Travel Stories 6 : Disconnected in Vibhuti

The sunlight flitted into the room through the windows. Just when we thought the heat could not get any worse, the electricity went off, switching off the sole fan that was working. Like the hot air in the room poorly circulating before settling down on our already sweaty backs; realization dawned on us. With no means of communication or news of the outside world, we were doomed.

It was the summer of 2011, and my grandparents decided that it would be fun to take my cousin sister and me along to their spiritual retreat of choice – Chinmaya Vibhuti. Located an hour and a half away from Pune, Chinmaya Vibhuti is a center of the Chinmaya Mission or conducting camps that take place for days. These camps are usually headed by a Guru or teacher, and discuss spirituality, religion and like for the duration of the camp. As you might have guessed, it’s incredibly remote location means that you don’t have access to the internet, nor do you get mobile network. The only TV in the many acres of land was in the Swamiji’s room – so watching cartoons on that was out of the question.

Our day usually started at around 10 – with my cousin and I fighting about who had to open the door for our grandparents. They would haul food from the kitchen so that we wouldn’t be hungry. Because we’re brats, yes we know. We’d annoy my grandad for a couple of hours and then maybe attend a session of the discourse, where we understood absolutely nothing. We’d then lazily proceed to volunteer to serve the other guests in the kitchen – because we were bored and you know your grandmum gets a kick out of the other grandmums there praising her grandkids. Then we’d proceed to sit in the room and play cards for hours on end, with our grandmum joining in and winning most games and my grandfather sitting in the side and passing the occasional disapproving comment.  After dinner, once we were back in the comfort of our room, which the four of us had to share, the lights were switched off, and it was filled with giggles and pre-teen gossip.

When we did spend time at discourse hall itself, trying to listen and understand complex topics in Hindi, a language we are not familiar with, it wasn’t very productive. Hours together were spent making fun of every attendee until we were met with glares and shushed. Eventually, we were even kicked out of the hall. Another attendee deserves a special mention, who we’d run away from sight was this typical Indian uncle who would lecture us about the importance of a proper bindhi.

It’s safe to say that we didn’t learn anything being there. Apart from my grandparents’ love story which our great uncle, who along with his family was also on the trip, told us. It was two weeks filled with a lazy routine that both of us now envy – something so preciously rare today.

It was a trip which we didn’t want to go on, and one which we whined about for the entire duration of the trip. But now, as we’re significantly older and living in different cities, we don’t meet up often enough. We disconnected from the world, in a place miles away from home and spent two weeks in the company of the people we love. It was time I spent with my grandparents – who cannot come on a trip like that now. And it’s the place where I tasted possibly the best shrikhand on Earth.

Written by Siri Rajanahally for MTTN

Graphics by Yashovardhan Parekh

Images from Chinmaya Mission

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