Lifting Loads, Pushing Cars

May 16, 2005

Paras and I are talking about pain. "It isn't about enduring pain, but rather about understanding it. The more you feel your sensations, the more the universe around you comes alive. That's been my experience," I tell him.

About 500 meters ahead, an old man is looking out into the fields. Through his torn shirt, you can see his six-pack stomach. In front of him is a huge stack of freshly cut farm crop.

Paras is dead tired, on his first day on the walk. While others are walking ahead, we take a little break. Incidentally, it is under the same tree from which that old man is gazing out.

I start talking to the old man, as if we're old friends. He asks me what we are doing, and I tell him a bit about it. It turns out that he's taking a break from carrying the super-heavy load on his head.

"What's your name?" I ask him. "Dadu," he says.

Dadu is super sincere. He's old, but seems really strong. Dadu gives us an overview of who owns which farms, tells us about how he makes more money during sugar cane season, and about his family of four sons.

After a few minutes of conversation, as Paras and I put on our back-packs again, my eyes veer towards that bulky looking package that was lying on the road. "Dadu, what do you think is heavier? This back-pack or your load?" I ask him rather geniunely. He laughs, but still tries to feel my back-pack's weight and responds, "Definitely, this bulk here."

Rather spontaneously, I ask him: "Dadu, let me carry your weight for you." "No, no, no," he says while covering his crop with his hands. "Oh come on, Dadu. You are like my grandfather. I can't let you carry this." With my forceful insistence, Dadu eventually concedes.

Paras looks at me as if I've gone crazy.

At first, I thought it would be cool trade back-packs with Dadu but then, I just went for it both. Oh yeah, baby.

Before we ran into Dadu, I was telling Paras about how each physical sensation is a neurological signal for the brain, and it is our habit patterns that classify it as pain or pleasure. So technically, there is no difference between pain and pleasure.

And now, it is time for me to practice that physics. :)

Paras and Dadu lift and drop the heavy load of crop onto the white bandana on my head. It's not only heavy but about eight times the width of my head. Within ten seconds, my neck is being stretched in umpteen different directions -- all of them painful. The good news is that I can't even feel the weight of my back-pack anymore.

Dadu is super happy, though. He shares beaming smiles with those we cross, and feels that God sent us to help him. By this simple weight-lifting act, all villagers become instant friends; some are smiling out of sheer shock, some ladies are laughing at my antics of attempting to balance the load without my hands, some are trying to make conversation with me. To all, I say the only thing on my mind: "Hari Om, Kaka." "Hari Om, Masi." "Hari, Hari." Everyone is happy.

Although my neck, head and shoulders are hating it, I'm pumped-up. "Dadu, this is my friend who has come from a long ways to be with us today. Can you tell him about God?" I frame Paras. :) Dadu says a few things, keeps waving hellos to passerbys, and keeps lighting up the highway with his smiles.

No one has ever done something like this for Dadu. Ever. And he can't hide his joy. He asks us to join him for lunch, but unfortunately, we have 14 more kilometers to go and no time to rest.

Within a few more minutes, Dadu signals that he has to take a right turn. I transfer the load to his head, and I look straight in his bright eyes and clear face. "Dadu, thank you for allowing your son to help you today," I say and bend my back to touch his very dirty feet.

Dadu immediately stretches his palms to find my forehead and says, "You will receive a lot of blessings." Paras also touches his feet and he repeats his kind blessings. Then, turns to me again to bless me, so I went down to touch his feet again. :) It is a powerful moment, both for a six-week pilgrim and a first-day pilgrim.

For many people, blessings is a religious currency for creating some future condition. But for me, it's something far simpler. It's a state of reverance for life in front of you, where you are compelled to share the greatest love you are capable of. Whether you are a "giver" or a "receiver", both benefit in that very moment. I don't take care if I will meet Dadu again, I don't care if I profit from my labor of carrying his load, I don't care if he was a saint or a sinner. I just know that, in the moment, both of us shared a space of love. He gives, I receive, and both of us smile.

As Dadu turns around to leave, he keeps chanting, "Many blessings, many blessings." His figure fades out but his words keep ringing. Both Paras and I exchange looks, in total awe.

We keep walking. Half an hour later, I notice another old man stressing about his car. His car just stopped working. With another stranger, we try to push the car into motion but the engine doesn't start. So I tell him to wait for my other friends on the way; as we wait, he is taken by the spirit of our pilgrimage and almost forgets about the stress of his car. When all five us -- including our random friend, Gulab, who joined us for 30 kilometer walk -- start pushing the car, the old man says: "No, no. I should be serving you pilgrims, not the other way around. This is so bad." I spot the "Raam" sticker on his 30 year old car, and tell him, "Kaka, this car says 'Raam' and any vehicle of 'Raam' is ours." He smiles and gets in the car, as we push the car long and hard. Sure enough, it starts! The old man, almost with tears in his eyes, greets my hand through the windows. It is obvious that he is seeing the good, the 'God', in us as we are in him.

Paras is dead tired, will throw up three times in the hot day and eventually be forced to take a rickshaw for the last two kilometers. Yet for the opportunity to lift Dadu's load and push Raam's car, it is well worth it.

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