The Untouchables

We started walking in the early hours of morning and this dog walked with us for almost an hour. He was like our guard or messenger or perhaps, God manifested in the form of a dog to support our cause. We had been given a lead to visit a family of socially neglected and looked down upon the untouchables in the hamlet—Chhapi.

It’s shocking but true. India is one of the few unfortunate countries in the world that has this taboo community in almost all the regions. And, we knew this very well while hunting for the address of this family. We asked a man on the way and he lost his mind.

Why do you want to visit that area?

I made him understand, politely, that it’s none of his business. He didn’t cooperate much but after an hour of hunting, we found the place. Yogesh Mathuria called this man up and he agreed to come to pick us up. We’re standing on the cross road where we’re at the center of attention. It seemed like every shop, every customer, every dog or cat was looking only at us for that moment.

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He was so surprised and shocked upon learning this fact that someone really wants to meet them. Anyway, we reached the venue somehow after an hour of asking and getting lost in the village. Upon reaching the location where he told us to, he came running to meet us. It seem that he was coming to rescue us or something as we’re the focus of all the shops around and for the first time, after many years,  I felt like an alien from X999 Galaxy; some 3.3  x 109 trillion light years away from our planet.

But, we met after sharing few calls of where are you, I am here types, he took us to his little home in a nearby place. The place was filled with beautiful little homes and colorful people. There was a beautiful woman washing utensils, an ultra-healthy stray dog barking at us, lots of fine dust kissing our feet, little children running here and there, mud walls displaying their tribal art, fragrance of some pungent food and finally the gutter water flowing here and there.

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A typical picture of a remote and destitute Indian village!

They first served us a sweet dish with dry fruits and later we’re served lentil and rice in the same utensil. It was so tasty that I kept licking my finger. We’re served chilled butter milk and the women of the home was doing the fan for us; like the women used to do to the king in olden times. It was an AWESOME lunch and after that we exchanged telephone numbers and offered our goodbyes. Our hero came to escort us to the outskirts of the village. He also told us the way forward.

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On the way forward, we had only one topic—the hospitality of this untouchable. We the people have coined them a name, keep them neglected and suppressed but there is so much love in their heart. There was no feeling of inequality in their heart. Maybe, it’s us, the over educated and uncivilized lots who create differences because they are simple folks with only love in their heart and glint their eyes. While, most of us in the cities have—almost—forgotten the hospitality toward guests, these forbidden heroes are keeping the head of our culture high.

 

Promote Your Blog In 2018

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Greetings from India!

I am an amateur blogger. I write one blog post everyday since January 2017. I love to write and I am sure you do the same. I started as a failure but today people from 105 countries read my blog.

I want to reach across globe and you might want to do the same. It may seem like a difficult task alone, but together we can do it.

I have an idea to make this happen!

Let’s comment on this blog post with your name and blog address. Also write a few lines on what’s it all about. If everyone does this, we can have thousands of people at one place and we can connect with each other easily. After you’re done, share it ahead so that more people can learn about this chain initiative.

I invite you to join my great Indian dream of ONE WORLD, ONE FAMILY; at least here on the digital platform.

Godspeed.

52 Things You Can Do With Your Child Without Going To A Mall

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Are you a parent who wants to spend quality time with your child but don’t know what to do other than going to a mall? If yes, I have some good information for you. I have carefully put up somethings you can do with your child every week; the way my parents did with me.

I am from Mumbai, so I can tell only about the things that happen here but you can make your own list. Every city has something or the other; similar or different to offer.

There are 52 things. That’s one for every week of the year!

