Karma Kitchen in Baroda!
"What is holding us from being kind but then I sense, we are fine… It will all happen, one small step at a time!" - These beautiful words are from our dear friend Nimo's Being Kind song which I thought expresses the journey we make for spreading kindness to every single soul!
I remember almost three years back we were sitting a hotel of Vadodara with Anar didi and Lahar sharing the idea of Seva Café as we were super excited to start one in the city. But you know when it is right, it is right!
On 31st December Manjeet and Dhaval who were inspired by the experiment of Seva Café in Ahmedabad decided to do a small in-house generosity experiment in Vadodara. This turned out to be a beautiful experience of coming together in the spirit of community and service. Manjeet and Dhaval were motivated to then continue this experiment at regular intervals in the city. This idea was shared with a group of friends at the local Awakin gathering post dinner and everyone echoed together to do it.
The conspiracies of universe are surprising and magical! Two kindness wars at the Akota Gardens, doodle art at Pandya residence, finalizing the menu with Manjeet’s mom at his residence and here we were on the previous night at Shamiana Cine Café sitting in a circle where we were going to host the first Karma Kitchen in Vadodara. Trupti and Karan rushed to collect “idlie nu kheeru” at 11.30 p.m. only to find that the watchman of the building had volunteered to take care of their package as the store was closed. As Jignasha, Bhumika, Neeradbhai, Chintan, Vaishali and Vaishali’s mom where cooking for the karma kitchen, Vaishali’s father was continuously chanting ‘ram’ as the food was going to be offered in the spirit of service and love.. The neighbors joined in to volunteer to help with cutting vegetables when they came to know about the experiment of Karma Kitchen. After the food was ready Vaishali’s father prayed and sprinkled gangajal (holy water from the ganges) on the food, truly making it a Prasad for everyone.
When we were decorating the outside space where we were hosting Karma Kitchen, the watchman walked to us and told us he has never seen someone beautifying the corporate space like this before. He said, he believed such things happen only when there is a wedding in the family or in the temples. First time it felt like a temple and a family coming together. He did not feel like a security guard but more like a person taking care of his family. I was like "Wow! This is just the start!"
Anjali, Nimo and Shital shared stories of their experiences of service in different spaces. Nimo through his music, Shital through her stories of bhav yatra and Anjali through her stories of service wherever she is, brought alive the spirit of kindness, gratitude and selfless offering.
We had quite a couple of super energetic home schooling children from Vinoba Ashram who came to volunteer with us at the Karma Kitchen! They brought in a lot of energy, chirpiness and a lot of smiles. I was amazed by the energy, sharpness and clarity with which children were carrying themselves They had a way of self organizing and entertaining themselves, while constantly serving When it was their turn to have dinner, they all sat together, prayed and started eating. I was serving and went with a tray of water and there came an echoing sound of three kids together who knew just the right way of eating food and told me that you can't have water during your meal. Not good!
Such consciousness, such education!
There was a beautiful Kindness Table set up for everyone to gift themselves or take gifts for someone.
Apsara, who coordinates the café space, was in love with the quotes put up on the glasses which were made by a team of volunteers. She came up to one of the volunteer Swara and asked her if we can keep them in the café even after the karma kitchen was over.
Karan and Dhaval brought in the security guards and all the staff of the building to have dinner with us. One of the guards shared that they have been here from more than a year now but he had never sat in the café and this was a first time that he was not only inside the café but also being served dinner.
When we left the cafeteria we left everything the way we it was when we came as a respect of the offering made to host Karma Kitchen with no strings attached.
And this was the highlight of the evening even before Karma Kitchen started.
Before we started the evening there were some walk ins who came to the café and ordered food from the regular cafeteria menu. They ordered their food and later asked for the bill. Jignesh the head chef who was helping us the previous day was so super inspired by the idea of Karma Kitchen even before we started, he went to the guests and told them about Karma Kitchen and offered them the food in the spirit of gifting it forward. They were speechless, left confused and all in smiles!