Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pyar ka parantha

In the last week of May 2012, I was diagnosed with typhoid fever. For one whole month, I was heavily relying on antibiotics, was even admitted to hospital twice, once to cure typhoid and once to deal with subsequently acquired acid peptic disease (later became a form of Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) leading to dramatic weight-loss). Simply put, by the end of July 2012, I had acute constipation, heartburn, a lot of acidity, insomnia, and gradually my food pipe had swollen. Due to all this, even lying down and resting had become challenging. Often, stomach acid would get refluxed into the food pipe (instead of naturally flowing downwards) as the digestive and excretory systems had become weak at the base.

It had been two months since I had been running from one allopathic doctor to another, adding on Ayurvedic medicine to the list of all that I was taking. Even tried homeopathy and naturopathy briefly. Overall, we ended up spending about Rs 50,000/= on my treatment (could be more) besides slowly piling on hopelessness inside. To deal with the latter part, I (fortunately) invested heavily in spiritual literature too, thanks to ready references given by Dr. Subhash Sethi, who is an avid reader and a wonderful person to say the least. A medical doctor by training and a Vipassana meditation ( teacher by calling, he continues to be one of the most shining guiding lights for me. (God bless you Sir!)

Dr. Sethi distributes ‘Jeevani Shakti Kaise Jagaye’ free of cost to people in need. He also gave me a copy of the Hindi book. Desperate for something to work out and considering my trust in Dr. Sethi and the common Vipassana connection, I took to reading it, however unenthusiastically.

‘Food is not the source of energy’ was one of the first weird statements I came across. Here I was panic-stricken and fearing for the worst along with my family, as all I was taking were a few glasses of fruit juice daily. That was when I had to be hospitalized for positive ketones in the urine. (Medically, ‘positive ketones’ denote starvation of the body that appears only after a long fast. It is a trade mark of ‘professional’ activists ;), who sit for dharnas at the drop of a hat.)

Fortunately for me, Dr. Sethi helped me in making a raw food diet chart (mostly fruit-based) for the coming months, but for some reason, taking regular enema alongside wasn't an important consideration back then. July, August and September went in building trust in the new diet regime prescribed in the book but with apprehensions and fears regarding its success-rate. Allopathic and Ayurvedic medicines continued simultaneously till a realisation of uselessness of what i was consuming prompted me to quit all of them one fine day. I had had enough of 'foreign and chemical things' being forcibly added to my body that seemed to reject these superficial interventions at various levels.

I finally came to Badari Narayan Sevagram i.e. the Meerut Ashram of International Association for Scientific Spiritualism (IASS) in October first week, few days before their famous biannual navratra fasting camp. (They had published the book I was trying to follow since two-three months.) I was convinced of changing base because the atmosphere at home had become quite tense and depressing (for understandable reasons) and chances of recovery there seemed bleak as everyone seemed short of treatment options.

The one thing that was causing most fear in our collective consciousness was that despite best efforts of so many people, including the best, most expensive and experienced medical professionals, I kept losing weight progressively. I had reduced to 44.9 kgs at a height of 5 feet, 2.5 inches while last year, I was plump and pink at about 60 kgs. At that time, being plump was still a mark of being healthy and fit as opposed to being thin, but full of energy and vigour.

So here at the Ashram, Dr. Gopal Shastri gave me the most unusual prescription and allowed me to stay and understand what they term as ‘eashwariya chikitsa’ (divine cure) through the principles of tap (ideal dietary system), seva (cultivating habit of sharing with others whatever one possesses materially) and sumiran (meditation). Once I was mentally prepared to give it a shot, the next challenge was to send my parents home peacefully because obviously, they didn't want to leave me alone at a new place. Dr. Shastri, btw, is another spiritual, straightforward person, who deserves a lot of goodwill and blessings from all the beings he has generously helped. He has a knack for calling a spade a spade, which was the most important input at least for my healing. For instance, when we met, he immediately recognized where I was stuck at the mental level and advised accordingly.  His message was that 98 percent of our body is actually made up of the mind, so I should quit worrying about the remaining two percent! His constant courage and honest feedback about my progress gave me courage, pushing me forward consistently. His fearlessness and trust in 'God' ('Universe' for me, call it anything!) is from where I could generate mine, from where my parents derived some peace of mind too. God bless you! 

