Bhav Yatra at Kolkatta
I took a sabbatical since my last update about Bhubaneshwar, seemed like yatra halted at kolkatta. Well, it did in some sense and yet life flows. Inner journey took a year to sink in and understand deeper stuff... work in progress forever. But the compelling break seems to be coming to an end and yatra stories are once again alive.
Kolkatta is known for its rich history, it is a place that is close to my heart for various reasons one of them is, it was my maternal grandparents home. The long drive of 450 odd kms. Lengthiest distance so far brought us to the most famous howrah bridge. As we drove on it I was filled with excitement and joy and a sense of reaching this far...from kutch to kolkatta..west to east and 5 months!
We reached Jhanvi's home where the entire family was awaiting our arrival. Felt like homecoming. As we settled down the plan for a next few days emerged. We were visiting Shantiniketan and Belur math and hosting a sevacafe+satsang at an orphanage.
Next day to our surprise Sukanto-my brother in law joined us on the yatra to Shantiniketan. It made things easier to have Sukanto manage all communication in Bengali. Thanks to Kasturi didi we were guests of Social works dept. staying at the University. The name Shantiniketan was given by Rabindranath Tagore's father Devendranath Tagore. Rabindranath gave it the shape of Viswa Bharati University in 1921. His vision of teaching in natural environment is visible even today when classes are held in the open under a tree. The art dept. has beautified the space with sculptures. We visited the handicrafts village Amar kutir which works for rural development since 1926. It is known for its contribution in instilling political awareness among agricultural and industrial workers by Subhash Chandra Bose. During world war II it was training farmers in martial combat to tackle any warlike uprisings. Today, it is engaged in developmental activities. Here the famous handicrafts of leather purses, baatik prints and other arts are displayed. This age old space works towards nation building through forms of art. Next day we had a sharing session with dept. of social work where students were posing questions on current state of affairs with social work in India, Smile deck was a wonder for them. Vipul then took over to sharing kabir with them and everyone was left with a hope that there's a better tomorrow.
Following morning we left for Belur math. The prayer to stay at Belur math was finally answered owing to Jhanvi's pursuance as they adhere to strict entry rules of Ramakrishna Mission. Belur math and Dakshineshwar are located at either side of river Ganga both places blessed by Swami Ramkrishna Paramhamsa. Our aim was to meditate and we made most of it. Just before the evening prayer at Belur temple we sat watching sunset by river side. River Ganga, sunset and Belur was creating a perfect synergy in the being of the soul.
Instead of driving to Dakshineshwar we opted the boatman to sail us through the flowing waters. The sight of people bathing at various ghats is like being in 19th century India. So much faith in a dip in Ganges! It also reminded me of immersing brother JT's ashes. At Dakshineshwar we were shocked to see the unending queue to the temple and for a moment thought of going back. However, some energy was pulling me and I just wanted to have one glimpse of Goddess Kali in the temple. So I just took the steps up and to my surprise no one stopped me. We had a magical few moments in front of the mother. There's no logical explanation to how we did the darshan without being in the queue.
Afterwards, we made our way to the sacred place were Shri Ramakrishna meditated and it was completely empty as if waiting for us! We sat and meditated, became one with the vibrations of Shri Ramakrishna. The mind was quietened and there was only divine love in that moment. Before taking the boat back we shared a coconut with this old lady who blessed us with toothless smile.
Quietly watching the river flow and hearing the oars row we reached back to civilization, to reality of traffic and our flowing lives!
In the evening seva cafe and Satsang were organized at an orphanage by Jhanvi and friends. The person who runs it is an old man who has dedicated his life and his savings for the welfare of the kids. Children have made their small dwelling place vibrant and clean. There is no government support or it is not even a famous NGO, it purely runs on personal donations. We were welcomed with a beautiful flower rangoli. Kids had also prepared dances so we had Kabir flowing and Shiva dancing! Afterwards, all children gathered around Vipul flogging him with questions on how to play Tanpura! Thanks to yummy Kolkatta Puchka (Pani puri), the Tanpura was saved.
Kolkatta brought a glimpse of various facets of life in a couple of days- children's home, university, arts and crafts, historical temples, meditations and the sacred mystic river Ganga.
Just before Vipul would leave and my next co-traveler would join, all of us greedily requested Vipul to sing our favourite kabir songs that had made an unforgettable impact and were transforming us with every struck-unstruck chord.