Four Motorcyles on Wilson Hill

Jun 9, 2005

Until recently, there was no electricity in the tribal town of Pindval. Although it gets 150 inches of rain every year, there is a water shortage in the hilly terrain. People are poor. And, there is absolutely no phone connection.

I'm sitting alone on top of a remote Pindval hill, after a long 4 kilometer uphill hike in the mid-afternoon heat. No people anywhere, just trees and mountains. Outside of the light cross wind ruffling the leaves, there is no other sound.

Then, all of a sudden, vroom-vroom's of multiple motorcycles breaks my period of silence. Four motorcyles, seven youngsters, and seven bandanas either around their necks or heads.
I am leaning against a pillar of an old temple ruin. Four motorcyles are parked all around me, and its drivers are now headed out to the wilderness somewhere.

A little relieved to regain the solitude, I open my laptop and attempt to get an Internet connection. For eight years, I have never missed sending out the thought of the week. Due to technical reasons, I wasn't able to outsource this before I left on this pilgrimage, so I took it as a message from the universe and lugged around the extra duty. And today, that duty meant walking 4 tough kilometers in the hottest part of the afternoon.

Unfortunately, no Internet connection but those random college kids were coming back from their brief haitus in the wilderness.

I just want to be alone, in peace. So I just sit there as the twenty-somethings start their charades. They start making fun of each other, they play and replay some obnoxiously recorded messages on their cell phone, they tease one guy about how he won't say anything bad about anyone. The typical scene. None of them seemed to be harmful, but all bets are off with a handful of youngsters.

And then they play that one obnoxious message all over again.

I somehow flash back to my own, oh-soooo-far-away, :) college days -- the stress of doing good in school to find a job, the tension of society imposed insecurities of the future, and the cultural pressures of marriage and family norms. In the middle of all this, imagine a glimpse of freedom from everything on top of a remote hill. What are you going to do? The only entertainment you know is seen on TV and the only purpose in life you are taught is making money and grabbing power; you've never thought of an over-arching meaning of human existence nor have you ever experienced silence from the nonstop commercial bombardment. So, of course, on top of this hill, you are a bit puzzled, a bit flustered by this sudden splash of freedom.

With all these thoughts, I saw myself in them and pondered about our chance encounter on this peak known as "Wilson Hill."

I introduce myself to my brothers. They are all med school students -- ate present, the toughest college major in India -- from a college over 1000 kilometers away. While attending a classmates's sister's wedding in town, they ended up on the hill to "get away" from the whole hectic scene.

I ask about their life and they talk about how difficult school is and how they get absolutely no time to do anything else. They ask me about my life and I show them some pictures on the laptop and share stories. I tell them that I'm gonna lay something on them that no educational system ever taught me -- if you want to be happy, serve someone; serve anyone. Openly, I told 'em my tendencies of greed and the futility of success I had with it. And then when I contrasted that with our radical walking pilgrimage, I think it created an avenue into their hearts.

We started talking about ways they can serve. One of them, I forget his name, says, "Nipunbhai, we want to help others, but we just don't get time. Even after we become doctors, we will have to worry about families and earning for them." I wondered why no one challenges the norm of having families? What's the point of doing it if you aren't consciously going to enjoy it? If it's a burden even before you start, why bother?

One of the kids ends up being from a village; he knows the plight of his people. He says, "Education is a really big thing. Most of the people in my village don't have any opportunities. Unless you study, you just don't get any opportunities." I ask him if he will ever come back to serve his village. He was ambivalent but when I propose the idea of helping just one person in the village, he felt it was within his reach. "If each one reaches one, we'll be in good shape," I say to their mutual agreement.

These were smart, educated, perhaps rich, kids. Yet none of them had heard of Vinoba Bhave and all of them knew about Google and why 'Bunti aur Babli' is topping the Bollywood box-office. So I start talking about one of my favorite Hindi movies -- Munnabhai MBBS, movie about a fake doctor who makes it "cool" to serve.

Roars of laughters and light applause. All of them had seen that movie. "Oh and that Circuit character!" I join the party as everyone remembers couple scenes from the movie.

I tell them stories of inspiring doctors, like Patch Adams, Dr. V. and Paul Farmer, who used their medical skills to serve the world. They hadn't heard of any of them.

After a while, one kid gets pumped-up and says, "Nipunbhai, I really want to do something with the kids. What can I do?" I gave him some ideas and told them to visit some NGOs that I knew of.

No one wants to leave but we are all late. I reiterate my message, "Look guys, we all may forget each other as these personalities, but if you ever think of Wilson Hill and chance encounters, remember this: serve. Serve someone, serve anyone, serve anyhow. It'll make you happy.

Since I'm gonna be another hour before I walk back down, I request them to deliver a message to Guri and company down the hill. Guri later joked, "Those kids, they were so nice and super courteous to me, as if they were talking to someone so very important."

Four motorcycles on Wilson Hill, one laptop looking for mobile reception, a true connection of the inner-net. Who would've thunk it?

Bookmark and Share


Projects I'm Involved With

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

"Real privilege lies in knowing that you have enough."