sevacafe02When I arrived in Ahmedabad, there was craziness all around. People were all busy making and packaging diyas and candles to sell at Gramshree. A team of writers were all working on content. Everyone was doing something. Except me, of course. I just sat there in the center of the storm, watching the mad commotion.

The first thing I had wanted to do when arriving back was to see the progress on the café. I had participated in its design, had a vision, and was hoping it would go in a particular direction, but there were so many people involved, that no one was really in full control. I somehow just had faith that it was all going to work out.

Everyone kept me locked up in the house, but I managed to make it there finally on the night before it was to open. It was important for me to witness the miracle in progress. Over 60 volunteers were all working on various tasks. The café and store were nowhere near being finished, but the Grand Opening had been set and ready or not, it was going to open on October 13th.

When I got there, it was just so beautiful. Clearly, it was in shambles and there was no way on Earth it could ever become ready in the final hours that were left, but people were working day and night, doing their very best. Dozens of people hadn’t slept for days. It was truly an extraordinary effort by so many.

sevacafe04_2The following day, I returned again to be there for its opening and somehow a miracle had occurred that left everyone in disbelief. Though there were touches still left, the impossible had been accomplished and everything was in order and both the store and café looked beautiful and brilliant.

It was my dream that Nipun and Guri, Mark and Yoo-Mi, Viral, and Harshida and Dinesh Mehta (Nipun and Viral’s parents) could be there for its opening. For 9 years, the Mehta’s have opened their home every Wednesday evening to anyone for meditation, sharing of thoughts, and dinner in silence. For these nine years, Harshida Mehta had selflessly cooked without fail for guests numbering from a dozen to a hundred and there, every Wednesday, the spirit of service was always in full demonstration.

The spirit they have exemplified is exactly the spirit this café aspired to embody and to have them all there for its opening helped to grace the space and set it in proper motion.

A lot of credit was thrown my way for this café, but my part was very minor. I had a few ‘Aha!’ moments and contributed in various ways, but my involvement was little compared to the tireless work, and selfless and fearless commitment of so many. The extraordinary efforts of Anarben, Jayeshbhai, Vandana, Abigna, Maria, Anjali, Smita, Nipun, Guri, Mark, Yoo-Mi, Raju, Jagatbhai, and so so so many others were beyond comprehension. It is only because of everyone’s collective merits that this café has come to pass. And it is exactly because of this collectivity that the magic has come through in such a rare and pure form.

You walk into the café at night and the lights are dimly lit. The energy is exciting, fresh, and exuberant. The kitchen is full of committed volunteers and waiters are on the floor serving and sharing the philosophy of the café with its guests. It’s a place that is charged and everyone just wants to be there.

sevacafe01For the first few weeks, most of my experience of this café has been vicarious, but everyday, the stories come in, full of miracles – from a 10 year old who signed up to cook pasta with Mark P. one evening, to a man who offered to donate a room full of computers – from the guards coming in to partake of food in the after hours to millionaires coming in to clean the toilets. In just such a short time, the idea has already touched so many lives and it is still just beginning.

A lot of kinks are being ironed out, and there are risks of burning out a volunteer staff over time with the long hours. Overall, though, the space has exceeded all expectations. The food is the most wholesome available in all of Ahmedabad, with its menu changing daily, offering a wide range of cuisines from all around the world. It is truly a blessing, and to be a part of it, even if mostly vicariously, has been such a treasure.

Now only to learn what it has to teach – “living is giving.”

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