Having sent parents home and after finally finding my own space at the Ashram, the first thing to do was to eat regularly (no tea, coffee and sugar) within the prescribed schedule in the mess. That was quite daunting at first as doctors had well induced the fear of eating the ‘wrong’ kind of food post typhoid and GERD. Anyhow, as per the Ashram schedule, I got down to practicing ‘tap’ (the first principle comprising gradual rational fasting) by hardly eating anything till noon other than soaked dry fruits, green-leaf juice and vegetable soup during late morning. The first solid meal was fruits and vegetable salad (seasonal, always along with sprouted moong) by 1 pm followed by a small snack and herbal tea (comprises saunf, mulethi, elaichi, tulsi, ginger, milk etc.; it’s pink in colour and the powder is produced locally) at about 4 pm. Dinner was served at 8:30 pm where one could eat as much roti, sabji, dal and chawal.

You won’t believe the kind of things I ate here during this time. For evening snacks, I have had everything from samosa, bread pakora, vegetable patteez, to suji halwa and dhokla to besan ka cheela, pakode, kheer, poha, and kala chana. Guddu and Mohan bhaiya made all the dishes so well. By ‘well’, I mean they added oil and masala copiously so that the taste of whatever they were cooking would never get compromised :). So, any medical doctor would pull his hair out if he were told about the kind of things I was beginning to taste and slowly consume liberally post the kind of illness I was coming from. For the mainstream doctors, I must be crazy to leave all medicine, and start eating everything I have been told to stay away from! Of course within the raw-during-day and cooked-food-in-the-evening/night kind of dietary system, there was space for everything 'eatable'.

I only had the usual discomfort in the throat and at any time I would eat something, it was followed by some time spent sitting erect in meditation, watching the discomfort as much as possible. Was sleeping only once at night and for the rest of the day, was busily following activities according to the Ashram schedule.

There were regular morning-evening sittings in the meditation hall where audio-video discourse about Bhagwad Gita and Sri Ramcharitmanas was played towards the end, after sessions of meditation, daily prayer-recitation and reading texts from spiritual literature. Coming from the Vipassana tradition, I was of course selectively participating in whichever activity that I liked despite active attendance. For instance, I was not doing nam jap, mantra chanting or was singing bhajans, (bhakti yog I presume) not that anything is wrong with them! The good thing was that no one made me do anything either since they knew of my spiritual leaning from before. Interestingly, I find no clash between what Krishna or Shiv or Gautama Buddha preached :). It's all a question of interpretation I guess.

Anyway, apart from spending time chopping vegetables in the community kitchen, doing some work for their English magazine (called ‘Tap-Sewa-Sumiran’; website:, knitting a blue pair of socks almost by myself and planning (later executing) a general all-Ashram children meeting, I really don’t know how all this time got spent.

My low blood pressure is almost normal, I feel more energetic now despite body weight that has stabalised around 45 kgs. Imagine, as part of my treatment, Dr. Gopal insisted that I learn to exert the body and mop and clean my room, which I started doing, of course gradually. Even beginning to iron my clothes on my own was a big deal. From being someone who sat confused, fearful and crippled on the bed at home, waiting for mummy to do all the chores for me to slowly growing into someone who is nearly self-sufficient, even blogging, it has certainly been a long, worthy journey.

