ममैवांशो जीवलोके जीवभूत: सनातन: | मन:षष्ठानीन्द्रियाणि प्रकृतिस्थानि कर्षति॥
A part of Myself alone is in the form of the eternal jīva in the world of beings. He pulls the five sense organs, with the mind as the sixth, which reside in the body – Purushotama Yoga.
It has been months since I joined the Gita class. The lady who conducted the class was middle aged and a secondary school teacher. I was familiar with Mahabharata and had deep interest in the story of Krishna. I grew up listening to his stories, mischief, romance, fights, and wars. The Gita class made it even more interesting.
The class met during weekends for couple of hours. The teacher taught the participants to recite the Gita. I could not make out the meaning of the words, but I was instructed to join in the recitation along with the participants. The participants were mostly children of my age. It was like memorising poems as a standard assignment in the school. Soon I memorised and learnt to recite Dhyana, Bhakti Yoga and Purushottama Yoga shlokas without referring to a book.
It was Rii who had introduced me to the Gita class.
We always called him Rii. When I enquired his name with other children in the shakha or the branch, I was told to address him as Rii. Rii in kannada indicates respect.
Rii looked thirty and was the shakha leader. I was a member in the local RSS shakha. The shakha would meet in the evenings at a specific time for activities. It was convenient for me to join along with my circle of friends after school. The meetings were often scheduled in the open public ground close to my home.
The shakha activities would start with a flag hoisting, followed by warmup exercises and some yoga. We played variety of games after the exercises. The evening would conclude with a song or prayer. We would eventually disperse. Occasionally, the shakha hosted discussions including history, politics, and philosophy. The shakha was also involved in fund raising. I distinctly remember the 1977 Andhra Pradesh cyclone and the devastating effect it had killing thousands of people. Rii headed the fundraising activity in our area to support the cyclone victims. I had accompanied Rii during his door-to-door campaign talking to people for support and donation.
Rii took lots of interest in recommending people to join the Gita class. I liked the classes and enjoyed the recitation more than my school lessons. Gita portrayed a totally different dimension of Krishna.
I always imagined Krishna with the face of Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao or NTR for short. NTR had played the role of Krishna in many movies. NTR was elected as the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh having campaigned in the role of Krishna. The masses looked at him as lord Krishna to provide them equality and justice.
NTR brought alive the great qualities of Krishna in the silver screen. No actor can come close to NTR playing the role of Krishna. NTR and Krishna could replace one with the other. There are over fifteen movies where NTR has adorned the role of Krishna.
One such movie was Maya Bazaar. The movie was first released in 1957 long before I was born. I watched it in 1977 at the Shree theatre in Bangalore. Shree theatre is now demolished to make way for a multi storied mall. The experience of watching Maya Bazaar here was just as exotic. NTR brought alive the playful and wise Krishna on the screen. This is the love story between Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu and Balarama’s daughter Vatsala. NTR as Krishna uses his charm and wisdom to unite the couple. Maya Bazaar was magical with its special effects and miracles of Ghatothkacha. I thoroughly enjoyed NTR on the screen.
It was not long before a moment arrived when I turned to NTR for inspiration.
The teacher had enrolled some of us to participate in a Gita competition. The competition was organised in a prominent place in Bangalore to celebrate Gita Jayanthi. I was identified to recite Purushottama Yoga.
I never had any stage experience. I was very nervous. I was horribly worried it would go wrong. What will happen if I fumble? Besides, the teacher instructed us to sing the stanzas in a tone and not just recite. I simply cannot sing and there was no way I could take this seriously. I tried every way to opt out, but the teacher coaxed me to participate.
The day arrived. I showed up at the competition venue and sat in a corner near the stage. The venue had over five hundred people.
The competition commenced. I was tenth on the list. One by one they called each participant up on the stage to recite for fifteen minutes. Each participant was a step closer to my name. I was nervous. I was trembling when they called me as I walked up to the stage.
I introduced myself in front of the microphone. My voice was shaking and feeble. I took a deep breath and momentarily thought about Krishna. Krishna appeared in my mind with the face of NTR.
I wondered if Krishna sang the Gita to Arjuna in the battlefield as they showed in the movies. It seemed not. To motivate Arjuna, Krishna should have delivered a gripping and fiery speech. Like the way NTR delivered his film dialogues that was unmatched.
This was a sudden inspiration. I delivered Purushottama Yoga in a high pitch.
“O’ Arjuna. Neither the sun nor the moon nor fire illumines That. That is the Supreme Abode, reaching which they do not return”.
“And the yogis who are diligent see this one as existing in themselves. The non-discriminating ones who lack self-control do not see this even by remaining diligent”.
“When the master leaves it and even when he assumes a body, he departs taking these, as wind carries away odours from their receptacles”.
I was looking at the ground most of the time during my speech.
I was done in ten minutes.
The audience gave me an applause and plenty of cheers.
I was surprised to receive a consolation prize when the results were announced. I happily walked home with a mini trophy.
It was Krishna in the form of picture-perfect NTR who came to my rescue at the end.