Awakin Calls » Trupti Pandya » Transcript
Trupti Pandya: Adding Compassion to the Prescription Therapy List
Guest: Trupti Pandya
Moderator: Sachi Maniar
Host: Rish Sanghvi
Sachi: I have known Trupti for about 4-5 years and I have had the opportunity to see her in action.
I am thinking of this one time when Trupti was taking a session in the Dongri Children's Home where I work, which is this extremely concrete and traumatic place where all these girls are kept. These are girls who have gone through extreme trauma or are addicted and hyper, who indulge in self harm. I was walking by the girls section and I saw Trupti taking a session and really what I noticed is that she was taking them through meditation and reflection and so many small things. By the end of it the girls actually came up to me and said that they were feeling really calm and happy. And for me, to watch the session which was 1.5 hours, it felt like she literally just picked all these girls who were drowning and gave them new life. And this is what she can do in 1 session.
She is a great inspiration to me and someone I really look upto and fall back on when I am doing my own work. She has worked with people and in places where most people would think twice before entering.
And beyond her regular work the list of working in prisons and people who are schizophrenic and things like that, the list of projects or initiatives she is involved with is just endless, whether it's anchoring Awakin calls or heart circles or starting a community or even bringing alternative therapies to the universities in Baroda. What I love about her is how she does everything with so much focus and giving her more than 100% and really focussing on the small practices rather than like the big questions. The other thing that stands out about Trupti is how she is always reflecting and working on her own self through various personal practices and experiments. We will hear about all of those soon. I know Trupti, doesn't like to be center stage and she doesn't like to be in focus so I am very very grateful to her for saying yes and sharing her journey today. Thank You Trupti :)
Trupti how are you feeling today ?
Trupti: I am feeling awesome, Specially after such a warm welcome. I am feeling so grateful to the whole service space team, both of you and all those who have joined the call. Thank you.
Sachi: To begin with I thought let's start with your journey. How did you start engaging in psychology? Were you always interested in psychology or working with children and women in difficult situations? What got you here?
Trupti: Thank you for asking that Sachi. It's quite an unbelievable story. But my inspiration to take up psychology came from a Bollywood movie where the lead actor was suffering from split personality and how the psychologist solved the whole mystery. I was quite fascinated with her role and that actually led me to Psychology. Until then I had no clue about the subject. And I think when I was in grade 11th or grade 12th, I remember, we had our educational visit to the hospital for mental health. I had always seen the high walls from the outside with the fencing and lot of security. And as friends we would often joke that with your behavior you should be admitted to this hospital, which is called the mental hospital. But when I actually went inside, I saw few people behind the bars, few who seemed lost in their own world which was as real as mine. And reality struck very hard that these high walls which were separating us and them, they are people like us and they were suffering in a different way. But why were they put into such a hard environment was something that disturbed me a lot. I think this is how I got introduced to Psychology.
At that time, i had no plans of working with a certain kind of population, may be children or women. Infact I always told my friends that I will never work with children but nature had its own plans. And since college, I landed up in organizations that only had children and now I love working with them and feel super awesome to have the bunch of experiences that I had while I was spending time with them.
Sachi: That's awesome, So what were your learnings and observations? What came up for you?
Trupti: While I was working with children in various settings I observed a red thread emerging. Though there are multiple factors that play role in the way a child behaves, I noticed that the intensity of deviant behavior was much higher in two cases; one when there was a lot of conflict at home within the family and secondly when there was lack of acceptance of the child especially in cases of special needs children.
I observed this trend in my current work spaces also where you know children or adults who end up in prisons or in observation homes, during conversations with them what I hear mostly is about their history of a broken family or about their experiences of a difficult childhood. And somewhere I felt that a child’s being had a direct reflection of the experiences and relationship that he shares with his immediate family. So more than working with the child I felt that something needs to be shifted within the family. It even gave me a faint clue that before any therapy it was love and acceptance which would mitigate the intensity of conflict, inside-out, for the child and the family both.
