The Joy of Serving from the Heart at Seva Cafe
“Atithi devo bhava”- All of us thoroughly know the connotation, “The guest is equivalent to God" but do we honestly feel the happiness we gain via this opportunity to serve The God here? I used to think- yes! And then I visited “Seva Cafe” in Ahemdabad. It altered the way I felt about this. Seva, in its true sense can be observed in this place. Yes, it can also be spotted in many places around the world and I have had the opportunity to visit two of them - one was "The Golden Temple", it was on a large scale and the peacefulness I got at the end of it was marvelous, the feeling of oneness and purification. And the second was when I visited this petite beautiful place in Ahemdabad- Seva Cafe.
Imagine a restaurant where there are no prices on the menu and where the check reads Rs.0 with only this footnote: "Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those who dine after you."
That's Seva Cafe, an experiment in 'peer to peer' generosity.
The best part of this visit was that I got a chance to visit this place with my students. 7 students from an IB school named Fountainhead, based in Surat. They wanted to bring this concept to their own city-Surat, as one of them had visited Seva Café, Ahemdabad prior and was truly touched by the space. They wanted to bring this idea as their CAS activity, which is like a compulsion for an IB-Diploma student. It was a win-win situation for them.
Most of the students come from a potentially sound financial background. They were 15-16 years old, carrying their questions to comprehend a place like this, with no motive except to spread smiles and happiness. How their minds and heart reacted to it was the amazing part. No doubt they entered with so many inhibitions, confined worldly thoughts and one can't blame them. We live in a world with several motives, with progression, with results and so do these children but one thing I can assure you. They all were so happy by the end of those two days, some of them didn't want to come back, some of them had tears, few were amazed, their hearts were filled with delight. They were inspired, inspired by the rush to smile and serve everyone and hold that feeling for long as possible.
There were these two events out of so many which really moved me on our visit.
There was this heart circle and every one was expected to speak about one of their dream places, which they wished to visit in this life time. One of the servers in Sefa cafe said he wanted to go to Amazon, Africa to which instantly a student asked “How will you fulfill that dream with the little that you earn from here?”
He smiled and said he was in a way already living one of his most important dreams, the "Dream to serve”.
By the end of the day, we were all exhausted. The students earned a choice there, one was to return back to our space and rest and the other to serve tea to individuals on the streets, who for them were complete strangers. At this point, even I wanted to rest truthfully. Yet as soon as the students received this chance to obtain the joy from serving again, they grabbed it with a gigantic smile and if one could see the glee they had while serving, they all were brand new again, free from any weariness.
Being a teacher of such wonderful students, I was proud of them. Not just that, I was proud of my profession owing to these little champs.
Personally, I selected to wash dishes and there were many times while fulfilling my task, I just wanted to stop for a moment because of the emotions that were flowing through me. Washing each dish rinsed my soul, from the worries of tomorrow, from the regrets of yesterday, I was entirely in the moment feeling so delighted and self-ruling.
No matter where we come from, we have it in our hearts to serve, it comes naturally to give our hands to others. We often get off track along the way but it doesn't change what our core is made of. I believe there is hope after all.
I wish everyone could feel the oneness.
Those little steps in Seva Cafe guided me closer to self.