Mihir and his train journey from Surat to Ahmedabad :)
In the opening circle of our ongoing Moved by Love retreat, we posed the following question to the participants "Could you please share a story of a time when you experienced "being the change?". Though I was deeply touched by many of the stories, Mihir's story in particular, brought a huge smile on my face as it is a situation I face often during my own journeys. Here is Mihir's story, in his own words:
I'm geared up for attending my first MBL retreat in Ahmedabad, and am waiting for the train to arrive at Surat train station. Its delayed a bit, and from the looks of it, there are a lot of people who are going to get onto this train from here.
Finally the train arrives, and everyone scrambles to stand outside their allocated coach, anxious to get in. I happen to be the first in the queue. As the train comes to a halt, passengers start alighting the coach I'm supposed to get on. Almost the entire coach is getting off, and they have a lot of luggage. This results in the process taking a long time...and the crowd waiting to get on the train is getting restless. They start shouting & urging the passengers alighting the train to hurry up. The passengers getting down start arguing back, and things get heated.
I am in the middle of all this, and suddenly the realization strikes that hey, I'm not separate from what is going on there. I am that! The commotion within is not different from the one without and the truth is, I have contributed to this conflict in ways which may not be apparent right away.
So the question arises - what should I do here, now? How do I alleviate the situation? Due to the urgency of the situation, the mind doesn't get a chance to play its tricks. I immediately start helping the alighting passengers get their bags out of the coach. This speeds up the process, and soon the passengers exit. I then let many of the passengers behind me get on the train first. Soon we are all inside & the train leaves the platform.
I sense that the atmosphere is charged with negative energy. People are saying how "the others" were so insensitive & callous and how much stress those few minutes caused them. Parents were scolding their children and spouses - each other. Again the question popped up in my mind - what can I do here, now? How can I deal with this flow of negative energy? The mind could come up with no answer.
Just then, I see a tea seller entering the compartment. I call him and give him some money, and tell him to serve tea to all the passengers in the coach and if anyone asks, he should tell them that it's from him for free. He laughs in disbelief, but I insist. He tells me this is crazy. I ask him to do it anyway. He hesitantly starts serving the tea to the passengers one by one, some of whom are taken aback and wonder what is going on? Some reject it, some take the tea but then talk in a hushed tone something along the lines of "this is weird, be careful". And some are pleasantly surprised and thank the chai wala.
As more and more passengers see this happening, they start feeling that the guy is genuinely doing this out of kindness. The commentary in their minds changes & therefore their expressions change from "how painful it is to deal with others" to "Hey, its not all that bad, there are people like this chai wala too!" Their defense mechanism is relaxed, the minds quieten and the negative energy is transformed. The chai wala is experiencing this first-hand and seems to be perceiving the impact of it. He reaches the other end of the coach, looks at me and smiles. Not a word gets exchanged between us, but I feel a deeper communication has taken place.
As for me, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for having experienced what communion probably feels like.
(I have used a picture from another train journey when I meet these incredible women who did something similar to Mihir :))