But the question was how? What does it look like to have a space that nurtures everyone in a wholesome way up to the roots? And I remember this phase of mine, I was going mad, feeling suffocated with the labeling procedure as places where I was working I had this constant pressure of finding out the diagnosis as they wanted to loop in the patients into medicines as soon as possible. I always felt that I should spend more time with the child and the family to understand it in a more comprehensive way. Here I was only looking at what is not right rather than seeing the person as a whole. And each day I would come back home feeling guilty as I knew that something was not right and there was something missing. And I decided to step back from all my professional areas till I find peace and that missing link.
Sachi: What you shared is so amazing because I often feel even when I see psychologists in the children's home they feel so stuck and they limit themselves to what is prescribed or what is the correct psychologist code and they are so restricted in their being that it becomes impossible for them to build a rapport with the children or with what they call as there clients. I am amazed that you actually realized that. So, what did you do when you felt stuck and you said that you quit your work, so, what was that journey like and how long was it? What were the questions that you were asking and what were the answers that you got?
There was no definite plan when I stopped working and I really did not know what to do but things emerged. It was a year long journey where I went through various experiences back to back. Today when I look back I know for sure that feel that each experience was like a milestone a stepping stone for the kind of work that I am doing today.
While I was still contemplating on the missing link, I felt that an individual is the byproduct of the family and this big world is the byproduct of multiple families’ right so the intersection point was family. So something that needed a shift was at family level but I did not know what exactly. And I started thinking of my own family, what was the unsaid or unseen fuel which keeps the system of the family functioning and a very clear answer that came for me after lot of contemplation was my values and the value system of a family. I felt “that” as the core of the family, something to which one can refer to or hold onto during crisis. And I realized that it was time to move the lens inward before I start working with others as I needed to find my own grounds, my own core values and align them.
And it is said that when you have the right questions, the teacher arrives. I haven’t met Gandhi or Vinoba, I have only read about them in books. Here I started meeting a bunch of them who are actually living those values and that was so powerful. I had always heard these words like being truthful or being kind or being compassionate, but I never knew the “how” part, how do we live those values. It was only when I closely observed people like Arun dada, Meera ba or Kanti dada I saw those values alive. In real I feel their way of life is there message which is reflected in their day to day living in such effortless way. This effortlessness or the lightness that they bring shows their years of cultivation. There way of life has helped me re-engineer my inner being in a great way. Since then I started cultivating small practices where the intention is to weave in those values in my daily life.
In the same year I started exploring the Moved by Love and Service Space eco-system which led me to my first Vipassana, the Head-Hand-Heart retreat in Ahmedabad, Awakin Circles. Meanwhile in the same year two very profound experiences that I had were- A 6 day walking pilgrimage and my two months travel to the Himalayas which left me some invaluable experiences. Knowingly or unknowingly all these life events which unfolded in that year helped me reflect a lot on my inner being which I feel was important before dealing with other people's mind. This was what my one year journey looked like.
Sachi: That is awesome, it takes lot of courage to go into something which you don't know and say that I am really going to practice these values. I am really going to look for these answers or ask more questions to your own self and I know that you don't only ask those questions or meet people or teachers as you say but you also practice things like the six day walking pilgrimage that I have heard so much about.
So for people on the call one of our elderly grandfather Gopal dada, who was a Gandhian and walked with Vinoba Bhave, when he had passed away, some of our friends decided to take a 6 day walking pilgrimage without money, phone or food from Gandhi Ashram to Sidhpur in his honor and to honor the spirit of Jay Jagat which means that this whole world is our family and Trupti decided to join that pilgrimage, Trupti what inspired you to join the pilgrimage?
Trupti: This walk happened in the same month when the news of a very cruel and painful rape in Delhi had horrified the whole country. I remember crying for days together. There was so much fear that I avoided stepping out of the house for few days. And this was just one story, but the world where I am currently living or all of us are living, I am surrounded with a very strong narrative that says that the world outside isn’t safe, I cannot or maybe I should not trust a stranger who knocks at my door. And just in few days after this incident, I got to know about this pilgrimage where the purpose of it was a complete antidote to my extreme fear where the intention was to trust the world in a way I would trust my own family believing that this world is one family.
