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Tune-Up With Dya Singh

JAMEL KAUR

 

 

 



Nanak so prabhu simeriyai / tis dehi kao paal

Tend to the physical body which enables you to worship The One. Look after it, nourish it, nurture it.

[Guru Granth Sahib]

 



Thirty of us from Canada, Scotland, India, Dubai, Malaysia, Australia and Singapore, some couples, some singles, descended on the Nagarjuna Ayurveda Centre in Kochi, Kerala, South India to join dad (Dya Singh) for a two to three week stay of naam simran, ailments diagnosis, ayurvedic therapies and herbal medicines, daily massages (two to three masseurs to one 'body') and good wholesome ayurveda-approved vegetarian (mainly South Indian) food cooked only in coconut oil and ghee (if oil was needed).

All for the price of a cheap roadside motel stay in any western country!

Never had this centre experienced Sikhs -- originally hailing from the North, but now converging from various corners of the globe! -- invade them on this scale!

Firstly, as a rule, Sikhs do not seek 'health' advice until they are afflicted by some ailments and are in dire straits. Then, especially urban and diaspora Sikhs,  go to a western trained doctor, get diagnosed and either take some pharmaceutical drugs or get operated upon.

Really, no one would think of going to an ayurvedic centre … especially if one is not sick!

Many in the older generation, I think, are rather prudish. Most have probably never allowed even their spouses to touch their bodies for years, and now they had to expose themselves to strangers, albeit professional therapists and masseurs who were going to manhandle all parts of the body, head to foot!

All new territory and rather daunting – whether it was for male, female, clean-shaven or keshadhari. The centre provides a disposal long cloth which keeps you modest.

I remember the legendary Khushwant Singh, a good friend of dad, once saying that one of the most important things in later life, if one is blessed with a longevity, is to find the right substitute for exercise when one is not able to do exercise, to the level of exercise one needs to. And according to him, the best substitute for exercise was a good massage.

In his later years he had a massage daily.

This retreat was a brainchild of mum and dad after they quite by chance were able to spend two weeks at this centre, last year, at the insistence of a Cochin-based friend.

The Nagarjuna guests liaison officer Manoj, asked dad at one stage - "Who ARE you?" Dad told him that he was the same guy who had come the previous year.

"No," he says, "last year you were just another guest-patient. This year there are others coming from all over the world just to spend time with you. They do not even want therapy. They are prepared to pay full charges just for food and lodging as long as they can spend time with you!"

We had a good laugh about it. I do admit that the dawn and dusk 'satsang' that dad conducted daily was extra special - for all. That twice daily 'connect' with The One made this a true Body Mind Spirit 'retreat' as was promised by him.

Thankfully, all group members decided to try out the therapies and massages and almost every man/woman lost weight, except for some exceptions who, from habit, still insisted on second helpings of 'rotian' and rice, or, I suspect, stole out of the premises on some pretext and were actually gorging themselves on samosays!

I can proudly say that dad lost 8 kgs. in 3 weeks. Now, the trick is - can he keep it off?

Were we 'cured' of all our physical ailments and life's stresses? Short answer to that is 'No'.

But, we all came away knowing how valuable this physical body is for quality of living, and that it is in our power to be less stressed. It is also within our power, by changes in habits and diets, to rejuvenate our organs.

Two to three weeks here confirmed that we can all live very healthy lives, yet enjoy life to the fullest, with some minor adjustments in our sleeping and eating patterns and some changes in our diet, plus, of course, once out of here, regular exercise.

I repeat here from a previous 'missive' by dad to sikhchic.com  - that, in simple terms, western educated medical doctors and surgeons are NOT 'health consultants'. They are 'sickness consultants'. They are professionals at diagnoses of ailments and diseases and also professionals at administering chemically prepared drugs.

To remain healthy, besides all sorts of herbalists, nutritionists, alopathists and health consultants, ayurvedic physicians also appear to know what they are talking about. The western world too is waking up to this fact. I attended almost all the in-classes their physicians conduct daily, on age-old health methods and healthy cooking.

I must say that I did pick a great many ideas for healthy living which I hope to continue with when home, starting with simple things like only drinking water before food and not with food, and ensuring that one does not drink ice-cold drinks if one can help it, nor eat or drink something directly out of a fridge.

Food and drink must be consumed at least at room temperature.

If Guru Har Rai had the best herbal medicine-stocked dispensary in the land, as reputed, then it follows that we should learn from these old healthy living methods. For the religiously motivated vegetarians amongst us - you will be pleased to know that ayurveda also advocates strict vegetarianism!

Yes, there are many great reasons why we need to go to western medical experts, including necessary surgery. But, it also stands to reason that we should pay heed to what are referred to as 'old wives' cures and especially old, time-tested curative methods. There is great merit in these age-old cures.

In the final analysis, what an attendee said holds true - 'Treat food as your medicine, or medicine will become your food!’

