A seven day sojourn at Nisargpocharashram, Urli Kanchan
DAY 1 – 18th September 2009

On the 18th of September 2009, a Honda city drives into the hallowed ashram. Out walk three of us in appropriately impressive sunglasses. And step into the office. Three reasonably simple women stare at us with a combination of surprise and amusement. Surprise because we are (by the standards here) too thin to be here. And amused because they don’t think we can last out here.

Getting here was a story in itself. We left Mumbai at 8 am – pretty early by our standards – or so we thought on 18th of September. (Now we are in the realms of 5 am!) Knowing that we are now going on an ‘austerity drive’ we quickly stopped an hour later for a McDonald’s breakfast. And of course, yes, of course, my virtually last cup of coffee.

Coffee! That fuel that kept me going in Mumbai. “Oh” I said, nonchalantly, “I won’t need coffee out there. I’ll just sleep it off”. (Famous last words! But that’s another story, oops, blogpost, altogether.)
NF tucked in on waffles and maple syrup, we had a bit of hash browns and both of us had burgers and coffee. At 9 am, it seemed the right thing to do. We drove on to the Expressway to meet up with SS in Pune. Directions were given. Getting to a particular left turn after a toll naka was easy. Then we had to go on to the next landmark.
If you’ve been to any place in India and asked for directions, you’ll know that all roads lead to where you want to go. Most people usually tell you to go straight ahead no matter where it is that you want to go. You could be in Mumbai and ask for directions to Texas and you’d be told the same thing… “Straight ahead”. Not one person will admit that they don’t know the place. Not one soul will tell you how far it is. I am impressed at the way this nation has evolved in terms of relativity. If you ask someone how close your destination is, they’ll tell you it’s very close. No one talks in terms of distances as in kilometres, blocks or streets. Everything is “straight ahead”.
As today’s smart women, we were without a map but with explicit directions. Also being women, it was easy asking for directions. What was difficult was getting them. Our next landmark was Sancheti Hospital. Obviously, as you would have guessed it, the first person we asked told us it was straight ahead! “Poodhe ja”, he said. Go straight ahead. Yeah right. At this point we were at least 20 kms away from the desired landmark. On the ‘straight ahead’ route, we asked an auto driver thinking he would be more conversant with distances. “Saat-aath kilomeeter” (7-8 kilometres), he said with authority, much to our relief. Seven kilometres later we realised, he was one of the ‘straight ahead’ types. There was no sign of Sancheti hospital. We did see a lot many other hospitals though. Two more stops later we reached a signal where we could see Sancheti on our right. The idea unfortunately was to ‘see’ it. We realised later we need not have turned right towards it but having ‘seen’ it gone on ahead. The ‘straight ahead’ bit? We went wrong there. And plunged into a proper ‘Pune traffic snarl’.
So a few traffic snarls later we continued asking for directions. Our next destination was Central Mall where SS was waiting for us. We did reach the Mall. Only it was the wrong mall! Backtracking, we finally made it and were we thrilled?! The car boot space came in handy again as one more yoga mat got loaded in. We stopped at the Mall to pick up some bottles of water and have … yes… coffee. SS packed in a Chettinad Chicken Wrap! Oh! Would she remember it at mealtimes a day later!
Uruli Kanchan is only 30 kilometres away from Pune. SS carefully directed us out of the city and soon and we reached pretty much without incident.
And there we were. Sliding through the large gates of the Ashram, being directed by the security guard to the office.
Once in the office the key was to decide how the three of us would room in. There were no cottages or rooms of threes available. Our option was to take a double and a single room. Of course, we would not consider the options without seeing them. So the better part of 45 minutes went in one solitary and unwilling guy taking us through various rooms. Finally we selected two double rooms, one would have single occupancy.
The teen deviyaan at the reception were sufficiently relieved that we had come to a decision. The look of amusement had still not gone from their faces. We went through a rigmarole of files, signing registers and paying cashiers – at Window No. 2 which was not numbered! I told NF it was a secret. But finally we had registered and we were now dying to go to our rooms. But wait… it was almost 4 and we had to see the doctors before we did anything. So there we went to the assigned place where we weighed ourselves and waited for the doctor.
We were not to know that time, but in retrospect this place is about weight! And wait! The time spent in waiting is amazing. For those who read, one could finish ‘Gone with the Wind’, or in today’s day, ‘Shantaram’ (all the thousand pages) in a week while you wait. Okay, okay, it’s not so bad but it’s annoying when a laidback attitude keeps you waiting. Guess we have become too much of city buffs to even “wait and watch”.
We filled the file with personal history, met the doctor who then prescribed various ‘treatments’ for each of us depending on our complaints. With that was prescribed a diet which on the face of it looked pretty doable. It consisted of roti or rice, soup, salad, vegetable, chatni, and buttermilk.
By the time we finished with paperwork, it was time for dinner. 5:30 pm. The dinner bell went off. Since none of us had had lunch we were quite eager for dinner. And there it was. A princely meal of gourd (ahem!) mung soup, chutney, khichdi and a choice of rotis – bajri, jowar and wheat!
The portions were generous; we paid with food coupons and sat to eat our sumptuous meal! Eeeks! What was this! The food was salt free. Phew! There we were – our very first introduction to natural food – no oil, no spices, no salt in our food. Oh well, we thought, we’d be fine. And finally finishing dinner we wended our way to our rooms to unpack and start another – the real thing!
The treatments, the meals and more… coming up tomorrow!