Mumbai

An Anusual life

Today, after her tryst with the arc lights, Anu Aggarwal works withthe poor. Through Anu Fun Yoga, she teaches yoga to slum children.And, helps the wealthy get rid of the poverty within. —PHOTO: R RAVINDRAN

Today, after her tryst with the arc lights, Anu Aggarwal works withthe poor. Through Anu Fun Yoga, she teaches yoga to slum children.And, helps the wealthy get rid of the poverty within. —PHOTO: R RAVINDRAN

hen Anu Aggarwal walks, you pause to look. It’s been years since she stepped off the catwalk, but the model’s grace has stayed. As a fashion choreographer once told her, she was born with a runway walk.

The Aggarwal of today is not the sultry screen goddess and model who sizzled on ramps and glossies, and rejoiced in the various relationships she went through. She’s been to heaven, hell and back, and lives the life of a hermit, happy in the present and seeking joy within herself.

It shows on her face and in her almond-shaped eyes, despite the debilitating after-effects of a gruesome road accident that left her in a coma for 29 days, gave her an out-of-body near-death experience (NDE) and left her in a state where only the now mattered.

Living in the now

Aggarwal says that from the beginning, her life followed a pattern, only it took time to understand it. A student of social work, her dream was to work with the UN, helping the underprivileged. Films and fashion were an afterthought.

Have her experiences, and her accident in particular, changed her perspective on life? Definitely, she says. “The NDE changed everything,” she says. “I never wanted to go back into my body. It was blissful to see everything from outside; everything was beautiful, everything was well. It was all about feeling, and not thinking. But, a spirit guide nudged me to get back. And, in that process, I realised there’s a purpose to my existence; that I must do my bit to usher harmony to the chaos we’ve created. It taught me to live in the ‘now’. To forget. To forgive. To be grateful, accepting.” Anu came back to life as Anandapriya, the lover of bliss, and was welcomed back with open arms.

Does she ever think about how despite her accidental entry into Bollywood with Mahesh Bhatt’s Aashiqui and a limited body of work, she lingered on in popular consciousness? “I wonder about that too,” she says. “But, I’ve always been a learner. I immerse myself in anything I do. My policy has always been, whatever you do, do it well.”

Today, after her tryst with the arc lights, and a lifelong relationship with yoga, tantra, Buddhist meditation and Zen philosophy, Aggarwal is back doing what she originally started off with: working with the poor. Through Anu Fun Yoga, she teaches yoga to slum children. And, helps the wealthy get rid of the poverty within. “Sometimes, the richest are the poorest,” she says. She’s focussed on research, to help it make a difference in children’s lives. Thinking about others happens, Anu says, when we let go of the ‘I.’ “The ‘I’ limits you. It’s nicer to belong to the universe. You feel a sense of oneness that’s liberating,” she says, and recites something she wrote: “I’m just a flower/I fell off a tree/I will be peeled off soon/All the past is in the peel.”

Aggarwal’s work with children fuses her training in the renowned Bihar School of Yoga, her wanderings and learnings and her background in social work. “It’s amazing how I did these totally diverse things at different points in time, but how they all came together for this,” she says.

She says she’s not in yoga for the money, just for the joy and passion of imparting it to others. “Thankfully, I’ve invested well, and my needs are limited. I’m happy living out of a small room.”

Finding the words

When Aggarwal the author happened, she had to peel back fogged memories, some of them traumatic, such as the accident. “I felt something beyond pain.” But the rest “had been automatically edited” by her mind. “I was surprised that only the happy moments remained; the angst had been cut off totally.” She wrote some portions in the third person, because they were what she felt during her NDE.

Even when she wrote about her relationships, including with Rick, the only man she came closest to marrying, she was able to smile. “I now realise that I’ve floated past in the stream of life, allowing it to take me wherever it did. All my relationships were brief stops that prepared me for my next journey. I’ve been the wiser for it.”

Today, Aggarwal says she’s gone beyond names and categorisations. “I’m one among the universe, and am delighted I know that. I live in the present, in perfect harmony with my surroundings. Occasionally, the mind does slip, but I manage to bring it back to the present. And, harmony.”

Anusual: Memoir of a Girl Who Came Back from the Dead , is published by HarperCollins Publishers India, and is priced at Rs 299. It is also available online.


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Printable version | Jul 1, 2022 2:10:22 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/anu-aggarwal-on-her-memoir/article8270216.ece