The ambience of An Author’s Afternoon on 19th February at Taj Bengal was enhanced by the spirituality and awareness of American Author Jerome Armstrong’s words. Jerome is the co-founder of Vox Media a leading independent modern media company. He holds a PhD in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University. One of the first political bloggers, he also assisted in digital media political campaigns in the United States. Jerome practices and teaches Yoga and Qi-Gong in the west and is the author of the book titled simply as Calcutta Yoga. Varuna Shunglu, a popular yoga exponent was the conversationalist for the evening.
The session was an absolutely eye-opener on the rich yoga heritage of the nation that was lying right here in our very own city. His book weaves the story of how Buddha Bose, Bishnu Ghosh and Yogananda took yoga from Calcutta to the rest of the world. Jerome divulged how he had accidently come across the manuscript of the yoga legend Buddha Bose in San Francisco and was so intrigued that he decided to rummage into the huge yoga legacy of our country. The art dealer he acquired the manuscript from was more than eager to hand over the documentation for publishing but had requested Jerome to visit Kolkata to research further. Jerome explained the difference between the yoga that Vikram Choudhury was teaching in the west which was more of a class oriented and basic while what Buddha Bose had conceived was deeper and therapeutic, customized to individual needs. In fact the orientation of Buddha Bose’s style of yoga led him to visit Bishnu Ghosh’s Yoga College in North Calcutta to research on the various Asanas and postures further.
During the tenure of his research Jerome shared that he was fondly referred to as the ‘Ghorer Chhele’ (Son of the house). His work was made easier by his assistant Arup Sengupta who had earlier done research on yoga added to the research done by Claudia for 2 years. Jerome shared his experience of meeting the families of the exponents Yogananda and Bishnu Ghosh. Muktamala, Bishnu Ghosh’s granddaughter was very keen on starting the Teacher Training curriculum for people in the west, proposed by the author. Jerome dragged some popular familiar names into his conversation as Mukul Dutta whose background too came to light.
The spirituality involved with yoga was indefinable admits Jerome .The author disclosed the story of how Yogananda had asked Buddha Bose not to fly, which the latter did not pay heed to and nearly lost his life in a crash. His research was like treasure hunt where one revelation led to another and he kept on acquiring priceless information. His research led him to Mussourie as well where he got his hands on rare photographs of Bose. Jerome described his dejavu moment when he visited the house of Tulsi Bose, Yogananda’s and met 80 year Hanshi Bose and he felt that he had been here before. The author divulged that he when he looked into Hanshi Bose’s eyes he felt a weird familiarity as though he was trapped in the different time zone.
The understanding of Yoga is deeper in India which is a live tradition and heritage, stated Jerome. He added that often people fabricate stories to add to the credibility of their training. Jerome discussed how yoga has evolved over the years, from being an individual well-being practice has become a fitness jargon for many. The author traces the practice of yoga by ordinary people beyond the sages and sadhus to the times when villagers would venture out to earn their living and yoga was practiced as a therapeutic activity. This is when Yoga was translated into science and thus Modern Yoga was conceived. The elements of supernatural and spirituality in Yoga too was translated by Jerome. The audience was enthralled by the heartbreaking stories Jerome unveiled about Buddha Bose childhood, his association with Bishnu Ghosh and how the Magician’s son became one of the pioneers of the ancient practice of Yoga. Jerome’s extensive research and his interpretation of facts left the audience in absolute awe and very enriched on the 84 asanas and yoga, the dangerous antics attached with yoga as seen in the Circus. Our own interpretation and definition of Yoga takes a new dimension listening to this highly knowledgeable yet humble man. The presence of Chandrashekhar, Buddha Bose’s grandson seemed to add a timeless essence to the session.
Jerome’s session had the makings of a perfect thriller. Mysteries were unraveled, history revisited, missing pieces put in place and of course tales told. The profoundness of yoga that steps out of mysticism and travels over the seven seas only to be traced back to its source by this Man from the west. Jerome breaks the myth of the Iyengars and Krishnamurthys being the pioneers of yoga and travels back into time to connect us with our rich heritage. The captivating session was concluded with a thank you note from Esha of Taj Bengal while the guests were felicitated by Ehsaas Woman Gouri Basu.