I had felt the pain of blisters long time ago and I knew how killer they are. The temperature was rising and I couldn’t walk much but we had to take our first break. Sheetal Sanghvi had suggested an ashram for our halt.
Sitaram Ashram—near Gandhinagar—was a beautiful little ashram and a perfect for our break. I was dying to remove the shoe and see the condition of blisters. The sage of the ashram offered us water to drink and directed us to the washroom. My blisters had taken monstrous form and were quite painful. I got blisters on almost all the fingers. I was not afraid but worried. The sage gave me his blessings and offered to heal by a hand gesture. Just then, I realized that he wasn’t speaking at all. His peers told us that he is in the silence mode for many years. Maybe, it was his way of meditation, communication or his atonement.
I distracted my mind and took a nice bath with cold water; in an almost open bathroom. The bathroom was raw room made of bricks and had put my towel to act as a curtain. I also had a frog to accompany me inside, and he witnessed the act throughout; uncensored. Soon, were called for food—Ram Roti, as they call it. It’s actually nothing but charity food. The ashram serves food and shelter for beggars, saints, homeless and pilgrims like us. This was our first food of the journey and believe me, this simple food was one of the best food I had eaten in my life. We told our entire story to the sage. He was listening eagerly and was quite impressed by our mission.
After eating, I almost forgot about my blisters and spent an entire afternoon watching this cow eating and doing her activities. It was a beautiful time with oneself. I tried to sleep but there were a hell lot of mosquitoes that didn’t allow any of us to sleep; actually, I think it was only me!
Soon, it was late afternoon and I had a glass of cold buttermilk and we stepped out of the ashram after taking the sage’s blessings for the pilgrimage. We kept walking and walking, passing farms, highways, villages, water holes and people. The evening was searching for us and soon we could feel the tiredness and decided to take a stop. But this time, there was no suggestion like we got last time from Sheetal Sanghvi.
I had an idea!
I have been an ardent traveler, rather a low-impact traveler, all my life and I promptly suggested to the group that we enter the nearest village and meet the village head to support us. We all agreed and met the village head of village–Gozaria. He was a kind person and made the arrangement of food and shelter in the community hall.
This was my first-night stay earned by begging; although for a cause. Back in the room, dear Vijai Yadav turned into a lover and a doctor. He held my foot and started treating my blisters in his own sweet way. He burst the blisters, cleaned them, applied medicine and tied bandage to it. I had never seen such an act of compassion that this first day of my walking pilgrimage showed me. The gift of day one—food and love—took my breath away.