The first time I saw Parvathy was on a terrace in Cuba in 2011. We both participated in the Magdalena festival organized by Roxana Pineda. I was struck by her calm and her long dreadlocks that reached the floor. We are both part of the Magdalena Project, an international women’s theater network, that was founded thirty years ago by Jill Greenhalgh. In 2013, in Denmark at the Transit Festival, organized by Julia Varley, I attended one of her concerts for the first time. Parvathy is an exceptional performer, with a crystal clear voice that reaches the heart. In that first concert, I could not stop crying, my tears were not of pain, nor happiness, they just burst from my eyes like a spring of clear water. Then I had the opportunity to attend others of her concerts and my admiration keep growing. On April 2016, at ISTA (International School of Theater Anthropology led by Eugenio Barba) in Italy, Parvathy gave some classes and she taught us the KRIYA, a Baul practice that consists of turning on oneself, it is similar to that of the Dervishes. Turning, I found the silence, the stillness, and I had something that I consider as an instant of “grace.” I was so impressed that I asked her to turn again in a pause and she, who is generous, agreed to guide me with her voice . I must say that when we worked together the time stopped.
In June, we coincide in Denmark and I participated in her classes of Baul songs. After these meetings I began to see her, as well as, as an artist, as a spiritual teacher and I remember that I told her that I would go to India to learn from her. Months later, I wrote to her, but she never answered. Visiting her website, I saw information about the “Learning from Baul Masters” retreat. I knew nothing about the Baul, only that Unesco declared its music a world heritage, and that they were Gurus that dressed in orange. Besides, I do not sing very well and lately I’m more focused on writing, so I thought that the retreat will not contribute at all to my profession. However, within me, there was an immense desire to re-experience the stillness I had experienced, while doing the KRIYA, so I signed up.
I arrived in Trivandrum the night of January 2nd and at 4 am, the next day, I got on a bus that took us to a field. When we went down, it was night and small fires made visible the yoga mats, placed in the open air. It was a silent and the earth was humid, Parvathy recited mantras and then guided a yoga session. The silence gradually became crowded with the birds songs and the light began to seep through the rubber trees that surrounded us. Every day we saw the sunrise, and every day was different.
After yoga we had an free hour and then we walked to Ekthara Khalari. There, we had breakfast, we ate with our hands while sitting on the floor. I have to say that all week we enjoyed Hindu and vegetarian dishes that were delicious. After breakfast, the group split up and we had Baul song classes with one of the teachers, then a pause and we had another class with another teacher. The songs were beautiful and wise. Throughout the retreat I tried unsuccessfully to learn some song, but the language was difficult and the way of singing them complicated. I think the Baul songs are like a trunk full of treasures that only opens if you learn to sing it in the present.
After singing, some days we practiced the KRIYA and we turned for some time. Turning, I realized that my thoughts, even those of not wanting to think, made me lose my balance. For me, the KRIYA was only possible when I surrendered completely to the now. The few moments in which I managed to do that, everything was filled with light and I had a feeling of fullness that I cannot express in words.
After turning, we ate, we had free time and in the afternoon we returned to dinner and then play the éktara (musical instrument provided with a single string). Every night, the Gurus sang and told us their story. One of those nights, the spanish Efrén López delighted us with his music.
Around nine o’clock at night, the participants could ask questions to the Gurus. I had many questions and the teachers respond to all of them with patience. Their answers were like sparks of light and although they often answered something else, they always gave me the answer I needed.
One of the days, the Gurus made a ceremony where they invite their Gurus’ spirits. They sung to them and offer them coconut water and their favorite dish. We sang for hours and happiness increased to the point where I felt like a child. At the end of the ritual, all of us put dust to one another faces and it was like if the Gurus installed in our skin.
It is a retreat that I recommend to everyone. In fact the participants in this edition were very diverse, although there were some musicians, there were many people from different professions and other spiritual seekers who had lived in Ashrams for years. There were also Parvathy’s disciples: Tomomi, Arpita and the volunteers, who always were willing to help with a smile. Among those beautiful people, I felt in family. The Akra, where we worked, had a roof, but not walls, so we could feel the breeze and see the trees.
During the retreat I had magical experiences, small revelations that have transformed me. Those moments of “grace” made me remember who I am and for moments I could see my own light and also the light of others
I had been trying to be in the present for years, but the present that I experienced there was different because it was made of stillness, silence, and detachment. It was a present in which nothing is expected and you do not need anything.
After the retreat, I bent to the masters and touched their feet, Hindu’s normally do so, but for me, a western, it was the first time. By touching their feet I recognized their greatness. I want to say thanks for sharing their knowledge to all the masters. Thanks to: Madan Das Bairagya for his story and to his beautiful wife for that wordless communication. Thanks to Kanai Mondal for his songs that caressed my heart, to Deb Das Baul for his funny yet profound stories, to Satyananda Das for his energy-filled dancing, to Shyam Sundar for his way of understanding everything, to Lakshman Das Baul for his eyes full of love and compassion, to Nabin Das for those jumping rhythms and above all I want to thank Parvathy Ma, young but wise woman, who is a living example of love and light.
It’s been two weeks since I came back to Paris and something in me has changed. My noisy everyday life has made it harder for me to get the silence, but I’m determined to go back to it. The present escape like a wet fish in my hands, but at times, I am. Sometimes when I close my eyes, I can hear the Baul melodies, and I feel Parvathy inside me, the Gurus are present also and then, I feel at home.
By: Amaranta Osorio
Writer, actress and cultural manager.
Mexican-Colombian with Spanish nationality, currently living in France.
As a writer 5 long and 5 short plays have been released and she published 6 plays. In Spain, was awarded with the “Premio de Textos Teatrales Jesús Domínguez” and “Premio Teatro Exprés- Caja Madrid”. The short film “Inseparables”received various prizes. As an actress she participated in 3 movies, 10 tv series, 20 theater productions and 9 shortfilms. As a cultural manager she directed different international scene arts festival in Spain, Costa Rica and Mexico. Her company was awarded with the “Young Entrepreneurs Prize” in Spain.She’s member of the Magdalena Project and of Claiscas y Modernas
More info: www.amarantaosorio.es