Slumdog Yogi

In the back alleys of South Bombay, a small Municipal school gives shelter to a “paper bag” making unit and a Dream. A dream, that’s growing slowly but steadily over the last 3 years. A small batch of 12 boys from economically difficult backgrounds started building steps towards empowering themselves through the path of Yoga. Over the last 3 years hope was baked in the furnace of diligent practice and hard work, and sincerity nurtured the spirits of these boys who have achieved the stuff dreams are made of.

Slumdog Yogi

It is early 2009 and Anil and Raju have by now digested the fact that they are certified Yoga teachers, they realize that as Yoga teachers they have some duty towards society, in fact their own brethren. Their dream of empowering children and youth like them is now on a roll. We are with a new lot now, and this time three girls are also a part of the group, which is very encouraging. Together, their hearts open and their will guides.

The new group of Yoga students is an excited but diligent lot in the age group of 18 to 25. The brother sister duo, Gaurav and Heena love doing yoga every evening. Heena says Yoga helps her in grounding, but her brother Gaurav seems to have become more effervescent since he started his yoga practice, he says his energy has no bounds and he has learnt to channel his energy in his work.

Yoga asanas are practiced in this shed 5 times a week along with pranayama and 5 minutes of meditation. Every move of the asana is supervised by Anil and is appreciated by the lot. Anil now has a gift of clear delivery of instructions and confidence, such a vast difference since this tall lanky lad walked into my first yoga class silently and sat at the end of the group refusing to look me in the eye. Raju visits sometimes and contributes with his jovial nature and minute and detailed corrections.

Suraj who ran away from his house in Surat city in western India, sits quietly. He is much better now, his friends say, he himself states that he now feels much lighter and livelier through yoga. It is amazing for me to see how together these youths explore what is taught to them with sincerity and hope. Reminds me of a line from Aristotle, “Every craft and every investigation, and likewise every action and decision seems to aim at some good”. Truly this exploration has a purpose which is revealing itself like the waxing moon.

Inspirational talk is an important part of this exercise. Anil seems to have gathered quite a hold on this. He reads and makes notes on what is to be taught, and then shares from his heart. My visits add an additional firework of celebration through motivation talks. The feeling of togetherness and solidarity of purpose is amazing here. As Shankar puts it rightly, it is the high point of his day.

Najma is the senior most of the girls we have here. She is the sole breadwinner and the eldest of her siblings. Her face has a veil of worry through which a shy smile peeps once in a while. Najma has found a cushion of relaxation time between the jerks of her working hours and home time. She says this is her ‘let go’ time where she is with herself, only herself.

My title for the write up is used to sum it all, the grit, grime, guts. No offence is meant to anyone in using this title. But as you can see it is in itself an oxymoron. The recently popular word, “slumdog” has been used so that everyone can gauge the intensity of the background where this dream is dreamed of, but the Yogi bit is the positive angle of the title. These little ones have the power and thirst of dreaming, of hoping and walking on this delicately woven dream to manifest solid reality. The earlier batch of children did it. Now seeking inspiration from their seniors, the next batch works and walks on the path. Thus continues their journey of explorations and empowerment. We aim to find two new children from this batch who can take the Teachers Training and keep the fire of yoga alive by inspiring a newer lot. This dingy bylane in Grant Road area is the sourcebed of future “millionaires”, Kings and Queens of heart, true yogis to the T.

There is a passage in Alice in Wonderland, in which Alice enters a room to find a bottle marked with the label “Drink me”. The label does not tell her what is inside the bottle but tells Alice what to do with it. The children have discovered this bottle of Yoga in their life now and have been consumed by it. I am sure it will keep them balanced to live in this wonderland called Bombay.

It is 6.45 p.m. Tasleem, Suraj, Ajay and the rest of the gang sit in cross legged positions, shut their eyes, lights are dim, sun is setting on the horizon and so are our energies. It is time to meditate, a respite from the external noise, to dive deep within, only to rise again like a phoenix and live the rest of the evening to the fullest. These are the real shining stars, the real life “slumdog millionaires”.

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