I arrived at Jayeshbhai’s place just before 7 am one morning for an inspirational story-sharing session. Expecting everyone to be running a bit behind schedule, I find Jayeshbhai, Anarben, and others in the kitchen making breakfast. I join in the cooking, and sometime later after a delicious meal, we go out onto the porch to chat. The story Jayeshbhai related was from early July.
Jayeshbhai prefaced his tale with a quote:
“Good habits are hard to acquire and easy to live with, whereas bad habits are easy to acquire and hard to live with.”
An successful businessman friend / media mogul was coming into town as part of a self-styled service and NGO exploration.. Jayeshbhai didn’t know what kind of program to arrange and create for this man so he decided to stick with organic and spontaneous flow. Thinking more about it, he thought that framing this concept more prominently in a Walk for Good, in the vein of Nipun & Guri’s walk, would be an eye-opening experience. A short time earlier, coordinated bomb blasts had ripped through trains in Mumbai, so the walk would also be along and through communities where communal tensions could be a factor. To connect these communities with the spontaneous goodness within them, by finding the goodness within oneself.
Why a walk? Jayeshbhai described further:
W – witness nature; in that space, small things become big
A – accept whatever comes your way; take what is given, and give what is taken
L – love your life; extend that love all around you in your world
K – know thyself; as the result of your witnessing, acceptance, and love
He then paused to emphasize that you don’t need to walk to go through this process. People are engaged with all kinds of work everywhere, but even in intense activity, laziness creeps in and cripples your initiative and progress.
Jayeshbhai then began relaying stories of kindness from the walk that many Manav Sadhna people accompanied the businessman and his kids on. One of the first people they encountered was a blind man being lead by his wife. Another man who was pushing a cart nearby and asked the man if he was blind from birth. The blind man said no. The other man responded by quipping that many sighted people are blind from birth (lacking wisdom or the initiative to acquire it). The blind man laughed and agreed, and said that in his blindness, he developed the wisdom to trust, appreciate, and admire the strength of his wife. Jayeshbhai was very impressed with both of these men, and began to share some encouraging words with the blind man. Meanwhile Jagatbhai began pushing the other man’s cart to relieve him of some burden. The man was greatly pleased, and Jayeshbhai then also felt like he wanted to help a laborer in the same way.
Up ahead he saw another man pushing the cart, and noticed that he was also suffering from a large boil on his neck. Jayeshbhai greeted him, and then asked to push his cart for him to give him some relief. After some distance, Jayeshbhai pinned a Tsunamika doll on the man, and said that he must now find a way to also help another stranger and pin the doll to them to keep the kindness moving forward. The man was touched by the compassion and character he could sense from Jayeshbhai and said,
“Without people like you, this world wouldn’t function. Not money, power, institutions or governments have more power than this love you share.”
Further ahead, Jayeshbhai passed a temple where a man was greatly distressed because of the passing of his mother. Jayeshbhai gathered all the walkers together to say a prayer for this man’s mom. He spoke for a moment about how the principle in motherhood is to always work for the betterment of children, through a sacrifice. He could tell the man was a tobacco addict, and invited him to make a positive change and sacrifice in his live in memory and honor of his mother. The man was hesitant, but Jayeshbhai encouraged him further by saying that he too will make some sacrifice with him. Jayeshbhai admitted that many organizational responsibilities had prevented him from spending enough time with his daughter. He agreed to step away from these duties to spend more time with his daughter if the man gave up tobacco to improve his health. They both agreed, and then parted ways.
Further ahead near a mosque, Jayeshbhai saw a man sitting on the ground with tuberculosis. He coughed and spit, and then covered his spit out of shame. Jayeshbhai approached and asked to see his spit, which had blood in it from the TB. The man was a bidi smoker, and after connecting to him through conversation, Jayeshbhai asked for the man’s bidis. The man wouldn’t give them up. So instead Jayeshbhai offered to cut his long fingernails, which also contribute to major health problems in India. Jayeshbhai then asked him if he needed anything, and relayed the story of his anonymous friends around the world who had entrusted him to help others with a monthly grant. The man refused to accept anything, saying that as a Muslim, he could not accept anything from a Hindu. Jayeshbhai felt that this man wasn’t ready to feel the brotherhood he was extending, so made a mental note to visit him in the future sometime and parted amicably.
Up ahead, he saw Jagatbhai with a simple kaka (uncle) who had spent the last 6 years living on the sidewalk. He was not mentally challenged or even unclean. He just deeply revered simplicity. Among his few possessions was an umbrella, and he demonstrated multiple innovative uses for it. The businessman’s kids were impressed, with such contentment in simplicity and felt inspired to simply their lives as well.
Further ahead at a Jain temple, the businessman saw his son purchase prayer beads. This was quite a surprise, as he didn’t have much prior exposure to these kinds of things. The businessman could see that the experiences from this walk were eliciting responses from their hearts, and creating resolve in them to devote some time to higher purposes.
As they continued walking, they saw a street show in full swing up ahead with a larger crowd gathered to watch the fun. Jayeshbhai and company enter the crowd and begin passing out Tsunamika (http://www.tsunamika.org/) dolls and cutting fingernails. Soon, the performance ends and attention shifts to Jayeshbhai and company. He sees many people have bidis in their pockets, and decides to address the crowd. He spoke briefly about how God is with them in joy and in work, but that it is demons who made them addicted to tobacco, and that he was here to collect their tobacco and help free them from these demons. He then cupped his hands as though he was begging and began moving through the crowd. People were emptying their pockets of tobacco and filling his hands. He ended up collecting more tobacco than 4 people could carry, and reflected how when you give people your love, it becomes easy for them to shed their weaknesses.
While all this is happening, a man pulls Jayeshbhai aside and asks him if he can bestow peace upon him. Jayeshbhai asks what the problem is and the man says that he’s constantly cursed by his relatives at home because he doesn’t have a job. Jayeshbhai tells him to come to Gandhi Asham and see their work, and invites him at a specific time for an event. The man says he can’t come because of some schedule conflict, but presses Jayeshbhai on acquiring peace. Jayeshbhai says he can’t give him peace. Only his mind and God can bestow peace, and encourages him to keep God at the center of his life.
As they continue walking, they see an old man sitting in a grain cart with his wife pushing him along. Jayeshbhai asks why the man is sitting while his wife pushes, and he says because he has a high-fever. Jayeshbhai relieves the wife of her labors by sitting her on the cart with her husband and then begins to push them both forward. After a relatively short ride, the man asks to be let off so he can help push his wife with Jayeshbhai Jayeshbhai reflected on how selflessness gives other people an opportunity for internal self-education and correction. The two chatted for the next 2 km, and learned that while this couple have few desires and possessions themselves, they continue to do this arduous work because they need to pay for their daughters education. The amount of money they needed was on the order of hundreds of rupees a month to pay for this education, and it was driving them to do health endangering labor at their advanced age. Jayeshbhai told the story of his many anonymous friends, and then said that he himself was their son, and as the elder sons duty, would take full responsibility for his sister’s (their daughter’s) education, and that some of his gift money would be used for this. They were all moved to tears, including Jayeshbhai. This was the only instance during the walk wherein he was able to commit some money, but was glad to have found that opportunity to serve.