Serving from the heart in Delhi
Earlier today, I received a call from an unknown number. As I picked up the phone, a cautious, almost apologetic voice asked if it was a good time to speak. Turns out, it's Kavita Aunty - Pratyush's mother from Delhi. Initially, I thought she must be worried about her son who's on a pilgrimage in Gujarat with no means of communication. To my surprise, there wasn't any mention or questions of his whereabouts. She believes I think in the same way that her son does (that most would find divergent!) and in his absence she would like my opinion on something she's been up to.
She went on to narrate a beautiful story from a couple days ago. Kavita Aunty was watching television on Christmas day. For a change, the news channels were airing something positive, about a woman in Lebanon, who went out distributing clothes to keep people warm in her community in the winter. Aunty was so moved by the story, that she didn't even wait for the program to complete. Before her husband could ask where she was headed, Aunty stormed out of the door.
All through the afternoon and evening, Aunty knocked on almost 300 homes in the neighbourhood. As people opened their doors, she asked each resident of the home if they'd like to offer the gift of clothes or shoes to those with lesser possessions this winter. As she explains, she didn't really know how and why she was doing this, but felt compelled to keep moving - irrespective of people's reactions. All through those 300 homes, she came across several folks who looked at her suspiciously or refused to offer their attention. But amidst all of that, she received the most incredible responses. Many folks opened their hearts and homes to her spirit - in fact, most of them volunteered to come by and deliver their clothes to her home personally.
A few hours later she returned home, and was overwhelmed by what she saw. Her living room had come alive with the offerings from her neighbourhood. There were clothes, blankets and shoes of all kinds - in fact there were clothes that could adorn the most privileged. Most enterprises that are set up to distribute clothes often face the problem of receiving unusable items, but I guess this was the power of Aunty's spirit flowing through people's hearts :) The gifts kept pouring in even a few days later. In fact, she was receiving calls about more offerings even while we spoke on the phone! She narrated the story of a young girl who came by her home and apologized for not having any old items to offer. Instead she had gone out and bought 10 pairs of brand new shoes of different sizes and colours just so that she had something to give!
Yesterday, Aunty went out to give away some of these gifts. As she approached the less-privileged communities, she couldn't bring her self to 'donate' these clothes and shoes. Instead, she said she would like to honour those who received her gifts by offering it with love. She offered shoes to every single person on the streets in the same way that a shoe salesman would - by bending down and making sure they fit just right! Sure, some people use market mechanisms and transactions to ensure people receive with pride, but this was a whole new paradigm - flowing through an ordinary housewife in a suburb of Delhi.
As you'd expect, her home is now overflowing with people and more gifts, but that's a problem she'd love to have. Over the next few days, volunteers have offered to drive car-fulls of these gifts to different communities where they hope to keep the spirit flowing. It's like she's got a whole bunch of new sons in Pratyush's absence :)
As we close out the phone call, she says she had called for advice, since she was afraid this project would Fail. 'Fail?', I ask. I hadn't even thought of failure, or sustainability! After all, it had already made me and so many others come alive with her kindness! Some food for thought when we think of the Startup Service Weekend. In the end, that's all we can really do - 'One small act at a time' :)
~ True service is keeping our lamps alit, so that others may light theirs ~