Preparing the ground.
I first met Chott during a summer vacation when I was in middle school. I was introduced to him by a friend of mine. I never knew his complete name and for some reason he was always called Chott.
Chott was a tall man and nearly six feet in height. He had a pot belly and a tilak in the middle of his forehead. He wore a white shirt and his hair was swept into a pony tail.
Chott taught transcendental meditation or TM for short. He seemed eager to teach TM especially to school children.
One day Chott invited us and gave an elaborate lecture on TM. He said we should seriously consider getting initiated into this practice. He added spice to the introduction saying that an aspect of TM is yogic flying or levitation. Yogic flying enables meditators with dedication to lift their body above the ground and literally fly.
Transcendental meditation technique was originally developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and he was a guru and leader of a worldwide organisation. Maharishi was the guru to Beatles and the Beach Boys for a decade in 1960’s. He taught the yogic flying technique where practitioners claimed they could levitate.
TM seemed exciting and learning the art of yogic flying even more. We promised Chott to meet him the following Sunday afternoon for initiation. We were told to bring a piece of white cloth, flowers and fruits for the initiation.
But Chott had a condition that surprised all of us.
Guru and his disciples.
Chott laid a condition that we accept him as our guru. There is a price for learning TM and he will not charge us. We gladly accepted his condition and go an extra mile to learn the art of levitation.
We met him on a Sunday afternoon as agreed at his residence for the initiation session. We had a guru in Chott and he had his first set of four disciples in us.
The program started with oblation to the guru by offering a piece of white cloth, flowers and fruits. The initiation commenced and it lasted ten minutes. He uttered a sound in our ears and asked us to repeat the sound in our minds for ten minutes. This was the mantra, a verbal sound that had no meaning and we were asked to simply repeat and focus.
Each of us were given a unique sound or mantra with a condition that we do not share with anyone. It was different matter that we shared the mantra out of curiosity with each other after the session. We were instructed to continue this meditation for thirty minutes daily and a promise to meet Chott once every two weeks.
As newly initiated disciples, we decided to collectively meditate and agreed to promptly meet in the evenings in a common place at seven every day. Our days to levitate are not far away. Very soon we expected to find ourselves in the air above the ground during one of the group meditation sessions.
The meditation sessions happened on the terrace of a two storied building just after sunset. The parents were tricked by informing that we were in a group study to ward off any suspicion. An enthusiastic member brought a vintage alarm clock to set the timer. This old-fashioned alarm clock could wake even the sleepiest of sleepy heads with its loud alarm.
It was a common practice during meditation to quietly open the eyes and check on others. A giggle will follow if you are caught in the act.
And our meditation sessions progressed.
It was two weeks and as promised, we landed in Chott’s house on a Sunday morning to report progress. Chott had been working on a master plan and was preparing to share with us.
A shock in waiting.
Chott was keen to know the progress and our commitment to the practice. We described to him our daily routine.
He now unveiled his master plan. It was a perfect plan to bring a message to the world. A plan for people to come on board and queue up to be initiated. The first part of the master plan was excitedly described to us. This will launch Chott as a full-fledged guru to the local community.
To enable his launch, Chott will give a speech to the local residents. He will meet and discuss how to attain inner peace and live a happy life. The event will be free and the expectation was for a large number of the local residents to attend.
A marketing plan was ready and our tasks cut out. He pointed us to a bundle of pamphlets lying on the coffee table. A campaign had to be initiated and the pamphlets distributed to the local residents.
The one page glossy pamphlet described Chott the spiritual guru who is to set to bring breath of fresh air, rooted in reason, fact, experience and imagination. It was unique opportunity for the local residents to listen to the guru and to be a part of this highly spiritual evening. The master will deliver a lecture and show the path towards enlightenment. This opportunity is not to be missed.
The speech was scheduled to be delivered at 6:30 on a Sunday evening at a local tutorial college located in the first floor of a residential street. It had a hall big enough to accommodate about fifty people.
Our task was cut out to deliver pamphlets door to door and cover one hundred and fifty households. The expectation was for thirty participants to turn up for the event.
And we hit the road right away.
Door to Door we distributed answering strange door drop questions. We had variety of answers for same questions. We finally retired to our homes after a day of hard work.
