Is She a Pilgrim?

Nov 8, 2005

"How long have you been doing this?" I ask her, as we sit around a circle of half a dozen people. "Oh, it'll be four months on November 16th," she says with her cross-eyed eyes peering through her bi-focal looking glasses.

This stranger -- I don't know her name or age -- has left home without money. She looks about 30 years of age, she won't say where she's from and she travels wherever circumstances take her. She sleeps wherever (mostly on the streets), eats wherever (often goes hungry). She doesn't know what she's after, she's not interested in doing service, and she has given up on "God".

"Why did you leave home?" "I don't know, I was fed up of everyone at home," she says with almost a tear in her eye. She figures that she's probably done more prayers than Gandhi, but then gave up on it; after having spent most years of her life doing chores around her house, she says that she has done enough "seva" for life.

"What have you learned by being out on the street?" "It's hard to say," she says as if she's never reflected on it.

"You are wearing decent clothes and look clean. How's that?" "Oh, Amrut Uncle at the Gandhi Ashram saw me and put me up in a nice place. Last couple of days, I watched a lot of TV and read the newspaper through and through. Yesterday, I even went to the cricket match in Ahmedabad."

"Cricket match? How did you get there? Who gave you the tickets?" "I walked there. It's about 8 kilometers one way. And then I asked the ticket guy if I could get in, and he told me to go around a particular corner and I got in."

"What do you want to do up ahead?" "Whatever. It doesn't matter. Tomorrow, I am going on this walk with Jalaram-Bapu's devotees."

"If you don't serve others, do you think people will care to serve you?" At this sentence, she uncharacteristically stayed silent for a few moments. "No, it's not like I don't do work. I generally experience a lot of burning sensations in my body all the time and I still helped make some rotis at an ashram, once."

"What can I do to help you?" "Just pray that I always have enough to eat." "Have you gone hungry?" "Oh yeah, most of the time." "Do people give you anything other than money?" "Yeah, a bus conductor recently gave me 100 rupees. But then someone else stole it." "Did that bother you?" "Not really, because it wasn't my money to begin with."

This girl, she wasn't inspired, humble nor full of effulgent love. Rather, she was angry, a bit annoyed and ungrateful for life. Your average city-goer won't be interested in even looking twice at her. Yet, there is always this connection of a shared human experience.

I left the conversation with mixed feelings. Is this girl a unconscious pilgrim or just a confused wanderer? Is there even a difference? By helping her are people expressing generosity or encouraging her laziness? What exactly is the most expedient way to assist her journey?

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"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."