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THE YEAR 2018 WAS UTTERLY DIFFERENT FOR ATHEENA WILSON. IT HAD ITS SHARES OF VICISSITUDES, WHICH TOOK HER FROM THE LAND OF LOST ASPIRATIONS TO LAND OF FULFILMENTS. SHE TRAVELED WITHIN HERSELF TO FIND HER PATH IN THE GOD'S OWN COUNTRY.
I’m in pickle this time, quite tense about the tense of my story. I apologize, this story has been delayed, but a resolution of mine has decided to stay true to its word, resolute. Thus I would ask you to read the story with such a thought. The past 12 months of 2018, I remembered it all. It started with a January where I stood on my frozen toes and tossed a graduation hat, then came a sweltering March where my brain was ensconced in a cubicle of frustrated voyagers in a Mumbai train, to a July where I said a ‘yes’ that changed my life, a September I vowed to love patiently and finally a December that taught me what twelve years a wait was like. In 2018, time never flew fast. Something was utterly different, I solemnly slowed down.
There’s been a wave of many creative people who have been candidly confessing how they did not see any growth in themselves by the end of their monstrous December. Despite their major creative accomplishments, they still feel stunted. But 2018 was quite a different year for me, it had its shares of vicissitudes. And I can easily recollect what was one thing that pulled me to the core of my earthly failures.
The year 2018 was quite a different for me, it had its shares of vicissitudes. It started with a January where I stood on my frozen toes and tossed a graduation hat, then came a sweltering March where my brain was ensconced in a cubicle of frustrated voyagers in a Mumbai train, to a July where I said a ‘yes’ that changed my life, a September I vowed to love patiently and finally a December that taught me what twelve years a wait was like.
During my extensive job hunt since September 2017, somewhere around my 85th application, I was quite startled to see a letter from Conde Nast India, an interview with Vogue. Anyone who knows me, it’s been a dream for ten whole years, and I can honestly say that I worked hard too. In a tearing hurry, I flew to Mumbai and I still recollected wearing my metallic studded black kitten heels with my kente jacket. I sat in the office and the interviewer was quite impressed with my portfolio and she hinted there’s definitely a spot for me. It was a ten week wait, and when I made the call to the office, I wanted to be forever off the phone since then. Someone else got the job. I decided not to be disheartened, I applied to many other Indie magazines I dreamt off, and funnily all of them wrote back to me but still some things were lost in translation. But I pushed myself harder, made excel sheets and quite robotically mailed my CV every day. Nada. And then I shut down.
In my very elusive break, I resorted to yoga for the first time. At first, I thought it was a good conversation starter, the one where you can throw some asana names and claim how your body contorts. But it turned out being very different, in the longest time I could feel each stretch and slowly understand how my body moved. In that calmness, I felt my body was being cared for. One early morning, on the terrace, my yoga teacher asked me to gently get into the Vrksasan* pose, I could feel my toes scrunch up on my thighs, hands stretched and my eyes focused into a faraway tree. I peered into a crown of intertwined leaves that filtered in the first morning sunlight. To my teacher’s surprise, I stood still for more than two minutes and he gently assured me I was getting better. But there was something else, a recovering sense of peace, something I lost a long ago in my cataclysmic pool of thoughts.
But it turned out being very different, in the longest time I could feel each stretch and slowly understand how my body moved. In that calmness, I felt my body was being cared for.
In time I could feel a massive change, my compulsive eating habits dwindled, I slept more soundly without the invasion of my laptop. Perhaps the best part of my mornings was that early morning meditation, where I had to control how much I could breathe. Whenever I used to go for swims, I loved how I could glide for a longer time underwater. I’m no where a professional who can boast of headstands, but within these few months yoga made me confront what was happening inside me. Many times, I kept myself running on a superficial to-do list but when I slowed down, the denial of a particular busyness became crystal clear. And then it slowly pushed me to look more deeply into matter that exhilarated and bothered me.
It lead to one of the hardest decisions I made in my life, I just gradually unplugged from all the things that clogged my life. I took a well thought hiatus from the social media platforms and also my passport- due to my uncontrollable habit of traveling and feeling lost. I decided to stay grounded and fight the many fears that stemmed in me. I truly got back to writing and reading, I started taking long walks and also started reconnecting with my friends the old-fashioned away, meeting them in person and having heart to heart conversations. Instead of letting thoughts about no longer letting a job pester me, I rather started thinking of starting a creative company. And in three months I realized that I did things more slowly, time was not lost rather I gained a particular insight on what was important to me. One was battling that capricious war of murmurs between the head and the heart. Thus a ring on my finger now, my most indelible triumph.
During this transition, I met someone quite fascinating, Zuzana Zwiebel. Quite distinct with her pellucid ocean colored eyes, brushed long hair, and her taste in effortless cotton dresses, Zuzana discovered me through my blog and we immediately shared an artistic connection. We spend long hours conversing about how we’ve built our minds in the world of design and our common likeness for evoked moods in photographs. During those late afternoons, right up at Burger street, nestled in Kashi Café, I unearthed her rooted philosophy of Ayurveda. Like how many immediately associate it with medications and a tryst with nature, her thinking extended to the mind, body and soul. Which led to her dedicated project Ayurveda Journals, a website that documents the interpretations of this ancient science.
