48 Hours in Delhi
Few days ago, I had a short layover in Delhi, en route to Bhutan, but I just couldn't touch India and not step in. So I extended my layover in Delhi for 48 hours. :)
Just now, I saw this email that reminded me of those powerful hours in Delhi:
Dear Friends, I am still in awe of the Grace received while together, and my silence the result of a heart full. Words seem so silly and yet not. "Thanks" feel so inadequate in the light of what was experienced, yet I thank you all from every bit of Susie for what you showed me and for just being simply you. I feel like I have been slapped and kissed at the same time! Slapped into what is possible and kissed in the circle of love. Since our meeting everything has changed while circumstances and activities go on as planned. Each encounter seems to be power-charged by higher octane fuel!!! I thought I was loving, kind etc etc till I met you!!! Wow! Thank you for the alignment. To you Gayatri and Amitabh it was a delight to meet your family. Thank you for opening your home to me and the group and for your generous hospitality. My heart leaps at the though of strangers in such harmonious community. To you Nipun, Nimo, Jayesh and Parag - thank you for the tidal wave of love you bring to all who you meet, and for the great inspiration to the highest Yoga. I feel blessed to recognize the depth of your authenticity, and to feel the power of simplicity and lack of agenda. It is totally disarming! I have no doubt - we will meet soon again. With love, Susie
It's a telling story.
I arrive in Delhi at 2:30AM. I thought that was late, until I heard a 70-year-old "Susie M'aam" is coming in at 4AM -- and we were hosted in the same guest house. At breakfast, I learned a bit of Susie's spirited journey, that included a decade of service in various parts of India. "Everything I own is in my two bags I brought," she said. She teaches yoga, doesn't have much money, but laughingly shares what she has picked up from intimate time with many revered gurus: "But you know, I've noticed that whenever I give to others, the universe returns the favor." While Susie was teaching for two months, I had a morning talk at SOIL (School of Inspired Leadership).
It happened to be Swami Chinmayananda's birthday, which for was a very important day for them since Anil Sachdev, the school founder, had known Swami-ji's since he was 4 years old. :) That morning, we heard some inspiring stories from Swami-ji's life: "I never needed anything until I had it." In the SOIL auditorium, I saw five big pillars of their values -- Ethics, Mindfulness, Compassion, Sustainability, and Diversity. They really practiced it too. One day of every week, at this *business* school, students are required to do field work with an NGO. Last year, they had even hosted Karma Kitchen at a local restaurant in Gurgaon. There was a very natural resonance with ServiceSpace stories and their journeys.
After the talk, about 25 folks huddled around, just as I saw Parag walk in (from Surat!) -- so before I can even hug him, I asked him to share some stories (of Magan-bhai) with the students. :) As he started sharing, everyone got so into it, they even handed him a mic so everyone could hear clearly. :) Right after, we went to a student-run "Karma Rasoi" event at lunch, where I enjoyed serving everyone kheer -- as the students shared smiles, hugs, and stories, and took selfies. :) The school principal later wrote how everyone was touched that I served them, but I told them that I was actually just building up my kheer karma. LOL Since then, the students have already setup a 21-day kindness challenge and they are pumped-up to step up their practice of generosity.
Prior to lunch, an older woman and her husband (Gayatri/Amitabh) came up to me and said, "Would you come to our house? Even just for an hour." I sensed that they were touched by ServiceSpace values and wanted to somehow deepen that connection, but I had a big surprise coming -- Jayeshbhai and Nimo -- and didn't have extra time. We hugged and I said it exactly how it was, "It seems unlikely but who knows." :)
Through a series of unexpected accidents, Jayeshbhai, Nimo, Parag, Susie and I landed up at dinner at the house of Gayatri-ben and Amitabh-bhai! What was even more remarkable was that their immediately family was visiting from out of town. So the evening spontaneously turned into reunion of a dozen random people, that none of us could've predicted. Parag kept thinking (and privately whispering :)), "I know how long I had to wait to get Jayeshbhai in my home, and these guys have no idea what they're just receiving as a stroke of serendipity." LOL One story, and a smile and a food item and a hug after another, the evening wore on and vibration kept building up. Amitabh's son (Abhishek :)) and daughter-in-law had heard of various ServiceSpace projects, his daughter was doing social work degree at TISS, his son-in-law was a budding filmmaker.
By the end of the night, we close it out with a circle (since Gayarthri-ben was keen to experience a "mini Awakin") -- Nimo opens with a couple songs with his vintage sincerity. Our collective energetic fields were doing its dance -- giving and receiving by nature's order. Everyone from the host family shared incredible gratitude: "You have no idea, but this is just what our family needed." Several of them were in tears in different parts of the night. Susie, who was a complete wild card in the gathering, with her bright face and tearfully sparkly eyes, "Since this morning, I feel like I've been hit with a tsunami of love. I have been at the feet of many masters, but I've never felt as blessed as I do now." That's probably how we all felt. We were all simply being ourselves, and yet, collectively, something sacred had emerged.
It turned out at one of their daughters is in Berkeley and is already connected to ServiceSpace. The daughter in law has now signed up for an upcoming Laddership Circle. Gayatri-ben herself is visiting Berkeley and wants to volunteer at Karma Kitchen in May. And they all want to host a local Awakin Circle in Gurgaon.
Parag, Jayeshbhai, Nimo and I were in awe -- and yet it was familiar terrain. :) Of course, for four of us, the night was still young, because we would fight till 2AM about which two people get the floor and which two people sleep on the bed. LOL I'm not really happy to say that Parag and Nimo somehow won that battle. :)
The next day, about 50-60 people gathered for an Awakin Circle in the home of a woman who had spent twelve years at Ramana Maharshi ashram and was a student of Vimala Tai. Shashi and Hardeep were anchoring it all. Locals who attend weekly Awakin Circle, folks who had been following ServiceSpace for a while, Moved by Love friends, Pratyush's mom, Ragu's sister, Sachi's mentor, Dr. Newton's students, a woman on the cover of Femina this month (our own Babbar Maam!), strangers, Gandhians, students, NGO leaders, friends of friends, you name it. It was a diverse mix. But the thing is that this isnt just 50-60 people that were responding to an ad in the paper; it was through word-of-vibration and that depth changes things. That context creates a space that can go deeper -- and it did. Bharati-ben, our host, said she was deeply moved by energy just in the first hour. Kavita Aunty was in tears about how grateful she was to see Jayeshbhai, to whom her son has dedicated his current Narmada pilgrimage. Jayanti, joining her first Awakin circle, offered her home for a future circle. Nimo-jeeeeeee, as always, sang songs that got us all swaying in arm-to-arm hugs. In the later hours of the night, 30-40 folks still present selected a Smile Deck card, read the card aloud (and shared smiles, because they'd be accountable to each other for doing those acts :)), and did a big group hug. Happiness all around.
Of course, that night also, four of us in our masti-gang had a late night of spiritual conversations -- and Jayeshbhai and I had an even longer night. :) I was thinking of catching up on sleep in my morning flight, but then universe had me learning inspiring tidbits from the woman seated next to me -- author of 14 books on gender equality, indigenous rights, development, and dalits. So inspiring. In gift-ecology, she said she may have just found the next direction of her work, and will probably join one of our year-end retreats. Funny thing was that we both sat next to each other, 20B and 20C, but then discovered that *both* of us were in the wrong seats -- 19B and 19C. Must've been meant to be. :)
I landed in Bhutan. Ever since I was a kid, I have felt like Himalayas was my home. And now, I'm surrounded by them. "It's a blessing, it's so amazing, and I'm grateful for it all." :)