Saturday, December 31, 2011

Seva Cafe in Your Backyard!

For those of you that have been fortunate enough to visit Manav Sadhna's Ahmadabad based Seva Cafe on CG road - You know the feeling of excitement you get when you get off that tiny gray elevator on the fourth floor and immediately your ears are greeted with the strumming of the elegant sitar and the rhythmic beats of the tabla. As the fresh aroma of incense tickles your nose, quickly a sense of happiness overcomes any other feelings you may have at that moment. With your first step into the cafe, love is overwhelmingly poured in your direction as you are greeted at the door and seated with compassion under the open night skies. A meal is served to you by the various smiling volunteers of all ages and colors, and at the end of the night, you get no bill for the food you just ate - Rather you are free to give what you feel you would like to offer paying it forward for the next guest, as someone did before you.

Side note on the Seva Cafe philosophy: The cafe is an experiment in the shared joy that comes from humble giving and selfless service. The wholesome meals served there are cooked and served by volunteers and offered to the guests as genuine gifts, paid for in full by the previous guest. As more participate in the joy of giving, the more the cafe thrives. It begins with a single gift given and received, only to multiply and grow the chain of kindness and care (See for more info).

The tour team had a beautiful idea to bring this concept to the IFF school to show their appreciation for bringing us into their homes and showering us with endless love that helped make our first show so beautiful. Jayeshbhai coordinated a meeting the night before and everyone began volunteering for tasks - Everything from a kitchen staff, to the decoration team, to a bhajans group, and a greeting crew. It was amazing to see so many people so anxious to help serve others - Selflessly.

The Seva day started at 6:30am as I joined the kitchen crew to begin cooking up the feast. Nainabhen, our lady in charge of the delicious meal, headed the team in the kitchen and worked her magic on the massive gas grills making her favorite specialty, handvo. It was my first time cooking (or assisting cooking) and trying this Gujarati specialty and boy would it have been terribly difficult to let me down just by seeing all the loved she poured into the masalas (spices)!

Outside the aromatic kitchen, Jagatbhai and Rahulbhai had done an amazing job lighting up the cafeteria with flowers on every table and beautiful arrangements of petals that covered the room in colors. Nilamdidi and Sheetalbhaiya had begun to fill the room with the sound of their serene voices singing beautiful bhajans. The ambiance was set, and everyone was in the mood of service as the kids rushed out of their rooms to join the cafeteria team and help greet their new brothers and sisters. They had a late night making cards out of colorful construction paper saying thanks to their
new family, and now were ready to serve before eating anything themselves.

Breakfast time was around the corner and as I was running out to change my clothes for the morning, I bumped into our very own...Gandhi ji! I would bet, if Sureshbhai was a little shorter, folks who were lucky enough to ever meet the real Mahatma Gandhi, would not be able to tell the difference! He was a hit star that morning working the Charka and blessing kids with his heartfelt smile. It was a touching site to see!

The IFF kids and staff (including the whole kitchen team) were seated, fed, and their plates were taken upon finishing, and washed by the Manav Sadhna team. Some teachers joined Nilamdidi and together they sang the most beautiful songs we could ever imagine. Everyone was in the spirit of love, service and giving - And it was a kodak camera moment to capture those smiles!

The idea of Seva Cafe can spring anywhere there is a desire to give and serve selflessly - Jayeshbhai and the team brought the idea to the IFF school and each person in the room could feel the happiness in giving. This can happen anywhere and anytime as long as there is selfless love present - It is our challenge to make it a reality even where we may least expect it.

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