During this transition, I met Zuzana Zwiebel. Her fascination for discovering people is indescribable, and she always joked that there was a certain rawness in me which is a rarity.
There’s an aura about her and how she embraced her lifestyle. Settling into vegetarianism, minimal fashion, she instantly made me wonder how much I would fall into slow living. I joked how many like to boast of neutral colored homes, photographs with washed out filters but she laughed off saying that slow living transcends beyond such a depiction. Her fascination for discovering people is indescribable, and she always joked that there was a certain rawness in me which is a rarity. She once said, “An artistic signature which makes a journey different for each person and we respect these differences.” We promised each other, we’ll go on small trip to see how life changing this year. And that’s how we landed in Palakkad – the last trip I went on in 2018.
As the car rolled up to Kairali Ayurveda Healing center, I could already feel the pangs of its pristine nature. Set up in the secluded town in Palakkad, there was a lush forest with brick cottages set up, and the houses were all bordered by streams. The next day, I woke up in a dense passion of peace. Strolled through the lush garden, I could see a few laying out their yoga mats and a few of them reading quietly. It seemed idyllic but the question of it was how practical could it be for a city dweller? And though I have given up some habits, was I actually striving for slow living? I would admit I was slightly pessimistic about visiting an Ayurveda center. Though I started practicing something new, I wouldn’t say that all of my city dweller habits have been washed out. While we were going for our walks through the paddy fields, we did have the debate that this concept of slow living is not about altering one’s identity or even abstaining from modernity. And when we walked into a land all plowed out, she just said, “ The point is not to be consumed by it all.”
In our trip, Zuzana handed me a book of mudras to read and see the deep meanings of how to find the right balance between physical and mental health. I thought the trip was quite perfectly timed because this story was born by the streams of Palakkad. While we stayed there, we were on quite a rigid but pleasant diet. Unlike how many places try to impose their idea of philosophy it was well understood. While interacting with doctors and the staff, it soon became clear that there was a way to infuse such a philosophy into our lives. “The beauty of Ayurveda dwells not only in the medical aspect of it, but in the life itself, in an ability of self-expression and acceptance who we are.” And that was one major lesson, learn to love your body it keeps the inner you happy in the long run.
The beauty of Ayurveda dwells not only in the medical aspect of it, but in the life itself, in an ability of self-expression and acceptance who we are.
One of my most memorable moments during our stay, was the massage sessions. Removing all of my jewellery, slicking my hair, and cleaning up every trace of kohl, I was finally wrapped in a kassavu saree. The agarpathy willowed into the air and I finally sat on the stairs that overlooked a waterfall. As chechi gently dipped her hands in the oil, the tips of her finger gently spread among her fingers along my forehead. I remember, I was stripped down to everything, except the set saree, and her fingers ran through every crevice of my face. There was a way she looked at me and when her fingers neared my flickering eyes, she remarked my eyes looked like marbles that roll impatiently and I explained how they belonged to my grandmother. She was utterly amazed when I shared her tales of how I travelled around the world and I landed in Kerala. She laughed about destiny and how living life does not count on all what how you done. And the more the oil sunk into my skin, she said I have the redness of skin as fertile as our homeland’s soil, perhaps this where I truly belonged.
A lot of people have rolled their eyes quite differently from mine, questioning my existence here. And that was my first realization here. It’s been a lifelong doubt, is this where I am meant to be? Kochi as many claims is a shy town, and its slow pace would gradually poison my creative vitality. But in time I learned that when you decide to live at a slower pace, you do not become any less. I decided a city is not what deprives you but rather it’s you who discovers the essentials to bring out more. And when chechi rubbed more oil and I sat against the window, she said, “That’s my naadan* girl.” And for the longest time, after six years of running around, I could finally envision a home. Perhaps it’s slow and patient as the practice as Ayurveda. It's just the beginning of a new start, but the word itself Ayurveda is powerful on its own. Ayur standing in for longevity and veda most simply defined in knowledge. 2019 is that year to discover the wisdom in oneself while building a home on a far less rocky foundation. Surrender to the ploys of time.
I hesitated for publishing this story quite late, but there’s a beauty in rewinding. Makes me appreciate how all those days have become of me. The clever fall of dominoes of life events that led me to still standing. A very happy new year to all, enjoy another year of discovering the mysteries of life.
Happy New Year to you!
I would like to thank Zuzana Zwiebel oh so deeply for believing in my artistic vision. She’s one of the rare people who sees a certain beauty in me, and thus I felt special to be a part of her photostory. An extensive thank you to Kairali Ayurvedic Healing center for teaching the valuable lessons of Ayurveda also for your wonderful services and hospitality. Aghil Menon, you have always been an impetus of mine, the fact that we think so similarly. This story was extensively special because I think we saw a different sides of each other when we decided to capture everything in a raw manner.
Run parallel, meet at intersections, skip a few lines, the line of thought has journeyed across a few latitudes and longitudes. To more miles before the big sleep. Cheers, Atheena
Founder & Director of Ayurveda Trails, healing collection of (extra)ordinary people and their stories, whose experiences are transferred into various trails shared by travelers.
While he is searching for the right frame, he believes, that art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Perhaps he is lost in Pondicherry or found in Cochin.
Launched the first ayurvedic centre in New Delhi in 1989 followed by The Ayurvedic Healing Village at Palakkad, Kerala in 1999. Today the company under its umbrella has over thirty centres in India and abroad.
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