The night before, I could not sleep. I had all kind of questions regarding trusting the process. Questions like will I starve and die or will I get a safe place to stay and most importantly will I be able to walk 110 kms. I remember my first encounter with hunger when we still in the urban side. I was feeling hungry and I saw two fruit vendors. One had all kinds of fruits and the other only had bananas. My mind told me, beggars don’t have a choice and so I went to the one who only had bananas. It was so difficult to ask, especially when I did not have money, I had nothing to give in return for the first time in my life. Today also when I go for a walk, I carry a little cash just to make sure that I have things if I feel the need. And here I was without anything. I saw emotions like shame, ego, anxiety, and awkwardness steering up. I went to the fruit vendor, he looked at me and I started sharing about our pilgrimage and trust me I couldn’t utter more than few words and then my co- pilgrim joined the conversation and asked for four bananas which he did give. And slowly I observed my ego melting into humility with what I receiving. That was the only time when we had asked, after that we were offered food before we were hungry with so much love. In fact, few people before leaving their premises even offered us money for the next meal when they knew that we were walking without money. It is only because of the generosity that I experienced from people whom I did not know who were complete strangers to me, my ideas of trust and scarcity shifted because of them which helped me to open my house and share what I say is mine. That was one of the experiences that I had.
Sachi: And I know when you say that you open your house the Pandya sisters really know how to open their house, not only to Awakins but to so many people. I know a number of activities that go on just in your house.
I also want to ask you to share about the incident of your long relationship with fear and especially that incident when you had an asthma attack on the pilgrimage if you could share a little bit about that and how you overcame that fear?
Trupti: I had asthma since childhood and partly I had accepted it as a life time gift as when I use to go to the doctor he use to tell me that your father has asthma too so this is something that is passed over to you in heredity, so this is going to be there. Whenever I use to get asthma attacks, it use to make me feel very weak and vulnerable. The whole night I couldn't sleep because of severe breathlessness. So part of me had this strong wish to find a cure for it. While I was doing my post graduation in clinical and applied hypnosis we studied that all that is diagnosed on the physical body it is the manifestation of the mental thoughts. This made more sense to me after my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I use to believe, till then, that cancer happens to only those who consume tobacco but she never did so why is she suffering from that. Meanwhile, I came across many people, books, and interviews sharing similar theory of disease is the manifestation of our own thoughts and emotions on our body. This made, even more sense when two of my teachers shared about how they could cure their asthma to quite an extent with few techniques that I was learning. So under their guidance, I started working on myself and in the next two years, I did not get asthma. It felt like an achievement, I was on the top of the world dancing thinking that I have cured it to the root. And out of nowhere, on the third day of our walk, I got a severe asthma attack and I was not at all prepared for it. I was shocked. Tears kept flowing. We had just ended our day. Looking at the history I knew that I would need at least 3-4 days of rest. This meant I will have to leave the pilgrimage and may be go back home. My confidence had shattered. It was dark and silent and I could hear my heavy breathing as I was gasping for it. I could not lie down, so I kept sitting. And I started observing my breath and for the first time, I looked at it, the suffering, eye to eye and I felt some layers shedding away bit by bit. I don't know how many hours I sat that night. As I kept observing, a very strong emotion that I saw coming up was fear. All the theories that I had learned from my teachers, it was alive in front of me. And I realized that it wasn’t asthma that I was suffering from but I was suffering from the disease called fear; fears of many kinds. As that started becoming clearer and clearer I observed that my breathing started to ease. Looking at my past history, it was almost next to impossible task but we walked almost 26 maximum kilometers. I remember all my luggage was taken away from me as I could not lift even the blanket that I had around me as it was cold and I managed to walk this long though slowly. And after that I don't think so I have got asthma attack. That's the story.
Sachi: I was just thinking that all of this what you have shared so far is all about your personal journey your deep journey inside and it was more about getting over your fears. so, what led you to discover the other way of working with children and women beyond the structural forms of traditional psychology?
