Dancing Like No One Is Watching

Feb 21, 2005

I told 'em I wasn't going. But then, I woke up at 5:55AM and told Guri to waitup for me -- I was going. I even threw in an all day, nothing-except-water fast. :)

It was a field trip with the kids to Dakor, a holy spot for Krishna devotees. Then, the plan was to take a dip in a nearby river at Galteswar and top it off with a water park at Ajwada-Nimeta!

Right as I was boarding the bus, I got an unexpected pat on the face, from one of the kids trying to find his seat.

But that was okay. He was blind, just like the other 50 kids on this field trip.

In Gandhinagar, Andha-Shala is a small blind school started by a Hindu and Muslim man, both blind themselves. Couple years ago, they started with 4 students and a strong message of communal harmony; today, they're growing steadily while staying true to their original spirit.

Every so often, a donor will come along and sponsor a field trip. This time, it was Premal (who incidentally has participated in several CF events and Wednesdays) who got a small grant from eBay to make this day happen.

Right as the "luxury" bus pulled the corner, you could see the kids peeping out from the school corridors and windows, listening to all the sounds. They were *really* excited to get this chance to take a field trip; some of them couldn't sleep the whole night!

As if they were leaving on a long trip, some of the kids brought all their valuables -- a hand bag full of stuff, a broken watch, a gift they had received a while back. These were not only blind, they were also poor. They didn't have much, but for today, they were also smiles!

We boarded the bus in a single file. And right as the bus started, one of the kids busted out his harmonium and a bunch of others started singing their hearts out. The day was off to solid start.

On the bus, our window was slightly busted, so Peters -- incidentally the only white guy on the bus :) -- and I tried to fix it. After seeing us struggle for three minutes, one of the blind students (maybe teachers), remarks confidently: "Let me try." Both of us looked at each other quizically but responded with, "Alright." Almost effortlessly, he switched the order of the sliding windows and made our three minutes of labor look silly.

Being with the blind can really open your eyes.

I figured that when you travel with the blind, everything becomes slow and deliberate. But what I didn't figure is the power of our simple act of service.

We got off the bus at our first stop -- Dakor, a site that my grandmother would urge everyone to visit at least once in their life. Surprisingly, I was no longer a Gujarati-wanna-be with a cold, Peters was no longer an American with a red bandana, Guri was no longer a customer for the shopkeepers to target. Instead, we were instruments of service and by clearing the way, guiding us in the right direction, or saying a simple hello to the blind kids, they were inspired to participate. By mere observation, others connected with a natural impulse in themselves, to serve the needy.

Talk about the power of being the change.

As we entered the temple, the chief of the temple created space for us to go *all* the way to front -- a "darshan" that even my grandmother would be jealous of. :) When a few of us volunteers start vividly describing what we saw, nearby devotees tune in; when the kids chant Krishna 'bhajans', other locals join in; when we walk around the temple, random people smile with a huge "thank you" written all over it.

You almost feel like it's a privilege to be an instrument of service.

Rest of the day was equally awesome. The kids got their first chance to take a dip in a river! As if that weren't enough, we topped the day off with taking them on Great-America-like rides at a famous water park; also, their first-time-ever. And again, all onlookers participated. People would make way, all the ride operators would offer special support and tell us to go on the ride twice, and the park owners themselves offered free tickets for everyone! (Almost a 7000 ruppee donation).

Two young couples donated the dinner at a fancy place -- Rajwadu -- nearby; right as we were entering, they had a drummer playing "bhangra" music. We formed a border around the blind kids, and let 'em loose! Hooya. You could tell that some of them hadn't danced before, but they knew it didn't matter. This was their day and they went wild with joy.

Dance like no one is watching, live like there is no tomorrow.

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"Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."

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