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Himalayan Memoirs: Anbe Sivam

The following was written almost 5 months into my self-imposed exile. It was written while I was staying in an ashram in a small village called Ganeshpur somewhere in the upper reaches of Tehri Garhwal. I spent my time working in the kitchen as a self-appointed cook.

It was a rare moment. Rare indeed is a moment when you clearly realize that you have lost it. It was almost 5 months since I have been off the grid. The first 4 months were really good. I had fun. I had very little money and hence for the first time in my life, I am constantly thinking about money and rationing it. But I liked it as a novelty. Physically also, it was very difficult but I liked to push myself more and more. But most importantly, my sadhana was really good. I meditated like never before. But a variety of circumstances made me impatient and eventually pissed me off. I was no longer fine with just living not knowing what I would be doing for the rest of my life. Also what started as a conscious choice to choose to live like this soon became to be experienced as a condition forced by forces beyond my control. That was driving me mad. That I could not choose my own way of life even physically bothered me. Sometimes I would catch myself dreaming about how my life would look like after my exile. Either I would reminiscence about my times being a Isha yoga teacher and how my life would be if I continued to go down that path. Or sometimes I would think about how life would be if my stay would be continued to be rendered untenable by my parents. Without doubt, I think I would end up being programmer. Not that that life would not be without perks. But I had no idea how I will get myself motivated to work. I also thought maybe I will get into academics or even civil services. So many nights I have thought about what I should be doing if I cannot make it to IYC back. Sometimes I wondered it won’t be all that difficult to go back into industry. One thing is certain I needed the physical comforts and the sense of security that it could afford. No small thing I realized these things are after living here. Also If  I am smart enough, I could even do more things that I really wanted wrt to Isha. But I would have to be extremely calculative and diligent. In fact when I look back at my life in Hyderabad and Seattle, I perhaps could achieve more things in terms of offering the possibility of Sadhguru to people. But that ain’t the thing. It is the quality of the life which matters at the end of the day. And about that I have no doubts that it was only after being a teacher, my own stupid little life got settled. Maybe I am not as efficient as I was before. But it was the feeling of homecoming that made it all worthwhile.
It is in times like this I realized what a device sadhguru has designed in the form of Isha Yoga. Not just the content of the program. But even the life of the Isha yoga teacher. It sounds clichéd when teachers say the same thing that it is a privilege. But I cannot find a better word. It is not a life of sacrifice, it is not some life-negating exercise. It is just a honor to be invited to live a life like that. But it has a price to be paid.
I paid that price. And many a sleepless nights have passed dreaming about it, dreading it before I could get myself to do it. And now, just like that it was snatched away. As I write this, there is a gamut of emotions within me: rage, disbelief, betrayal, helplessness, confusion etc. I couldn’t help smiling at how things turned out.
One thing that was clear is that I could not continue my vagabound life like this forever. It just ain’t my thing. I could enjoy it so long as I knew this is but a vacation. But I wanted to be back. I needed to be connected. I needed to be around people whom I know. Whom I am comfortable with. My thinking tells me how ridiculous these ideas are. But my experience of life has not (yet) come in terms with my sterile ratiocinations.
So it was in this backdrop of confusion and fury that I lost it. Gosh, I was mad at everyone. I found the pseudo-spirituality around me less and less tolerable. But I had to gulp it down because they were giving me food and shelter. And that just made me more mad. I knew I was losing it. That was the only thing clear in my head. I knew I would snap soon. And the unfortunate thing was I have to make big decisions soon and I didn’t want to be like this. I knew if I decide something now it wouldn’t be the right thing. It was in such a circumstance that while I was making rotis in the kitchen, the old temple priest walked in and announced to Manbir (the cook) that he was going to Kedarnath. Manbir asked him if he was going to Badrinath as well. Old man snapped at this question and said he only goes to Shiva’s places. I looked up and smiled at this. But that’s it. I let the whole incident pass. But later during the course of our conversation, Manbir told me that what the old man actually wanted to do was trek all the way from Gomukh to Kedar. There was supposedly an ancient trekking path which was used by pilgrims much before the motor roads came. Immediately I knew what I had to do. I wanted in. I wanted to join the old man in this trek. That’s just it. In so many ways I knew this is exactly what I needed: a walk in the park to clear my head. But this ain’t no walk in the park. It is 10 days of non-stop hiking in high altitude and that too in the middle of the rainy season. We needed to cover almost 240 kms of mountain country in 10 days. I don’t know why it felt so right. But I felt somewhere I wanted some object to vent my anger and my confusion. And what an object I got!
I met the old man (whom everyone calls mamaji) after the diner and told him I wanted to come as well. I figured out that he should be pretty cash-strapped himself and if I accompany him it shouldn’t cost too much to me as well. Old man said it should be fine and asked me not to worry about money: “Bhole baba will take care of us”. However he warned me: last year there was a tamil sadhu who accompanied him on this same trek and the man had to be sent back after the 3rd day. I met the tamil sadhu as well. He told me it was the exhaustion coupled with fever and dysentery that did it. However he wished me luck and hoped I would make it.
That’s how I decided to trek from Gangothri to Kedarnath. It was an experience of a lifetime and I knew it from the first moment. Only question was whether I would make it. Alive that is. It was just a general wonderment. I had enough rage within me to have kept me going all the way till Kailash. Some of the sadhus’ told me there is indeed a route from badri to kailash as well and the hardy ones still make it. I considered the proposition but I though nah…Firstly I wanted to go with Sadhguru and secondly I didn’t want to get busted by the ITBP. And Thirdly I did not want to end up in a Chinese prison for espionage (though one cannot find it unexciting). But mostly it was the former.

Thanks to Minu Saroj and Anonymous who responded to my appeal and who contributed generously to Isha Vidhya.

I am publishing these memoirs also as an effort to create awareness and raise money for the awesome work done by Isha Vidhya. You would be providing me positive incentive to continue to blog if you can join me in supporting this effort.Anything will help. Even 100 INR.



  1. Very interesting post Anto. Emotions are definitely very complex, and it takes wandering into an unknown territory to really understand ones own emotions and insecurities. Sometimes everything one thought about oneself changes, but its a good experience since you realize who you truly are and also understand all your limits. The path is confusing, but rewarding. Hopefully it opens up new possibilities for you.

    May be we dont understand why we are here, but something like Matrix is beyond us which controls why we are doing what. Something beyond us is defining a way of life to bring equilibrium to the world


  2. This piece may be quite abstract for general readers... but having known some (if not all) of the background, am totally proud of you da...

    and btw, am amused by the page title: full time shankaran pillai :)

  3. Uhmm,
    This whole episode is news to me and I am quite enjoying it.
    Especially in retrospect now that I know you are back.

    Please write!

  4. All i want to say is Sadhguru is there with you - wherever you are and whatever you do.


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