My association with Jnana Prabodhini first started when I enrolled as a student in fifth grade. I am confident to say that it has grown stronger ever since and has had long-lasting effects and influences on the way I think and see the world. One of the earliest memories I have was joining Swatantryaveer Savarkar Dal (स्वा. सावरकर दल) which is an organization for grades 5th-7th from JP’s Prashala. Among many of my memorable experiences, my favorite were the demonstrations (प्रात्यक्षिके). During these demonstrations, students would design and execute a timed routine of the various activities they had been involved in over the year including the different sports that students trained and played, as well as new skills that they picked up nearer to the end of the year, such as, rope (दोराचा मल्लखांब), yoga, gymnastics and fire dance (बोथाटी नृत्य)
I remember being nervous about participation in the demonstrations in my 5th grade. It was my first year at Prabodhini, and I was part of the yoga demonstration group. Perhaps spotting my nervousness to participate, my dada (दादा; leader) decided to motivate me by assigning me the center stage position for one demonstration. These arrangements tended to be circular and symmetric, with students performing various asanas (आसने; yoga poses) outwards to inwards, on increasingly higher heights, on platforms constructed using the school’s own (sometimes rather shaky) desks. My dada placed me right in the center of one such arrangement, on the highest platform possible, with three-to-four layers of desks beneath me that only amplified the instability! Some of my friends seemed at ease with this, and were able to climb to top easily and get into the required pose without a second thought. On the other hand, I remember feeling terrified of climbing up those desks and getting into a pose called vrikshasana (वृक्षासन), which involved tucking one of my legs against my thigh while balancing on the other, and lifting my arms all the way up to form the peak of the tree. Certainly, the center of mass shifts precariously, and looking down from that height did not help with my balance.
However, that was irrelevant. I had to get into the pose, and hold it for the allotted time. I had been practicing the movements for over a month, during everyday's evening dal, as well as at home on a stool to simulate the unstableness of the original platform. I practiced it in school on shaky benches. At the actual demonstrations, I was able to get into the vrikshasana on the highest platform without falling.
Would I be able to do it again? Hopefully with enough practice. But what I remember about this experience is my dada who pushed me through my nervousness and fear to help me work through and made me overcome my fears. He put me through an experience that I could draw parallels from at other times in life when I face a fearful situation or something that makes me nervous.
Aalok Sathe (आलोक साठे)
Jnana Prabodhini Prashala Pune, Batch of 2015.