By Jennifer Brookins

We are early. No matter. It feels good to breathe in fresh morning air. This ancient land has the most unusual mix of sounds one can possibly imagine. Morning satsang begins each day at 9:30 a.m., then again at 6:00 p.m. Everyone takes off their shoes before entering the Bhandara Hall and sits in rows, men to the left, women to the right. I’m greeted by Indian women, old and young, who signal me to come sit with them, especially Sadna with a smile and laughter so rare she could do toothpaste commercials if she lived in the U.S.
Once again Indian women cluster around me asking every imaginable question via mime, since they don’t speak English, and my grasp of Punjabi is hopeless. Doug puts on his shoes and patiently waits. As Jasbir pulls me away, he tells them in Punjabi that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Quite the contrary. We’re more like old friends getting reacquainted … hard to explain.
We walk upstairs to his quarters, take off our shoes and place them outside his door. Baba Ji sits without turban, a white knitted cap pulled down that touches his white beard glistening against honey colored skin. He wears a blue vest, white leggings, and white kurta*. His dark eyes scan our faces as he blesses us in ways that human language cannot describe. I continue to gaze into his eyes as he gives us darshan, an Indian word meaning the blessings received from a Mystic who glances lovingly at someone. He summons Parveen to bring tea. Sitting in the presence of a Mystic is no small thing. Wonder and awe best describes how I feel. I can hardly spea

An excerpt from India with a Backpack and Prayer

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