It is tough to put into words the kind of things one saw and experienced here. Not only my fear vis-à-vis ‘the right food’ got largely dealt with, I started eating the normal-for-others-but-prohibited-for-me-kind of food as well. Doctors had instructed me to have boiled water daily after typhoid but here, I drink the regular ‘taaza pani’, straight from the tap, without using even a basic Aquaguard! Sometimes I wonder how much fear one gets used to living with…

This ‘vacation’ is going to end shortly, probably after the three-day children camp that concludes on Christmas. My six-month sick-leave period also ends in late December. Then I will be going back to college-life, picking up threads of PhD field-work from where I had left it in May, albeit slowly. I have learnt that hurrying to do anything is a very bad idea and trying to control life by desperately clinging to it (namely, our action and then its ‘planned’ outcome) is the worst, most-uncalled-for human tendency. Trying to slow down and trying to gradually cultivate trust in the Universe’s wisdom is a great way to experiencing one’s actions, and the gift of life, fully.

So much in between has changed, some things forever, fortunately. For instance, my relationship with those I love and value has developed positively is to say the least.

In terms of tasty food, what I am going to remember very fondly is the post-Satsang prasad (moong dal barfi, peda, tilbugga, gurh-til gachak; never tasted some of these before), Malti Ma’s warm gurh-shakarkandi, Shyama didi’s ‘world-famous’ doodh kulfi-treat (as per Ashram protocol, everyone is called either didi or bhaiya), Radha didi’s ghar ka bana saunth gurh and twin bread mithais, one dipped in gulab jamun chashni and the other called 'shahi toast' with condensed milk and coconut topping (unexpectedly yummy!), Shashi didi’s suji cheela and moong daal (she has given me many kaddu and locky-based food recipes yay!), Meera didi's specially prepared saunf gurh, Leelawati didi's tasty tulsi-adrak evening kadha/herbal chai, Kiran didi’s bathua-aloo parantha, mithi puri, atta and til-gurh laddoo and besan-coconut-til-barfi (she also taught me how to knit woolen socks :) ), Gudia didi’s stuffed idli, pakodi, and muli-saag parantha (we also spent time together working on the magazine), Harbhajan aunty’s aloo-gobi ki sabji and matar-wadi, and the ever-willing-to-help Durgesh didi’s hare pyaaz ki sabzi, aloo and gobi parantha. It is your love, patience and goodwill all through these three months that have got me so far, and of course, the blessed food of the Ashram.

Lots of love and wishes for you all. Have a great New Year!



  1. This is really good. Keep it up and cheers!! Wishing you a speedy recovery and Happy New Year!

  2. lots of love your way, Shweta! U are a wonderful being! Always remember that :)

    Merry Christmas and A very Happy New Year!!!

  3. I am so happy that you are feeling better :)))
    Lots of metta my dear buddy!

  4. Congratuations on getting the understanding which "normally" people do not get even when they are 80 yrs old ...

    You have paid a price but it was worth it ...

    Take good care of yourself and dont exert yourself...

    Best Wishes

  5. God Bless You ... Wishing you all hapiness and health... And have a beautifull , wonderfull and exciting new year ... :-) from ur jeez and di...

  6. Well, I am more interested in the last paragraph. How can i probably lay my hands on all the yummy things you mention there. Must i necessarily join the camp for that camp. Or have u learnt those preparations.

    1. Hehehe, please dont think you are going to get what i got/received over few months just by visiting the place:). You'll get some of the things from the mess if part of the regular menu that day... The rest of the goodies have to be earned ;). Yes, i have learnt to make few dishes myself. So do come home with your folk and we could all share group experiences from our side. My entire family might have experiences to share, food is the smallest, most insignificant part of it... But it's yummy and cant be ignored altogether :). Cheers!

  7. Its ready very nice & facinating for me to go through this. How beautifully you had written everything shows that you enjoyed alot staying there. In last paragraph mentioned by you prepration of different dishes by different didi's. Shows that you are really a phd. student. I will now say this it is eminent for me to go to this asharam (place) as soon as possible. I want to experience this all, which you had mentioned. Thanks for sharing the same.
    Rajneesh Anthwal

    1. For experiencing all this, you'd have to be very sick like me :), where losing sense of self and ego would be less important. More important would be surviving the illness and associated fears around life and the quality of life...

  8. it was a great experience to reading through ur recovery journey...