Though it took her five weeks to bring to shape a lifetime of memories, the process of writing itself had begun a long time ago for Bhanumathi Narasimhan, author of the first official biography of humanitarian and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, her brother, titled Gurudev: On The Plateau of the Peak .
“Wherever I would travel, people would ask me to tell me more about my brother, about how he started the Art of Living. So I thought it was a good idea to recollect and slowly, I started writing whenever I had the time. There would be long gaps between pieces,” recollects Bhanumathi at the Art of Living International Centre in Kanakapura Road.
“I brought it to shape only recently and it was a long process, of writing and rewriting until it felt good enough because memories kept flooding in.” The reason it happened now, after all these years, she says is because she has only now‘grown up’.
“In the book, I relate what happened in my childhood and traced it back to the present. Those days I simply enjoyed his company. But I did not understand its significance with wisdom. The sense of clarity has only come in now, on who he really is,”she explains.
“I wanted to associate what he said, the events from those days to their relevance today. There is so much wisdom interwoven in those events. Looking back, I feel I was still a child then, and now I have grown in wisdom.”
Bhanumathi says she enjoyed the process of writing, and found there was so much to share. “I wanted to make sure that my writing is relevant to a new reader. Gurudev is an open book, and though everybody knows him, nobody really knows him. That has been my dilemma, because there is always a new insight into him. It’s almost like a research project, there is never a definite conclusion. He’s like a flowing river. With him, every moment is new, there is no stagnation.”
He is a guru to millions around the world. Who really is a guru? “The guru has come to be glorified from our ancient culture. The word itself means ‘one who removes darkness’. He is a caretaker, one who takes you to yourself,” she says.
“If you see, in life, we need a guide for everything. Our mothers have been our guides from the beginning, and then our fathers. Once we started going to school, our teachers too became our guides. We need a master to learn anything. We also need a guide when we want to learn about something as difficult as ourselves, or our minds.”
And only one who knows more about these realms can guide another, she points out. “That is the essence of the guru — the ‘atma’ guru or the spiritual master.”
In the book, Bhanumathi describes these revelations as she witnesses them growing up, recalling in detail the most poignant among them. “I vividly recalled some of them, like the time he mediated between the FARC and the Columbian Government, or the time when the Art of Living began.”
It is not possible to fathom the kind of work Sri Sri has done and continues to do for society, she says. “I remember over 30 years ago, standing at the mound that is now the Vishalakshi Mantap. He said there will be a big hall there and the day it will be inaugurated, there will be thousands here, there won’t be place to even sit inside. Nobody would have believed him then. It is beautiful to see it all happen, these are not myths or ideas in his life. These are happenings.”
At the same time, she explains, the book is simply her viewpoint, her understanding of the journey, an effort to bring people come a little closer to him. “My aim in writing the book, is just to make the reader happy. I hope to enrich the lives of the readers through this book.
Gurudev: On The Plateau of the Peak is priced at Rs 599 and is available online and book stores.