From a retired teacher to an advocate, a contractor, an air force officer’s wife to students and NCC cadets — people from a variety of backgrounds gathered at India Gate on Sunday morning for India’s attempt at a world record for the largest yoga congregation. Most of these people were associated with Patanjali Yogpeeth or the Art of Living Foundation and claim to have long seen the benefits of yoga in their lives. NCC cadets, college and school students from the capital were the other big group. The Indian Express met a selection of them:
Santosh Sivali, 43
Employed with a private bank, she was was born with a congenital hole in her heart. Doctors had advised Sivali not to undergo a surgery as it would be risky. She suffered from problems like breathlessness and difficulty in performing any physical activity. Yoga changed all that in 2006, she claimed. For her, this Sunday was a tribute to “her experience with yoga”.
Sharat Munde, 30
The “harassment” he faced due to ragging at college changed his life and turned him to yoga. From Beed district in Maharashtra, Munde moved to Nagpur in 2004. “Persistent ragging by seniors led to low morale and, ultimately, depression. In 2006, Sharat said, his life took a positive turn after he enrolled himself in the Janardhan Swamy Yoga Abhiyaan Mandal — a free yoga training centre in Nagpur. “I was undergoing mental health treatment. But it was yoga training that ultimately changed my outlook. It transformed me and gave me a second lease of life,” Sharat said.
Savita Tiwari, 50
Wife of a captain with the Indian Air Force, she has organised yoga events at base camps at Hindon Air Base since 2004 after she took to yoga from Patanjali Yogpeeth. “I perform yoga regularly but Sunday was unlike any other event. To see so many people perform in unison made coming here worth the trouble,” Tiwari said.
Shubhendu Saha, 28
He was 19 when he decided to enrol for the Border Security Force as a constable. Saha, now 28, remembered how one ordinary day at his physical training session, his battalion leader asked if anyone was interested in signing up for yoga classes. “I had never thought of giving yoga a try. But when this was announced, I decided to jump in,” he said. About Sunday, he said, “We are used to the rigour but doing this was a different experience. I still can’t believe we are part of such a proud moment,” Saha said.
Kuldeep Singh, 42
After a growth was identified in his thyroid gland, this Delhi-based advocate began getting treatment. Singh, who was part of the contingent from Patanjali Yogpeeth, claimed that within two months, yoga changed his life. “I went to Haridwar and trained in yoga. Now it’s a part of my life,” he said.
Narayni Malik, 63
A retired Delhi government school teacher, Malik reached the Rajpath venue a little before 4 am. “Government servants who are in service may have come for their own reasons, but I came because I have seen the benefits of yoga for the last 10 years. It was a heartening experience,” Malik said.
Prashant Kumar, 53
West Delhi resident Prashant Kumar looks much younger than his age. “If I look young, it’s due to yoga,” he said. The businessman had a car accident in 2004 and was bed-ridden for six months. After realising that “physiotherapy had only a limited benefit, he started practicing yoga”. Kumar had been campaigning for the Sunday event for over two weeks.
Shuchir Singh, 32
This graduate of IIT Bombay has done courses with the Art of Living Foundation. “I started doing yoga to stay fit but it is so much more than that. Anybody who came to Rajpath on Sunday would say how awe-inspiring it was.” Singh said he took a bus from his home in North Delhi and reached a little before 3.45 am. “All the streets I passed had posters of Yoga Day. The arrangements, security and transportation were immaculate,” Singh said.