Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Karma Kitchen in Kochi


The power of simple, pure intentions never ceases to amaze me. Sheetal and I were invited for the Giftival 2014, to be hosted in Kerala in the first week of January where we were joined by 35 beautiful souls from across the world in an effort to deepen their commitment to Gift. For three days, we held space together for our vulnerabilities and our dreams at the Pepper House in Kochi. And as always, you see the love from the circle spill over into the neighbourhood community in incredible ways. Over lunch, we were being hosted by Thomas and his family who run a beautiful space called Dosas and Pancakes. A few years ago, Thomas felt a desire to infuse his life with meaning and shifted focus away from his successful career in IT. He came back to Kochi to create a space that supports the culture of the region and the restaurant was born out of an intention to host people with more love. Over lunch, he soo realized this wasn't an ordinary bunch of people that he was hosting! Over small conversations we shared stories from our journey over lunch. And as you'd expect by now, Thomas was moved by the spirit of Seva Cafe and Karma Kitchen that run across the world. Instantly, he was moved to bring this spirit into his space.

'Sure!' we said- 'How may we support you?'
'Let's start right away' came the reply!
Ofcourse, my mind was resisting, thinking about how we're actually going to pull off something like this, but Sheetal, who tends to be more in the flow of things jumps at the offering and says 'Let's do it!'

And just like that, we decided to run a Karma Kitchen right there in the city of Kochi! 

'Don't worry about bringing too many volunteers!' he said. It's a weeknight so we won't have too many guests. Just as well, since most participants would be tired by the evening. But the moment we shared it with the group, we had the most thunderous response! Immediately people stepped into action. Merve, Ivan and Hafeezbhai set up a corner for 'Art with Heart', creating inspirational posters and quotes for all guests. Manish, Sheetal, Jayan and Joseph took charge of the floor and hosting, while Aishagul, Mukund, Abhilash and Herman drew up some posters with smiles and went out on the street! Within twenty minutes, we had people streaming in, curious to see if an experiment like this was actually working. As we welcomed guests, the Rickshaw drivers at the gate got a bit curious. They were initially convinced this was only for the privileged lot, but after a lot of coaxing, we managed to invite two of them in.

Soon enough, some of their friends came in as well. Initially, there was some awkwardness as they had never been in a space like this before,  but our smiles and love opened everyone's hearts. All my concerns about them feeling included were washed away when one of them gave me the warmest hug on their way out! It didn't end there - my face was lit up with an even bigger smile when we saw him pick up one of the posters for the Cafe and hold it up for the passers-by for the next 30 minutes! Talk about spreading the word in organic ways! This was rippling out in a matter minutes :)



The atmosphere was electric. A bunch of kids strolled in, initially excited at the prospect of 'free chocolate cake!', but Ivan's sketching inspired some of them to run back home and bring their own collection of drawings. Only a field of love and emergence could enable an artist from Spain and young wide-eyed boys from Kochi connect over pencil sketches :) Two of the guests were even moved to stand up and offer a song for the entire restaurant! Smiles were all around and we closed the evening with a circle of sharing and dance that even guests decided to join - no one wanted to leave, but eventually, we had to :)




The next morning, I made my way back to the Cafe to settle accounts with Thomas. We had promised him to pay whatever the charge was for the evening. Serendipitously, the bill was almost the same as the collection. I'm still amazed at the way nature works! Worked out well I thought to myself, only to be in for a shock! I saw a revised number below the original estimate. Thomas had decided to give us a 50% discount! As he saw my puzzled expression, he said with a big beam across his face - 'I couldn't bring myself to charge you guys! I've received so much!'

I couldn't help but smile in humility for the gift that we had received! How can you explain these ties between people that had met just a few hours ago? It's incredible how the field of love can emerge in the most unlikeliest of ways. All I could do was to simply trust and keep the ripples flowing, I thought, while also honouring his gift! As a request, I asked if he could offer the excess to his kitchen staff who had toiled so tirelessly for us the previous evening - may they pay it forward in some way too! 

~ May the spirit of Generosity keep flowing and transforming us all ~

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