Three Days with Gramshilipis
Last weekend 40 Gramshilpis from across Gujarat come together to spend three days of listening and sharing with each other. Many were friends from before, and most were strangers to each other.. But many went back as a family after. The amount of dedication and commitment that comes across from these young at hearts is admirable and truly commendable.
The three days were focused on the theme of Awareness, Impact and Transformation. However it wasn't about these three factors in their work as an outcome, but more towards their own inner understanding, inner impact of all their learnings and eventually their own inner transformation.
Day 1 - Inner Awareness
The seed question that was put in the circle was: "What has been your most inspiring moment to continue your work in service, amidst all challenges. Would you like to share a personal story that has been the source of that inspiration? Some powerful stories emerged in the circle.
Jyotsana opened the circle on day one with her own struggles in her field of work and the struggles that were a part of her upbringing; and how at a very young age she understood that they were both interconnected. But yet there was this understanding of "if I become the same complaining voice amongst the many and if I won't help myself, my community then who will?" that inspired her in the process of constantly staying committed to her journey of service within and without.
Jetsingh Bhai talked about how he is practically banned from the village because he introduced Solar Lights in the household for the people. People would make calls to ensure that he stayed outside the boundary of the village. But what particularly struck in that moment was, - his smile - which he followed after saying, "but I will continue this work, because I believe in it. They can throw me out of the village, but not the belief out of me." Mahesh Bhai from the Naroda Ashram Shala shared about a moment that became the commitment point in his life. A 7 year old boy was studying in his Ashram Shala. Every Saturday his mother would come to see him, just like everyone else's parents. But this one Saturday she did not come. It seemed she was battling with Cancer in the hospital - and later passed away. Soon after his older sister passed away too. His father was always drunk and never home. This news was broken to this child slowly and gently. From the front it seemed that the child had understood this situation. There was this confusion of who is to take care of this kid now on. However one particular day this teacher found him sitting under a tree. When he walked up to him to ask what he was doing. He simply replied - "This side is where my mother is buried and this side is where my sister is buried. I'm just sitting here to feel their presence". This moved Mahesh Bhai so much that he solidified his commitment of not only taking care of this child but also the school that he was managing. He committed to spreading his love with every child that walked inside that little gate. The feeling of inner awareness was so palpable as everyone held each other and their commitments through their stories of inspiration and outer transformations.
Archan Bhai joined us later that day and shared his beautiful journey of pain and love as a Cancer Survivor. All through his share he talked about how little seeds of his own unknown acts of kindness had blossomed into making his survival possible. Starting from his stints as an untrained accountant in a company, to helping pay back loans that his brothers had taken from people, to talking to security guards of big news papers from saving the publishing house. Each one, recognized and
un recognized came back in his life when it was almost confirmed that he wont make it! He had once gone on a visit to a village as a fun trip. Years later the villagers heard of 'this one boy who had once visited their village - was on his death bed'. Almost immediately the villagers collected every penny possible from each member of the village and hired an open truck to travel to Ahmedabad, to pay their last visits to this young man - just because he made them laugh. Back in the early 70's they collected some 600 odd rupees and were hopeful that it would at least buy him one injection, which at the time was Rs 3900. The doctor was moved to tears by the gesture of these villagers that he actually affirmed the fact that this would buy him one injection! Archan Bhai's story was a reflection once again of how the world truly relies on the Subtle Capital, and that money is truly the means and not the end.
The later part of the day was super fun. We had some randomly put together 'Drama' on sanitation, recycling, shifting conversations and mindsets by everyone as we broke into 5 teams. It was super hilarious to see how creatively humor played a big role in explaining some of the most neglected issues of sanitation. And brought out the deep hidden aspirations of 'acting' in many! A group of volunteers from Mavericks (who use games and sports as a way of engaging, educating, team building and adding values in children and communities) made the rest of the evening memorable as we all learn't, fell, hi-five'd and bonded over sports.
