(This time, our Chief Operations Officer – Nandini talks about our first-ever outstation KYS Team Retreat)
KnowYourStar retreats are something we, as a team, are always excited about. Jaideep takes great pride in planning the secret itinerary for the day, but is excited about the emergence. Pranita usually is his partner in crime, but is excited about pretending to not know anything! (First thing Anjali and I do is see what clothes she is wearing and whether she is wearing shoes to get an idea whether there’s lot of walking involved!!!) Anjali is always ensuring there are clean washrooms wherever we are going! And I am always busy guessing the next destination (and usually getting them right!)
Since we started doing retreats together, we have explored the gems of Bangalore. They are usually just another place at first glance, but turn out to be gems when we spend time there and figure the beauty of the place out. Usually all the places we visit as part of the retreat revolve around those holding great values for the ones who have the eye for it, and our co-founder- Jaideep is great in identifying these and presenting it to us on a platter!
Home Is Where The Heart Is
Having explored so many valuable places and finger licking eateries in Bangalore, you must be wondering which places come next. Hold your breaths, for this retreat was extra special because it was not in Bangalore! 😀 We happened to extend our flight beyond the city walls to the coastal city of Udupi, right into Jaideep’s home, where we were warmly greeted by Jaideep’s parents and Udupi rains!
Jaideep’s home, where we would all be staying for 3 days, was located by a silent creek amidst lush greenery, where we could hear peacocks screaming and crickets chirping. Uncle gave us a tour of the garden, telling us the names of different plants growing there and how it is used. The garden wasn’t an organised one, and was the best example of controlled chaos, which to our eyes was lush beauty. Being used to seeing well-groomed gardens, this setup somehow made us feel closer to nature’s untouched beauty.
The garden had a variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers and medicinal plants! We could only recognise the coconut, banana, pineapple, papaya and jackfruit. As we were treated to yummy rice dosas by Aunty, she told us how they hardly need to use the fridge. She just has to step out of her back door to get fresh leaves- be it curry leaves, coriander leaves or mint!
The excess produce grown in the home garden is gifted to neighbors, friends and family, and is never sold. Before serving food to anyone, aunty made sure she had kept some food for the crows at the window, and some food for the cows who would visit shortly! It was an eye opener for us to see this live example of organic gifting. How naturally everyone bloomed in this atmosphere amazed us!
Opening Circle Under Gandhiji’s Grace
After freshening up, we decided to head out for the retreat, though for the rest of us, it had already begun! We decided to take uncle’s car, but were debating who should drive it. Between Jaideep’s ‘I-have-attended-driving-classes-I-have-a-license-but-I-can’t-drive‘ and Anjali’s ‘I-can-drive-but-I-am-used-to-automatic-cars‘, we decided to bet on the safest driver who was familiar with Udupi roads, drove a regular car, and had a license – Pranita! (though Jaideep sat at the edge of the seat the entire time and did full justice to what we call backseat driving much to everyone’s annoyance!!! :P)
With the driver scene sorted, we headed out to what was the start of a lovely rainy day. Our first stop was the Radio Park at Ajjarkad in Udupi, which was just 10 minutes away.
We found out that Mahatma Gandhi had visited Udupi in the year 1934 to collect funds to uplift the weaker sections of the society. He gave a speech in this park encouraging people to open up their temples to the weaker sections and stand against untouchability. We found a gazebo with Gandhiji’s bust placed in the centre, so we decided to make that our stop for our first circle.
In our first circle, we spoke about the month that went by, and what were the things that worked well and what could have worked better? We evaluated our work, what was planned, how it was executed, and what had emerged. We identified the areas that needed more attention and celebrated the milestones we were able to achieve!
Indulging In A Not-So-Urgent Affair
Before we left the park, we also acknowledged the presence of the 3-storied Radio tower that the park gets its name from! We only had to cross one road to reach our next destination – Diana Hotel! Diana is one of the oldest restaurants in Udupi, and is very famous for its cutlets and ‘Gadbad‘ – a special dessert! We gobbled away as Jaideep told us the story of how the name of this dessert came to be – ‘Gadbad’, which comes from ‘Gadibidi’ – a Kannada word which means Urgency! Gadbad happens to be an innovation of this hotel years ago.
