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.
5 thoughts on “Balance”
It has been such a gift having you be part this community for your senior year! Your hard working, highly respectful, fully engaged approach has brought a balance to the people and community around you.
Your approach allows you to broaden your literal and figurative palate. I hope that the many cups of chai in your future remind you of that. You are awesome
Thank you for helping me to see, taste, smell…. FEEL it all!
Nicole, I have been picturing you in India, both bouncing around, twirling with elation with new found friends and sweet babies in Agora, and staring out the window of a bus, kneeling on the cool floor of a temple or on the edge of a mountain intensely deciphering what you’re experiencing. I can see you have done all of this and much more. You have the gift of understanding the divine because you are willing to feel it touch you. Always impressed and humbled by you, Nicole. Thank you.
This beautiful sentence captivated me: “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.” Seeing that all the unusual elements that strike us as odd actually fit together in a cohesive way to form a different social structure is such insight. You realize that it’s not “wrong”, “strange” or “less”–just different. And then you can see what values really matter. Nice work.
Nicole, You write so beautifully that I had to read your post twice! Your descriptions paint such a picture for me as I sit so far away, on campus. From the touch of the Baba to the smell of the fruit markets to the journey of food from green terraces to wood and clay kitchens … you use your words as a paintbrush, and the result is breathtaking, meaningful, and so visual and colorful. You, are a true artist. Thank you so much for sharing!