My introduction to guruji (BKS Iyengar) was through social activist late Nanaji Deshmukh, in 1996, in Pune. I was suffering from slip disc cervical spondylosis and took lessons from one of his students. The first time we met, guruji took one look at me and diagnosed my various ailments, which for many years gave me excruciating pain. That moment was overwhelming and I thought if anyone could free me from my pain, it was him.
“From tomorrow onwards I want to see you in the medical class,” he had said, and I readily agreed. This journey continued for years and has made me a new person. Before yoga, the pain had immobilised me and doctors had no cure to offer. It was only after the arrival of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in India, that the doctors understood the various ailments, which surprisingly guruji diagnosed with his bare eyes.
As a teacher he was par excellence, a hard task master, forcing his students to push their limits. At times he would ask me to do an asana, which I never thought in my wildest dreams that I could. Initially, guruji did not know anything about my background or who my father (BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi) was. Later when he learnt about my family, he was scathing in his comment, “You famous people will defame me if you do not get well”. But I told him humbly that only time will tell, and to this day, I have stood by his principles.
I stand indebted to guruji in more ways than one. When I came to him, I was in a wheelchair and when I left I was hale and hearty. It was guruji who inspired me to become a yoga teacher. He pushed me relentlessly to go for advanced training. The Iyengar Yoga Centre Yogakshema was inaugurated finally in 2008. He was associated with the project from the start. Yoga helped my parents sustain the strain of rigorous campaigning and when they set up home in Kanpur, their immediate need was to set up a yoga room for themselves.
I was in Pune in June this year and that was the last time I met him. Although guruji was not keeping well, he prescribed special asanas for me. In his last letter, which I received last week, guruji had written, “I have finished all my work and I am now ready to go.”
My association with guruji was the most beautiful chapter of my life and his demise marks the end of that chapter. But in the same breath, I remember him saying, “Where my life ends, your practice begins.”