Stories by Sri Chinmoy's students and friends
Abhinabha Tangerman • Amsterdam, Netherlands

Guru's curveballs

During my first Celebrations in New York, Guru had all the young disciples come up to him who had been on the path less than two years, which included me.

As we youngsters came up to Guru, he would throw a candy bar as means of blessing us, which we had to catch. He loved to do this as a joyful, childlike way to interact personally with each person in line. I remember thinking that it would be extremely important to not drop the bar, which in my mind seemed tantamount to squandering the Master’s blessings. Most disciples before me in the line had no problems catching the little bars, as they came sailing in graceful arcs out of Guru’s hand.

However, when my turn came Guru gave a little flick with his hand and the bar flew short of its anticipated course. I grasped after it and hit it with the back of my hand, tossing it higher into the air. As it came down a second time I reached for it again unsuccessfully. The candy bar was now making frantic somersaults in mid-air, about to unceremoniously drop to the floor, exposing me as the most unworthy disciple in the crowd.

In a last, frantic attempt I reached for it again. Fortunately, this time I managed to snatch it from its wayward course. My heart was pounding in my chest as relief washed over me.

I made it!

From the corner of my eye I looked at Guru and thought I saw a hint of a smile.

Unbeknownst to me then is that I had just witnessed Guru’s first curveball, which he threw at me. Over the years, more curveballs followed, moments where Guru would shatter my expectations, steer me off a mind-planned course and force me to improvise, which often meant a return to the fluid spontaneity of my heart.

I had to think of Guru’s curveballs again when the pandemic broke out at the end of February 2020. I had just bought a restaurant in Amsterdam, a waffle house, which I called Heart-Garden as a dedication to Sri Chinmoy, who had coined the term and used it often in his writings.

Before signing the contract, I had spent hours poring over annual turnover figures, discussing the deal with friends who were experienced restaurant owners and hiring lawyers and real estate agents to help me negotiate the best possible terms for the contract.

Needless to say, none of them had foreseen the coronavirus.

So I signed the contract in the beginning of January 2020 in blissful ignorance, with the idea of taking over the business on April 1st. It turned out to be a real April Fools’ Day indeed, as on March 16th all the restaurants in The Netherlands were forced to close in light of the pandemic restrictions.

As the scenario slowly unfolded before my disbelieving eyes, I realised I was witnessing another one of Guru’s curveballs. There was nothing to do but surrender.

I used the extra weeks to paint and decorate the place nicely and went open for takeout on April 25th. The first month was slow, but I made enough to keep my head above water while in the meantime learning the ins and outs of the waffle business.

Now the restaurant is again open for public and doing quite well. More importantly, I’m extremely happy and thrilled to be there, as I feel the restaurant has become a real spiritual haven for people from all walks of life. Guru’s light is visibly and tangibly emanating from his photographs, paintings and music.

In hindsight, opening the restaurant is the best thing that could have happened to me. Yet, had I been given the choice to open up my business in the middle of a global pandemic - arguably the worst time in history to open a restaurant - I would have probably politely declined. That’s why Guru had to throw one of his curveballs, making me sign the contract just before the lockdown started.

And just like my first curveball, I may have fumbled once or twice but I did finally catch it!

Surprise after surprise
Will arrive at your life-door
If you make your heart
A constant consecration to God’s Will.

Sri Chinmoy 1

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