I BOW DOWN

 

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

 

Recently, I spent three overwhelming days with a wonderful family, with real values and some humbling practices.

One such practice was that of “Bowing down” where you walk around bowing down after every 5 steps. We made a single file and began. Surprisingly, I had never ever bowed down anywhere before and so I was carrying a certain amount of hesitation in my heart.

As we started the practice, I was thinking to myself, “Oh no! I will have to wash my hair all over again after this.”

As we moved around on a stone path around the lawn, I began to take notice of all the ants, the centipedes and other insects, harmoniously going about their business. There were no accidents. There were no conflicts. They were in sync with each other and with nature.

My bowing down was probably causing a bit of a hindrance in their busy day to day activities but they did not seem to mind. Soon, I found myself taking care not to let my hair fall in their way, not to step on them or jerk them away, not to detest them but respect them for their ability to share space.

The feeling of mutual love and respect created a sense of oneness I had never experienced before. Pride and self importance were replaced by humility and gratitude. Tantrums and anxiety were replaced by peace and harmony within.

At the end of the practice, I sat in silence, feeling love in its purest, most harmonious form. 

KARWACHAUTH – belief or superstition

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

 

This year November 2nd was celebrated as Karwachauth. As per Hindu culture, married women keep a day long fast on this day to pray for their husband’s long life.

Having never been a very religious person, I have always failed to see the point. How could my staying hungry give Amber a long life? Silly, I thought! But it was my first Karwachauth and I had decided to fast nonetheless, to try and fulfil my mother-in-law’s dreams and expectations.

There was however, a certain amount of uneasiness in having to go against my belief system and give in to customs that only seemed to propagate male supremacy and dominance in our society.

Help came soon after! I read an interesting article that explained one of the original reasons for this practice of fasting. It said that women folk in a household would fast for a day in order to save food for someone who may need it more. Now, this was something, I could believe in and make sense out of.

Having found my light, Amber and I started the 2nd of November by cooking a nice sumptuous meal with love and attention in the same way as we would have cooked for ourselves. We served this hot fresh food to an old lady working on a construction site and to a couple of young children begging on the traffic signal.

The smile on their faces helped us abstain from food all through the day, effortlessly. Experiencing offering our food to those who needed it more than us, added meaning to our fast and helped us practice without greed or anxiety.

What I also learnt that day is – what you gain in giving is far bigger than what is given.

DELHI AUTOs – love hate

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

A train to catch! Packing to finish! A cab to book!

My day was going in a huge rush and nothing seemed to be going as per schedule. Finally, I found myself standing, ready with my bags and all set to leave for the railway station when I received a message informing me of non-availability of cabs at the time and apology for the same.

So, I set out looking for an auto rickshaw, mentally preparing myself to haggle down to the lowest possible fare. Just then I found an auto rickshaw driver, Shyam (name changed), who offered to go by the meter, his only condition being that I would have to guide him through the route as he was new to Delhi. I happily hopped in!

On the way, I remembered instances when I have been new to a city and the auto rickshaw drivers have happily played the role of seasoned tour guides (with no extra charges). And so, out of gratitude, I began talking to young Shyam, showing him various landmarks and introducing him to the city with helpful trivia.

As time passed, I learnt how he used to pay 450 rupees as rental to his friend for getting to ride this auto rickshaw during night time and that he was required to fill in 200 rupees worth of gas in the vehicle every day. What he usually ended up earning for himself for this night long service was 100 to 200 rupees and he was happy.

Then, all of a sudden, our auto rickshaw made a choking noise and came to a standstill. Something had gone wrong with the battery. Seeing us struggle, a passing auto rickshaw driver stopped. I said to Shyam, “Look, he is coming to help you.” To this Shyam replied, “No madam, here no body helps anybody. This is Delhi.”

I was happy to see Shyam being proved wrong. The passerby had stopped to offer help. He had no hidden motive or agenda. I say this because he came, took a look at our auto rickshaw, gave it a push, instructed Shyam to turn on ignition and vrrooooooooommm. . . our auto rickshaw was back in action!

Soon, we reached my destination. I paid Shyam more than the meagre meter reading and said to him, “Five years down the line, when you become experienced and the traffic, weather and other conditions of Delhi start to frustrate you, I hope you will remember to stop to help the new guy and keep his faith alive in the goodness of Delhi Autowalas.”

His swift nod, big childish grin and overwhelmed eyes assured me that he would keep his promise.

Lessons from SMILE CARDS

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” 

― Mahatma Gandhi

Smile Cards look like a pack of business cards. Only difference being that each card reads “SMILE. You’ve just been tagged! Someone reached out to you with an anonymous act of kindness. Now it’s your chance to do the same. Do something nice for someone, leave this card behind, and keep the spirit going!”

I thought to myself, “What a beautiful way to infect people around me.” Luckily, my husband, Amber, had his SOIL alumni cricket tournament lined up the next morning. So, I quickly made my version of Smile Cards and headed out looking for a printing shop to get the cards printed on an urgent basis.

Amber’s boss was kind enough to share the number of a printing shop owner, Rahul (name changed). We tried reaching him by calling and messaging to get directions to his shop but received no reply. Finally, asking people around, we found our way to the shop. However, we were surprised to find Rahul turning his back on us and refusing to attend to us. Slightly insulted, we went to another shop two blocks away and got our cards printed.

While leaving, I suddenly realised that I was so ambitiously carrying out Project Smile Cards for the next morning that I had completely forgotten its core essence of being kind. So we hurried back and gave Rahul a smile card with a chocolate. He was dumbstruck. We simply smiled and left without a word.

A while later, we received a message from him saying, “Thank you for the chocolate :)“. He also shared with us how he was having a really bad day. We wrote back saying, “No problem. We understand. Take care :)”.

An important lesson I learnt from my experience was the huge difference between doing good in an organised project-like mechanical manner and in doing good the natural heartfelt kind of way.

The next morning, I was able to sabotage the cricket match, share the previous evening’s experience and distribute Smile Cards and candies to lots of smiling faces. 

SEVA CAFÉ – serving goodness

 “Love is the strongest force the world possesses and yet it is the humblest imaginable.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

I had heard about the Seva Café in Ahmedabad where all work and activities are volunteer-driven and guests are free to pay what they like.

So, during a weekend in Ahmedabad, my husband and I curiously went to this café for dinner, having decided beforehand that 150 rupees was a fair enough sum to leave behind, considering our limited travel budget. We walked in and were completely overwhelmed by the warm welcome, the gentle ushering to our table and the thoughtful girl serving us with her infectious smile. The whole place was oozing with love and goodness.

One of the volunteers came and sat with us for a friendly chit chat and shared how this café has been running for years on the concept of Gift Economy. Each day food is prepared with great care for 40 guests. The cooking, serving, washing, cleaning is all done by volunteers who derive joy in service. The bill at the end of each meal reads zero as it has already been paid for and hence made possible. It is up to each guest to judge if and what they wish to pay forward for the next person.

This system of showing trust in each guest’s judgement and paying forward for people unknown helps bring us one step closer to our inner beauty. It also helps the world make a positive shift from transaction to trust, from consumption to contribution, from scarcity to abundance, from isolation to community.

Simply reading about this may not mean much. You will truly understand this when you get an opportunity to experience it.

When we left Seva Café, we paid a lot more than the 150 rupees we had planned for. But what we gave that day did not seem to matter anymore because what we received was a feeling of abundant love and happiness. Thank you for serving us.