Trupti: I did not know that my one-year exploration is coming to an end till I met Rish and Sima, Rish who is with us. Again I have a very interesting story to share. and a whole new world was waiting for me. As I said, I was suffering from the fear syndrome, I would just say NO to anything new that would come in front of me. Anything which is out of my comfort zone was a big task. At the same time after the pilgrimage and my trip to Himalaya, I was in Pune and Rish who is with us and Sima di were conducting a workshop where they introduced us with this new exercise of saying “YES AND” to anything that life has to offer. It sounds so simple right, but it wasn’t that easy for me. It was like almost re-wiring my old- old habit. And the very same day I got an email from a very dear friend for a workshop on art based therapy that was happening in Mumbai and I was in a dilemma whether to go or not. Then I remembered the YES-AND exercise which I should try and I said YES to it. Thank you, Rish, for that, every time I say YES to anything new, I remember both of you. I got me introduced to Art based therapy (ABT) by being part of a five-day workshop where I met the founder of this organization called Khula- Aasman which is a non-profit organization that was using art based therapy for healing within the government homes of Mumbai with children and women at risk. I met the founder and she offered me to join without any formal interview and within a week I decided to move to a completely new city leaving my comfort zone and saying yes to the new beginning and started working. I finally felt that after a year I have got what I was looking for. ABT was the thing that I was looking forward to.
Sachi: Yes and we had the privilege of having you in Mumbai for almost a year thanks to Khula Aasman. So tell us more about ABT and what about it resonated with you and helped you feel unstuck in some ways?
Trupti: Places where I was working, I will start with that. Technically speaking the purpose of these homes is to provide safety and shelter to the population who are at risk. Once they enter these homes they are not directly exposed to the physical threat but the trauma that they have gone through that is not taken care by anyone. Because that part of them is not healed they keep revisiting the mental and emotional trauma which deteriorates their well being even more. In places like Mumbai, at a time the number is mostly in triple digits.
I will share a story which actually deepened my faith in ABT- I witnessed the journey of 6 girls who were rescued from trafficking and were staying at one of the government rescue homes in Mumbai. Just to give you a little background- These girls were below 18. They were from the neighboring country Bangladesh so when they were brought to the rescue home, they did not know the local language.
They were away from their homes for more than a year now. They were shy, sad, under confident, fearful and saw no hope ahead. Few of them even had suicidal thoughts. Due to high stress their sleep, appetite all had gone for a toss. And all of this would come out in the form of fights or behaviors that was harmful to them and to others. These were just the visible symptoms but if we go one step deeper their bodies were abused. For the first time, I realized that the memory wasn’t only limited to the mind but it was stored in their bodies also.
Dance movement was used as the main tool for healing and their inner worlds found a canvas for expression through movement. One of the most beautiful thing about ABT is that it starts from where the person is and in a very safe and non-threatening. Catharsis started happening through colors and through the metaphors that they played while telling stories or while molding their memories with a lump of clay. The women and children I worked with did not always have words to express themselves but here the medium and processes are such that the experience itself becomes so powerful. There is no right or wrong, no fail or pass criteria. All that one expresses is the expression of the inner-self and as Aristotle said- The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things but their inward significance.
To cut the long story short, these 6 girls not only healed themselves but later they asked us to train them as trainers so that they could do similar work with other girls. This was my first-hand experience of the power of ABT. What I like about ABT is that it doesn’t make the person dependent on the therapist or any drug but it makes the person self reliant gradually through simple ways. That is the power of ABT.
Sachi: That’s a great story, thank you for sharing but I also know that your work is not limited to ABT only or psychology per say. It’s also got a lot to do with what you do, which is related to who you are, like your presence or the circles that you conduct and your commitment to being in service to these women and children.
