By: Nicole Francisco
What lets us know that we are alive? Is it our heart beats ticking time away, or our basic needs clamoring to be met? Or is it the various emotions that materialize in our being when we have interactions such as receiving a kind smile from a stranger or respecting and helping a community with the goal of making it a better place? All these variables can be summarized in one word: FEEL. Feeling immerses us in a sequence of sensations that make us aware that we are in the here and now, the present.
Right at the beginning of this colorful and joyful journey, my sense of sight was delighted as I entered the New Delhi airport. My eyes sparkled just by looking at a series of Mudras sculpted in the shape of beautiful and feminine golden hands of great magnitude. These gestures make sense to be where they are as each of them can be used alone or in combination, thus having different meanings. This ancient language, bathed in gold, can be interpreted as elements of nature, earth, water and fire; these are solid pillars for life and the balance that exists between them made and makes possible the emergence and development of the Indian society.
Balance is a concept that can be identified in everything related to this divine society. It may be that, from our points of view, many of the lifestyles that are practiced in this society seem illogical and difficult to understand – examples of this may be the Sadhus, people who elevate their soul, disconnecting it from their body by leaving their bodily desires and their loved ones behind, in order to be part of something much bigger than themselves. Or the Biharis, people who travel thousands of miles with their families, facing all kinds of hardships to earn minimum wage as pay, but having a secure job and a relatively stable home.
Applying the term balance brings to mind the sound of the bells in the temples, especially those of the temple at the foot of Dodital Lake. Each bell, from the smallest to the largest, provides different sounds, these can be low or high-pitched, but in combination they provide a beautiful melody, played by the people who pull the softly textured strings hanging from the clapper.
As soft as the strings are the gestures of each Baba that touches my forehead bringing calm and clarity to my mind, transferring its energy and vibes to my body, mind and soul, through a trissul up in between my eyebrows. This gesture takes me to a state of mind where my thoughts and my body act in harmony. And if we are talking about harmony, the first thing that comes to my mind is the preparation of the thali dish at Agora – the combination of daal, rice and chopati, elements that have gone through complex preparation processes to be eaten. These go from the food’s cultivation, its transportation from the green terraces to the wood and clay kitchens, and its preparation where the intense flavors of ander curry, red pepper and cardamom coexist together, creating an explosion of flavors.
Each of our long journeys to Bhimtal, Pansheswar, Rishikesh and Agora have given me the opportunity to develop my sense of smell. As I open my window to pass by fruit markets, smells like mango and pineapple flood my nostrils. Then as I drive through communities of colorful houses with people full of joy, the smell of different spices and the distinct smell of chai tea will always remind me of how beautiful this culture is.
It is really interesting to notice that each of these little things I feel hold big concepts for Indian society. Opening our minds to understand what, to us, seems illogical or confusing will awaken each of our senses and help us understand how things make sense in the place – in doing so, they are creating a balance that sustains everything around them.