On the very first ‘posting’ from India to abroad I was fortunate to visit our Mauritius centre from 20th to 26th March, 2007 on my way to South Africa. The main attraction was of course Revered Krishnarupanandaji, our dear Suresh maharaj of Kanpur days (1971 to 1976).
He was all cordiality personified. Mauritius is one of the hot tourist spots in the world. Being the Head of tha Centre for quite a long period, naturally he was keen that I should visit our Centre and some other spots. Even before I could plan my trip to South Africa where I was posted as President of the Durban centre, Rev Suresh maharaj was insisting that I should drop down at Mauritius and spend a few days with him. I could hardly say no to his loving call. Only after landing there and staying with him that I realised how badly I would have missed all that wonderful experiences that he so affectionately afforded.
On arrival on 20th March last year, I had restful sleep as I had to leave Chennai Math just at midnight of the 19th with no sleep at all the previous day. I had very tight schedule at Chennai. The two Chennai Math brahmacharins – Pravin and Suresh proved a good company as I need to have no worry at all about anything. Sridhar an official from Airport Authority of India joined me in the airport; made me reach the aircraft with utmost comfort. The Air Mauritius flight by which my ticket was booked by M/s Columbus Travels, Mumbai left Chennai airport at 3.45 am. The duration of air travel was though 5 hrs and 45 minutes, yet I reached Mauritius by 8 am, that explained Mauritius time was one and half hrs behind the IST!
To my pleasant surprise Revered Suresh maharaj was at the airport to receive me. The security officials completed all immigration formalities without my even knowing what they were and within the time to finish taking a steaming cup of tea. Kishore, a close devotee of the Ashrama and an engineer by profession and one of the top officials of the famous 12-storeyed Cybertower of Mauritius was on the driver’s seat and brought us to the Ashrama smoothly by his comfortable car. There, both the other Swamis – Bhaskar maharaj and Satyakam maharaj received me with bouquet.
The Ashrama is in idyllic setup, the temple standing majestically on the right side from the entrance gate, surrounded by lush green lawn meticulously maintained. The overall atmosphere was one of spiritual ambience where everyone who comes in cannot but be drenched with the grace of our Master. Harmony was the key word. It has a small Library and also Vivekananda Study Circle for the children. The devotees who frequent the Ashrama are well placed in their social structure; but it is a sight to see them thoroughly cleaning the lawn, garden, agrofarm and all other places with great verve and vigour in the spirit of seva.
The evening prayers are worth attending. Close devotees appear at precision time just before the sandhya arati. After the arati, performed to the singing of khandana… a few namawali bhajans are sung in chorus and reading from a book follows. Surprisingly everyone sits for one hour meditation.
On Thursday evening, I was the guest speaker on the usual satsang. As Ramnavami was fast approaching, I dwelt upon the nama–mahima with illustrative stories from Adbhut Ramayana and Sri Thakur’s approach to it.
On Friday evening, I visited St. Julien, a village where a sub-center with a pre-primary school is being run. Lot of villagers had gathered. And I had to do the satsang with Revered Suresh maharaj singing namawalis with devotion and intermittently speaking to the delight of the men, women and children in creole, a local dialect of Mauritius.
On Saturday evening, at a distance of about 25 kms, we visited Hoolash family where also a short satsang was arranged. There I got fine dosa which I could not at that time dream of!
From 21st onwards all days in the morning hours I was taken around Mauritius usually accompanied by any one of his two monastic assistants – Gauripriyananda (Bhaskar maharaj) or Stavananda (Satyakam maharaj); sometimes himself too. The Gangatalao was memorable in that nearby a huge 108 ft stone structure of Lord Shiva stands. The old temple of Shiva where more than a lakh people assemble on Mahashivaratri was also seen with due puja led by Rev Suresh maharaj.
Another day we visited the Apravasi ghat where the indentured labour from many parts of India arrived first, two hundred years ago. Our ancestors faced insurmountable difficulties at the hands of British and a visit would as it were remind everyone of the determination with which they carried on their life. Among the other interesting things that I saw was Botanical Garden and Vivekananda International Conf. Hall, Waterfront, Port Louis, Supermarket, Cybercity Tower etc gave an idea of a western country. It seemed to be a good introduction to understand the way of life of western mores for any one who would visit South Africa for the first time, which I hear from others a nation completely westernised.
The photos mostly were taken by one close devotee Rajiv who many times with great love took us by his car. Sunday the last day for me at Mauritius went off briskly with visitors pouring from morning nine. At 4.30 pm the local TV people came and took an interview followed by Sunday Satsang where I talked to the devotees in English. Night spent with Rev Suresh maharaj and other two Mauritian swamis discussing many aspects of our spiritual life.
The next day i.e. on the 26th of March, 2007 I left for Durban.