  1. Take a nature walk in world second largest urban park—Sanjay Gandhi National Park (Borivali). You can visit the Kanheri Caves and do the Shilonda Trial.
  2. Explore Maharashtra Nature Park (Mahim). You can also see the organic farming site every Sunday.
  3. Visit Asia’s largest slum—Dharavi (Sion-Mahim). Many local tour operators organize a safe day tour to explore this unique area.
  4. Visit Taraporevala Fish Aquarium (Marine Drive).
  5. Take a stroll at the famous Marine Drive stretch. Don’t forget to eat the famous chilly-ice-cream at Bachelors Ice-cream Parlor just opposite the beach.
  6. Watch your child’s eyes get rounder and rounder as acres and acres of fabric get pummelled, rinsed, shaken and dried in an open-air laundry (Mahalaxmi).
  7. Take one of MTDC’s organised open-air bus tours.
  8. Go watch some live bakeries where yummy cakes and other stuff come to life (Kurla).
  9. Hit the beach. There are many locations, Mumbai is filled with beaches (Juhu, Girguam, Madh, Mahim and Gorai).
  10. Take walk in Juhu Garden (Juhu) and Jogger’s Park (Bandra). You might be lucky to see a Bollywood celebrity.
  11. View the city from top—Gilbert Hill (Andheri) and Hanging Gardens (Malabar Hill). Mumbai looks beautiful from the top.
  12. Take a bus or auto-rickshaw through Aarey Milk Colony (Goregaon). It’s where we used to go for picnics as children, remember? Mini-Kashmir still exists, and yes, you can still take a boat ride.
  13. I know the Nehru Planetarium (Worli) is still a must do for those fascinated by galaxies and things that glow in the dark. And children usually are.
  14. Take a ferry. Wait till the monsoon is over but do take a ferry from Versova to Madh Island or Ferry Wharf to Uran or Gateway of India to Elephanta Caves.
  15. Visit the ancient Elephanta Caves; it’s thousands of years old.
  16. Watch a child play at Prithvi Theater (Juhu). There are regular plays for children over three years and yes, they do enjoy the whole experience, the real-life performers, the costumes, the sets, the lights, the concept of the stage.
  17. Visit the Monetary Museum (Ballard Estate). There is something about money and coins and stuff that is absorbing to children.
  18. Watch a cricket match in Azad Maidan (CST) or Oval Maidan (Churchgate) or Shivaji Park (Dadar). Who knows, you might see another Sachin in making!
  19. Visit Prince of Wales Museum (CST) and Bhau Daji Lad Museum (Byculla) to learn everything you need to know about the city and much more.
  20. You love animals? Then visit city’s only zoo (Byculla). Its one of the oldest zoos od India.
  21. Visit animal hospital (Parel).
  22. Nothing is more exciting than a crowded market area. Visit flower and vegetable market (Dadar and CST).
  23. Go shop hopping in the oldest grey-market of the city—Musafir Khana (CST).
  24. Visit one of the largest flea markets in India—Chor Bazar (Bhendi Bazar). It’s one of a kind thieves market in the word and you can get a lot of stuff to eat and drink.
  25. Mumbai is the home to the underworld. Without a trip to the Den of the Dons (Dongri), Mumbai sight-seeing is incomplete.
  26. This is difficult but if you can manage a permission, a trip at the docks (CST) can be memorable tip.
  27. If you have someone in the defence, take your child to see the Navy Nagar (Colaba) and visit the US Club—it has the best view in the city.
  28. The BNHS does some interesting tree walks round the year. Go for one with your child, hug a tree, sit in its shade, tell them stories around trees.
  29. Mumbai is filled with places of worship. You can visit popular temples, churches, synagogues and mosques. I am sure no names are required!
  30. Sit on the Asiatic Library (CST) steps and watch the world go by.
  31. Irani restaurants are slowly dying. Take your child to one before they completely vanish. My favorite is Cafe Koolar (Matunga). Don’t forget to meet the crazy owner—Ali.
  32. Take a local train ride. It’s not so bad if you choose the right time.
  33. Go to a railway terminus, like Churchgate or CST, catch a seat on a bench and watch the city go mad.
  34. Visit the nearest post office. Why not write a letter and post it while you’re in one with your child?
  35. Go to the Mahalaxmi Race Course (Mahalaxmi) during the racing season. You can request a member to take you around to the stables, where the horses lounge around.
  36. Visit a plant nursery close by. Show your child a variety of plants, talk to them, touch them. In fact, let him choose a potted plant. Take it home, help him look after it, and watch it grow. It’s a great feeling.
  37. Find a friend with a sea-facing terrace on a high-rise building. Watch the sunset.
  38. Visit the all-year round Kite Market (Sandhurst Road).
  39. An amusement park is refreshing and there’s nothing better than Esselworld (Borivali).
  40. If you want to give your child a first-hand account of the freedom struggle, then you must take her or him to Mani Bhavan (Grant Road).
  41. Take a heritage walk around Horniman Circle (Fort).
  42. This is difficult but if you can manage a permission, a trip at the Mumbai Secretariat (Nariman Point) can be memorable tip. It’ll  give you child a sneak-peek on the working of local administration.
  43. Take a break from the bustling traffic, enjoy a birds-eye view of this glamorous city of Mumbai. A helicopter ride will provide you breath-taking views throughout your half an hour journey.
  44. Mumbai is the home of Bollywood and there are some operators who offer a half day Bollywood Tour.
  45. Take memorable tour inside the Dadasaheb Phalke Film City (Goregoan).
  46. Mumbai is not always about concrete forests, malls and glamour but it’s also a home to thousands of tribal females that live inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (Borivali). You can also volunteer with them and attend their weekly lunch parties.
  47. Nehru Science Center (Worli) is one of the most famous science centres of the country. It has more than 500 hands-on and interactive science exhibits on various aspects of science. This destination is a must-see for students and aspirants of science.
  48. Tata Institute of Fundamental Research organizes CHAI & WHY that is a free science talk twice a month—Prithvi Theatre (Juhu) and Ruparel College (Dadar). It’s a must visit for science enthusiasts; of all age.
  49. Visit The Global Vipassana Pagoda (Borivali) is an angelic structure constructed as a dedication to Buddha, his teachings and the monks who practice meditation
  50. Take a tour to the oldest street shopping place of the city—Fashion Street (Between CST and Churchgate).
  51. There are few fresh water lakes that provide water to the city. A trip to explore these will be interesting. Visit Powai and Vihar Lake (Powai) and Tulsi Lake (Borivali) for a half day picnic.
  52. If your child loves mall, don’t forget to show her or him the first mall of Mumbai—Heera Panna Shopping Mall (Haji Ali). We all have visited this place in our school or college time, remember?

