My dad did a lot of good work for the village, but the Maoists didn’t think so, they thought otherwise. He was their target. One day they came and picked him up, took him to the jungle, tied him on a tree and beat him. They were going to kill him, but for some reason didn’t. Those were troubled times, but I wasn’t worried. My mother taught me as a child not to be worried about life. Good and bad are both part of it. God takes us through these times to test our faith in Him, and since a kid that’s all I’ve ever learnt: Everything is God, there is no other.
Kalyani’s mother was her first guru. Growing up in a tribal village of Shomadi in Jharkhand amidst farming, herding cows, buffaloes, and school, her mother constantly taught her that life has a meaning which goes beyond the mundane. “Who am I? What is my purpose and why was I born on this planet? These questions will always keep you in touch with your deeper self. It will keep the desire of learning alive,” her mother would whisper into little Kalyani’s ears while brushing her hair. These whispers took shape and formed Kalyani’s character. Her love for knowledge and books-both academic and spiritual, roused from a space of genuine learning rather than that of a social requirement. She went to Orissa, where she enrolled herself in a college. She loved Biology, and scored hundred percent in Math, but failed in English. It was a setback. Kalyani came back home. Instead of grieving about the failure, she looked at it from a broader perspective. ‘That’s the problem,’ she figured, ‘even though I was taught English in school, I failed, and so will other children.’ There was something missing in the education in these village schools. And she would change that. She would become a teacher and would teach children in ways they wouldn’t fail. She had found her ‘thing’ in life.
To be a good teacher, one needs to teach, and teach, and teach. She taught children at her home. The ones who could pay did, and the ones who couldn’t did not, and she never asked. She taught them all the same. She realized that she needed more training and experience, and it could only come from a school. Enter Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji into Kalyani’s life!
The only school in which children went everyday to learn was Sri Sri Gyan Mandir in Jajradih, a few villages away from Kalyani’s. She went and met the senior teacher who introduced her to Mohan da. As a pre-requisite, you had to be a graduate to teach, which she wasn’t. But, Mohan da saw something in her which a degree wouldn’t attribute in a young woman. He saw the brightness in her eyes and in it saw a spark. “Teach with the school for three months first, as seva, and then we’ll decide about further plans, and do the next YLTP (Youth Leadership Training Program) and the Part 1” he said smiling in his mind. Kalyani in her composed and calm manner smiled, inside she was thrilled. She taught her first class the next morning. It was a song, which the children surprisingly were singing in tune.
“Compared to the other school kids I teach at home, the kids of Sri Sri Gyan Mandir are so evolved,” she states, not knowing herself about how evolved she is compared to other contemporary women, (or maybe she knows). “Our school kids are so bright and filled with enthusiasm. Whereas the other kids are so dull. It’s definitely the energy, it’s the atmosphere that they learn in.”
Growing up, the atmosphere at Kalyani’s home and village was layered. Guns, farms, cattle, land, rebellion from the jungles, books, meditation; all occupied different layers. And she was nurtured, almost naturally into the social and the spiritual aspect of life. “My mother taught me how to meditate. It really helps me to be in a calm space. But there was definitely something that was not letting me reach that ultimate state of calmness. Then one day in the year 2011, I experienced ‘Sudarshan Kriya.’ For the first time in my life, I understood what meditation does. You have to be absolutely open to experience that, and Sudarshan Kriya opens you. It is so beautiful. I knew that the answers of all the questions, mine and the ones that were whispered into my ears, I would find from the one who created the Sudarshan Kriya,” she smiles as she slowly looks down and says, “I want to have a long conversation with Gurudev, so many things to ask him.”
“People don’t know him, a lot of them. But then they have to do the course and experience Sudarshan Kriya to get a glimpse of who he really is. The YLTP transforms the way you think about the society and the country. After doing the workshop, it just got more defined that I’m here on this earth to do service, and to teach children. And my guru’s working through me, rest of the things, I find quite frivolous,” she smiles.
Kalyani is a full time teacher at Sri Sri Gyan Mandir and a Yuvacharya. She loves teaching children as much as she loves talking to the tribals and the villagers about the destructiveness of child marriage. “It is a major issue in the villages of India. They get girls married at the age of twelve, sometimes to men twice their age. By the time the girl is eighteen, she’s already bore five kids. Family planning is unheard of in these jungles,” says Kalyani, with a tinge of discomfort and concern in her tone. “It can only be inculcated through proper education and awareness.”
Kalyani is calm but fearless. Her centered disposition behind her charming smile captures your attention almost instantly. She talks about education with her fellow tribals as effortlessly as she inspires them to sit for ten minutes and meditate everyday. She teaches children as beautifully as she talks to youth about her Master, Gurudev. In the context of the current scenario in the heartlands of our country, Kalyani believes that when everything that should result in peace and democracy fails, spirituality takes shape and manifests as the change that the environment needs. And she, in her little way is doing just that.
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Writer: Eben Felix, Graphics: Niladri Dutta