In the idyllic tropical warm humid settings of Kerala (the word literally means ‘little coconut‘), South India is just north of the Equator, in lush tropical greenery with jackfruit, coconut, guava, nutmeg, pawpaw (papaya) and mango trees; banana and tapioca plants; hibiscus, frangipani and other tropical flowers and cinnamon, pepper, cloves, cashew, cardamom and other tropical herbs and spices.

Amidst it all, we relaxed, joined in satsang with dad and were pampered.

Our day started at 6 am with 30-45 minutes of satsang (Japji Sahib and naam simran) after our dawn ablutions and some warm herbalised water. Some were allowed, according to their specific ailments and treatment, mini cups of tea. The natives drink tea from small cups and glasses, but many times a day! Here tea was made available to some, twice a day.

Treatments started at 7.30 am. alongside breakfast of dosas, idli, and similar South Indian preparations with mildly spiced daal and coconut or nutmeg chutney. Those not on a strict diet could request oats or toast.

Before we knew it, lunch was upon us. Again, depending on one's diet plan, guests were encouraged to eat either one roti, or a small portion of rice, with about seven different kinds of very small portions of daals, vegetables and chuttnies -- as is the custom in South India. My diet consisted more of raw salads, but you can discuss with the dietician and get some variations.

Therapies and massages started again from 2 pm. to 4 pm. subject to a special plan laid out for each individual. Then, perhaps a short walk through the lush green villages along the Periyar River or attending a class on ayurvedic meditation or cooking. There was also light yoga for those specifically allowed, every evening.

Generally, one was discouraged to do any form of strenuous exercise except walking.

A small cup of tea with a couple of wheat biscuits were made available between 3.30 pm. and 4pm.

We had the dusk 'satsang' from 7 pm to the dinner hour. One normally was ready to sleep by about 9.30 at night, so tiring does the day become, especially with the vigorous massages. (One group member described the daily massage and wash afterwards as comparable to going through a car-wash on a daily basis!).

We were not here to split hairs on finer points of Sikhi, so we steered clear of discourses and debates. We were only here to get closer to our Maker, through nitnem and naam simran and to enjoy each other’s company.

As one 'groupie' put it, "we know that our body is the temple of God and we need to look after it. We have swept it and washed it clean on the outside (daily massages). We have even mopped it inside (detox). We have placed incense in it and lit it (eating the right foods, hence cleansing it and making it fragrant). We have even done parkash and smapati (dawn/dusk satsang) in it. We have made it sanctified and inviting (no stress of any kind for three weeks).

“Now, hopefully, we can maintain it for the rest of the year!"

It was the complete holistic experience.

Simple naam simran with one bani at dawn, some dialogue and discourse pertaining to spirituality, thorough diagnosis of ailments and treatment, good wholesome vegetarian food, great climate and atmosphere, very friendly staff and very reasonable pricing.

But a warning, this is not for those who like to indulge in eccesses of any kind and certainly not for those who are looking for entertainment and night-life. My husband and I were worried whether we could cope, given that we like to be constantly on the move and seeking out adventures.

We did manage to sneak out for the odd afternoon trip, but surprisingly we were content doing nothing. Reasonable speed Wi-Fi, cable TV, my laptop with all the latest TV series to catch up with, was enough.

This experience is really for those who wish to return feeling good about themselves, understanding one's body, mind and spirit a little better and with a spring in one's step, feeling a few years younger!

Dad was also able to do kirtan on the two Saturday nights as Nagarjuna made a tabla-player available to him. Almost all the guests at the centre and the annexes turned up for these kirtan sessions. Dad also explained the shabads in English.

Yes, it was a resounding success and we have booked the last week of April and first two weeks of May, for 2016. Dad will certainly be there for all three weeks.

I humbly request those who came to write about their own experiences and feelings as 'comments' to this short article. I also invite Nagarjuna 'staff' for any comments.

Waheguru-willing, see you folks next year. I suggest early bookings as there are only 20 'double' rooms in the main complex. However there are almost ten rooms in three separate annexes which are equally as good and with full access to the main complex.

I have fallen in love with this place and those who people it.

Those interested for next year, please get in touch with me at contact@dyasingh.com


June 14, 2015
 

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), June 14, 2015, 5:09 PM.

In a lighter vein, Dya and Jamel ji, you both could do well selling snake oil. In your case, the additional advantage being that it comes with a package of meditation and prayers with guaranteed results of peace and health as recommended by gurbani and your opening lines. 'Nanak so prabhu simeriyai / tis dehi kao paal ...'

2: Ranjit Singh Sidhu & Sumathy (Taiping, Malaysia), June 15, 2015, 6:17 AM.

This place comes highly recommended for professionalism, excellent therapists, ayurvedic treatments, care and ambience. Came back refreshed and rejuvenated. Will be back for more next year.

3: Krupesh Doshi (Sydney, Australia), June 15, 2015, 8:06 PM.

Wow, Jamel, very nicely presented. We missed it this time but are in with the whole family next year. Please let me know the dates and I shall arrange for the rest.

4: Ramesh Lal (United Kingdom), June 17, 2015, 12:33 PM.

Great write up by Jamel. It's just how it was for me.

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