A unique literary festival – the International Festival of Spiritual India was held in Pune last weekend and brought on a gamut of emotions while providing deep insights into our inner self.
As technological advances are rapidly being made, spirituality in its myriad forms is gaining popularity with equal speed.
Be it the weekend meditation centre at the Savitribai Phule Pune University premises, the various meditation classes across the city, various groups that are finding peace through collective congregations and the individual pursuit for inner peace, all are indicative of the new age search towards the desire to be a Buddha in the market place.
With interesting topics as varied as spirituality for parents, spiritual sensuality in Arts; the spiritual core of corporates; animals as saviours to salvage us from our sorrow; spirituality and urdu poetry; amongst others, the International Festival of Spiritual India was a catharsis for panelists in various sessions and participants of the three day event.
Once again, noted author and organizer of the Pune International Literary Festival (PILF), Manjiri Prabhu, hosted an unconventional literary festival which is bound to grow in popularity in the near future.
The emotion of grief after the death of a loved one agonises the one who has experienced it and evokes the sympathy and concern of people around him or her.
Hence, the session titled `Channelising your grief’ -through words, music and animals’, of which I was one of the panelists, brought out the innermost feelings and emotion.
The other illustrious panelists in the session, Dr .Vikram Sampath, historian, musician and author, particularly of the book `My name is Gauhar Jaan’ which has been made into a play, lost his mother last year, suddenly. The other panelist, Prof Suvratadev Sharmana, a noted Dhrupad musician lost his spouse of 17 years after illness. Moderating the panel was Vasudev Murthy, noted yoga practitioner and animal welfare activist, whose pet dog had recently died.
Some of the common points that were gathered from the intense session of death, were: Grief is as intense for the persons left behind, irrespective if it comes suddenly or otherwise; that it hits you hard despite our common knowledge that death is inevitable; that, despite having witnessed death around us, when it happens to us, remains unacceptable and that; it is not exaggerating to conclude that time heals but for others – for the ones who have undergone the death of the loved one, it probably takes a lifetime to heal.
Dr Sampath, moist- eyed, spoke about how his mother suddenly passed away, a year back. “My parents were travelling in the car, chatting away with each other. I had spoken to my mom just a half an hour ago. And then I get a call that she just put her head on my dad’s shoulder and passed away. I was shocked.’’ As for Prof Sharmana, “my wife was ailing but she cooked for me till the very last day. I never expected she would pass away so unexpectedly, though she was ill.’’
I recounted how my husband passed away while we were sitting on the bench on the Parvati Hill temple. As for Dr. Murthy, he spoke about how he is still to get over the loss of his pet dog. All of us were choked with emotion but controlled it to effectively provide to the audience, the inner truth of this tragedy.
The display of coping up with death brought out some touching moments. Dr.Sampath said he has sealed his mom’s room, keeping even her water bottle, half-filled and her clothes, where they are; he does not allow the maid to enter her room, he cleans it himself; and every night, he visits the room to have a conversation with her. Prof Sharmana said that he communicates with his wife’s soul and he knows she is still there for him. He narrated one such conversation in which he wanted to get rid of all his warm clothes but she asked him not to.
A couple of months later, he was invited to a University abroad where he had to spend a few months of winter and these warm clothes proved to be his savior against the bitter cold.
I spoke about how I ensure I’m so busy with work every day so that I don’t get that spare time when his memories flood my mind and I break down.
Sampath said he is trying to understand death for which he keeps reading books on the subject, one of the best spiritual classics being `The Tibetan book of living and dying.’ Prof Sharmana spoke about various Raags of Hindustani Classical Music that soothe the heart. I mentioned that accepting death, leave alone understanding it, is a difficult thing to do.
I recalled what noted social reformer Anna Hazare told me when my husband passed away. He said, “his memories will flood your mind, forever; just put a stone on your heart and keep walking; don’t look back.’’
A young man in the audience asked in the Q&A session, “how do I console my friend who has lost his loved one?’’ A pertinent question that remains so difficult to answer.
I end with a poem I scripted in my book `Grieving to Healing.’
Where Are You?
That you are gone, I’m a witness to.
But how do I know where you are gone to?
How can I establish you are in Heaven Blue?
Saints and philosophers may have said it all.
But where is the information that they got from?
Which is the original source, is what I want to know?
Is heaven and hell, a concocted tale?
A cooked up idea as a nice grievance cell?
To shut the mouths of the grieving wails?
I can’t reach out to you; neither can you to me.
Then who is it that first who reached out to say this.
Or is it a figment of narration from near-death experiences?
That you are in a paradise; in a better place?
That you are the soul searching for a womb’s place.
That you are surrounded by only happiness?
I know they will tell me to read philosophy
But if I were to write as a journalistic piece.
Who would I take quotes of witnesses?
For a factual article, you need facts.
I can’t establish facts here, with any tact.
Until then, your death remains for me, a cruel fact.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,