Currently, you are working in a government run home where there are women with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia, severe depression or retardation.There are women with HIV or physical deformities and burns and in the same complex there are adolescents girls and children who are abandoned and all though your role there is limited to counseling or psychology, when you go there you don't stop yourself from doing other things. I know a great story that Swara had shared with me. I saw the horrific pictures of it as well where all the girls who were staying in the same rooms couldn't sleep at night because they had so many lice in their hair and for three weeks the only thing Trupti did was bathing every child and applying the medicines and getting them rid of the lice and that is nowhere in your role or in the role of being a psychologist so can you share stories of the other approaches apart from ABT or counseling that you use with the kids and what are the small things that you do because that is really the uniqueness of your approach?
Trupti: It is so strange right though I studied psychology, no one taught me how to cope with my mother’s death or fear or failure. Of coarse I knew what to define my emotion theoretically but I did not know how to cope in my real life. There is a gap right between the theory And I felt few things that I studied as a limitation.
In psychology we use the term rapport formation as the first step to therapy. I took the longest to built rapport with the older group of women that I work with. As two of them are mute, there are women who does not speak the same language as I do, there is a mother who have lost her child and have gone numb, there are few who others who are abused in-spite of being mentally disabled. And my means to connect with all these women was a simple nail cutter. For a very long time none of them gave me an eye contact, few others would just look at me but wouldn’t respond. Few of them kept sleeping due to the side effect of medicines. But the worst that I felt was they responded out of fear as they looked at me as someone with authority. I wanted to change that narrative. Each day as I entered the premise I would just go and greet them whether they responded or not. I started doing small gestures like smiling or asking them how were they doing. And then gradually I started cutting their nails. I just kept doing without exchanging words and I see something shifting. They felt that someone cares for them too and our relationship started transforming and now I get smiles, Hify, and a very warm bye when I leave. They keep offering food or little gifts that they receive so selflessly. And I realized that the shift or the healing will only happen when there a deep tie, when there is friendship atleast in these work spaces. I am even considerate of the ethical framework as a psychologist and I even go through a conflict when they offer a bite with so much love or when a girl with severe trauma just came running and hugged me. I don’t have answers to it.
Similarly with children also while cultivating few habits and values I had to choose different methods. Children learn more through observation then through instructions and so more the telling them what they are suppose to do, I started with small practices like putting shoes in line, cleaning beds and cupboards with them, teaching them how to bathe by actually bathing them, doing a minute of silence before our session. And they picked it up gradually.
They are children from the streets or from families where no one was taking care. In the age where they need care, they are taking care of themselves and of their siblings. They need to be taught in a gentle and creative way. Now all of this actually doesn’t come under the official role or under the hat of a psychologist, but I feel these are the basics and once these are taken care, we can move to the next step. I don’t know if this approach is right or not. . but it feels okay for now.
Sachi: That is awesome. Thank you so much for sharing that. I was reminded of a short story of a place where I recently went to one of the biggest social work institutes in Mumbai and I was sharing one of these practices that I do and the person said, “oh these ideas are great for outcomes can you please theorize it and tell me what are the tools and techniques you used in this” and I was like how do you even theorize something like that. I wonder how can one put these techniques into psychology books and in a curriculum.
Trupti: What you said is true Sachi. They look at these women or children as a liability. I spend two hours and they spend the whole day but then also I feel there is a disconnection between them. I feel it is because they operate from there define role and I don't. Like when you shared the lice incident, my saturation point came when the staff informed me that they were using phenyl to wash the hair of children which is generally used to clean bathrooms. This I feel is being insensitive. It was only a matter of taking responsibility for a consistent time. I took that thing up and started oiling and washing hair and in three weeks we were done. I even had to take care of my limitation in a way where I have to see that they don't feel intruded at any level. I keep taking small steps like this which eventually leads to some good work. There is this gap between the inmates and the staff which I try to bridge in a way. Recently there was a girl who was suffering from urine infection which she did not share with the staff. When she could not tolerate she shared with me and later I informed the staff.