If you’re from Mumbai you might already be knowing these places. I not, you can always Google it out but do visit all of them before your child becomes another you. And if you have done them all and gnat to know more, mail me—I can tell you more!

I know my city really well.

In case you need assistance, you can always contact my kaali-peeli-taxi-driver friend Sayyed on +91 9892730667. He can take you to these places; with safety and security.

You can also contact him for some adult tours—only for parents!

On The Feet Of A Living Legend

Our next stop was scheduled in a school in a sacred town—Siddhpur. This town is an ancient town most famous for performing religious rituals for deceased mother. This doesn’t happen anywhere in India, except here. This town also hold importance to the affluent Bohra Muslim community and also the largest producer of husk in the country.

I was quite uncomfortable with the blisters on me and took a halt every one hour. This made us quite slow. In the morning, when we walked silently, I looked up above the sky so high, and saw many diamonds in the sky. The sky was full of stars that I never noticed in my city – the concrete jungle. The sky was so clear, the climate was beautiful and we were walking silently towards our destination. This was the first time we touched the national highway and took utmost precaution not to come under the tyre of any truck. Yogesh Mathuria is fond of using global positioning system in his mobile phone and I am fond of asking for address personally. I think that by using too much technology, we kill the human touch.

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We had almost completed walking 100 kilometers and almost reach our destination. We were welcomed by our host in Yoganjali School. This school was founded by a great woman who is a Gandhian and had walked with Acharya Vinoba Bhave all around India for more than 10 years. They had hundreds of little children that I met. After breakfast, we met this 80 year young lady—Ramila Gandhi and just kept watching her for few moments.

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She was like a Goddess, wrapped in cotton Indian drape, sitting on her seat, fluent in English, Hindi and Gujarati, and an aura around her. A lady, in her early 80s, but beautiful than Miss Universe!

I got hijacked and they way she welcomed her with her sweet voice, it killed me man. She started asking about our journey and my mentor told him about our peace pilgrimage.

