It is tea time at Ganga Darshan. Five-year-old Satyam from Bulgaria, with his younger sister Shanti in tow, is out in the kitchen compound with a cardboard box that reads ‘Biscuit Machine’. Their mother has devised this game for them in which the biscuits they get for breakfast are to be shared with all at tea time. “It’s to teach them to give,” she says. Ashram guests and residents with afternoon tea in one hand put a play-card in the machine’s slot and out pops the biscuit tray, as Satyam pushes it with a wide grin on his face. One can pick as many as one likes. Once the kid’s own stock is over, others chip in with theirs, and then there is always the benevolent swami in the kitchen as the lender of last resort.
Swami Sivananda said, ‘Serve Love Give Purify Be Good Do Good Meditate Realize’. Ashram incubates us to enact all of these qualities, but practising ‘giving’ here can be a challenge at the material level, since everyone has just enough of what they require and money does not function. The humble biscuit packet, however, is a rare daily indulgence. Loved by old and young, sannyasins and students alike, on many days it forms the only sweet offering in the ashram’s diet. And so, for my sweet-addicted self, it has been quite a task to emulate little Satyam. To say nothing of the immense sankalpa that will be required to follow the teachings of Swami Satyananda, the Paramahamsa Satyam!
As the last of the tea gets served from the tilted jar, the kids count their trophies for the day - empty packets that contained an indulgence they have defeated.
PS: The last day of his visit is Satyam’s birthday, and humble he gives his biscuit machine to Swamiji.
—Rishi Gurgaon (Yogic Studies Hindi, 2019)