Reminiscing Rishi Valley -- A Poem
by Manisha 'Patel' Arora

Foreword:
I was in Rishi Valley School for 3 years from age 8 to 10. I left RVS to emigrate to UK. It has been 22 years since any contact with RVS or follow RV'ites (although I have always held them dear to my heart). These were my thoughts and memories and I have separated the poem in 3 parts, before, during and after RVS. I hope you enjoy it and that it will bring back some very pleasant memories.

REMINISCING RISHI VALLEY - A POEM

BEFORE
My parents are wise (as most of them are)
It was decided I should go to RVS (which to me was too far)
On departure, I cried, bawled and upset my family with tears
But it was in vain, for after all we had to face up to our fears
My family would miss me, this I knew
But, how would I cope without them? What would I do?
Would I cope with washing my long hair
Who would plait them with such care
I had lots of questions but very few answers
I prepared as best as I could, with plenty of murmurs
I left Hyderabad with a full grey trunk
(I later did this journey many times)
and each time my heart always sunk
I was leaving those I loved, to be what I thought was 'alone'
The seed of Krishnaji's teachings had been sown.

DURING
Entered the gates of Rishi Valley
I remember being homesick for the first few days
Soon got accustomed to my new environment
5.45 am. Wake up! Wake up!
Early morning Cross Country jogs/Sports taken with Naidu Sir
Tall trees in monsoon rain, sweet smell of flora
Bandaaris (centipedes) and kamlibuchis (red velvet insects)
Queues for the showers determined by strategic placement of soap dishes
Breakfast menu; Dhosa on Sundays.....Mmmmm
Silence bell in dining hall. Tuck in....delicious!
Except for the Snake gourd....yuk - I didn't enjoy those!
Anyone for 'special egg' (what's so special about an egg?
I know now....I have a daughter!!!!)
A heap of Bournvita in the palm of my hand. Relishing each crumb.
Remember to fill fountain pen with ink before going to class
Assembly in the auditorium. Mishra Sir in his 'dhoon' chanting
"Hey Jaga Dhratha Vishva Vidhatha, Hey Subh Shantiniketan Hai"
We all sing. I am getting good at this. I like music.
Back to class, academic study in the morning
Me - Form Captain? Can't be!
Satti Akka loves flowers for the class room
(As long as they are not pinched from under Gardener Sir's nose)
A cobra disrupts lesson in Junior School - outdoors under the tree
The reptile is persuaded to leave. No no no..no killing!
Lunch time, silence bell again? Be patient!
Be grateful for the food you are about to receive!
There are thousands who would be grateful for this food
Of course no wasting
Then an hours rest. Read comics, catch 40 winks, reflect if you will
Allowed one sweet. Wow, big deal
Yes, it was a big deal at the time and yes we shared
Keeps Nutrine factory in business, I think!
Wonder what activity I should select this afternoon?
I like music; perhaps I can learn Veena
My younger brother, he wants to learn Mridangam
Or shall I help plant beans near the small plot at the fountain
Or shall I oil paint. Oh so much to do and such little time!
I am spoilt for choice
Many may say I am spoilt to experience such a lifestyle itself
I knew I was fortunate.
The trouble is, I didn't know it when I was here.
Months pass. The small plot of beans are harvested
and they are served to those of us who nurtured them
Such gratification? Our tender loving care and nurturing came to fruition.
Tea time. But, I don't drink tea! Lemon Sherbet will do nicely
Very refreshing.
And what's to eat? "Aloo Bonda".
Games & PT. Ok here's where we get to parade our starched, neat, whites.
I can see there's a 'Sir' in the Tennis/Basket Ball courts
I'm sorry I forget his name
Can you remember him? He's always skipping ropes
He has invited me to play basketball when I am older a little older.
Rounders/Volley Ball/Bharat Natyam/Hockey - what's it gonna be?
Quick get showered and changed for Astachal
The boys are in white pyjama/kurta
Gosh, doesn't everyone look smart...............and so peaceful.
We sit in silence on the plateau. The sun is setting, the sky golden.
The mosquitos are extracting my blood. Swat. Swat. Swat.
In self defence - OK?
Such peace I have never known or experienced.
The hills are truly filled with the sound of music
yet there is only silence.
A quick game of table tennis before dinner
or perhaps tuition if we have a test.
Or songs or other activities in the games room.
Don't forget to cover your books with brown paper.
Or what about a bird watching trail
(guys - I mean the feathered variety of birds)!!!
Rehearsal for plays. Premila Akka often picks me for the lead role.
I love it and maybe it shows.
Partiality - there's a word from the past!
I enjoy Drama. I suppose, if I wanted to
I could have been the next Madhuri Dixit?
Who am I kidding?
Today, I would have to starve for a month to be as slim.
Slim! What is this obsession with vanity and looks.
Try to see deeper than that!
Dinner time, Thursday, I'll have your cutlets if you don't want them
please?.
You can have my brinjal if you like.
(Hardly a fair swap, is it?) OK - I concede
in return you can have whatever you want from my plate
Quickly, before I tuck in and make it 'Juttha' - Bon appetite.
I wonder if Kantan Sir guards the recipe for rasam
(as closely as they guard the formula for Coca-Cola?)
Return to Red House
Play with friends and house mates and opposite house mates
For they are now my brothers, my sisters, my surrogate family
Tears at bedtime. Am I homesick again?
Yes - I want my mummy.
On Saturday, during letter writing
I will tell them how much I miss them.
Weekends are always busy - cleaning the house, polishing canvas
shoes with chalk paint, using old toothbrushes, dhobi chits
and bundles, hikes, chilling out with the seniors, playing hide and
seek near the auditorium and Banyan Tree/ pinching fruit from the
orchards. Phew, that was close! We almost got caught.
Next time I will be on 'look out patrol'
Flower Rangoli at Pongal or moonlight dinners on special days
Peace, love, harmony and happiness always
This is the life!!!
(I would have enjoyed it more had I realise this earlier)
The 8.00 pm bell has been rung. Sleep tight.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
I wonder where you RV'ites are?

AFTER
I was neater, more pleasant and much more independant
Polished, polite and more caring
My parents couldn't believe the change
I even saved my sweets and took them home to share with my family
Homesick in RVS; and RVS-sick in England
I have been too lazy to write to RVS, in any case who will remember me?
The years go by. My thoughts are still there. My memories are fond.
I wonder, do they have a web page? Only one way to find out
Search, search, search. Bingo! Thank goodness for progress and IT
The process of thought is not a bad thing
(provided it is put to good use)
Wow! A picture of The Banyan Tree - I find myself with tears
streaming down my cheeks. Why?
Happy, sad, emotional? All. Oh how I have missed it.
I want to go to RVS; it would be a dream come true
The easy part is getting there
When I get there what will I do?
What I really want is to relive those years of the past
The same class, the same pupils and same teachers;
Just as I had left it, just as I remember it last.

Hey wait! I hear you say. Haven't you just been there? I hear you ask
Yes, of course. I have just relived those years
in the last three paragraphs
How lucky I am; How lucky you are.
We were once very near and maybe now we are afar
(but, I would like to think, only in distance)

I was priviledged in every sense
to have experienced Rishi Valley.
Krishnaji's teaching will benefit my daughter, Sonali
I wish I had stayed there longer.
I thank my family, for sending me there and for being stronger.
For believing in the truth.

My knowledge of the teachings are limited.
So Brockwood Park, I have visited (last weekend).
Who said dreams don't come true?