Saturday, October 14, 2006

Anarben's story- part 4 of 4

Many people feel that if you do seva, you’ll have satisfaction. I’ve been doing seva for over 13 years now. Even after doing seva for 8-9 years, I did not feel satisfied. I can’t change the world. I began to sink into depression. Even after all these years of doing seva, I hadn’t seen any results. I began to wonder what the point was for doing all this. I was ready to stop doing seva. I began to cut down heavily on the activities I was involved in. I was doing the bare minimum. I began to go to the field less because I was doing administrative work. I was ready to leave the world of seva. Then I went to Vipassana and I got a new life. After the first three days, for the first time in my life, I got to spend time with myself and my thoughts. My perspective on my life began to change dramatically. I began to learn how to work with people and realize who I am. I began to see the relationship between myself and my environment. I often get angry with people because of things they do. Through Vipassana, I began to understand my role in my environment and how much the things around me are related to the way I think and act. More importantly, I made the connection between service (seva) and spirituality. I was missing out on the spirituality side, which is why I was not satisfied by doing seva. Both are needed.

I’ll tell you one more story, this happened after we left Vipassana. Jayesh had to go to the bathroom on the way home, so we stopped a place that had toilets. Now Jayesh always notices the cleanliness of bathrooms. When he went to the toilet, a woman was inside cleaning. Instead of disrupting her, he simply observed her because there was something about the way she was working that caught his eye. The woman was doing her work with immense love and devotion. When the woman noticed Jayesh, she came out so he could use the facilities. Inside, Jayesh notice how impeccably clean the toilet was. Every corner was spotless. Immediately, Jayesh had the desire to do something to appreciate this woman’s work, so he took some money from his pocket and went up to the woman.

“Sister, you are doing this work with such love and devotion. The toilets are so clean.”
“It’s my duty, of course I will do it well.”
“But the love and dedication you do it with is truly incredible. I really appreciate the work you are doing and want to give you this money to show that appreciation.”

But the woman would not accept the money. Jayesh came back to me and told me the story. So I took the money and went to talk to the woman myself.

“Sister, please take this money. You are doing a great job and it’s simply a token of our appreciation.”
“I cannot take this money.”
“What does your husband do?”
“He cleans a school nearby.” (which meant he didn’t earn much either).
“How many children do you have?”
“I’m sure you have a need for money.”
“Everyone has a need for money, but the money we get, we earn from our own hard work.”
“This money is in appreciation for the work you do and it’s coming from your brother, so you can take it.”
“No sister, my boss pays me for the work I do and that is enough.”

And she wouldn’t take the money. The values this woman embodied left me in awe.

As we left, I turned back to ask the woman her name.
“Lakshmi,” she replied.
Lakshmi. I smiled.

Lakshmi is the name of the Goddess of Wealth. God himself had manifested himself to teach us a lesson. From Vipassana and our encounter with Lakshmi, I learned that in every moment God is teaching us something, but our perspective prevents us from seeing these lessons.

And with that her talk concluded. Over the span of an hour and half, Anarmami had given us all immense insight into her life and what it meant to do seva. It’s not a glamourous life, its not an easy life, but it is one that connects you with humanity and with God. Her story was exactly what I and the other NRI volunteers listening needed to here. The humility and love with which she shared her life and parts of herself left us speechless.

As I embark on this path of seva, she brought home the realities of this work. I’ve been blessed to be able to live with this person, to learn from her and her experiences. As I listened to her speak, I bowed down to the spirit within her and energy and space that connects us together. I originally had planned to stay in Ahmedabad only for a few weeks, but I can’t leave this space now. There is so much to learn and experience and where else would I find such people, under whose guidance and example, I can truly learn what it means to serve.

1 comment:

rahul said...

Heena, thanks for compiling and sharing Anarben's story. I too often think of Anarben and Jayeshbhai as the perfect couple, disregarding the struggles they have and challenges the continue to face. Her story, and some of your earlier posts, reminded me more deeply of how important it is to put energy and love into all aspects of my life, and not expect that anything should be easy.