No money, no costumes! On their first ever trip outside Uganda, “The Rockies” boys took millions by storm with their performance on Mahashivratri night and left them wanting for more.
Read what Brian, a member of the troupe, has to say about the saga of bringing these talented, underprivileged youths over the Indian Ocean for their dream performance.
I felt I was living a dream. Till just a few days ago, none of us had even known a world outside Uganda existed. Now here we were in India, performing in front of Sadhguru and one million people! Part of the crowd stood gaping at us in amazement, while the others roared in delight and danced to our drum beats. The best part of it all was when Sadhguru himself joined us onstage! It felt like we had turned into movie stars overnight!
That night, I looked at the boys of our troupe, “The Rockies Troupe,” as we are called. Some were orphans, others abandoned by single mothers or were school dropouts, others came from refugee camps. These boys had not done any yoga program, nor did they really know who Sadhguru was. But here they all were, humbled by the love they had received from the people at the ashram and from around the world, shining bright after the performance of their lives. I could see they had been through a lot and would go back home changed forever.
Are we really going to India?
In January, I had received a call asking me whether we could perform at the ashram in India in just a month’s time. We had performed in front of Sadhguru at Isha’s Inner Engineering program in Uganda last June. Everyone, including Sadhguru, had appreciated our performance.
My answer to their question was an immediate and roaring “Yes!” Yet, I was very aware this would also be the beginning of several challenges we’d have to face.
The saga of traveling to India
As predicted, the troupe members were ecstatic when they heard about this. But we had some problem-solving to do first…
One. We had no money to buy air tickets. Two. Many boys didn’t have passports as they had never even been outside Uganda. Three. We didn’t have any professional instruments or African costumes suitable to perform with on an international stage. To top it off, we needed funds for yellow fever vaccinations and Indian Visas.
With none of us having relatives that could financially support us, we were in an extremely complicated situation to say the least.
But we knew one thing – we wanted to go!
It’s now or never!
I have never worked as hard as I worked during this period. Getting together the funds was our first task. Lulu, an Isha meditator in Uganda, played a big role in making this happen. She wrote an informal appeal to Isha meditators in Uganda for the funds. The response was amazing… even low and middle income meditators contributed. However, the money wasn’t enough to cover everything. Then, our Isha Yoga teacher in Uganda approached a well-known family who wrote us a check with enough to buy 20 tickets for the troupe members – despite the family not being Isha meditators! We were overjoyed to say the least.
From the time the check was issued, we had only 24 hours to buy the tickets. We had no “names” though. It’s a rather strange thing in Uganda that people change their names every so often. By the time they are about 13 years old, they may have changed their names about 5 times! So when I somehow sent the names to Lulu, she dreaded buying tickets with those names, not trusting if these names would be the same as on the passports!
The thrill of our first flight ever!
Until we were sitting in the plane, we couldn’t believe that we were actually going to India. Most of us had never even been on a plane before. Some boys sat gazing outside the window in complete awe, while others couldn’t stop playing with their TV sets. We even ordered vegetarian meals as a token of respect for our hosts in India.
“Wow! There are potholes in the sky too,” I remember thinking in joy when the plane dipped and came back into the wind many times!
Some unforgettable moments in Isha Yoga Center
When we arrived at the ashram, one of the first things we noticed was that there were snake symbols all around. Most of the boys are Evangelical Christians, where the snake is a symbol of the devil. Some became quite apprehensive about Isha and walked with a defensive look for a while. However, they settled eventually – Lulu had explained the spiritual significance of snake symbols to us before we left.
And at the end, a snake ring…
It was truly funny when this old lady who took care of us like a mother, gave us each a snake ring as her parting gift.
“Oh! Maybe there’s something else we could find for them,” an anxious Lulu said gently to the lady. Hearing this, one of the boys took Lulu aside.
“This is a token of her love and care, Lulu, and we are truly happy to receive it,” he told her.
I just kept quiet and smiled at their gentle gratitude.
A hug from the Master
There’s one thing I’ll never forget. After our performance, Sadhguru came and hugged me, asking me to do a smaller performance for the ashram residents. I was more than happy.
A well-kept secret
One of our lady troupe members back in Africa made a painting of Sadhguru, and asked us to gift it to him. We kept it a secret even from Lulu. So Lulu and our Isha Yoga teacher were really surprised when they saw us carrying it onstage, accompanied by drum beats, for Sadhguru.
The memories we took home
An unexpected dip:
We’ll never forget our exciting first dip in the Suryakund. One of the boys, Ndaula Muhamad, shares:
“At first we thought it was the normal water we usually go into for swimming, but it was so cold, we felt like we were freezing. But when I got out, there was a special feeling I had. I felt like I had gained power and mobility. It was a bit strange, but I loved the experience after.”
Finally, here is what our youngest member, 7-year-old Yowasi Ibrahim said:
“I was so surprised to see white people here who don’t know how to speak English!”
He thinks whoever is white or light-skinned speaks English. Yowasi also said that he was fed a lot of food every time we went to eat. People used to lift him, dance with him… he felt so happy because everyone cared about him.
Yowasi couldn’t keep his hands off the personal TV in the airplane during his first ever flight! (Yowasi lives with Brian as his birth parents are too poor to take care of him.)
The entire troupe will always remember the love and care with which we were treated by everyone at the ashram. As we went home, filled with gratitude, we carried a little bit of what we received from Sadhguru and the people there in our hearts.
Rockies Troupe is a non-profit cultural organization in Mutundwe, Lubaga Division, founded in 2012. Its mission is to mobilize, motivate and support under-privileged, talented young people in the field of performing arts. The troupe seeks to develop their talents, get education, shelter, medication and advance their entrepreneurial skills in order to be self-reliant and realize their full potential in life.
Editor’s Note: Want to know more about Rockies Troupe? Contact them at +256 772112855 / +256 701000004 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.rockiesug.org/ to learn about their mission and vision, and upcoming events.