Diwali – the light within


“To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi


The custom of giving gifts on Diwali has been around for ages, in all Indian households. Gifts to friends, to helpers and to anyone who helps makes our lives simpler.

So Amber and I set about hunting for the right things to give, keeping a close eye on our budget. We bought warm blankets and sweet boxes for the following people who make each day possible

  • Nirmala aunty, who comes in every morning and makes sure our house stays spic and span. She is the pseudo mother-in-law, who is always looking to guide me with just about everything, from washing onions the right way to customs/rituals and inspiring stories of courage and positivity from her own life. She shares her experience without qualms and if I ever ask her what she needs from me, she blushes and says, “Nothing at all.”
  • Ram Bahadur, who cleans our car and bike every morning after his night shift as the society guard. He has a knack for finding our car, no matter which corner of the society we park it in.
  • Ram Bahadur’s younger brother who serves as the security guard around our house. He only knows Nepali and does not comprehend a word of what we say. But there are times when we go out for a dinner or a movie and we come back, only to find him waiting for us with a nice parking spot he managed to reserve for us. The communication barrier does not seem to stop him from understanding people’s needs and helping in his own way.
  • Ram Bahadur’s older brother, who has been waving and smiling at us from the day we moved into this neighbourhood. There are no actual services he gives us. We just happen to love his presence.
  • Asha aunty, who comes to our neighbourhood with her aged father to make sure we all have perfectly ironed crisp clothes to wear. Her son lost his job recently and has been accompanying his mother these days. Her father’s eyesight is failing but he brings her to work on a scooter each day. Her husband is no more and she is the sole bread winner for her family. There isn’t a day when she does not greet me with her huge infectious smile.
  • And lastly, the Kachre-wale bhaiya whose name we still do not know. We have never seen him on holiday. He is young, has a cool air about him and always looks happy to be taking away our garbage. He seems to have a sense of maturity and sensibility which most people even double his age lack.


We gave them their blankets and sweets with a nice warm hug and Diwali greetings. They seemed to be used to the gifts but what caught them unaware were the hugs. And I think that’s what made them smile from ear to ear.


During the same time, Amber and I happened to be discussing how in the past we have been very verbal and proactive when it comes to making a complaint about a certain service or individual. But each time we are happy or satisfied, we forget to even appreciate the person responsible.

So we wrote letters of gratitude and appreciation for two people, as gifts for Diwali.

  • Our personal banker, whose first encounter with us was when we were highly dissatisfied with HDFC Bank. He has always been very patient with us and solved all of our problems to the best of his abilities. His courteous ways and simplifying acts have made our banking experience so much smoother. We had been so hasty in expressing our disappointment but we never bothered to express our gratitude. How easy it is to take the good things for granted! So we wrote to his superiors sharing all the wonderful things about him with them.


  • The salesman from Policy Bazaar, whom we kept on his toes for a long time before bombarding him with all our questions, queries and doubts to look for the policy most suited to our needs. His unshakable patience and graciousness was worth praising. He was never too tired to run around in circles with us. We usually end up criticizing sales people, as we feel we have to tolerate the constant pestering from them. What we do not realise is – they are just having to do their job and in that they may be the ones having to tolerate our whims and fancies endlessly. And so we expressed our respect and gratitude towards him.


All this happily concluded in an interesting & beautiful Diwali. We decorated our house, said our prayers , spent time with friends and celebrated the light within. 


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.

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.