The Cocoon Of Love
Parikshit (18 years), saw a video of Seva Café and Udai bhai on history channel and was moved by the idea of "gift it forward". He decided to offer tuition to students from needy background without any fixed fee – whatever one can offer, he would accept with grace. Initially people made fun of him, a year later one of his student got first rank in one of the toughest entrance exam in the district. Ever since watching the video, he wished to visit Seva Café and meet Udai bhai, pursuing his intention, he joined us in Feb’19 moved by love retreat. On meeting Parikshit, Udai bhai who call Seva Café his mother and himself its son, shared Parikshit is like grandson of Seva Café.
We had Col Ramesh (81) who served in National Defence Academy in 1950s, as a volunteer. In the opening circle, he shared, during his training, in the toughest scenario his officer would ask “How are you? ” and the response from all cadets would always be “On top of the world, Sir”. He mentioned how the rigor and spirit to serve nation prepared them to do the supreme sacrifice i.e. life. His discipline, commitment and spirit of service grounded us to serve with love.
The invitation of HHH retreat was open to all and we had 39 participants and volunteers coming from all walks of life. We were blessed with the presence of Jyoti didi, who spent 40+ years in Brahma Vidya Mandir, founded by Vinoba Bhave, spiritual heir of Gandhi ji. She reflected, how from the very beginning she was full of curiosity. During her childhood, her grandmother would show her pictures of Krishna, Rama, Buddha and Gandhi and would ask, which one does she like and she would always indicate towards Gandhi, only in her later age to imbibe core of Gandhi’s teaching “Truth is God”. Her curiosity led her to pursue Masters in Science in Zoology, her family wished her to pursue PhD, but her spiritual quest led her to join Vinobaji to look beyond tangible for Aatma Tattva, finding resolve in combination of Science and Spirituality. We were also joined by Rajendra Deshpande ji who is nephew of Late Nirmala Didi and Bishnu from Tripura who visited 120+ Gandhian institutes across the country. He felt at home in presence of Jayesh bhai and at Maitri space.
In the opening circle we reflected on this theme:
“we find Sukoon (contentment) in cocoon, what is a cocoon to you?”
Rohit shared, he finds Sukoon in writing and interaction with mirror, while Shyam shared he finds deep sense of belonging and care with his family. Collette who has worked for decades with Doctors without Borders shared that, it was her first visit to India and she was quite hesitant to the idea of retreat. However, after the peace walk as she entered in Maitri hall, she felt all her resistance dropped and a deep sense of belonging and comfort came to her heart. She reflected, in France they don’t use the word “Love” (amour) as often as in India (at Moved by love) and she would incorporate this powerful word fuelled with noble intentions in the workshops she offers.
Sankar brought in presence of one of his professors who was founder of Computer Society in India, Who once asked Sankar, “ how does love work, I don’t understand?” Sankar’s heart responded, “We keep looking for love,… beloved is within…if connected once… he is here, there, everywhere.” Listening to the same, professor told he would love to visit Maitri Space once, however a month back he left the world. Sankar shared that last night he had a dream in which his professor told him that “now I have a green card, I can visit anywhere anytime and I’m so glad to be with you.” Sankar found sukoon with this.
Kunwarben spoke just one sentence and moved us all with her presence, whenever I do any work with love, I find Sukoon. Neha a Teach for India fellow shared that she finds Sukoon in trusting others. Sristhi shared that when she interacts with children, feeling and creating safe space she finds Sukoon. Finding everyone deeply listening to his thoughts, Chintan felt a sense of belonging. Naitik, who came to volunteer for the first time, recalled that before his first retreat in (Aug 16) he never washed a utensil, on day 1 he was hesitant, second day he wondered why people are taking his dishes and on third day he wondered what made him grab everyone’s dish and wash them. He realized when one does anything to anyone, one receives more than one can give and that gives him Sukoon.
Later in the evening, we visited Safai Vidyalaya, had a cup of tea at Toilet Café and spent some time at Hriday Kunj (Gandhji’s abode) at Sabarmati Ashram. From there we went to Ashram Shala where the children were being served their dinner and we all joined them in the prayer “Saathe Ramiye, Saathe Jamiye, Saathe Kariye Saara Kaam….” After that we headed to Seva Café for our dinner. Bhaskar anchored for the first time in his life and hosted us all in this beautiful space which is home to him for the last 13 years. He shared about a volunteer, Sami who had down syndrome and his family was very concerned but Seva Café provided him a safe space to volunteer. During the concluding circle, Sami spoke the only words during his five hours of stay at Seva Café- “I love you all”. Intensity of Sami’s words is still vibrant at this space.
Next day morning began with Prabhat Pheri, chopping vegetables, cleaning brooming and connecting with each other. Devendra bhai shared his experience of 20+ years of work with Ishwardada and made us ready to engage in hands work. Kanchandada, despite his age and health, anchored 5 participants in making a broom. One group went to clean the road and another one cooked food for all at Kabir Ashram. In between, some visitors (Lakhabhai and family) from nomad community showed up. Every year they visit Safai Vidyalaya or ESI to seek blessing while offering their gift of folk songs and dance. On our request they sang and made us dance for an hour- bringing joy after hours of labor of love.
In evening Anar didi opened her heart and shared her journey of finding Anar. Sushmita who worked in corporate and served in Teach for India, moved by her sharing went to her and expressed deep gratitude for experiencing one of the most authentic sharing so far in her life. During conversation with Didi, one of the participant asked-that I am a story teller and I am not sure how does my contribution make a difference? Knowing you being exposed to stories of all walks of life and holding such diversity together, please shed a light on the possible impact (if there is any) of stories. Anar didi’s one liner resonated with many - good stories help in shaping the direction of work of people like me.
Following that, we had an Awakin circle laddered by Shyam, leading us to silent dinner. Many invisible and visible hands co-created one of the most memorable dinner. Robin, one of the participants shared that I think I struggled in my business so that I can come and experience something like this. It’s the most magical experience I had and one cannot buy such a dinner even with immense money.
Conclusion of evening was with Garba, almost everyone danced for hours. Many of us had never seen Devesh (volunteer) dancing and this evening, he seemed to master the art of dancing and cherishing. Next day morning, Jyoti didi shared her learning and wisdom around Guna Darshanam – cultivating a sight to witness virtues on all; and Guna Nivedanam – inviting and deepening virtues in self. As we all assembled in Hriday Kunj, Shyam welcomed all. Later he shared that during welcoming each other, more than 70% people welcomed him back by putting a bindi on his forehead and he felt a shift within- being one with all. Jayesh bhai shared his journey of “Aantya Baahya Shuchita” cultivating inner sanitation – event by event, moment by moment harnessing harmony of head, hands and heart. Moved by love, Jyoti didi invited us all to visit Paunar during Mitra Milan celebrating Vinoba’s 125th birth anniversary.
During the gratitude walk, as Suratvanti (volunteer) was walking with tears of compassion and gratitude in her eyes, Reva sighted her. She was walking ahead of her and decided to go back to accompany Suratvanti. Seeing this, one of the participant gently asked, you can’t go back, to that Reva responded – being kind is more important than following set path. I think didi needs my presence and I will just go and accompany her…
As we dispersed, unknown - strangers to each other when we came, we all were more strengthened with collective experience of kindness and joy cultivating deeper bonds with each other and selves.