The day was convened with bhajan and rain garba :)
Day 2 - Inner Impact
Anar Didi opened the circle with a very inspiring and a powerful sharing of her own journey and inner impact in service. She shared about her own stories of struggles, inspirations and values that have been watered and soiled for the last 22 years. She openly and with innate courage shared of her current struggles with the media since her mother is an acclaimed political figure and how she now sees this as an opportunity to put her wisdom and values in practice, her commitment and authenticity towards her own Impact in service, not only on the outside, but on the inside. It was truly amazing for her to share that journey, since most Gramshilpi's were able to relate to that in their own lives.
The day was followed by different hands activities as we all broke into 4 groups: Cleaning the ESI Campus, Gardening - where more than 50 saplings were planted around the campus, Making Suchitas (brooms) - learning of the different kinds, uses of all the brooms and cooking at the Kabir Ashram. The team was then taken to Mahatma Mandir, that showcases a beautiful set up of the journey of Gandhiji through visuals, with the help of advanced technology. As the team reached there, Ramesh Bhai (who's dedication to Tyaag nu Tiffin reminds us of Raghu Bhai) decided to stay in the bus itself, since it would be difficult for him to walk. Mushtu Khan, another hardcore dedicated Gramshilpi, decided to carry him on his back so that he is able to witness the magic just as everyone else. I'm sure, later the magic that everyone witnessed wasn't only the beauty of that space, but also the beauty of the inner impact as Mushtu Bhai and later Harish who took Ramesh Bhai on their back through the entire premises. The day ended with silent dinner and some inspiring films showcased and put together by Meet.
Day 3 - Inner Transformation
Jayesh Bhai opened the circle by sharing his deep gratitude towards his mother. A blessing, that allows him to be an instrument in service for the collective. The inspiration, that constantly reminds him of his presence in each one, and each one's presence within him. Kishan Bhai then led the circle with three-steps and a bow in the rain!!! This is the first time in the history of such gatherings, that the Walk of Peace and Gratitude was held through the outpour of (rain) and blessings, both outer and inner - that drenched everyone in tears of love and constantly reminded how each one is connected and interconnected to 'Bhagwaan - Bh-Bhoomi (earth), g - gagan (sky), w - wayu (wind), aa - agni (fire), n - neer (water).
When I look back at what happened at the end of the three days, I know nothing really phenomenal happened. But when I close my eyes, I know that I found myself shifting and truly moved by love. It affirmed my belief, that the purpose of being a part of the retreat is not to change anyone, but to open my own heart a little bit more and to reduce the distance between service and myself.
Reflections from Jyotsana:
As a volunteer I felt that those three days time was like a big family were going on pilgrimage together. when I was observing them they were looking like happiest peoples in this world. They were sharing their sorrows and trouble with each other and that is not very usual or common in today's life style. whenever I came in the retreat I found that this is not for other but it is for my transformation. I am not serving anybody but they served me as they created an opportunity of togetherness.
1) First day : my awakening has been go with the flow at the point because we were volunteer and as well as participants too.
2) Second day : Impact day I felt that this is my role as a human, to be in tune with my surroundings as an observer or improviser.
3) Third day of Transformation :- I realized that Be True to my self. I am what I am. I don't need to borrow any one else's thought process or anything. I need to be firm with my thoughts which became more clear by the end of the day. I felt that something has changed in me because when I heard Anardidi's heartfelt sharing, something moved inside me. She inspired me and I remember one thing that we are responsible for whatever we tame in our life. I would say in Gujarati that " Saamaa pravaahe pan tarvaani taiyaario raakhvani ane samay aave tarvaanu pan kharu. (One should always be prepared to swim in the opposite direction when the need arises and not to run away in fear. That is the sign of true commitment and courage) That is why I sow that Bhaav in my heart that "PRABHUNE RAHEVANU MAN THAAY, EVU HRADAY BANAVU MAARU, MANDIR KAHEVANU MAN THAAY, EVU HRADAY BANAVU MAARU. It is about my effort, my practices towards purification of my heart. I take my own responsibility as a human being for purification of my thoughts, my mind, my heart and my little contribution of actions in this life.