Then, I asked to share her story. As she was sharing her journey, I was just looking at her like a rock and feeling so frightened within. She shared that she had left her home at the age of 20 and joined national teacher and spiritual successor of Mahatma Gandhi for the Land Gift Movement. I was getting chills listening to her story and felt almost like a quark in front of her. I thought that I was the one who is doing a difficult task, walking for peace and all that stuff but when I got to know that she walked for the cause for 10 years, I remained quiet for the whole day.

Can you believe? A young lady of 20 years or so, leaving her home against the will of her parents and joining a man who was supposed to walk India for 25 years asking for land for rich landlords.

This is F***ing Awesome!

She told us how she walked all around India in the 1950s and collected land from the rich land owners and gifted the poor farmers. After that she came and established this school, all alone. It was a “Man Oriented” world then (and it is still now) and all that she did to establish a school at that time was a real tough job. She never married and has given all her life for education and service, selfless service. She is affirm believer in self reliance and had built a home of mud and all Eco-friendly products.

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We were eager to meet the children and address them about our mission. Children are the tools for change, and I blend well with them. Yogesh Mathuria started addressing them and told all about his mission and life. But, I think he means serious business and they got a bit bored. Seeing this, he handed over the conversation to me.

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I started with a bang. I told them about my career in the animation industry and my journey of life since childhood. By the grace of almighty, I have a talent of connecting with children within a minute. I won their hearts and attention. We shared our mission and I even promised them to share the craft of Origami.

After lunch, immediately we came together and I taught a few of them making a fighter airplane with paper. They were so mesmerized like they have never seen such a thing before. And, it’s such a crude truth that they have never. We in big cities see airplanes in our daily life but children sating in small towns or villages rarely even see paper planes. This information gap makes me unhappy.

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In the evening, we were offered a city tour by a member of the school. He promised us and exciting tour with joyous moments. He was kind to become our guide and we started with the famous Bohra Muslim area of the city. It’s a plush locality with ancient homes. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Then, we visited the famous temple that offers performing religious rituals for deceased mother. This place became popular when the super star of Hindi film industry visited this temple for her mother.

We had lots of fun in the evening and we came back just before the prayer time. After the prayer, the second-in-command of the living legend requested to share some video and audio editing skills, so that she can become self sufficient. I happily—and effectively—fulfilled her wish and gifted her a bit of my knowledge that will support her become self reliant for life. After that we had good food, joyful chat with children and went to sleep.

All night I had been thinking that I missed an opportunity to put my feet on the living legend’s feet. I had never done this before because I never felt this way for anyone else. But, this lady was something different. I had missed the opportunity but I got a shock of my life in the morning. The living legend was waiting to wish us goodbye in the morning. This was a nostalgic scene and I immediately put my head on her feet and took her blessings.

We both were first timers that day. I had never done this before, she—the living legend—had never done this before!

My Journey Into The World Of Drugs, And Back

College life was fun—friends, ocean, lust, fun, music, and a lot of intoxicants. And all this was bound by a common thread of a deep thirst of exploration. Back in the 1990s, drugs were sprawling in Mumbai.

Psychedelic drugs were a rage.

Although, it was only a privilege for the rich because of the high price but addiction never leaves anyone alone. I was also not left.

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The journey started with tasting small doses of psychedelic drugs during outside-the-campus student’s parties. Life was just started, everything was new, and there was abundance of freedom; without responsibility.

I remember trying different stuff that was available—Cocaine, Heroin, LSD, Mandrax, Ecstasy, Flashback, Hashish, Magic Mushroom, DMT, Snake Bite etc. There were so many colorful pills and powders that I can’t even remember today.

It was fun at the beginning. We used to go to a slum near my home in north of Mumbai, to buy these psychedelic drugs. I remember many Bollywood celebrities coming to the joint at late hours of the silent night. The seller was fondly called Narayanbua.

He was a powerful and popular drug pedlar in those days.

What started as a college rage soon cultivated into pseudo-spiritual seeking. I connected with a group of hippies from Europe who were in turn seeking for meaning of life. They connected with some spiritual mentor in India who used psychedelic drugs as tool for seeking and living on the hope of deliverance.