It was D-Day Sunday for the big event. Chott had reached the venue 30 minutes early expecting a packed house.
And we had arrived late for the important event. It was past seven in the evening as we climbed the stairs of the tutorial college building to the first floor. We opened the door to the great hall expecting a floor full of people, least did we expect a shock in waiting.
Fitting the engines
As the door opened, Chott was standing erect on the stage with his back towards us. His long hair spread in waves over his shoulders. The little squeak from a ceiling fan above the stage filled the room.
He turned slowly towards us with his hands gripping his waist as he stared at the empty hall. The silence in the hall was killing with empty chairs. It was only the guru and his four disciples standing and staring at each other. The campaign had failed and none turned up to hear the maiden speech.
Chott cleared his throat and said “I feel this should have been done better”. Hiding the disappointment Chott continued to say “we should not stop the campaign. This event will again be rescheduled for next Sunday evening at 6:30”.
Chott discussed the onus on us to ensure this does not happen the second time. He would except to see a full house next Sunday. The campaign should be effective and achieve maximum impact. The disciples were under great pressure to deliver to expectations with tight deadline.
The four of us met late in the evening and decided to restart the campaign the following day. We will again deliver pamphlets door to door and cover one hundred and fifty households. How do we ensure the success of the campaign? We raked our middle school brains to find a solution and came up with a novel idea. It was decided that the following message will be handwritten on each pamphlet.
“Secret revealed: Watch the yogi levitate! Don’t miss live flying demonstration”.
This was it. The punch line. The attention grabber to excite the entire community.
The handwritten text was added and pamphlets distributed with renewed enthusiasm the next day.
The D-Day Sunday for the big event arrived. Chott informed us that he will be at the venue hall one hour before the scheduled start time.
It was 5:30 PM and the four of us nervously waited at the corner of the street leading to the tutorial college. Whether the event will turn out to be a success or a failure, time alone will tell.
The final countdown.
We waited patiently in anticipation on the empty street leading to the venue. It felt as though time was passing a tad slower than normal. It was only ten minutes more before Chott’s speech was to begin and panic seem to set in.
As we waited, out of nowhere came a group of men walking towards us. And we saw a large crowd following them. The crowd grew in size and volume with men, women and children thronging the sidewalk on the street.
A tall man from the crowd shouted “which direction do we go?” as we pointed down the street. He continued “we are looking forward to the evening and the demonstration”. Many in the crowd shouted in agreement as they walked towards the venue.
It was a nervous moment. Chott is sure to deliver an interesting speech but the flying demonstration will not happen. How will the crowd react? We did not want to get sucked into the whirlpool, so we decided we should skip the meeting after all. Later we agreed that one of us will attend and report back the proceeding.
We choose amongst us a reluctant volunteer to spy and report back. The rest of us decided to hang around on the street corner until he returned back.
It was 7:30 PM and one hour had passed as we waited patiently. We suddenly saw a stream of crowd members walking out of the venue. It wasn’t long before our spy emerged from the crowd walking briskly towards us. We hurriedly followed him and he described the happening as we walked along.
The event had promptly started at 6:30 PM and the main hall was packed with an excited crowd composed of men, woman and children. Chott started with a salutation and began with some humour and finally, around 10 minutes in, he moved on to the real meat of his speech, which was how to attain inner peace and live a happy life.
Thirty minutes into his speech, a section of the crowd was becoming impatient as one man stood up and asked “when can we see you levitate? We are here to see you demonstrate and hopefully learn how to reproduce it”. Chott was puzzled as the man waved the pamphlet and showed the neatly handwritten words “Secret revealed: Watch the yogi levitate! Don’t miss live flying demonstration”.
Chott was visibly annoyed and now had a task cut out to convince the crowd this wasn’t going to happen. He did his best to convince but a number of them were in disagreement and staged a walkout. A handful however decided to remain till the end and listen to him.
That was the last time we saw Chott in our lives and there was some guilt to it.
Chott had repeatedly sent word to us for a meeting and we never went.
We hoped those who stayed till the end and listened to him become his loyal disciples and continue to explore inner peace and the art of yogic flying. A silver lining and positive end to the campaign.
(Based on a real life event sprayed with some pepper and salt.)