Learning the Art of Surrender
[At the Laddership retreat held in November 2016, Sachi shares from a deep space about one key shift that she experienced in the past year. In her journey with Ashiyana and Shunya, she reflects about deepening her values and learning to let go and surrender to the higher design.]
I don’t know what am I going to say and I have been trying to put this presentation together to make sense of what am I going to say in the next 15 odd minutes. One key shift that I felt in the last year was to let go and actually learning to surrender and probably this moment here is teaching me how to surrender again.
All Work is a Prayer to God
I often think that I am a child of serendipity because life brings me to different situations and I just figure out how to deal with them. As you all know, I have twins:) Yash, my brother made me sign some papers and I became the partner in Shunya Alternatives and I thought, I din’t have to do anything, I am just helping him fulfill his dream. At the same time in Ashiyana, a very dear friend with whom I started Ashiyana, quit. I had actually gone to that meeting to quit myself and she ended up quitting. So, I had to figure this all out - that has been the journey for the past two years. The first year was really disturbing because if you know me, you know how much I love to travel. I don’t stay in Bombay for more than 15 days in a month. I like to travel to different places, volunteer and have my hands and legs in many different things and at many different places and that made it difficult to settle down.
In the last one-year, these two strong reminders have guided me. Once I was having this late night conversation at my house with Nipunbhai and he said, “ ek jaga par toh takvu pade” . (You have to set your foot at one place). He asked me to do an experiment, take one jar and put peanuts in it and take another empty jar and one by one transfer all the peanuts in the other jar. And try to do this everyday. I thought this was impossible and I can’t do it.
The second one is , two years ago, Guri didi, after Start up Service said “Don’t think you are doing Shunya or the Childrens’ home volunteering or ad films. Think of every day as you are waking up and whatever work you are doing is a prayer to God and just believe in that”. So in the past year these two things have really helped me ground myself and say that aje je pan aavse eh josu (will see what comes up today) this is my prayer to God. I think we are constantly shifting and the shift is really about deepening our values and for me personally; the intention or practice of surrendering has deepened a little bit in the past year.
Looking from the Lens of Inner Journey
Slow your mind, everything happens in its own time.
A gardener may water his plants with a 100 pots
but the fruits will only come when it is time.
This has been my constant learning from the Childrens’ home, in Shunya where we have been struggling a lot and it is not been easy to take these decisions alone. We have been talking a lot about universe’s design and I don’t know what the design is but it will happen, if it is meant to.
Another learning that has come up very strongly this year and a quote by Rumi that resonates with it is,
“Beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I will meet you there”
I am someone who really gets stuck about what is right and what is wrong/unfair and doing things the right way. For instance, I was put on this High Court committee to recommend different changes that they can make in the Childrens’ home and to recommend the High court to give instructions to the Childrens’ home. Four NGOs were put on this and every time the high court date would come and every time we would go and visit, there is this storm inside me and I don’t know what is right. We have done four High court meetings so far and it’s been traumatic and I was like if I am doing this for my inner journey, then why am I feeling this way, I can’t be like this therefore, I have to drop this. I am looking at things the way I want them to be and so I really have to drop my expectations. Looking at everything from the lens of inner journey has really been a big learning.
Being an Instrument
Another reminder for me is from the Gita - “I am not the doer, I am just an instrument.”
Yet there are days when I go to the Children’s home and feel that “Yes, I am doing everything!” but the constant reminders help me ground myself. I will share this one incident when I went to this other Childrens’ home where children get transferred from one home to another home. These are children who mostly don’t have families or have broken families and so I go to meet them, to know them, and to just sit and listen to them. Once I was going to meet them and I had two donors with me and I was just taking a round with them when I heard these sounds of pain and shouting. I get closer to the probation department and I see that three children are sitting like hen as part of punishment and one kid is being beaten by another child with a raw stick in his hand and the probation officer is standing right there beating him up and I was shaken. The donors were shaken and everybody was shaken and I immediately went to the superintendent and told that we need to sort this out. I found out that these kids who are 16-17 were caught watching a blue film. This is an institution where you find blue films, drugs, easy get access to charas, etc. And I knew in my heart that violence is not the solution. One of them, Raghu (name changed), had come out during vacations and through Ashiyana, with the help of a friend we supported him in learning English. After this episode at the home, I was leaving and I had no idea what was I doing. Just then another kid runs up to me and says “aapko Raghu ne sorry bola hai “ (Raghu said sorry to you) and I could suddenly see the humanity. The child, who was watching a blue film, realised probably that he made a mistake and he was trying to relay to me, not to the superintendent or the probation officer but to me that he was sorry and I was just really moved by that. For a week and a half, I could not go to the Children’s home. I was really disturbed and I wrote to a bunch of our noble friends and it took me exactly one email to get back and say that Yeah, what am I thinking? I am not the doer, I am just the instrument. And I thought, so in that moment of understanding the higher design, It was good that I reached and I was able to save the three other children from being beaten up.