They told me that they’re seeking God.

These hippies roamed naked on beached of Goa and made their personal hermitage for seeking the ultimate truth. There was a lot of space for everyone and I used to visit them now-and then, in hope of deliverance and understanding the concept of God.

There were also a lot of trance parties to connect with the universe; they said. But it was nothing more than being drugged, drunk and have sex all day and night.

I was sort of enjoying this nakedness, madness and seeking. All this for new for me and the best part was that all of it was sponsored by some or the other wealthy friend; who went along with me. But soon, I realized that I was going too far into the world of drugs; under the garb of pseudo-spirituality.

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I controlled myself and came out of that psychedelic and fake world. It was really hard, took some time but I was out before my graduation. I had lost weight and a my brain too.

Psychedelic drugs have lot of bad effects—physical and psychological ones. You must know some of them:

  • Wild mood swings, depression, anxiety, paranoia, violence
  • Decrease in pleasure in everyday life
  • Complication of mental illness
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Psychological tolerance to the drug’s effects creating a desire to do ever-increasing amounts of the drug
  • Desire to engage in risky behavior
  • Heart rate irregularities, heart attack
  • Respiratory problems such as lung cancer, emphysema and breathing problems
  • Abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea
  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Seizures, stroke, brain damage
  • Changes in appetite, body temperature and sleeping patterns

Much later in life, after reading a lot of books and a lot of introspection, I have understood that God and spirituality is inside. It’s not something to look out for; it’s all an inside job. The moment you start looking for it outside, you’re going to get addicted; whether it’s places of worship or psychedelic drugs.

God is inside you.

I urge to all of you to learn from my lesson and stay away from false practices for seeking. What you’re seeking is seeking you, it will come to you at the right time. No music, pills, therapies, books or images will help.

If you believe in God, he or she will find you in his or her own strange ways. Don’t worry, don’t hurry.

Say no to drugs; please!

The Case Of The Date-Rape Drug

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A date rape drug, also referred to as a predator drug, is any drug that is an incapacitating agent which, when administered to another person, incapacitates the person and renders them vulnerable to a drug facilitated sexual assault; including rape. One of the most common types are those in which a victim consumes a recreational drug such as alcohol that was administered secretly.

You must have seen this in many movies. Picture this—there’s a party and a notorious boy mixes a pill in the glass of a pretty girl, then take her to a room and tries to sexually assault her.

I have seen this in many Bollywood movies. But how do I know so much? You have to read about my psychedelic journey before you read this article; to get an answer.

Date-rape drug is not something new but it’s used a lot now-a-days; again. Many rape cases across the world have recorded the use of this drug. It’s dangerous and you have to know about it.

The most common date-rape drug is Rohypnol that is a tranquilizer. The drug is available as a white or olive-green pill and is usually sold in the manufacturer’s bubble packaging. Users crush the pills and snort the powder, sprinkle it on marijuana and smoke it, dissolve it in a drink or inject it. It has been used to commit sexual assaults because it renders the victim incapable of resisting, giving it the reputation of a date-rape drug.

The users of this date-rape drug often describe its effects as paralyzing. The effects start twenty to thirty minutes after taking the drug, peak within two hours and may persist for eight or even twelve hours. They lie on the floor, eyes open, able to observe events but completely unable to move. Afterwards, memory is impaired and they cannot recall any of what happened.

Heard something like this before?

Date-rape drug is most dangerous when mixed with alcohol because the effects will come on slowly, giving the victim time to go well past their normal drinking limit. It could take twenty minutes or an hour, but with alcohol, the victim will eventually pass out. This is how many sexual assaults begin. Additionally, it has almost no taste, and the white ones have no color. They have a soft, fine texture, so you can’t feel them in your mouth. Someone can grind one up in their hand, drop the powder into your drink, and you will not notice it.

But what most people don’t realize is that when it is combined with alcohol, people can forget several of the hours BEFORE ingesting the date-rape drug in addition to everything afterward. Victims often don’t remember the events leading up to an assault. In fact, there are probably many victims that will never even know that it happened.

