May 20, 2005
Growing up on farms, Gulab has attended schools on scholarships and kindness of others. A hard working student, he has come to help his mentor for the two summer months.
"Gulab, are you ready?" I ask him minutes before we leave. "Oh yeah, absolutely," he says with a smile that lights up his partially cross eyed face.
We all walk and Gulab is the least tired. "I am a farmer's son. We are used to the heat and labor," he says proudly. For much of the walk, we travel in silence. But I want to make sure Gulab benefits from this, so I speed up ahead to chat with him.
Before I could tell him anything, he says: "So, Nipunbhai, what exactly are you doing on this pilgrimage?" I tell him that we are trying to build our soul force, by removing our lens of ignorance.
"Why do you walk?" he questions innocently. "Walking is a very deep process. Today, we are going to Kantibhai's house. He doesn't know us and until last night, we didn't even know we were going to be there. Yet, there is some connection between him and us, and that's why we are headed there," I start to explain.
"So, right now, we could've taken the bus, but we're walking. It's a little sacrifice of sorts. Along the walk, as we think good thoughts in our heart and help those we can along the way, we gather some merit through our sacrifices. All of this merit is offered at the door of Kantibhai, whose house we are going to. So, this walk, is actually a sort of cultivation for the benefit of our host, whom we don't know," I conclude.
Gulab looks to me sincerely, as if he is hearing these kind of thoughts for the first time. "Although we don't know him as Kantibhai, by the time we get to his house, our hearts will already be connected to his. We won't tell him all this, but it is our silent offering at his door step. He may or may not offer anything to us, but we unconditionally offer it to the unknown. This is what our pilgrimage is all about. Silent offerings from one step to another."
The words seem to penetrate through Gulab's consciousness. We chat a bit more, then share thoughts on life in general, and then about his school. He is studying Chemistry, and depending on his results in the third year -- which will be out within a month -- he will decide where to go next. Service is a natural part of him, though. Well aware of his scholarship based education, he also eventually wants to give back.
Oh, and Gulab knows English. We practice a few words but Gulab's most frequently used word is "Okaaaaay" with a huge laughter following it.
We had two awesome opportunties of service, along the walk. Gulab observes one of them from a distance, and participates in the other. He also naturally decides that since Paras is walking far behind in the back, that he will stay with him in case he needs any help. By the end of the day, Paras is deeply touched by Gulab's sincerity.
At one rest spot, Gulab tells me that he is really inspired: "Nipunbhai, at first, I thought you guys were on a field trip of sorts. But this is really something. Thank you for taking me with you."
Over the next day and half that all of us spend quality time at Kantibhai's place. We cook, eat and clean together. We beat the wheat out of its husk, we pluck Papayas, onions and mangoes from trees and eat 'em up, we help Kantibhai work on the farms, we crack jokes about how Gulab can polish off any amount of food, anytime!
One time on the farm, as we were digging, Gulab initiates a conversation about giving and taking. So I tell him, "You are Chemistry expert, right? Ok, so you know what H-two-O is, right? Water." He nods his head. "So in life, just remember this: two parts giving and one part taking. Give twice as much as you receive." It was a simple, imperfect metaphor, but Gulab loved it. He kept repeating it. "H-two-O, yeah, H-two-O".
As he is about to leave, he comes looking for me. I'm sitting under a tree in a 4-acre farm, trying to find a spot where I can get any remote sign of an Internet connection. :) Gulab, standing up, extends his hand out and says: "Nipunbhai, I have to leave now." In my usual, excited manner, I get up and slam my right hand into his and tell, "Areh yaaar, leaving so soon? I'm so glad that you were able to make it. It wouldn't have been the same without you."
Still holding the hand-shake firmly, he looks at me and with his characteristic sincerity, he says, "Nipunbhai, I will never forget this." We silently trade hugs. "H-two-O, Nipunbhai, H-two-O," Gulab says as his final words.
Two parts giving, one part receiving. That's a good life.