On my Bicycle ride from Auroville to Chennai I stopped at a coconut shop I used to frequent years ago. The shop looked a bit run down as compared to how it looked like earlier. I approached the unmanned coconut stand and called out the owner’s name.
‘Saviraj?’ I enquired.
Slowly, an elderly man made his way from his house.
‘Saviraj, do you remember me? I used to come to drink coconuts 5 years ago.’
He nodded smilingly.
In an adorable mix of Tamil and pidgin English he started talking to me.
‘Now enge(where)?’
‘I am cycling from Auroville to Chennai Saviraj’
Meanwhile his wife Sarada came out hearing her husband speak in English.
They both offered me a place to sit. I had a big coconut proffered to me instantly.
They saw my Bicycle loaded up with my luggage and gasped in surprise.
I asked them if I could rest for sometime in the temple across te street.
‘Sleeping here’ said Saviraj pointing to his house.
I laid out my Yoga mat and had a nice nap. In half an hour I awoke to the smell of homemade Dosas. Sarada brought me four thick dosas with the most unique coconut chutney I’ve tasted in my life.

I smiled and accepted the food. It was a delicious feast.
I felt humbled by their spirit of caring. As I was leaving I asked if I could click a Polaroid picture with her.
She blushed and said, ‘Shower no, not look good!’
‘But you’re beautiful. Sooper(Tamil-English slang for remarkable) I said.

Reluctantly she posed and we took a picture.
As the polaroid film developed we waited anxiously. The picture came out great.
‘ Sooper no?’ I asked.
‘Aama(yes)’ she blushed.
I left her with the picture and loaded up my Bicycle to head onward. I was bid goodbye lovingly.

On the way I wondered,
‘She took care of fact that I’d been cycling for 4 hours in the sun and did the best she could to support me. To have such compassion and empathy is the most beautiful asset. It shines through in her eyes. And even if she looked a bit disheveled in the picture because of her household chores, the camera captured the beauty in her spirit.
We often fail to cultivate and realize our own inner beauty. While we are born with the fate of a fixed physical appearance, we also have the opportunity to foster a thriving inner world full of love and compassion. And it is the latter that makes for our true identity.

I hope the picture I left Sarada with keeps reminding her what a caring heart she has. And she realizes the beauty in herself beyond the physical.