Ananda Amritmahal, RSCJ
During October and November, I participated in a psychospiritual course run by the SDBs in Jeolikote (about 17 km down from Nainital) in Uttarakhand. The director of the centre here - Jose Parappully - also conducted most of the sessions.
I found the course very good - a fine combination of theoretical inputs, much discussion and sharing, deep reflection and personal exploration and prayer - and I think I gained a lot from it. When it was suggested to me I agreed, and I made up my mind that I'd fling myself into the programme as completely as I could, so as to get the most I could out of it. There was no way I was going to come back thinking, "If only I had...": I had to justify having taken 60 days out of my life - and out of the work at the College - for this!
So, anyway, there I was, entering into everything with everything I had, putting myself on the line wherever it seemed called for. And truly, I think all that grim determination did pay off. A lot of stuff that needed unravelling and sorting out inside received the attention it had wanted for years. Several processes were initiated and I definitely experienced a certain amount of healing (of still- open wounds from the dim distant past that had been buried so deep I didn't even know that they were still oozing!) and learned how to carry the process further. I learned to understand why I am who I am and why I function as I do, and learned also (this was epoch-making!) to like myself a lot more.
The place is truly beautiful, a little like Jaiharikhal, though of course the Kumaon hills have a unique flavor, quite different to the Garhwal hills. It got colder by the day – reached about 10 degrees at night and 16 during the day. Chilly enough for even a cold-lover like me! The mornings tended to be clear, but by about 1 or 2 in the afternoon, the mist would come creeping in, and it looked so beautiful, with rays of sunlight slanting through to touch the dimly seen trees and hills with a hint of sparkle. I wish it had been possible to bring a little mountain mist back, but our
warmth would have made it disappear even before I got home! Bombay
The cook there had a charming little boy, three years old, named Arpit. He was amazingly unspoilt, given the amount of attention he got from all of us. I usually called him "Bablu" which is my love-term for all little male creatures. One day, he wanted me to come and have lunch with him on the table where he had been parked by his mother (her way of keeping him out from underfoot, since he’s still too small to climb down by himself!), so he kept a lookout, and when we arrived, called out "Bablu, bablu" over and over again until I responded! Somehow, he'd realised that it was a term of endearment, even if he got the gender a bit wrong. Then another day, he came running with his plate, to eat breakfast with me, and seeing that my shawl was slipping off a little, carefully rearranged it, saying solemnly, "Aapko thand lag jaayegi". But the most charming was the day when he told me he was eating "chewing gum" and opened his mouth to show me a green sweet inside. Then, a couple of minutes later, he took the sweet out, and held it towards my mouth, saying "Tum bhi khaao"! Shades of Shabari and her bohras!
A friend of mine had called during my first week there, and asked how it was going. I'd answered that we'd been doing a lot of digging - I meant into ourselves, our pasts, our memories, but she thought they'd put us to work, gardening the hills! So that was the metaphor being explored in this “poem” – an attempt to articulate something of what the experience was for the 19 of us who were a part of it.
So we dug deep
unearthing memories, wounds, root causes;
understanding a little more
of who we were and why.
And then came the sowing -
different perspectives, fresh insights, clearer vision
nourished our passionate renewing
of an old commitment to love.
Pruning and weeding as we
examined lives, watered with tears,
helped the cleansing, nurtured
shoots of trust and confidence.
We return now, bearing sheaves -
reborn hope and faith, rekindled zeal,
smiling at challenges, embracing the real,
welcoming all that tomorrow offers.