I wish I had a magical story of how I found myself in my four-day getaway. The thing is, I don’t. No dramatic story, no ‘poof’ moment and no ‘there I was facing the sunset…’
I want to travel the world and some bits of it I really want to do alone, just like the Queen-trip and Greece and maybe a few more. To prep start, I thought it would be a good thing to do something smaller and close to home. In case I need to run back, you know. I come from a family that does everything together, all my bucket list things are on their bucket list too. I was also blessed with a set of friends who took care of the mandate Goa trips and the kinds. So this going away solo thing never really made sense to us anyway. But things change, people change and most importantly you change. You start craving for experiences that you can’t plan for, and maybe that’s what happened. Nothing tragic, but all I wanted is a new experience a new feeling, and maybe a new smile which only I brought for myself. Pretty selfish I guess. I still needed to know if I was capable of making myself smile, which is only a stepping stone to happy.
Meherabad. A close friend has been mentioning Meherabad for years, but I never felt the need to go, honestly, I judged her a little each time she just went off to see a samadhi of a baba that I knew nothing of. But each time she returned, one thing didn’t change, her zeal. Like she was ready for the mundane routine again. Like something filled her cup back to the brim, and then the dailies can start draining her. A two hour drive from home, I was dropped here by my brave parents who also were experiencing letting me stay away like this for the first time. It did feel like I was being dropped into a rehab, but fun nonetheless. So Meherabad is where the Tomb and life of Avtar Meher Baba was situated, and people from all over the world come over to connect with themselves, their loved ones and most importantly with Meher Baba. I was to stay in the oh-so-beautiful-Meher Pilgrim Retreat. In my head, I was thinking dharamshala level and what I received was a 5-star resort. Impeccably maintained, so clean, perfectly landscaped and just so beautiful. After eating delish lunch with the parents, they left me to finally check in and commence my all new experience!
I was asked if I would like to stay with three ladies from “The Punjab” (imagine heavy American accent here) or with ladies from The states and Europe. I chose the latter. Multicultural experiences is what I need thinking to myself. I walked into my room and was thrilled to see a bed with a retractable mosquito net above it. Stuff of my dreams. And right opposite my bed was a lady probably in her sixties wearing a very Hawaii inspired lycra jumpsuit doing a funky yoga pose which required her to put her toes behind her ears. I immediately turned back to see if my Mom saw that, sadly remembered that she’s not here.
“Everything real is given and received in Silence”- Meher Baba.
I learned that Baba spent 44 years of his life in silence, using gestures or an alphabet board to communicate. Can you imagine not speaking a word even for a day? Many more such thoughts, surprises came to me in my next few hours at the retreat. I unpacked and set in my stuff in the fanciest way possible. After hearing the bell for tea, we went towards the dining room at 4pm.
After which I was told there was a film being screened on the life of Meher baba, and also that no-one else from the retreat had signed up to go for it. The auditorium was a 5-7kms away and I was asked to accompany a strange man in his car, who would drop me there. Bravely I went and sat on the rare seat of his car, later realising that he was the owner and not a driver. Too late to change seats I stayed on and prayed for this drive to end asap. But, he didn’t know where the audi was and we ended up getting lost, and my scared ass told me to at least get on a call with someone from home. So I was on call with mom till I reached, the kind man dropped me and drove off. I realised I was accompanied only by a Japanese mother daughter duo for the film that lasted over an hour.
The adventure continued as another man offered me a ride on an electric scooty till the railway crossing from where I had to walk to the Samadhi on the hilltop. Which I obviously accepted and all along the way kept thinking to myself whether I would do something like this back at home? Absolutely not. I walked up the hill while being on call with the best friends on conference updating them about my whereabouts, they found it hilarious that I tried not to judge anyone and actually just take things in. “We bond over judging silly things” which is true, my life revolves around senseless comments that we pass on each other.
I proceeded to the Samadhi and experienced the most unique prayer session of my entire life. After reciting a prayer from the prayer book, people from various countries, castes, ages gathered around and offered their love to Meher baba, with guitars, tabla, harmonium and a few instruments I don’t even know the names of, and languages that not everyone could understand. The whole gathering seemed in sync with each other connecting solely on music. English Hymns, Marathi gaane, Hindi Bhajans, Persian song, to an ending with classic Qawali. I had gooseflesh and couldn’t believe how blessed I was to experience a love for God so pure and unadulterated and so different. I walked back with my European roommate and made my way to the dining hall where I was served Fettuccini pasta in white sauce and my jaw just dropped. After major over eating and all that walking, I was in bed by 9.20pm. Completed some photo editing work for the blog and fell asleep without any effort by 10.30pm!
Waking up without an alarm clock was an all new feeling. I took a bus to a town close by to visit Meher Baba’s home and few more spots, on the way I connected with a lady from Minessotta a professor who was staying here for six months, her story of how she found her husband while working in the Baba center was beautiful. My other roommate was from North Carolina and she was staying here for five months. Her immense faith and positivity filled me with so much good energy.
And then I met Molly. Possibly in her sixties, Molly and I had the most amazing conversation on ‘Chai’ how it’s made in my house, and how she learned it from an Indian Cookbook and how we Indians don’t use measures while cooking. After we parted, I wondered when was the last time I’ve had a conversation on something so random and still walked out feeling like I have just taught someone something mystical and life-changing.
Molly, Gayle, Marina, Jeff, Paul, and a few more were my all new connections all aged between 50-70, Madhu, Prakash, Somit, Laura and a few more people I spoke with were a few years older to me and shared tiny insights and observations with me those which I am not going to forget easily. I spoke to different people, shared so much love, no tragic pasts or stories of how life is unfair, just strength to strength.
In three days I have completed reading one biography, nearing the completion of another novel on the kindle, wrote this post, ate delightfully good food and spoke about anything and everything to absolute strangers. Maybe fearless is too strong a word, but I did discover that I could do things alone, just be on my own without all depressive thoughts taking over me. Apart from a short nightmare, and a few estranged sad thoughts I was thoroughly at peace with things around me and within me. I made myself smile by not wearing makeup and not even missing it all these days. By not having coffee and being okay with it. By walking up and down the hill by myself with no thought of ghosts and spirits. I don’t know if it is Meher Baba that will bring me back here, but I certainly have understood that maybe doing things alone is not the same as lonely.
All the magic that it takes to make someone else happy, it takes only one tiny push to make yourself happy too. Do it, surprise yourself, break your own silly boundaries and see the magic within you. A solo getaway that didn’t involve drinking, spas, parties, or monuments; brought me epic little enriching experiences and I am already booking myself back here in the next two months, come with me? Be Jugni maybe.
Leaving you with some glimpses 🙂