Until The Breath Is There

Nisha Srinivasan, Dec 30, 2022 in Karma Yog

[I was so moved by Dhwani's share at our Spiri-Ted evening during the retreat. Glad to share a recording and transcript. Very grateful for the sacred reminders to serve without any agendas.]


Hello everyone. Actually, it is so difficult for me to speak right now because, yeah, I was the one who couldn't stop laughing behind the screen in the skit.

Yeah. Nipun-bhai asked me if I can share the story which was life transforming for me. And, yeah, the Narmada Parikrama (a sacred, cicular, walking pilgrimage around river Narmada) that we did was, the entire six months were, life transforming for me. And I think, most of you must have heard something from me about it because that's what I keep talking about all the time.

And this is one of those many stories that I would want to share today where, in the parikrama also, the controlling, nature is so much there. When we were walking most of the times, we would like consciously try not to plan Just like that one day while we were walking, we had set a target for ourselves that this is where we want to reach today. So we were like just rushing, both of us, and that's when we heard a voice from the background where this one woman was calling Maiya (mother).

Usually when, we are in the Parikrama in that region, people call the woman Maiya. So this one woman was calling me. And asked “Where are you running Maiya? Where will you reach?”. That's when I turned back. It was like Narmada Maiya calling me.

So when we turned back, there's this one woman, sitting under a tree. I couldn't see anything there. It seemed like a construction site where these two women were sitting. and they were calling us. I could see it's like a construction site where they had a mat where they would just sit. So their house was being built somewhere inside the village, which was not on the route of the parikrama.

And we found out later that every day, from morning to evening almost, they would just come here and, you know, sit, wait for the pilgrims and call them out.

And so they called us there and we were like, okay. so we went there and we sat with them. They made some chai for us, and so that the woman in white is Malati and the other lady is her mom. These two women have just met me for like half a day in my life, and they have changed my life. We've never even spoken again, but yeah, they have changed my life.

So, Malati, just invited me and then the way she was talking to me was as if I am like her younger sister. And, she would be like, oh you don’t drink tea! Then she goes and gets coffee for me and she offers the coffee to me in a way I cannot deny. And after all of that is done, we were like we have chatted and had tea and coffee, now we'll just leave.

And they could, they did not let us leave. They took us to their place where they said you have to stay here the night. And we went with them to their place, which was like a small corner of this room.

That was their entire place where they took the two of us in and along with us there were, I think three or four other people. So there was very little room to sleep and we were like sticking to each other while sleeping. But in spite of having that small place, I was like shocked by the space in their hearts. The bathroom was like just two tiles (four square feet).  And they were bringing water from like almost two kilometers away where the river was.

So they would just carry the water from there. And still Malati said when we are walking, it's difficult because we don't really find a safe space to shower. So she was like, I was like, no, I'll go to the river and you know, I'll walk with you. And in that small space she arranged a bucket of water for me and I somehow showered. And then after I come out, she, she, by that time, she's taken all mydirty clothes and she carries all those clothes to the river and washes all of them.

Then she's cooking. So the mother, in the meanwhile, gone to some somebody else's place and there she prepares a full meal for us including kheer. These women do not have food for their own. I mean, next meal in the morning, they don't know if they have, but they arrange that full meal for us and all of this happening.

And while she's making the rotis, she just looks at me and she goes, “Didi why are you not wearing a bindhi on your forehead? Why not wear bangles?” and she makes me wear what she has. Then she removed the only piece of priced jewelry she had - silver earrings, and put it on me.

It was like she is just dressing me up maybe for a function or something. I was like, oh my God. One thing I shared with Siddharth was, the lesson I learned - When we are giving, whenever we are giving, we should practice that we do not ever calculate. And that was Malati for me.

And so the next morning when we were leaving, she was crying.

So, yeah. And there were, I think the Parikrama was full of stories like this. And so earlier today, when we were talking about this question, is it possible to give with abandon? And how is it sustainable? During the parikrama, it hit me so much, where I felt that fear is gone.

Two years after the parikrama, there have been so many potential moments where that fear could have come back, but somehow, just a glimpse is there and it just goes away.

You know, no matter what is taken away, until the breath is there, you can serve. So I think that was what I learned from the parikrama - just the breath is what I need to serve.

If you'd like to join a similar circle, please explore upcoming pods.