With the encouragement of my wife, I had agreed to participate in the walking pilgrimage but had not been getting ready mentally. I had joined a teaching institute but didn’t tell them that I have to leave for the walk in near future. I left it on the universe to guide me. I started reading various articles about such experiments. I read stories and travelogues of different people. There is one very special I want to share—Abraham’s Path. This is a long-distance walking trail across the Middle East which connects the sites visited by the patriarch Abraham as recorded in ancient religious texts and traditions.
I had been always known to be a mad-man and rebel all my life and I shared my decision with a few (leftover) friends. I don’t remember anyone, except one or two, seconding or encouraging me in this experiment. As a child, I had heard the inspiring song by a great Indian poet— Rabindranath Tagore.
If they answer not to your call walk alone
If they are afraid and cower mutely facing the wall,
O thou unlucky one,
open your mind and speak out alone.
If they turn away, and desert you when crossing the wilderness,
O thou unlucky one,
trample the thorns under thy tread,
and along the blood-lined track travel alone.
If they shut doors and do not hold up the light when the night is troubled with storm,
O thou unlucky one,
with the thunder flame of pain ignite your own heart,
and let it burn alone.
The day—1st October 2104—had almost come and I completed the job in hand and started preparing. There was no physical preparation—and this was to become the worst nightmare in coming days—but somehow I managed to exercise and walk for few kilometers everyday early morning. Sachin Tyagi from my housing society encouraged me to walk every day and he made sure I did it daily. I think he is a co-passenger of me in this journey of life.
The day had arrived. I was at Mumbai railway station. My train was a little late and I was all alone on that side of the railway station. It looked like the whole universe wanted me to stand alone. On the way, I met many people with whom I shared my idea of walking pilgrimage. Some got furious, some got excited, and some just cared a damn.
I reached Ahmadabad the next day and first went to a friend’s place—Pratik Padariya. There were two more people who were supposed to join us from there. We went to Gandhi Ashram and together with the Moved By Love community, we prayed for everyone and our mission.
Thereafter we had three days to prepare and enjoy in the city. I got the company of two noble souls—Renu Watwani and her son Shourya Watwani who I fondly call him Buddha.
Together, we decided to do some cleaning work in the city. We went around many places in the city and started our cleaning campaign. Not only we inspired people to clean but we also took oaths with them. It was such a beautiful experience. Our host family was also very lovable and it was like a family. Every day we got up and prepared food with the aunt and then would come back in the night to have delicious food and lots of love.
I had to go to our final destination form where we’re supposed to start our walking pilgrimage. We had to walk to this place and for the first time, I walked around 15 kilometers at a stretch. This was the first-hand experience of a walking pilgrimage. We passed through highways and slums, meeting and talking to people. I was damn inspired by the way Jayesh Patel did this all along. He would stop at the doors of families, chat with homeless people, and even talk to cows and dogs on the way. It was such a nostalgic scene!
I was getting more anxious minute by minute. I was happy meeting so many other people out there but also skeptical about my decision to walk for such a long period. The tension was rising as time was passing. Not thinking about the idea was the only cure. I don’t like to expect and assume and this helped me all along. Finally, it was night time and the journey was to start in the early next morning. Life was a garden, lots of colorful flowers, green colors, cool breeze, peace and lots of butterflies.
And, I think all of them were inside me, all night!