WTM sales manager Farheen Ahmed has recently become a published author with her book Beyond The Ordinary released to acclaim. She tells us about her inspiration.
The book is the story of and a tribute to Bhanumathi Narasimhan, who Farheen first met when she visited the ashram of Art of Living (AoL) in Bangalore. She says: “People were telling me ‘it’s a strange place’ but I wanted to see for myself. I went and there was an international women’s conference, which takes place in Bangalore every two years and that’s where I met Bhanu Didi.
“I was doing some meditation but I hadn’t done any courses at that stage. The day I reached there, they were teaching sudarshan kriya [a breathing technique]. I was in the plush, green surroundings and I was sitting with Bhanu Didi. I found her to be very simple and down to earth.
“She asked me if I had been to the schools which Art of Living runs, that are free for poor children. I made a trip to a school and when I came back to my room I thought to myself ‘everyone is writing about His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar [the official founder and spiritual leader of AoL] but no one has written about her and she’s the director of children’s and women’s welfare’.”
Two months later Bhanu Didi was visiting Bahrain and Farheen met her and told her she wanted to write about her.
I said: “I want to write about your achievements. I’ve been inspired by you and I want other women to be inspired.”
After taking permission for the book from HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Farheen became a regular visitor at the ashram. She says: “In the innumerable times that I’ve met her, there’s something about her values, what she shows about how you go about your life and your challenges.
“If you look at books from the likes of Robin Sharma or Brian Weiss, there is always a life lesson. I wanted my book to have life lessons from Bhanu Didi.
“She took me through her life journey, going to see people and telling them that girl-child education is important. One of her important messages is that empowerment doesn’t just mean educating those from the lower economic end of society – a person can be one of the most educated but not be enlightened. There are plenty of educated women facing emotional challenges which can even lead to suicide. Thus, it is important to nourish your soul. Meditation can help you to align that. This life we have been given, we have to use it.”
She is keen to point out that Art of Living, contrary to popular belief outside India, is not just about yoga. It has schools and also runs programmes for women, particularly widows, in village areas offering training and helping them set up small businesses in things such as cooking, basket weaving and making school uniforms, thus enabling them to support themselves and their families.
The organisation has also been involved in humanitarian relief in areas such as Syria, where it works, in particular, with female victims of abuse.
The book was officially launched at the annual AoL celebration for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s birthday, an event attended by around 20,000 people and seen online by more than two million.
Farheen says: “My concept, as an author, is that whatever I write should have a moral for others, it should wake people up. My grandmother told me as a child that we’re all born with a lot of wisdom; as you get older it gets dusty with all the things we go through. But some people will return to the light, get beyond the rainbow. My mission is to spread this. Go beyond the ordinary. Go for the road not taken. Be the best version of yourself.
“And I’m not done yet ‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep and I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep’.”