The sun was sharp and thousands of people had lined up on either side of the road. Luckily the lush green flora in the International Art of Living Centre in Bengaluru was giving that much needed cover. The flowers in the gardens swayed to the once-in-a-way summer breeze. The crowd kept their cool and a certain silence was in the air.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (popularly called as Gurudev) was seated in his car that was slowly winding its way down that road. I was sitting behind him as he had beckoned me earlier to travel with him that evening.
I had several things to discuss with him. Questions and clarifications.Ranging on issues from personal to social-work related.
Before getting into the car, he had already met with, over a thousand people in the beautiful Vishalakshi Meditation Hall listening to their queries, welfare, woes and requests. And now from the car, he was very keen to meet those eagerly waiting along the road too.
As the car stopped at some points from time to time, I could see a whole procession of emotions of people who were seeing him almost face to face.
Happiness, excitement, wonder. Eyes going big with joy. Tears flowing down some eyes. Some doing a respectful Namaste (the traditional Indian way of greeting), others waving out cheerfully. Few were seen spelling out their woes and seeking advice.
Some looked dumb-struck perhaps not knowing what to say, how to express. Others asking him for blessings, wishes to be fulfilled. Some giving pieces of paper in his hand with their message or supplication.
Were they seeing the face that launched a billion smiles?
Just then I saw a young boy, perhaps in his early twenties, hold on to the car window. His slim and weak frame was emanating body odour. I could see him dripping with poverty. I felt sad as I saw him reaching out to Sri Sri.
The boy suddenly told Gurudev in Hindi “Mein car mein kabhi nahin baitha hoon” (I have never sat in a car). Gurudev gently gestured to him saying “ Aajao” (Come). The boy`s eyes widened in wonder asking “Mein aajaoon” (Shall I come). He replied “Yes”.
He hopped across the other side, opened the door and sat next to me in the back seat. `Our` car moved on! I kept looking at the boy as he settled himself in the seat with loads of smiles.
I was totally immersed in his new-found happiness, as he joyfully started waving to the crowd. Basking in the moment of having a dream being fulfilled.
Gurudev then asked him what he did and where he was from. He replied with the name of a village in the deep rural pocket of Karnataka and said his parents were daily wage laborers.
A few minutes later, he told Gurudev “I`ll get down here because I have a bus to catch back home”. Gurudev smiled, gave him some money and gestured his blessings saying “Have Prasad (food) at the dining hall before you leave”.
Soon after that I saw him frolic and melt into the crowd.
(This article is a tribute to Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on his birthday 13 May 2017)