The staff said that they will take the requires action but even complained about her growing misbehavior where she has been using abusive language and throwing anger tantrums on the staff. I sat with her and she shared about how she was going through a dilemma whether the parents with whom she is staying is her real parents or not. She shared that how she was staying in Kolkata till the age of 4 and later was brought here and since then she has been staying with another family who even forced her for sex work. With all this internal dialogue of whether to trust them or not, whether to take back the complaint that she had lodged against her current mother or to go to them or not, all this was coming out in the form of anger and misbehavior. Now bringing this angle or perspective to the staff is what I have been trying to do to mitigate the friction between them and to make them sensitive to what a child goes through. The misbehavior that we see outside is the manifestation of something of deep concern is what needs to be understood.
And these small little things that I do, I being in my own learnings from different spaces, different people from whom I am learning. So I don't restrict my work to a certain frame or role.
Sachi: I think it is not only the children who are seeing you it is also the staff who is seeing you and that is why this is the place where most people will not be allowed but you are given such free entry.
This is really hard work and I know you don't think that this is hard work but you are meeting emotions which are so traumatic and difficult and you are constantly coming across people who are so broken in some ways and so how does that affect you and how do you keep yourself healthy in places like that and keep yourself sane?
Trupti: When I started doing this work, my sisters and lots of friends warned me of the burn out that one goes through because of the extreme emotions that one encounters in these spaces. Somehow I feel that this work comes to me very naturally. Like supposedly if I am made to design websites or may be doing the accounts that would really stress me up and so I don't feel that this work is difficult as it comes to me in a very organic way. But yes I do feel vulnerable especially when I am working with children. What strengths my work is this beautiful community that I have, the presence of elders, few practices like prayers, silence, reflective spaces like Awakin circles helps me ground myself.
Sachi: One is that you lost your mother at a really young age and at the same time I also know that you have a close relationship with Arun dada and you served Meera ba when she was dying. How was that for you like? The impact of your mother's loss and then your understanding of death because I know it has changed overtime so what was that like?
I have seen death of my mother very closely and there have been many deaths in our family. I always associated death with a lot of pain and intense emotions. And I had made a very strong image of death. I remember Ba and Dada sharing about how the aura that they saw when Vinoba ji passed away. It was a celebration. I could not comprehend this especially when I knew how closely they have worked with him. Meera ba’s death gave me a glimpse of that celebration, a whole new perspective of looking at death this way. It was a celebration of the way she lived her life. For sure after her passing away there is a void of her wisdom, of having first-hand information of her experiences or perspectives but her brought this very beautiful aspect of how one should live a life where it can be a celebration. Dada on that day also was serving people with his songs. And with continuous chants of shubh mangal ho, she was taken for her funeral and her farewell seemed so light, so pious. That’s when I realized that I took so much time to come out of my mother’s death not because I loved her so much but because of the dependency that I had on her or because of my insufficiency The clinging was to my comfort and the pain was of the discomfort that I went through during her illness or after her death. Ba’s death shifted something in me which shifted my view of my mother's death. Now I don’t miss her instead I can feel her presence.Those few days with them has shifted my definitions of death and the ways of living life.
I am absolutely grateful to hear from you in this form. In all the time that we spent together, this is the first time I am hearing about the type and the extent of work that you do and also the motivation behind it.
I am going to read you a couple of comments that have come through the web. This is from David Doane:
“Love and Compassion are very important than healing and often not enough. why isn't skilful intervention is often also needed and aesthetic is very important and typically not enough . Aesthetic may eliminate or cover the pain and it takes surgery to eliminate the problem or source of the pain. The right combination of compassion and skill and aesthetic and surgery work together very well.”
Throughout this conversation one of the things you've shown is how you have come to a place of balance between skilful intervention as well as an aesthetic and surgery.
Thank you again for sharing that.
I had the privilege of meeting your father and one of your sisters and it is very clear to me that your family is very unique not just in terms of what they hold dear but what they encourage and how they encourage you to follow what you do. Certainly what you shared earlier in the conversation about the values that a family holds dear or what you can hold on to during the times of crisis, that becomes your North Star rings true from what I've seen from your family.
Could you share ways in which your parents; your mother while she was there, your father and your sisters; have influenced you and shaped this journey of yours.
