By Suma Varughese
It’s hard to feel positive about an agent of death, but what can you do when it opens up your pathway to the Spirit, guides you to recovery step by step and heaps you with blessings? Just thank it, says Devika Bhojwani, of her tryst with the Big C
I feel very, very blessed.’ Devika Bhojwani isn’t talking about her role as one of Mumbai’s most beautiful people. Nor about her soulmate husband and made-to-order kids. Nor yet of her glitzy career as a singer, actress, popularizer of khadi, an Indian cotton fabric (along with Indian actress and media personality Jaya Bachchan) and event manager.
She is rhapsodizing about a cluster of white spots in her right breast thrown up by a mammography. Cancer as kindness? A tumor as a gift? No better way to look at it surely? Especially if an overarching destiny takes you by the hand and leads you step by step through the illness into wellness, peace and joy.
‘Today I feel everything happens for a purpose. And that spirit guided me at every stage,’ says Devika.
Cancer called when life was being deceptively tractable. On May 14, 2000 she celebrated her silver wedding anniversary to Suresh, whom she calls her soulmate, with a party attended by Mumbai socialites. Brite Ideas, her event management company, was flourishing. Life was fulfilling and exciting. Her advent into spirituality had already begun through Deepak Chopra, who initiated her into meditation 10 years ago.
‘I had a powerful experience when I participated in the ‘Seduction of Spirit’ workshop he led in Goa, India, a few years ago. I began to shake uncontrollably. Deepak told me that my kundalini was awakening and that I was drawing energy from the universe. I’ve always wanted to heal people, so it struck me that I could use this energy to heal. Deepak told me about reiki and pranic healing. In a synchronous way, a lady I was sitting next to on a Delhi flight gave me the name of Shamal Durve from whom I learnt reiki.’
Later, when Devika and her husband were sitting with oncologist Praful Desai digesting the verdict of surgery, she had reason to recall Shamal with gratitude and a rueful recognition.
About the time cancer was starting, Devika was taking a dip in the Indian river, Ganga with Sri Sri Ravishankar.
‘As I stood shivering by the ice-cold waters that cold March morning, I looked up. At that moment, a sunbeam enveloped me through a split second parting of the overhead clouds and I felt it literally pushing me in. Before I knew it, I was in the waters, screaming ‘Om‘! When I came out, amazingly, I felt hot. Something in me had changed. Guruji told me that the dip would bring to the fore all the negativity. In retrospect, I believe I was being prepared for my ordeal.’
Spirit was busy building her support network in combating cancer. A few months later, she told Shamal that she was ready for reiki mastership. ‘I went into a trance while waiting for Shamal. Later, she made me lie down before the initiation, and I distinctly felt something touch me, particularly on my breasts.’
Initiation over, Shamal told her something she was to recall over and over again. ‘The next few months are going to be difficult. You must face them the best you can. Be strong. Don’t be afraid. After that your life will open up.’
‘Don’t be afraid’ became a mantra Devika was to repeat to herself. The stage was set for the tumor. ‘My daughter was due for some tests at N.M. Hospital in early June. I went with her and decided to take my own tests, which my gynecologist had recommended since I was over 40. I was in good health, never having suffered illness in my life, and all I can say is that something other than me made me do it. So, I caught the tumor in the bud stage. The doctors told me that it would have taken a year for the symptoms to show up, but meanwhile the cancer would have ravaged the body.’
Spirit took care of everything, making sure that an experienced doctor took her mammography. ‘Those specks were so tiny; anyone less seasoned would have missed them!’
And so on and on. Through the discovery of the micro-calcification; the lumpectomy operation at Breach Candy Hospital; even the shattering report of malignancy in the tumor. ‘It was a high-grade cancer but caught very early and removed with great precision and hopefully completely. Through all this, I was very positive. I gave myself reiki, prayed and thought a lot about death.
‘I have always been curious about death. About what lies beyond. I’ve communicated with my late father often. Death would have given me the chance to reach there. I was excited at the thought. And not afraid of dying. That realization was liberating. But I knew I was not meant to go as yet. There were people like my children, husband and mother for whom I was responsible. I also felt that there were many more lives I was meant to touch. And I say this with humility.’
The doctors prescribed two months of radiation. Sitting at Jaslok Hospital for two hours five days a week was a powerful experience. ‘Witnessing children, men and women battling cancer with tremendous courage gave me strength. I would sit there praying for them and giving them reiki.’
Most of all, Devika was buoyed up by her own realization that she was being taken care of. ‘Something was guiding me every step of the way. I have begun to believe in angels, for someone would always appear to take me to the next stage.’ No sooner had she been diagnosed with a tumor than her assistant Aruna stepped in with information of related websites. Through her, Devika procured some high-level vitamin tablets from the US to build up immunity.
Later, she was asked to help organize a press meet for a visiting friend. Who turned out to be a homeopath who specialized in ensuring that cancers do not recur! ‘My client had no idea of my condition. And yet he helped me locate just the man I needed,’ she exclaims. ‘Even locating wheatgrass was made easy for me—I found someone selling it every morning at Marine Drive where I live!’
Deepak Chopra, whom she met in Agra in January 2001, gave her some healing mantras to chant. Thanks to Chopra’s perspective that our cells are pure intelligence, she began communicating with her breast until it slowly healed to absolute normalcy. She also did visualization exercises, imagining the toxins and negativities slowly leaving her system.
Health expert Vijaya Venkat’s daughter Anju gave her some detox diets to combat the effects of radiation. Recalls Devika: ‘Every morning I had literally a kilo of fruit along with wheatgrass juice. Three times a day, I had juice made of coriander leaves spiked with lemon and ginger. At noon, I would have a huge glass of reds—tomato, beetroot, carrot juice. In the evenings, I would have juice made of all possible greens.
Devika often wonders how she got the malignancy: ‘I had done everything right. There was no history of breast cancer in my family. I had breastfed both my kids for a year each. I’m sure that it came to me for a higher purpose. I have often channeled reiki to friends suffering from cancer. Perhaps I needed to go through this personally to do it more effectively.’
Today, over a year after that fateful experience, she is radiant. Sitting cross-legged on a sofa at home, her face glows. Her presence is regal, but there is an openness and vulnerability that is disarming. ‘I’m just open to life now and it’s a wonderful feeling. In the morning, when I do my surya namaskar, I can feel the sun talking to me. It gives energy directly into my crown chakra. It’s a living energy.’ At night, up comes the moon and another dialogue begins. With awareness, everything comes alive ‘When I am feeling low, I actually hear a voice within, saying, ‘Devika, look at all the other things in your life.’ Immediately I feel elated. Often, I feel these little bubbles of joy welling up from within. The cancer has given me only blessings. It’s wonderful to be alive!’
The accompanying story, ‘Cellular Healing’, is of another woman who while curing herself of an enormous tumor, developed an ingenious healing system.
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