“Guruji”, said the elderly woman, to the yoga master. “Tell us about yourself.” Guru meant master and ji as a suffix meant respect.
The yoga master on the elevated stage, looked down at the crowd of smiling disciples or his students in the daily yoga class. He smiled and said, So you want to know about the yogi more than yoga today.
Yes, Guruji, said his students.
“I was born in Bihar,” started the yoga master. “We were very poor. My mother used to cook by the wood stove and we had three cows that gave us milk and ghee. Some of the milk was sold to others. My father had some land and we tried to make a living. Sometime we used to go hungry”
His students were mostly from urban parts of India, but they nodded sympathetically at each word. For the past one week, they had been receiving instruction in yoga from the yoga master and his quite, firm and cheerful demeanor had endeared him to his students, most of whom were not fitness people.
“After my mom got a head injury, we tried many doctors in our village but we failed to get her back on her feet. The local ashram helped her a lot using traditional medicines so I decided to hang around them and learn yoga.
Learning yoga became a full time job after dropping out from school at age 11″.
His students gasped, ” Isnt that too young for yoga”. The Yoga master smiled and said ” It was not for me. As I grew older, fitter and stronger, I started helping my master in teaching other villagers, and then we started holding yoga camps across various villages. I also taught yoga to inmates in 40 different prisons in India. For a time, I used to reply- I have been to 40 prisons when asked who I am”.
The audience cheered. The yoga master continued ,” But a few years ago, I realized what yoga had helped my body do. I was sleeping in my house. Our house had an open rectangular garden or verandah, where the cows were to one side. I was sleeping outside since it was hot and there was no electricity. Electricity was only present for four hours a day in our village.
Suddenly there was a noise. My mother who was inside, called out to me, “Krishna (my name), are you okay?”. In my sleep, I woke up, took my stick and without wearing my sandals went out to check the perimeter of our house. It was pitch dark and there was no moon. I felt a strong pain in my right ankle but ignored it. There was no one in our house.
“Its no one, mother. Go back to sleep”. And I did. I went back to sleep.
The next morning I had trouble getting up. My right foot was swollen, but again I ignored it. Since my daily routine was to go to the temple, I took my bath and I went to the temple on my motorcycle. But I had trouble starting it by kick start, which was again a surprise. Now doing yoga for so many years mad made me very fit, and I never felt sick for a day in my life.
It was at the temple that I saw my foot. It showed bite marks and the foot was really swollen. I collapsed when I saw the snake bite. A policeman passing by, who knew me from my prison days came up to me and said Guruji, What happened. I only pointed to the snake bite.
Well they all took me to the local doctor. One look at my now blue complexion, and the Doctor fled.
The audience who was urban, gasped. Why did the Doctor do so?
Well in case I died, my family would blame the Doctor and there would be a big scene created. Rather than risk his entire career, the Doctor chose to flee.
So now we have no doctor, confirmed snake bite, and the only solace is the Policeman and a few locals. We went back to my home. This time I took baths again under the hand pump, and then prayed to my God. I then ate some neem leaves. Neem is the tree that was in my home.
I fell asleep despite everyone trying to keep me awake. While in a coma, or a trance, I did not know what, I could still hear everything including my family crying.
On the third day, I woke up. It was the scheduled day for my burial. For snake bites we do not have funerals, we have burials in our village.
The Neem leaves had counteracted the poison, and my leg swelling was down. Yoga had helped me defeat the snake bite.
The audience cheered. The yoga master smiled. Only the young man sitting in the back noticed the yoga master’s proud air of triumph.