Trupti: I am the youngest in the family and I think that's a privilege. I keep telling people that the hard work is done by my sisters and my family and I am just walking down the path and just eating the fruits. That's true because everything that is happening around me, the people I am associated with or the experiments that are happening here are because of them. I was just sharing with my sister this evening, I don't have to actually go out; all that I need is inside, under one roof. It is such a privilege specially when I work in such spaces where people don't have families, where they don't have siblings. When I was working with victims of human trafficking, I was just thinking of all the blessings I have - to have a family, parents and siblings. Each time I would step into that home, and I would look into those faces or listen to their stories, gratitude kept on flowing. Each member of my family brings in a different quality and like children learn through observation, I have learnt observing them. Literally all the little things I am doing right now, are because of them. Each and everything that I do is all introduced by them.
Rish: I think people actually know how amazing your family is. There is a comment from Rahul and he is complaining how one family can have so many stars! The wisdom of Jignasha; the effervescence of Swara -- your two sisters and the beginner’s mind of Trilok uncle.
Another question that has come up around your experiments. The time when you shaved your head one fine day to donate for wigs for cancer patients. Could we learn more about that? What inspired you to do that?
Trupti: As a child I was super obsessed with my hair. I used to comb my hair before going to sleep, keep my comb under my pillow and the first thing I used to do on waking up was comb my hair again. Later on when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I had heard that people lose their hair because of the treatment therapy. My mom had long pretty hair and instead of praying for her to get well, I started praying to God to keep her hair as it is. Just because I was very scared to see her without hair. Thankfully she retained her hair till she died. But I didn't realize that subconsciously there was so much of attachment that was building and that was growing stronger and stronger. Later when I went for my 10-day sit, there was this dhamma server who was serving and I saw her without hair and I was shocked. As time went, I realized I had so much attachment with hair and that this isn't a great thing. There is also this association of beauty with hair. I thought it was too much.
My birthday was coming closer and I decided to break this attachment. So I went and told them to shave off my hair. Initially I closed my eyes and did not look when my hair was falling down but then I felt no, I should actually see. When I saw, I could see all the baggage, all the attachment, all the social and emotional association that I have.. it started falling off.
After that, now, I feel so much lighter. On a lighter note I used to tell people that I am saving up on oil, shampoo, water and so much time spent on hair!
This incident taught me a lot to actually give away things that I was holding, especially at materialistic level.
That's the story.
Kozo: There is a well known story in Hawai about a therapist Hew Len, he went the asylum for the criminally insane. He didn't see a patient. He just went into his office and opened the files of these patients and just said a prayer -- "Please forgive me. I am sorry. I love you. Thank you" over and over again. And then he would go to the next file and do the same. And the patients got better. Within 8 years they shut down the ward for the criminally insane because they didn't have any patients coming through.
I felt a very similar energy in what you are doing in this home for women and children and I am wondering if you could share any stories about maybe not so much of acts of kindness but just of thoughts and prayers and well wishes. Or just the demeanour when you walk around the hospital, how that affects the patients and the staff.
Trupti: Thank you Kozo for sharing that story and this question. Once I was cutting nails and there was this woman, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and she was talking to God. We were talking about God and I asked if she knew any prayers. She said she doesn't but if I do, if I can sing for her. I actually started singing. Sometimes we do such small things that don't fall under any psychological theme.
Simple experiments like while we were planting plants, we actually prayed for the plants. When we walking outside with the children, we went and hugged the trees. I actually believe in such little things where at the actual physical or mental level the actions are not doing much but at a metaphysical level there is a lot that is happening and shifting and something is changing within the higher consciousness.
These are a few experiments that we do.
Sachi: I also want to ask you a question about your family. You shifted from Africa to India when you were 7 years old and I know that was a tough transition for you. Can you share a little bit about that.
