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A taste of India, tales from the East

The aroma of khichdi and the allure of ancient tales in faraway Adelaide brings nearly 1,000 Indians and more than 800 Australians together every month and steers them towards an eastern way of life. All thanks to the efforts of Kelvin Brown and wife Heather.

The Browns were mesmerised by Indian philosophy and culture when they met Sanskrit scholar Rama Ranjan Mukherjee in Melbourne a few years ago. Their first tour to India followed, in 1994. Till then, employed with the University of Adelaide as manuscript preservationists and musicians, the couple had “led an ordinary life”. But ever since, the Browns have been bowled over by “the science of Indian culture” and “hooked on to the Vedas”.

Kelvin, presently in the city with Heather, recounts: “The meeting with Prof Mukherjee changed our philosophy. Then, we met a saint in Pune, whose teachings on the Indian ethos inspired us. No books. No meditation or chantings. Just simple story-telling.” When the two returned to Adelaide after their Indian experience, the Browns set off spreading Indian philosophy through a quaint combination of story-telling and Ayurvedic cooking. “Initially, we were apprehensive about the response from Australians. But the khichdi that we cook with Indian herbs and ghee proved a big hit. We also rustle up Indian vegetable curries, dal and sweets on special occasions, the recipes of which we pick up from the Mahapeeth,” says Kelvin. There are plans to introduce yoga and mass singing as the next steps towards Indian philosophy.

The story-telling sessions involve narratives from Indian folklore. “They have gone down well with the Indian population that dots Adelaide and even the Australians… Through these sessions, we are raising funds for the Bharatiya Sanskriti Darshan Inc, an organisation we have just formed, along with Clare Eacott, a human-rights commission officer.” Clare has accompanied the Browns on this tour.

“Some of my published poems are being choreographed by Pune-based kathak dancer Jayshree Moghe for a performance at Gyan Mancha,” explains Kelvin, spending time at the Satyananda Mahapeeth in Jadavpur.

A musician and a poet, he has already published Collector of Words, “inspired by winds from the East”. He is also busy producing CDs and albums of Indian devotional songs, sourcing them from religious institutions of Calcutta.

The Browns also cart Indian saris from Calcutta to Adelaide, to be converted into bedsheets and pillowcases. “As the sari is still alienwear there, we have begun in this fashion to get them acquainted with Indian fabric and style. Once they are used to the idea, we can try some Indian dresses on them,” says Heather, in salwar-kameez.

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