Just Another Day in Paradise

Mar 8, 2005

"Sahib, some money?" I hear a voice behind me, as we were waiting for food from a "chinese-punjabi" street restaurant. It's a young kid begging for some money.

Typically, people just wave their hand, shrug 'em off rudely or ignore them entirely. But I was sitting next to the Goodfather, so all bets are off. :)

Sure enough, Jayeshbhai invites him to dinner. 25 of us and a 6-7 year old boy off the street, sitting right next to me.For the next five minutes, the kid can't stop himself from jumping up and down, fidgeting, banging his fork on the plate. The shopkeepers generally hit these kind of kids, so they wouldn't hinder other business; but no one was going to kick him out today. And he knew it.

"What's your name?" we ask. "Dinesh," he says in a muffled voice.

We had ordered some soup, to start off our meals. Mine was tomato soup. Jayeshbhai takes a spoonful from my bowl and offers it to Dinesh. "What is this?" Dinesh asks. "Soup. Try it." The adventurous little soul dives right into it the soup spoon. And right away, he cringes and almost sprays some of it out. "This is horrible," he explained as we all laughed up a storm.

"I want those long, long noodles," he declares before we serve him soup again. "Those long, long noodles." First he tells Jayeshbhai, then looks to me and repeat it and goes around our corner of the table repeating it until we inform the waiter! This kid is a royal riot. :)

When the food was served, Dinesh starts chowing down like there is no tomorrow. "Hang on, hang on," we yell together. "The food is really hot," I tried to explain. But no. Dinesh was gulping it all down in a hurry, as if it was going to run out.

And then the next item is served -- mushroom chowmein. We serve a bunch on Dinesh's plate. Dinesh had never seen mushrooms but he is curious to learn more. Putting his fork on the side, he decides to dig into the mushrooms with his own hands. With the funniest expression of disgust on his face, Dinesh looks around to see if anyone is looking. Since he didn't notice Anjalee and myself looking at him, he decides to toss those chopped mushrooms from his plate onto the ground.

This six year old was no longer a beggar. He was behaving like a six year old.

After the meal, Jayeshbhai asks him, "Did you like the food?" "Yes." "Then, don't beg anymore today, ok?" "Ok." And off he goes.

A couple minutes, we see him begging again. So Jayeshbhai asks him why and he honestly replies, "Sahib, it's for my mom." In a compassionate tone, Jayeshbhai tells him: "Don't worry. Your mom will have enough for today. You got out and play. Go, play." And off he goes again.

Soon after, a couple of us go out to hunt down some filtered water. On the way back, who do we see again? Dinesh himself. Begging again. When I see him, I pat him on the back and put my hand on his head. "Dinesh?" He started laughing, realizing his mistake.

He must've been about two and half feet tall. And I'm six feet. So I get on my knees, on the streets, and slouch so I can see him eye to eye.

"Dinesh, do you know who God is?" I mean, I myself didn't know the answer to that one, but what the heck. He nods his head. "Oh really. Who is it?" And Dinesh replies innocently, "Om Namo Shivay."

"Can you do one thing with me?" I ask him hesitantly. "Yes," he says without a doubt. "Let's say 'aum' together. Repeat after me: Ommmmmmmm." By this time, he is on his own knees, half seated, hands folded improperly, head tilted to the sky, eyes 70% closed.

He repeats after me. Twice. Now, his eyes are fully closed. The third time, we chant "om" together.

As Phil Collins would say, just another day in paradise.

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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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