“And that is how the circle of giving is completed” – with that Sheetal completed his description of Seva Cafe. He was sharing the concept of gift economy with the folks who dropped in for the Wednesday Awakin gathering at the Urban Ashram last week.
Among those who were attending was 10 year old Santosh, who was had come there with his Teach For India mentor in a municipal school he attends. The 10 year old boy, probably exposed to meditation for the first time walks over to Sheetal at the end of the evening, and hands him a 10 rupee note. “Here is my contribution”, he says, “I won’t be able to make it for dinner that night, but I’d like to offer you something. This is all I have with me right now.” Turns out, it was his money for the bus ride home, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
This and a whole host of beautiful events transpired on September 9 2012, when the Atlantis restaurant in Pune transformed into a Seva Cafe for the evening. The videographer decided to offer his services as his gift to the community – he says he wants to make a documentary on this! More than 25 people show up well before time (including 6 friends from Mumbai!) all looking to volunteer. Raghu came in all the way from Ahmedabad just for the night. The ambience team transformed the entire space in a matter of hours with quotations and even table mats. We couldn’t stop people that day. Parthu, who has been in Pune for the last three years was a regular volunteer as a child in Ahmedabad. The moment he heard about the opening night in Pune, he demands to be the ‘first volunteer’ of Pune! At the end when the volunteers sat down to eat, they were force fed every last Gulab Jamun by their own guests who decided to stay back and help!
To top it all, Anita, the owner of the restaurant refuses to accept any form of contribution from the volunteers. She very clearly says, this is my offering for the first night!
Santosh the 10 year old did end up making it for the opening night, and when his story was shared in the volunteer circle, you got the sense that the spirit of Seva Cafe went home with everyone. Everyone can give. The value of those 10 rupees was far greater than any economic measurement, and Sheetal honoured it by accepting the money. In the coming days, guests who will most likely be more well off than Santosh will receive a meal paid for in advance by him – as a gift. Something tells me they’re not going to let the chain stop at them.
~ Everyone can be Great, because Everyone can Give ~
For the complete image gallery from the evening click here!