Couple of masala-teas later,when the shock of the situation had been absorbed, I started figuring out how best to utilize my time before the registration (which was to start at 1400hrs).
AY had already told me about a good trek to Bhagsu village, but I needed to freshen up and dump my stuff somewhere. The chai shop owner told me that I could go into the center office once it opens at 0900 hrs and use the facility even before registering.
So sharp at 9, I walked into the campus;told the guy that I just reached a little early for the registration and needed a place. He asked me to dump my stuff in the dorm and showed me where the showers etc were. Now, this dorm was one damp place as there were no brick walls to it- it was just a tin-roofed place with plastic sheets as walls and partitions. Given how much it rains at Dharamsala, you can well imagine how the place would have looked. As I walked into the dorm, I kept telling myself, that this doesnot look like a place which is used to house students, so I need not worry! I took a quick shower, packed my camera & stepped out to have a look around.
It was a beautiful day, with the sun shining brightly every time it dodged the clouds. I took a small road downhill and was clicking at the corn fields when this Aussie came up. We both acknowledged how lovely the day was and started talking about Vipasanna- he had already done the course sometime in the last 2 months that he had been at Dharamsala.
He said he was on his way to Bhagsu to move into a different guest house.He had a habit of moving into a different locality every 15 -20 days so that he could get to see and experience more.
His only comments about Vipasanna were – “Mr Goenka is a funny man and he will make you laugh in the evenings….”
I spent some time @ Bhagsu and then decided to trek back to the center to be on time for the registration process. As we were waiting infront of the office, exchanged brief introductions with a lot of people – an Indian priest who looked all of 30 and said he couldn’t say where he was from as he has been on a spiritual journey for many years, a lady from NZ who was working in Rajasthan with NGOs, a Brit who was training to be a TaiChi teacher…..
Given that it was Dharamsala, more than 70% of the students were foreigners…even the volunteer helpers for the course were all foreigners… I couldn’t stop wondering that isnt it a shame, that its a technique which originated here (didn’t know that Goenkaji was Burmese) is being tested, adopted and accepted more by people from abroad. What is it with us? And the only answer that came to me was that we are more skeptical than others in such matters.
The registration started a little late but was managed very smoothly, we were asked to deposit all valuables including any reading/writing materials; asked to sign a form saying we will not “run away” from the course or atleast try our best;given a laundry bag each and finally given a detailed set of instructions on how to conduct ourselves. And then came the shock!
I was told that my room is B4- B being the alphabet that adorned the dorm – I wasnt sure I had heard it clearly so I asked again- “Do you mean that dorm out there?” and they said yes. Am not kidding you, but I really thought I should just pick my already-packed bags and leave. There was no way I was going to spend 12 days in that damp place- the morning trailer had told me what to expect.
But somehow I didn’t say anything and just stepped outside and it occurred to me that if these other guys can sweat it out there so can I. I also realised that its the old students and the aged first timers, who were being given the “better rooms”. So I told myself that see the whole Vipasanna thing is a test. And as Al Pacino says in “The Recruit”- “Everything is a test”- maybe this is also a test- just that mine got a notch tougher than some others.
So I settled in into B4, which turned out to be half of an 8×8 enclosure that I was to share with someone else- our individual areas separated by a curtain.
You might be thinking, why am I sharing so many details about the infra etc when I should be talking about the course. I believe that most experiences are based on how you are feeling & thinking when the moment starts, so for you to understand how I felt through the course, its imperative that you see what I was thinking & going through on Day 0 :-). Maybe some of you will also land up in the dorm during monsoons – if you do lets compare notes…. ha ha
Also met this young chap who was in a really bad shape- altitude sickness symptoms he said. He said he would see how it goes and if it does not improve he would quit in-between- but that would be a real shame ! Little did he know that he would become a source of motivation for me also…
On Day 0 they serve you light snacks at 5.00 and I had not eaten anything since morning except the toast I had with chai. So I decided to utilize the time meaningfully and stuff my tummy for the tough ride ahead…and then I realized that I had just submitted my wallet 🙁
I went down to the office again and asked the guy in-charge with valuables if I could open the sealed bag again (the one that I had just submitted 5 mins back !!!) and he ever so politely said- sure. That was the first time I realized that maybe these old students have more patience than normal folks- coz trust me even on my best day, I would have frowned upon such a request.
Stepped out, grabbed a heavy lunch and picked up a shawl and umbrella also on my way back- two things that would prove to be very useful in the next 11 days!