, somewhere along which I decided I would not behave so unjustly with myself again. I have to convince my parents to let me come home later just for this beautiful program, my cortex decided determinedly.

As I entered home to the welcoming faces of my roommates, I felt a surge of comfort. While I freshened up, one of my roommates reheated the dinner and decorated my plate with immense love. The vapours rising up from the hot dal rice and the dollop of ghee on it filled my being with gatefulness for my roommate, who was no less than a sister. The situation was getting better as the neocortex was taking over again.

On the call with my mother, she asked, ‘How was it?’ “It was beyond words”, I said. “It killed me to leave early”, I told her, fighting tears. “I know my dear, I was praying you’d get company on your way back so that you’d be able to stay longer. I’m sorry. If it means that much to you….. you can stay just a bit longer. Be safe.” These words meant the world to me. As grateful as I was, I could empathize with the fact that it took a lot for my parents to make this allowance for me, while battling a lot of anxiety on the other side. It was the perfect, neocortical end to my day.

As I sit here in the train, on my way to Thane, excited for what’s instore for us on the second day of the Fest, I again pray that what I listen to, is remembered. I pray that all of us find layers of wisdom and are able to have the sensibility to apply it in our lives. Amen!

-Ketaki Joshi.

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