As I was heading to the dorm from Raaja sabha tonight, Kalabhairava ayya was at the door like he usually is.  He is bald man with unframed glasses, and from behind could be very easily confused with my biological father. He puts a smile on the face every time you see him.

“Do you remember when you picked me up from the airport?” I asked him as I passed his table.

“Yes I do” he said and I smiled, sharing a laugh with him as I exited the door.

As I walked from there to the corner of the dorm where I am now, I recalled my very first days here in India.

I remember I felt so uncomfortable walking out of the airport in Varanasi. The heat was sweltering. Kalabhairava ayya’s face stood out to me immediately. Inwardly, I sighed with relief.

“The plane was late?” he said.

“Yeah, about an hour” I told him, wondering how long he had been waiting.

The ride to the hotel was awkward. I, as usual, was not in the mood for talking and he was just trying to be friendly. I made my answers short and closed, leaving no room for further conversation. In hindsight, I realize how incredibly rude I was. With how friendly we are now, I hope that he understands.

My mind was preoccupied. Not saying that is a valid reason to be so intolerable. I was immature. You can put it that way. Depression is just immaturity at its worst. Matured souls would know better than to be depressed.

When we arrived at the hotel,  I quickly freshened up and joined other Inner Awakening volunteers. It had been a year since I was with sangha in India. I caught up with everyone who knew me, and made conversation until slowly it dwindled and I drifted off by myself unwilling to be open to any group. The first couple of days here were pretty terrible.

What was I doing here? Did I really run away from home so suddenly just to come here and be depressed?

But that was all until Swamiji arrived.

We went to the airport to welcome him. I remember I wore a magenta colored sari, put my hair up and wore eyeliner. Everyone was brimming with excitement. And though I didn’t show it, so was I.

About a week ago, I was parked in my car in a abandoned parking lot surrounded by field grass and trees. Tears on my face and uncontrollable sobs coming from my throat, I had called at least five of my friends- none of them picking up, or responding to my text messages. In those tearful moments, I remembered Swamiji. The two thousand miles that I was away from him stretched to the distance from Mercury to Pluto. And that made me cry more.

“Swamiji” I typed out in my phone to him. “Keep me with you”

Then, I stashed my phone in the passenger’s seat and drove, quite dangerously, back home. I didn’t see Swamiji almost immediate response until I got back home and had buried myself under five blankets.

“Yes Kannamma” he had responded so sweetly. “Talk to Jnanathma Swami”

At that point, I hadn’t meant for him to call me to come to Inner Awakening in Varanasi. I didn’t mean for him to move the sun and the moon and the nine planets to get me to stay with him forever. But it is what I needed. And in the core of me, down to the level of my being, it is what I wanted.

June 20th, I was in the airport waiting for his arrival in Varanasi with a group of IA volunteers and programs team. When he finally came, he didn’t even look my way. I went back to my hotel that night pretty disappointed.

The next day was International Day of Yoga. June 21st. Swamiji came to speak on yoga.  I remember up until the point he entered the room, silent tears were falling from my eyes. But once he began speaking, his words drew me in. His breakthrough webinar was the very first time he announced shastra pramana, apta pramana, atma pramana and saakshi pramana- a fool proof methodology to validate your Hindu technique or teaching.  He announced a Nithya Yoga Teacher Training on August 15th and inside me I calculated the days I had until I had to be back in Seattle for school. He ended the webinar, lifting my mood up for the first time since I got here.

The minute we were offline a volunteers meeting was announced. Swamiji removed his turban and the golden jewelry he had worn.

Mine was the first name he called.

“Shantini”

He didn’t sound happy or sad. He just called. He motioned with his hand for me to come to him. And with my heart in my throat, I did. He engulfed me into his arms and I sunk into them, as if disappearing into him.

He only pulled away slightly to tell me, “No more suffering. I’ll take care of you. Then when you want, you can take care of me”

He repeated it two more times. It was the first promise he gave me. A past full of wars, battles, and warriors was all behind me. In front of me, a different kind of battle.

So much has happened since day one but I cannot forget how he held me that day. No matter what kinds of ups and downs I go through since then, he has been taking care of me.

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