Thursday, 5 May 2011

Parvathy Baul and the scorpion

One gurubitten to another :

When our eyes met, something happened.
something was said.
something was acknowledged.
but what?

She had long dreadlocks. my second thought when i saw her, 'why doesn't she comb her hair?'
and i realize, with a start, that she has done the equivalent of what I did long back
: shaving my head.
she had done away with combing her hair!

Parvathy Baul, the singing and dancing sadhak from bengal. I want talk to her about Shree Ramakrishna, one of my first obsessions.
'Yes, we shall talk about Ramakrishna. I love him.' she replies.

What more can one say about him after this?

I hear her story during an informal talk during a sleepy afternoon. ( Most afternoons were sleepy in Malwa, probably that's why I didn't feel the heat at all ).

Paravati: I have been with two gurus. The first one taught me seven songs in seven years. The second one taught me forty songs in a day. I tried running away to south India to escape being a baul. But I was hunted down and packed back to Calcutta.

Question: Why did you transit between two gurus?

Parvathy: Well, the first one told me to go to the second one. The second guru was ninety seven when I met him. He had no intention to take on one more disciple, let alone a woman disciple. First of all, he was so difficult to track down. I would reach a village and they would tell me, he has just left. Again and again. Finally, I had to bribe the women of a village with a song, so that they keep him till I come the next morning.
'I will have to check with my wife. If she does not like you, then the answer is no,' this is what the master told me when I met him and asked him to teach me.
I waited outside their house in the wilderness and was finally called inside for the verdict. As I get up to go inside, I realized that I was almost sitting on a scorpion.
'You can hang around for a few days. Only, we have no space for you inside the house. You will have to sleep outside. And we have no extra blanket either.'
They thought I would run away. But I had given my word to my earlier guru.

A guru is someone who gives you Chunawti. Challenge.

And so I slept with scorpions without a blanket for a month, after which I was allowed to sleep inside the house. After three years of learning songs after songs, my second guru passed away at the age of hundred. I asked him if he would like me to stay by his samadhi and sing and dance by myself, which I like the most. He said no chance, I have to go out and dance for the world. I have to tell them that one can go deep in something without fear.

You can ask me questions now, but keep them related to the Guru-disciple relationship. It's my favorite topic."

Question: How does one know when to trust a Guru?

Parvathy: Trust is actually a thing about yourself than the other. If you trust yourself, you will know when to trust the guru. It is very important to surrender to your art form, a surrender which has rigor and discipline. Its no use learning two songs from here, two from there. Immersing yourself totally in one tradition gives you a halo, an aura of protection when you are performing.

Don't expect another Ramakrishna to come to you. Those days were different. To live in this world, the Guru has to pick up some dust off the earth. The same dust that makes your body, makes the Guru's body. And once you have accepted someone, he is like your own life. "

And then she looked across two rows of heads at me and said, 'Even if your Guru goes to a prostitute, do not shake in your adherence.'

Now I know what the look said.
the mad scorpion who bit her.
was the Guru.

( Posted by Manjushree Abhinav. Fellow Yatris, please send in your impressions soon. )