Reflections from Meet:
I'll start with the my feelings. When me and Meghna didi talked wtih Jayesh Bhai and we were talking about logistics, I felt like 'oh baap re' I have to do so many things. But some how I ended up doing all. One of the interesting thing is first time I did not know the names of some of the participants. And even compared to other retreats we had less volunteers. But strong one's like Mahesh Bhai, Jyotsana Ben, and Bhupath Bhai. I really appreciated their efforts. In the beginning it was lot of hectic schedule for me because I don't know the name of participants so I was not able to manage their accommodation, but eventually it ended well. In the first session I felt Jyotsana Ben started very well. One of the surprising thing was that all the participants really opened up because in the last Gramshilpi retreat, it took time for them to open up. Archan Bhai's session was very powerful and I realized that we are all blessed in such beautiful ways. And the key learning was that whatever we do, our karma comes back to us. Because of his honesty and purity he got so much support during his difficult time. I cried so many time during that session. The play to lead team (Mavericks) did a fantastic job to connect all the participants. Narendra Shashtriji's bhajans were so powerful. On the Second day, the Mahatma Mandir visit was very powerful and important for all the participants. I heard one common line,"Bahu jordar banavu che." (This space is so awesome) Again I have met Anar Didi only in the retreats but she has always inspired me. Third day was very powerful day for me personally. I was in a dilemma and I was thinking a lot. But the moment I started bowing down I just emptied my self and again I cried a lot. It made me realize how beautiful this process is. When people were leaving they were so happy to gain new experiences in their lives and I could see that in their eyes and faces. Over all my heart felt a lot of peace.
Reflections from Harish:
About the retreat let me first telling thank you for each and every individual soul because of this gathering was possible and it was unique and one of a kind, it was not like any other retreats that I had attended, this retreat was BEA-u-tiful because of the Gram-shilpis and the humility with which they were treating everyone, even a small ant.
First day of retreat when I had sat with a book to write about all of them I individually paid attention to each one of their story, and each of them had so much challenges and hurdles that they had to face when they are working in their respective village; personally my respect for all my brothers and sisters had increased.
Archan Bhai's session I had connected with him on a personal level because the girl whom I was engaged to be with also had cancer, and had been through all the processes that they were talking about and it continuously brought tears to my eyes, and that time I was continuously crying, it did have a shift inside me.
Sessions by play to lead - Mavericks foundation had so many interesting learning's behind their activities and all of the activities were so beautiful and enjoyable by everyone, want to say one big thank you to them for them getting the entire family closer and their activities were so amazing that all of the teachers wanted to implement these activities in their respective villages and want to teach their children with these activities. The way with which their dedication conducted these activities were commendable, because they had come in the afternoon and were with us till the night and with such simplicity and humility they conducted this activity. Learn
t a lot.
Second day my health was challenging me, even though it was my most beautiful day of any retreats that I have ever attended. Anar didi's session on impact was a powerful session which made everyone clearer in their perspective that, each individual had their own unique way of handling these hurdles that present before them, that was a very powerful message of learning that I would take with me, post that session was hands activity and we had been a part of the cleaning activ
ity and it was done very well because all of them were used to cleaning and it didn't seem like much of hands activity for them and they were nicely doing it.
In my visit to Kabir ashram is when I saw humility in each of them and how they were not stepping on one ant also, post that Jayesh Bhai told you all take care of the ants and they were even more careful with them.
Visit to Mahatma Mandir is when I realized what is true laddership. Jayesh Bhai used to metaphorically speak about letting the person climb on your shoulders so that his/her vision begins from where our ends, and that the person has our vision and knowledge and now they can see further than that - this happened in real, Ramesh Bhai from Tyaag Nu Tiffin was with me, he actually was teaching me and sharing his knowledge with me and so many challenges that he had to face and that all of that was a part and parcel of it. One of the very moving and exhilarating experience for me.
Silence dinner had moved me a lot and post that I spent around half an hour in silence in reflection and after that the inspiring films session was really beautiful and they were encouraged about sharing these messages when they are back in their own towns.
All in all - whenever anyone asks me what's a retreat - I am going to say each one is miles apart different and each one just flows with one love and compassion.