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 the almighty for the support.
As we were walking, I suddenly got a call from nature. I looked for a bathroom but soon realized that we are walking on an interstate 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.
We reached 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 a man of service and golden heart. He runs this hospital on the concept of the 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 the 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.
While we were busy exploring the place, we interacted with many people and discussed our mission. We got mixed responses, some thought it was a good idea, and some thought it as bullshit. There we met this man—Himmat Shah who came as our savior and guide. He took up the task of guiding us to the barbershop.
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 to 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 into thin air. Some people find God in stones, I find God in humans.
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 birthplace. 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 a 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 the night, there was an urgent delivery and the maternity ward was upside-down. It was a chaos outside but an order in our mind. For the first time, I realized the challenges and difficulties of the maternity ward staff.
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!