I’ve been riding my bicycle in India for ten days now. And it is the first time I rented a place to stay at night. On all other nights I would either sleep at a Gurudwara or a temple or at a friend’s place.
Today is my first paid stay so to say. I feel such a huge difference between the experiences of being hosted and paying to stay.
The place where I am staying looks like a chawl in Mumbai suburbs of the 90s. There is no fan, shower, Wifi, clean linen or even a doormat. There is a 50 watt bulb that infuses gloom in disptempered walls.
Frankly, it is quite a sad place.
But that is not what bothers me the most. I’ve stayed at places where I’ve had to sleep on the floor, in under construction houses and on one occasion I even spent the night on a bench at a bus stop.
I’ve spent most of my nights at a Gurudwara or a temple in India.
And I was totally okay with the utmost basic facilities I had at these places.
Because I was invited with open arms without any expectation of a transaction.
I had the freedom to move around and look for opportunities to help in the best manner I could.
I have volunteered in community kitchens, served food at the langars, swept floors, helped wash dishes for hours and on one occasion I even volunteered to clean up a disgusting community toilet out of my own desire to make things better.
I’ve slept in community halls on the floor after the long day filled with 6 hours of cycling and volunteering thereafter.
Yet, I have always slept like a baby and woken up with enthusiasm and purpose with the first light of the sun.
But today, in this enclosed space in the guest house, I feel sleepy, drained and devoid of energy.
I realised, maybe a transactional reality is not the context that brings out the best in me.
Here, at the guest house, I pay money and get a place to stay.
It doesn’t serve my spirit.
I would rather wish to engineer a context where I am free to contribute in whatever way I am capable of, at a place where I can engage with people and hopefully make friends and leave behind the place in a better condition.
It is not even about being a stingy traveller, who is always careful with money. I contributed monetatily at most places I was hosted for free, because I wish these places to exist and multiply, so that we have another context to experience. Because I want places that foster brotherhood to thrive.
While I know, the people running this guest house need money for sustenance and I’m happy to give them business, I realised this is not the best context for me to stay at.
In the interest of feeling more energised , enthused and eager to contribute I would choose to stay at a temple or a gurudwara or a kind host’s place.
This experience also made me understand why people choose to volunteer even on weekends despite a busy work week.
Volunteering is such an energising experience!
It will only fill you up with love and hope.
Maybe this weekend, instead of choosing to sleep over till late in the morning and going out for a brunch at a restaurant, I would like to suggest an alternative.
Go to a Gurudwara and volunteer at the community kitchen. They accept help form anyone who is willing to volunteer.
Instead of spending money at the restaurant, eat at the Langar in the Gurudwara for free.
I assure you, the experience will only leave you happy and energised.
And you will wish to donate a fraction of the money you would have spent at the restaurant to the Gurudwara donation box.
It is a much better investment of time and money.
Tomorrow, I am going to leave my bicycle behind and trek with a couple of friends to Kheerganga, Himachal Pradesh.
It is likely that I will pitch up a tent for the first time in India.
Since I would be hosted by mother nature in the valley, I am wondering how to be of help to her.
I have a huge garbage bag folded up in my backpack.
Maybe, I will just pickup all the trash that doesn’t belong in mother nature’s lap.
I can’t help being helpful.
I choose to be a volunteer for life.
I hope you have a fulfiling weekend my dear friend !