UPPERCRUST PEOPLE: Jehangir and Dhun Palkhiwala
Yoga: A Reason To Smile
How many are privileged to be nurtured by Yogacharya B.K.S.Iyengar himself? To be simultaneously blessed by Sri Aurbindo and Mother of Pondicherry? To inherit the legal virtuosity of father Behram Palkhiwala and Uncle Nani? Meet Jehangir Palkhiwala, an astounding individual, who chose and carved his own path through time and is an enlightened soul. His journey of yoga commenced during his formative years at the correct age of seven. While his mother tenderly coached him in yoga daily, Jehangir played truant from class if the asanas were difficult. Yet, he was a rather favoured student of Yogacharya B.K.S.Iyengar. Affectionately calling his teacher 'uncle', he would sit around on his lap and play. Yogacharya B.K.S.Iyengar, considered the benchmark of a strong teacher, evokes awe in Jehangir even today. Whilst cultivating yoga in her three sons, Adil, Feroze and Jehangir, their mother also instilled a belief in the Mother of Pondicherry in him. If as a child, he suffered toothache or a bad dream, his mother's strong belief led her to give him the offerings of the Mother of Pondicherry in the form of rose petals and his pain would just ease away. His dimension of spiritualism and healing are a result of his strong connections with Sri Aurobindo, his faith in the Mother and the imbedded character of yoga.
His primary years were spent at the Bombay International School where his curiosity was encouraged despite his own claim that it is an annoying Parsi trait. After earning his master's degree from the Elphinstone College, he followed up with a Law degree from Government Law College. He was proficient in his short stint as a lawyer, but to be a famous lawyer did not appeal to him. He would win competitions in school and had an instinctive flair for the arts. He not only played the piano and listened to music but took part in dramatics alongside connoisseurs like Ronnie Screwalla, Kabir Bedi, Shernaz Patel, Janak Toprani and Alyque Padamsee. He met Rashmi at the post graduation level and this inspired him to enact a modern play called Peace of Mind. This peace of mind remained his forever, as Rashmi became his gentle better half.
His career swapped tracks with yoga as he quit his practice with the law firm, Crawford Bailey, and permanently renounced legal glory. He eased into guiding his brother Adil's yoga students as Adil migrated to the U.S. Therapeutic yoga brought out the nursing quality within him, making it a life time pursuit. The fulfilling experience of watching disease disintegrate before his eyes encouraged a new professional alacrity in him. An incidental meeting with Ravina Venkat at an organic bazaar consequently led to his acquaintance with Vijaya Venkat to whom he owes the blessings of the qualities of raw foods. This meeting, coupled with the influence of Maneka Gandhi's book titled Heads and Tails, brought about the change that altered his life. Abandoning processed foods gave him the vitality to perform yoga better and converted his mirror into an idol of good health.
His practice as yoga teacher flourished, as the effective results of his methods became evident. Being the disciple of Yogacharya B.K.S.Iyengar, he was accustomed to ways that were severe and conventional. A visit to the U.S.A. gave him the opportunity to observe Adil tutor yoga compassionately. However, he continued to carry out, in India, his harsh guidance of yoga, unaware of his own potential to be positive and calm. In the U.S.A., Adil's child was brought into this world in the comfort of the home, as opposed to elaborate American hospital facilities. Jehangir carefully studied the book The Magical Child by Joeseph Chilton Pearce. Soon, his own daughter Rishaya was also delivered in her loving home. By now, his practice had expanded considerably which he endeavoured to curtail so that he could spend quality time with his growing family. He unconventionally commenced schooling for his child at a much later age. In early childhood, he taught her at home. His soft paternal approach towards his daughter was strikingly in dissonance with his aggressive attitude towards those who sought his yoga. But for his gentle better half, he might have continued to push his yoga students relentlessly. It was Rashmi he claims, who noted the disparity in his personality. She cajoled him into being polite and positive to his own followers and less discriminating to other forms of medicine. This raised his whole persona to a truly more yogic one. He followed a Gandhian principle, "If you are right, you can afford to keep your temper; if you are wrong, you cannot afford to lose it."
The true impact of yoga is better understood, he explains, when one understands that yoga is nothing but "unity", derived from the word "Yuj". He quotes Sri Aurobindo who said that yoga is life itself. He says that to treat yoga as a power building technique is to belittle its virtues, as it is yoga which creates the positive vibes, when practiced with compassion. It was in those days when he taught yoga from home that he found a spiral of energy emanating from him. Now, he practices outside the home and most enjoys teaching little scholars within whom the real energy can be discovered. Not only does he conduct special batches for kids at his center, but also teaches at his own roots, at Bombay International School. He teaches them through story telling and puts their memory to test. Today he is satisfied as yoga has been introduced in the curriculum of schools other than Bombay International School and is an important part of the syllabus. A formerly strong believer in 'veganism' and non supplementation, he had the courage to admit publicly a change in his belief. This shift in his life occurred, he admits, when he realized that people following the vegan way of living faced major health problems and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. There were even incidences of deformed babies being born to people following the vegan way of living. He credits Rashmi once again, who pointed out this abnormal incidence. He reassessed his proclamation and revised his stance and incorporated a new diet. Reforming the lives of the suffering adults and innocent babies, he enhanced their living, his own humility and his wisdom. According to Jehangir, "The best time to practice yoga is on an empty stomach, ideally early morning before breakfast. At any other time, it should be done on a fairly empty stomach i.e. two hours after a light meal or four hours after a heavy meal. Practice with bare feet, in a warm, quiet, clean and airy place. Remove spectacles, contact lenses and jewellery before practice. Look at yoga beyond physical exercise; look at it as a gift from God to attain mental health to prevent us falling ill, to increase our immunity. The ultimate aim of yoga is self- evolution. Look at it as a form of medicine that cures illnesses invisibly. Yoga means understanding how the body and the mind work together at an optimum level." Jehangir is health, wellness and calmness personified with the tool of yoga.