Kirtan Mandali

Remembering Here&Now

Another excerpt from Veena’s ‘Glimpses of my Master’ which is now also available as a paperback

This story reveals something of the love and compassion of an enlightened Master – also his availability, his humanity, and his respect and care for his disciples.

After a few weeks of staying in Bombay, Bhagwan told me it would be good for me to join the ‘Kirtan Mandali’ which had just started in Gujarat. A ‘Kirtan Mandali’ is an occupation of traditional sannyasins who wander in groups from village to village discoursing on religion, instructing in meditation and singing religious songs for everyone to participate in – a much enjoyed form of worship in rural India.

A group of our ‘neo’ sannyasins had just started to move around Gujarat, talking about Bhagwan, demonstrating his meditations, and singing and dancing and playing music. I wasn’t too keen on the venture as it was now April and the heat in India in April is for me unbearable. Bhagwan waved my feeble objections away and told me to leave tomorrow.


Tomorrow! How could I get a train ticket for tomorrow! In those days train services in rural India were appalling and to get a ticket one had to stand in mile-long queues ten days in advance of the journey. I had had some horrendous experiences of this kind on my Indian travels.

Bhagwan smiled in understanding — he was later to entertain us with many hilarious tales about Indian trains — but told me to go immediately and get a ticket. He then told me I was to get off at a small town called Palanpur, and join the ‘Kirtan Mandali’.

Well, I had already learned that one doesn’t argue with the Master so with a fatalistic feeling I went off to the train booking office. My heart sank to the ground when I saw the queue was at least a mile long. I immediately became the welcome diversion-for-the-day for the all-male queue (Indian women don’t do this task) which now had something to focus its attention on to while away the boring hours. I passed two kind of ‘check-in’ points where I was told with absolute certainty that there was no possibility of getting a seat, let alone a sleeping berth, for the next night.

Still I waited.

Three hours later I made it to the ticket office.

‘One seat, ladies compartment, tomorrow night, please,’ I said.

‘No problem,’ said the clerk and handed me the ticket.

I was speechless. Nothing like that had happened to me in all my Indian travels. The clerk obviously enjoyed my shock.

‘Cancellation,’ he beamed, wagging his head in true Indian fashion.

So I left the next evening, safely ensconced in the ladies’ compartment. Travelling in the ladies’ compartment of a train can be a delightful experience as Indian women are insatiably curious and want to know all about you as well as share their own stories. I learned much about India during my journeys in the ladies’ compartment.

Next morning, a bit bleary, I glanced at the station at which we were stopped and, in tiny letters under the large Hindi ones, I read ‘Palanpur’. This was my stop! I threw as much stuff into my backpack as I could and, as the train started moving, threw the rest and the backpack out of the window, ran for the door and jumped off the train. I picked everything up, took a shaky breath, and looked around. Where in all creation was I? The place was deserted. All I could see for miles was sand – with a lone camel in the distance. There appeared to be no town. I was in the middle of nowhere. Dead silence. Nobody.

Full of trepidation I walked to the unguarded exit, exciting the curiosity only of an old beggar outside the wicket. There was a road, so I thought I had better take it, and I started a slow trudge through the dust and heat. Somewhere out there, I supposed, there must be some sannyasins. I presumed I would find a town and then follow the sound of singing until I found them.

But after a while a vehicle appeared on the road and screeched to a halt beside me. God, what now! Two men dressed in white, wearing Nehru caps, jumped out, salaamed and politely indicated I was to get into the car. One helpfully started to take my backpack off my back. My heart was beating pretty fast by now and I thought, ‘I am not going to get into a car with two strange Indian men in the middle of nowhere.’ They were so insistent, however, that I thought, ‘Well, maybe I am going to get into a car with two strange Indian men in the middle of nowhere.’ They seemed pretty sure about it. So I got into the car, was handed an ice-cold Limca to drink, and was driven off – all in total silence.

Soon a town appeared, which was reassuring, and finally the car entered a quite extraordinarily beautiful garden, full of palm trees, exotic flowers, hundreds of brightly coloured parrots and at least five strutting peacocks. My companions jumped out, opened the door for me, presented me with my backpack, pointed ahead, salaamed and vanished – all, as usual, in silence.

I was left alone to survey this Arabian Nights-type paradise.

Not for long. Suddenly an orange-clad Indian sannyasin came running out of a door.

‘They found you!’ she cried.

And went on to explain that Laxmi had called that morning, on Bhagwan’s instructions, to ask for someone to pick me up, but that the car had some trouble so they were a little late. She ushered me into an air-conditioned room, fed me beautiful food and then directed me to a room to sleep in.

Again that overwhelming feeling of wonder at this Master. He had thought of everything and taken so much trouble to arrange for care to be taken of me.

Excerpt from ‘Glimpses of my Master’ by Veena
Read another excerpt: An Extraordinarily Ordinary Man
Print on demand (paperback) or e-book versions:
Review by Bhagawati: Glimpses of my Master by Veena

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