Rajan invited Nix and I to a classical music and dance concert that his music school Layam Kalakshetram was putting on at the NSS Auditorium in Nileswar last night. I went out and bought a white lungi for the occasion only to realize when I got home that the 5 metres of material was far too unwieldy for me to wear. It seems like I had more of a sari than a lungi on my hands ;) Ah well, the thought was there.... Rajan made us the guests of honour at the event. For Nikki that meant she had VIP access to take photos. For me that meant I was given a speaking role. Rajan put me on stage alongside a panel of local dignitaries to sit through an hour of speeches before being asked to give one of my own and then bless the event.
But first we had to give out prizes. It was hilarious. I had absolutely no idea what was going on since the proceedings were in Malayalam. I felt like a circus monkey who was told where to stand and what to do. When it came to my turn to give out a prize the student didn’t turn up! So I was left standing like a solo lemon grinning inanely in the middle of the stage sweating buckets from the heat and humidity whilst press photographers took photos of me. I had to laugh – smash that ego ;) Thankfully the other students I was allocated to award prizes to did show up. When we finally got through the tableful of trophies, the speeches began....
I was the last to speak. I heard my name and South Africa mentioned multiple times in the speeches prior. They were really hyping me up. I felt like Nelson Mandela. I have never been introduced as “Sri Michael Swami Ji” before ;) Since we’ve been in an Ashram environment for so long I had forgotten about the loudness of Indian sound systems.... The NSS Auditorium had the dial set to 11 as per normal. My voice could be heard in the next town I think. And, as an added surprise, the sound engineer had added a delay to my voice so my speech began something like this “Namaskar everybody.... everybody.... everybody.... everybody....” No shyness required. Loud OK please. The speaker before me was a university professor who expounded on the secret of happiness (in Malayalam), so he was a bit of a tough act to follow ;) But the fact that he was talking about this subject made me feel much more at home and less nervous. Indians have an amazing way of putting you at ease, and making you feel like you are part of one massive extended family. They are also very sincere and kept shaking my hand, smiling at me and telling me what an honour it was to have me speak at the event, so there was no way I could let them down. I think if anyone had asked me to stand up in an auditorium filled with people at home I would have run for the hills immediately and not looked back.
After an hour or so of technical problems, the show began. It was incredible. I sat transfixed for the entire performance, which lasted some 4 hours. The dancers looked stunning in their traditional outfits, and danced exceptionally well. Some of them were only 5 years old! I couldn’t believe they could remember the long and complex sequences. They looked so cute you just wanted to give them a hug. Their Mums and Dads must have been very proud. The music was also unbelievably beautiful. The singer, joined by Rajan’s wife Vanaja, sounded exactly like Sheila Chandra. There were only 2 other instruments – a Karnatic classical flute and mredangam drum which were played expertly and with intense feeling. I had a lump in my throat throughout. The music and dances were telling stories from the Bhagavad Gita and Ramayana. Between performances they lowered the curtain, and I couldn’t wait for them to raise it again. It’s not an exaggeration to say I felt God. I felt immense gratitude and inspiration. These feelings continued for hours after the show had ended. I couldn’t sleep when we returned to the Ashram. I felt even more privileged to be a student of Rajan’s and to have been welcomed into his family as I have. The Karivellurs are wonderful, as is their music school and their students. Watching the show made me think about all the reasons I love India. This is one of the few places on earth where there is still magik left. I love it, dysentery and all.