Girls, beware of the sinister predators that can get you. I suggest to make your drinks yourself. If you suspect you were give this drug without your knowledge, get a drug test IMMEDIATELY.

Night In A Maternity Ward

We left the community center early in the morning. There was no plan for the day. We just kept walking towards the highway. There was no one around except a team of stray dogs that were half asleep and half estranged. I was a little uncomfortable or let me put it straight, little scared.

But somehow, we passed the danger. The team was very cooperative and we even wished them a good morning. As the sun started coming up, Yogesh Mathuria got a call from a friend to give a reference of someone who could host us for the day. We were super excited and thanked almighty for the support.

As we were walking, I suddenly got a call from the nature. I looked for a bathroom but soon realized that we are walking on inter-state highway. I have a lot of experience in attending these calls in the forest, in the open. But there was a challenge, there was no water. Vijai Yadav—always the lender of last resort—helped me to get a bottle of water and finally, I completed the task with a satisfactory feeling.

We had to reach a small town—Visanagar. I once thought it was visa-nagar as almost all the Gujarati people are trying to get a visa to the USA! But jokes apart, it was a beautiful town very close to Vadnagar; birthplace of our PM—Narendra Modi.

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We reached at a junction and asked for our host—Jyoti Hospital. There were few people talking and they immediately showed us the way. They even inquired about the tag I was wearing, that said—WALKING PILGRIMAGE. They were quite impressed and wished us good luck. In a short while, we found the place and we met the founder doctor of this hospital.

Dr. Mihir Joshi welcomed us to his hospital. He’s man of service and golden heart. He runs this hospital on the concept of gift economy. After a brief chat about our mission, he directed us to our room; in the maternity ward. It was the only room available that day and we made ourselves comfortable in this room. This was the first time I was to spent a night in a maternity.

I have spent many nights in hospital but never in a maternity home!

After a shower and little food I took a treatment for my blisters and we decided to sleep for a while and then go out to explore the city and interact with people. I was feeling very HOT and decided to shave my hair. We all had to do some cleaning work, and we set out to hunt for a barber shop.

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While we were busy exploring the place, we interacted with many people and discussed about our mission. We got mixed responses, some thought it was a good idea, and some thought it as bullshit. There we me this man—Himmat Shah who came as our savior and guide. He took up the task of guiding us to the barber shop.

He spoke in English and offered us guidance under the banner of GUEST IS GOD attitude that is stuffed in Indians.

I was so embarrassed and requested him not to call me that, and just guide us the right way. I told him that I am of his grandson’s age and I’ll feel most comfortable if he calls me by my name. But he was quite determined to accompany me till the shop. He took me to a nice barber shop that was his favorite. Then, he not only told the barber to give me a nice shave, but a head massage as well. On the top, he sat there till I was done and paid for my shave and head massage.

We’re—sometimes—so materialistic that we don’t have the sight to look beyond money. Such stories have become folklore. But this is fact in small town and villages of India. People are so loving and compassionate. Guest is really God for them and they’re courageous enough to treat them like that. I was extremely touched by this act. Not that I couldn’t pay or don’t stop him but I didn’t want to take away the pleasure of receiving. After the act, we hugged each other tightly and he disappeared in thin air. Some people find God in stones, I find God in humans.

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I felt like doing something different, and I shaved my head. I think it was the right thing to do ad it was too hot in the middle of October. With the bald head, we decided to visit our Prime Minister’s birth place. We came to know about an old age home that his brother managed. We had a nice time out there. Although, his brother was not around, the manager took us around and we met few elderly people. We told them about our mission and took their blessings. It was kind of surprising that all of them had a quite positive approach towards our mission and encouraged us to do more for the society.

We came back in the evening and after a nice dinner—in the hospital—went to bed; at least I thought so. There was continuous disturbance form the ward. Little babies crying all around.  It was an interesting experience. In the middle of night, there was an urgent delivery and the maternity ward was upside-down. It was a chaos outside but order in our mind. For the first time I realized the challenges and difficulties of the maternity ward staff.

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In the morning, we left with a first-aid box gifted to us by the doctor. It was such a sweet gesture of love. The entire hospital offered us wishes for the journey and we hit the road; with my blisters of course!