After Jaideep, Pranita and Nandini experienced the magic and have been MovedByLove, it was Anjali’s turn to be Sughad-ified as we affectionately call it! Here’s Anjali’s first entry about her Journey at KYS.
Though my journey seemingly began when I boarded my unreasonably early flight to Ahmedabad, the truth is that it all started in October 2016 when I met Jaideep and Pranita for coffee to discuss joining the KnowYourStar team. After a year in startup hell (and several other bad work experiences), I was tired, cynical and, for once in my life, had no plans for my future. The only requirement I had in mind was that I wanted to write again and that I wanted to do something meaningful. When I met Jaideep and Pranita together for the first time, I knew that I had found what I was looking for – others who were on the same journey. Luckily for me, they’ve always been a few steps ahead, guiding me and giving me a lot to think about.
So, when they said that I had to experience the MovedByLove magic for myself, I was apprehensive about leaving my comfort zone but signed up immediately. I drew the short straw (or so I thought) and was the last of the team to visit Ahmedabad. Before I left, I already had a wealth of information at my fingertips – from Uday Bhai’s number to the names of volunteers who had made an impact on my teammates – but I’m so glad that they also allowed me the joy and freedom of discovering Sughad in my own way. I’m richer for the unfurling and unfolding that I did there, and the opportunity for relearning and reaffirming my commitment to this path.
A Wealth Of Smiles
I arrived in Sughad bright and early – and unexpected as it turned out. No one expected a sleep-deprived South Indian at 5 am (least of all because there was an Uber strike) and I had to rouse a few people to even enter the campus. I think that’s where I truly began to understand the kindness that I was surrounded by because, despite the unearthly hour, I was greeted with a warm smile and an invitation to rest my weary head.
The smile, it turned out, was contagious. From the volunteers who greeted me and helped me feel at home (“Welcome home” is an often heard chorus at Sughad) to the other members of my circle who came there with open hearts and open minds – I was surrounded by smiling faces. I didn’t realise my own echoed theirs until someone actually told me that they loved how happy I was. I had to confess the truth – it was the Sughad effect!
The retreat is aptly named “Head, Heart, Hands” and we spent a day dedicated to each of these. It was a wonderful space to think, share, feel, and do. I don’t want to delve too deeply into our activities (don’t want to risk spoiling the experience for the readers who, I hope, will participate in a retreat of their own), but all I can say is that my barriers, built up through years of rubbing shoulders with other burnt out souls, melted away. I shared thoughts and ideas in a way that I would never have done if asked before. There is a wonderful sense of comfort in speaking to and with people who are also seeking answers and finding new truths. We all hailed from different parts of the country (and the world) and yet found ourselves speaking the same language. Another Sughad miracle!
Love Requires Little Translation
Language can be a barrier – in some cases literally. Having spent my early years abroad and the rest in Tamil Nadu, my grasp of Hindi is shaky at best. Despite the great schools I attended, I picked up most of my knowledge from Bollywood films. Most of my MovedByLove circle were more comfortable in Hindi than English. This was definitely a challenge. However, as one of the volunteers, Steve, said, you also have to read what is left unsaid – the spaces between the lines. But it didn’t hurt that my friends gamely acted as translators for me (thanks, guys!).
In fact, my Madras roots turned out to be a blessing. They helped me become, in a small way, a part of something amazing. How? Here’s the story:
During our circle, we had the good fortune to be introduced to Yogesh Mathuria, who like his guru, Sathish Kumar, uses peace walks as a way to connect with his countrymen and those of neighbouring countries to spread the message of love. On World Peace Day, he began his journey in Mumbai and walked down to Madurai where he caught a flight to Colombo. He continued his walk throughout Sri Lanka. Fascinating though his tale is, it’s for another day. My story involves his companion, Somnath Bhonsle, who undertook the journey with him.
Somnath had an exam to complete before he headed to Sri Lanka with Yogesh Bhai, so he paused his journey in Madurai to write it before they headed to their next destination. After the exam, he was in a hurry to catch a bus to Coimbatore to rejoin Yogesh Bhai. To get to the bus station in time, he found himself in a situation that most Tamil Nadu natives can well imagine – haggling with an auto driver.
Murugan, the auto driver, asked for INR 100, Somnath offered 50, they compromised on 80. Somehow, on their short journey they shared something impactful and not only did Murugan refuse payment, he bought Somnath a packet of biscuits and something to drink before helping him onto the bus. Touched, Somnath insisted on giving him some money for his troubles. The funniest part? Murugan spoke no Hindi and Somnath spoke no Tamil. Each went on their way, grateful and happy, with each other’s phone numbers in their pockets.
Flash forward to our retreat. We were on a bus to Seva Cafe when Somnath told another of our circle members, Madan, this story. Madan immediately thought it would be wonderful if Somnath could contact Murugan and thank him for his kindness. As the only Tamil speaker in the vicinity, I was blessed with the chance to help. I was handed the phone and spoke to the now famous Murugan, who was at first extremely confused. I reminded him of Somnath (the man from Maharashtra who you bought biscuits for and put on the bus?) and explained that because of the language barrier Somnath couldn’t thank him directly, but I was speaking for him.
To say that he was stunned was an understatement! He thanked me about 10 times before we ended the call. The pure joy and astonishment in his voice affected me deeply. That tiny act of kindness not only gave Somnath and Madan great joy, but its ripples reached all the way to Madurai!
When Pranita came back from her retreat experience, she mentioned something to me that caught my attention, though now I actually understand and can appreciate it. It’s a quote from Mother Theresa, which hangs at the entrance to the courtyard in Sughad, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love”.
I’d like to thank Somnath and Madan for helping me truly comprehend that lesson. It was a completely random but life-changing moment for me. Simple yet reverberating. With one phone call, they touched so many lives. Perhaps this is unsurprising since it was a beautiful thought, which stemmed from a powerful and generous action. I think everyone who was involved, even peripherally like me, was moved by it.
Every Little Bit Counts
Too often we think of service as an extreme path. After all, we each see many wrongs that need to be righted. Unfortunately, that often leads us to disregard the smaller yet equally meaningful gestures of others. Sughad taught me that “small things with great love” can break walls, crack open universes, and create a community in the most beautiful sense of the word.
Muriel Rukeyser wrote in her book, The Speed Of Darkness, “The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” We are each the author of our own tale. And whether we are a footnote or a novel unto ourselves, let’s celebrate and appreciate each word. My story may have begun in a coffee shop with Jaideep and Pranita, but like the universe, it is ever expanding. Thank you, Sughad for this new chapter. Like any respectable printed book, those of us who have been Moved By Love come in all shapes, sizes, and ‘covers’. But it’s always comforting to realise that under it all, we are all speaking the same language.