Honouring the Divine Force
I have always felt that a higher power is operating through me. I don’t know what that is. When we were making Pav bhaji with 100 volunteers for feeding 490 children, it was pouring. Never ever in a closed remand home have there been 100 volunteers. The superintendent came and asked what is this drama all about and I said “Sir aap ne toh bola ke volunteers allowed hai (You only said that the volunteers are allowed). We had more than 3,000 breads that were toasted and I remember it was pouring. The walking path was flooded and we had to take big vessels from the kitchen to the Children’s home across. Just when we had to transport those vessels, it started pouring even heavily and I felt like it’s testing time☺, we have to do it and the volunteers, without even thinking, just ran across that place! Darpan, who was one of them, felt very clearly that he didn’t know from where we all got the strength from but it happened!
Doing What I Can and Letting Go
One clear question that I kept asking myself while working in the children’s home was that am I doing this for myself or for the cause that I am working for? Often people ask, are you happy? Are you doing what makes you happy? Honestly, in the last one year, I have spent very less time with the children. Most of my time is spent in organising, handling staff and I am feeling like that is what I have to do right now. It is not about what my calling is or what is making me happy. Those are all secondary things, so I don’t know what is right or wrong.
We just started working with children in conflict with law and on Teachers’ day, where we just created a space for the children to organise the event themselves and have a party - it was so magical and so beautiful.
There was this one child who did not fit in. He is 16 years old and he is alleged for rape and I could not understand why he was there. We had a deeper conversation and figured that someone had falsely alleged him to be inside and the victim’s mother was asking for Rs 30,000. I tried to do everything, I made him talk to the psychiatrist, got a report in his favour, spoke to the judge and so on. Then I realized that my role is not to try and get him out, will just leave this to fate and God. Instead, I started to focus on his 12th standard exams that were important and every week it was just about going and counselling, pushing him to study inside the home and telling him to be happy wherever he is.
Here’s another incident where I feel like it’s all planned and I am no one to decide anything. At Shunya, we were having a busy Diwali week and packing orders like crazy and there was so much to do. But I had committed to a meeting with a lawyer and the psychiatrist. I was talking to Yash about it and he felt that it was more important for me to finish the Diwali orders. I decided to cancel the meeting and tell the lawyer to go meet the psychiatrist without me. Suddenly Yash changes his mind and said that it is important for me to be there and that I should go. After meeting the lawyer, I was sitting and talking in the room and suddenly a probation officer brings a vulnerable child, who has been inside the home for about two years. The child had cut himself with a blade. My counsellor and the psychiatrist tried to talk to the child but the child would not talk to them. Then I went and I just held his hand and said that you don’t need to talk, we will just sit. We sat for 10 minutes and he cannot speak and so in sign language I asked him what is the problem, and he said that, “I don’t want to be here”. I said okay, I get it but that doesn’t mean that you cut yourself. So where are you from, lets figure out. I said all the different cities and when I said Delhi, he said “Yes, I am from Delhi”. Beyond that, he cannot express and so we made a deal saying you will not cut yourself and I will try to get you out of here within a month. And I don’t know whether I will be able to do that or not but I gave him that promise and the child was like still not smiling and I tickled him. Slowly he eased out and after doing some drawing, he went back to the children’s home. I came back home and I was telling Yash that I did not go there to fix the meeting between the lawyer and the psychiatrist; I was in the home for that child and there are 450 children in the home and I don’t know who I will be able to help and who I will not be able to help. If I am not able to help, it is in that child’s karma to suffer and it is in my karma to help or not help. So, I am just really being present to that every day.
Holding the Intention of Peace Circles
I have been having this strong feeling of listening to my inner voice. I got some books on Peace Circles and I have been reading about holding these circles in the juvenile home and in Children’s home. There is this another Children’s home in Matunga where I go every Saturday to just listen to the children and give them that space of sharing and I have been really pained by seeing that there is so much of potential getting wasted. The children want to change but they are not able to. The last time I visited, I told the superintendent that that I am going to sit in a circle every week with the children. We are going to put a six months program in place and let’s see how it goes. I have no idea how time will expand, I have no idea who will show up but I have faith. This is just an intention that I have put out in the universe and I am hoping things will happen, when they need to.
Deep Gratitude to the Community
I have shared about all of you supporting Ashiyana in so many ways. In Shunya, literally, Yash and me are two employees. And then I have Meghna who does graphics, I have Sima who does branding, I have Siddharth who helps in finance, I have Nimo, Neil, Anjali who do a weekly call with us. Everyone knows how busy Anjali is but every week she will spend one hour to have a call with us. I don’t know, I just don’t have words to express my gratitude to this community because of each of you, I am.
Thank you. Thank you. I feel like in that little seed that Nipun bhai had sown, now a little leaf has come out.