Unforgettable Fortnight

B. K. Parameswaran Nair

Six weeks ago, my younger brother came home from Hyderabad where he is working in a Government of India undertaking. Almost the first thing he said upon seeing me was how run-down and haggard I looked. I told him about my running battle with asthma for the last ten years. I had tried all sorts of nostrums - allopathic, homoeopathic, ayurvedic, etc. I could sleep only after taking some pills to forestall breathing trouble. Asthma is not a killer disease said a medical journal, but for me, it was a wasting disease. I told my brother, who is an ardent admirer of Swami Satyananda Saraswati, that I was reconciled to a life of continuous misery with asthma. He told me that Swami Satyananda was doing a great job of uplifting the jaded spirits and the moribund health of those who flocked to him through a network of ashrams scattered all over India, and referred my predicament to him. A few days later we received a reply from the Bihar School of Yoga informing me to proceed to the ashram at Rajnandgaon in Madhya Pradesh.

To be frank, I was not bursting with optimism when I left Trivandrum for the ashram by the end of November. I am fifty-three and my ten year struggle with asthma had left me sceptical of all systems of medicine. Trivandrum in the south has a warm and equable climate for most of the year, but my asthma was never deterred by it. Rajnandgaon, I knew, was several meters above sea level and besides, it was winter in northern India. Therefore, I feared my asthma was bound to grow worse.

I reached Rajnandgaon and reported at the ashram on the first of December. The winter morning had a nip in the air, but I soon became intensely conscious of the sylvan surroundings. The rolling plains all round the ashram, the serene and silent atmosphere had a soothing effect on my jangled nerves. Coming from a bustling and noisy urban area, I was instantly captivated by the idyllic landscape. I took a deep breath and felt wonderful, physically and mentally, for the first time in many weeks.

My daily routine as a residential student at the ashram consisted of yogic exercises, pranayama and relaxation techniques sandwiched between morning and evening prayers. The food was a simple north Indian type and I could easily adapt myself to it. I did not feel undernourished. The cold weather was surprisingly tolerable and the yogic exercises did not even leave me short winded. The bhajans in the morning and evening, in which all the swamis and inmates participated, were melodious and spiritually elevating. Suddenly one night I realized the pleasant truth that asthma had not troubled me since my arrival at the ashram.

More than a month has elapsed since my return to the daily stress and strains of urban life in Trivandrum. Till this moment I have had no recurrence of asthmatic trouble. The tranquil air of Rajnandgaon seems to have blessed me with a new life, free from a supposedly incurable disease.

I cannot adequately thank Swami Satyananda and his associates for all they have done in rejuvenating my health and arousing my morale. Their mission of ministering to the sick and sagging spirits through their ashrams is a great solace to humanity.