The story goes that a group of friends landed at Diana for ice-cream when it neared closing time. The vendor didn’t have a brick of one single flavour, but had a little bit of many flavours. So he mixed and matched all the flavours, topping it off with some nuts, fruits, jelly and cherries, which resulted in Gadbad! It was loved by the first folks, who kept coming for more. Eventually it made its way to the menu and has never been off since. It has since been recreated by different ice cream parlours in the coastal belt, and similar versions can be seen in many menus.
This was in itself a wise example of the power of innovation, the beauty of not saying NO, and serving the best you can with love!
(If you happen to visit Diana in Udupi, try this drink called 30 Percent, no questions asked! 😉 )
Seeking Blessings From Udupi Krishna
Our next destination was another 10 minutes away. By now we had realised that Udupi primarily runs on two main roads – the Udupi Highway and the Malpe-Manipal Road. Whatever the Udupi destination, it was just 15-20 minutes away! There was no need to guess our next stop because I knew it in my heart, and it was confirmed within no time when we were welcomed by an elaborate dwar (temple gateway) that said “Krishna Mutt”. Udupi is very famous for its Krishna Temple. It’s the only temple in which the main deity is seen with its back towards the main temple entrance, and it has a very interesting story behind it.
Back in the olden days, Harijans (people belonging from “lower castes”) were not allowed inside the temple. Kanakadasa loved Lord Krishna and had devoted his life to him. He tried umpteen times to get a glimpse of his lord in the temple, but was repeatedly denied entry. He continued to sing the lord’s praises from behind the temple. It is said that Lord Krishna was so moved by his love and devotion, the idol turned 180 degrees, the wall cracked open, and Kanakadasa could finally see his lord through the window on the back, which is now called “Kanakana Kindi”, which means Kanakadasa’s Window!
One can stop someone from physically entering the temple, but who can deny a devotee their pure devotion? My word for the day was ‘Belief’ and this story resonated and affirmed it all the more. We learned the value of unshaken devotion, faith and belief in the higher power here. We headed to the temple halls to accept the Prasadam offered in the form of free afternoon meals to everyone in the temple. Jaideep told us the temple has been offering free meals to everyone from many years every single day without a break. The discipline of the community kitchen that we witnessed was praiseworthy and we wondered what it takes to bring people together like that to simply serve.
The Closing Circle In City Of Temples
We also visited two other temples around that are older than the Krishna Temple. The first one was the Ananteshwara Temple. The interesting thing about this place was its intriguing architecture and the presence of two hands on the gopura (topmost part of the temple). It is believed that when these two hands touch each other, it will be the end of the world!
As we sat outside this temple soaked in rich stories of belief and tradition, we reflected on how lucky we were to have been born in this country of Bharat. Though most of us have lost the knowledge and science behind most of the cultures and traditions followed in this country, and some things have taken ugly turns leading to superstitions and orthodox beliefs, we still have a rich heritage, which when dug into unearths such timeless wisdom!
The next temple we visited is the oldest among the three – Chandramouleeshwara Temple. We got an opportunity to witness the presiding swamiji of Krishna Temple – Pejawar Mutt Sri Vishvesha Teertha Swamiji perform the afternoon Pooja here.
We used the calm quarters of the temple to hold our closing circle. We discussed the scope of work for the next month, discussed the topics that emerged from our time together since morning, and got ready for our participation in the National Conference on Youth in Social Change in Manipal the next day, where we were to launch our Passion to Profession tool and setup our first-ever KYS stall! We were so lost in discussion that the guard had to ask us to head out of the temple premises as it was closing time!
We ended the day with more lip-smacking Udupi cuisines – the yummy ‘Goli Baje’ of Mitra Samaj – another old and renowned snack shop of Udupi and tea of course! We were exhausted from all the exploring and in-depth discussions, but we were happy with the new values we had gotten a chance to catch. Getting richer by the day, folks… and glad to share the wealth with you! 🙂