Trupti: Yes Sachi. My birth place is actually Africa and I stayed there for 6 years and after that the whole family shifted to India. I was only 6 years old but I had a very strong resistance. I don't know why, but I remember when my mother was packing our bags, she had to actually lock me inside a room because I just wasn't letting her pack the bags. Till I turned 18 or 20, every year I would remind my dad that it wasn't a great decision to shift to India. I think the reasons behind it were of course we had to adjust socially, culturally but one thing that strongly affected me was the financial part. My father's business didn't go very well here and later he actually had to shut his factory and since then there was a feeling of scarcity. As a child I remember I had even started stealing. I remember once I was just walking down and I saw a packet of cheese slice in my neighbour's dustbin which I had eaten.
Today when I think about it, I don't know if it was actually scarcity or maybe it was just in the air. This scarcity part actually took a very long time for me to see the abundance side. The walking pilgrimage that I did, shifted the whole thing. Even Awakin circles; when Jignasha started it, every Wednesday I used to walk out of the house. The reason I used to give was how can we open up our space for strangers when we ourselves don't have enough. I used to ask questions, who will pay for the food, for the electricity. It was only later when I experienced so much of kindness, so much of generosity that things shifted. But those years, I suffered a lot with scarcity. Now I don't cry.
Of course I will go to Africa one day but I am peaceful with the transition.
Sachi: I was also thinking that Arun Dada, a Gandhian grandfather who is living in Baroda, has been a great inspiration and influence for you and your family. Is there any particular story that comes to your mind which has particularly influenced you?
Trupti: I am reminded of two stories which I see has influenced me in great ways. One was when Arun dada had gone to Cyprus as a shantisainik (Peace maker) during a time of communal tension between the Greeks and Turks. The sun was about to rise, he was out for his morning walk. On his way he saw a bunch of boys laughing at him may be because of the way he looked or may be the way he was dressed that is what he said. He kept walking in their direction towards the hill top. As he went close, one boy ran inside the nearby tent and brought out an air gun and pointed at him. Dada did not know if these boys were Greeks or Turks, he did not speak their language. Dada went close while the gun was still pointing towards him. Dada paused, looked into his eyes while patting on the boy's shoulder, smiled and said ‘hello' and started walking up the hill. He spent few minutes there watching the sunrise, offered his morning prayers and started walking down. The same boys ran to their tents as they saw dada walk towards them and this time they offered him two fistfuls of almonds.
Dada very gently shared, ‘I do not know what got transformed in those moments when I said hello and put my hand on his shoulder but what I remember even today are the smiles and laughter that we exchanged. What would be his inner cultivation that turned the guns down and shifted the offerings from gun to almonds is something that I have been constantly thinking upon.
Another story is of the time when dada shared about his experience of his 14 years of satyagrah against the biggest slaughter house in Mumbai which has the capacity to slaughter 10,000 cattle at a time. Every 15 days he traveled from Bhavnagar to Mumbai for 14 years to protest with the tools like non violence, compassion, and love. This is one part of the story. Another part of the story was that he noticed a butcher who use to speak in a very abusive manner. Dada called him one day and asked, do you believe in God? He said yes. Dada further asked him, how many times do you remember him in a day? He said not much as his days are pretty busy. So dada gave him a task, he asked him to put a tally mark on the number of times he used abusive words and the number of times he remembered God in a day's time. Dada with all his gentleness told him to report the count at the end of the day. The first day he came to dada and said that he could keep the count only for an hour as it is really a very tough job as I keep using bad words so frequently. Dada said not to worry, just keep continuing the work. This went on for days together. One day the butcher came to him and said dada I know bad with keeping the counts but I am seeing the difference that is coming in the ration. Personally, I got confused with the fact that how can dada show so much compassion to the person who is part of something for which dada has been working so hard. That is when he shared that the nonviolent protest was only against the system and not against any individual person. Dada tried to see the goodness in him; he started establishing that bond and deep friendship with him and this was a big reminder for me in so many ways. When I heard this story I was so moved by the dedication and persistence that dada and so many would have put for such a noble cause and I decided to quit non vegetarian food on the very same day. Though I decided then and there I did not tell him as I did not want to operate out of emotions. It was only after two days I went to him and told him loud that from today I will not indulge myself into anything that will harm others. He had no intention to change me, he did not even know that I was a non vegetarian but what got transformed is I feel his years of cultivation.
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