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FOOT

Travelogue of a Foot-soldier

Agastya Kapoor | www.agastyakapoor.com

The pilgrimage on foot was the


immemorial rite of the abolishing
of differences. To know this, was
to reconcile oneself with time, to
reconcile all times with all other
times.
Octavio Vaz | Mexican poet-diplomat and writer | 1914-1998

Chapter 01: Pandoras Box


I was first introduced to the concept of walking in school. I read about the Salt March by our Father of Nation
Mahatma Gandhi; somewhere in 1930s. I was quite indifferent to this march but always very inquisitive about the
idea.
While growing up, I often saw people walking in large numbers to pay visit
to the shrine of a popular messenger of God - Sai Baba. This one is one
of them most visited pilgrimage in India.
Much later in life, I heard about a great saint and leader Acharya
Vinoba Bhave who walked all around India for several years (like more
than 20 years) to collect land for poor and neglected communities.
I really thought that these men had lost their minds but I always had a
pinch in my heart about the whole concept of walking for a cause. Who
knew I had to wait for more than 30 years for someone to come and shake
my whole life up. Someone, actually two of them, who made me realise
that I may re-work my entire 33 years of life!
In December of 2013, I attended a retreat organized by a community named Moved By Love. It was actually a pursuit
to find myself; an inner journey. There I met three men who changed the way I look at my life Siddharth Sthalekar,
Nipun Mehta and Jayesh Patel. Their humbleness surprised me and ripped my heart away. They made me
understand the reasons why great men walked the pilgrimage path and why they took the road less taken. I was
convinced and when I came back, I resigned from my job. I decided to sacrifice my lower goals for higher ones. The
retreat did really move me by love.
My inner journey had started and soon I met the man who inspired me to the next level. Who knew that this man
would be the one Ill walk with one day. With the grace of divine design, I met them man - Yogesh Mathuria. He had
been quite inspired by his mentor, who walked (without money) from New Delhi to America; somewhere in 1960s.

In 2014, we discussed about this dream peace project where he would walk to Indias neighbouring countries (starting
with Pakistan) with the message of peace and love. This was not the only challenge, but there was another walking
without money! I got damn interested this time and agreed to walk with him for first 20 days Ahmadabad to Udaipur
in India.
I was very excited since the day I agreed. I knew there was a beast (as well a clown) waiting for me in this road less
taken. I prepared my mind, body and emptied my wallet for a mad adventure that might change my life forever. I read
somewhere that if you want things you dont have, you have to do things you have never done before. That day I knew
some miracle was about to happen and with great determination, I agreed to walk this path of fire, I decided to take
the road less taken and opened the forbidden package...

Chapter 02: Butterflies in stomach


With encouragement of my wife (and better half), I had agreed to participate in the walking pilgrimage but had not
been getting ready mentally. I had joined a teaching institute but didnt tell them that I have to leave for the walk in
near future. I left it on the universe to guide me. I started reading various articles about such experiments. I read
stories and travelogues of different people. There is one very special I want to share - Abrahams Path. This is a longdistance walking trail across the Middle East which connects the sites visited by the patriarch Abraham as recorded in
ancient religious texts and traditions.
I had been always known to be a mad-man and rebel all my life and I shared my decision with a few (leftover) friends.
I dont remember anyone, except one or two, seconding or encouraging me in this experiment. As a child, I had heart
the inspiring song by a great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore.
Ill also walk alone I said to myself.
The day had almost come and I completed the job in hand
and started preparing. There was no physical preparation
(and this was to become the worst nightmare in coming
days) but somehow I managed to exercise and walk for few
kilometres everyday early morning. One person in my
housing society encouraged me to walk everyday and he
made sure I did it daily. I think he is a co-passenger of me
in this journey of life.
The day had arrived. I was at Mumbai railway station. My
train was a little late and I was all alone at that side of
railway station. It looked like the whole universe wanted me
to stand alone. On the way, I met many people with whom I
shared my idea of walking pilgrimage. Some got furious,
some got excited, and some just cared a damn.
I reached the destination the next day and first went to a friends place Pratik Padariya. There were two more
people who were supposed to join us from there. We went to Gandhi Ashram and together with the Moved By Love
community, we prayed for everyone and our mission.
Thereafter we had three days to prepare and enjoy in the
city. I got company of two noble souls Renu Watwani and
her son Shourya Watwani (I fondly call him Buddha).
Together, we decided to do some cleaning work in the city.
We went around many places in the city and started our
cleaning campaign. Not only we inspired people to clean
but we also took oaths with them. It was such a beautiful
experience. Our host family was also very loveable and it
was like a family. Every day we got up and prepared food
with aunty and then would come back in then night to have
delicious food and lots of love.
I had to go to our final destination form where were supposed to start our walking pilgrimage. We had to walk to this
place and for the first time, I walked around 15 kilometres at a stretch. This was the first hand experience of a walking
pilgrimage. We passed through highways and slums, meeting and talking to people. I was damn inspired by the way
Jayeshbhai did this all along. He would stop at the doors of families, chat with homeless people, and even talk to
cows and dogs on the way. It was such a nostalgic scene!
I was getting more anxious minute by minute. I was happy meeting so many other people out there but also sceptical
about my decision to walk for such a long period. The tension was rising as time was passing. Not thinking about the
idea was the only cure. I dont like to expect and assume and this helped me all along. Finally, it was night time and
the journey was to start in the early next morning. Life was a garden, lots of colourful flowers, green colours, cool
breeze, peace and lots of butterflies...
And ...I think all of them were inside me, all night

Chapter 03: The beginning march


The night was wonderful and I got up early morning. It was quite cold outside. I was feeling like an ripe fruit; read to
roll. After a ritualistic prayer, we gathered at a place to begin. We prayed, and took blessings of our dear mentors and
friends. The time had come and I wore my first ever shoe in a decade, and put my feet outside the gate.

The whole universe was in like Silence Mode. We decided to walk in silence till sunrise Me, Yogesh Mathuria,
Sheetal Sanghvi and Vijai Yadav.
WALKING IN SLENCE!
It was a completely new thing for me. I never thought of being silent. I thought well have fun talking about hundreds
of things. But all my dreams were shattered. I was fresh but little uncomfortable walking with the shoe. The first hour
was terrible. I couldnt stand the silence (but anyway I was talking to myself continuously).
I was moving at the speed of light (almost) and suddenly I saw a ray of light somewhere form the corner of the sphere,
corner? Does a sphere even have a corner? Such is my height of stupidity but the point is that sun was about to rise.
The sky was a painting created with a analogous colour scheme pink, purple, orange, red, etc...
As soon as we could see light all around, we took a break and finally threw out some words to each other. I burst a
Word-Bomb on my partner. The morning looked so beautiful as if I have seen it for the first time in my life. Actually, I
witnessed it after a long time. I could hear the voice of a peacock nearby. I could also hear some random birds
chirping in the background, far behind the trees. Sheetalbhai had promised his participation only till sunrise and he
left us with warm wishes for the journey. What was left was the The Trinity and I was glad that I opened the
Pandoras Box. We kept walking through the capital city of Gandhinagar towards north of Gujarat.
The sun was in his or her full glory. Shining bright and I realized we had been walking for almost 5 hours now. The city
was full of hustle-bustle and the traffic was in its full swing. Suddenly, I started getting uncomfortable. My speed was
getting slow. I noticed pain under few fingers of my feet. I didnt pay attention and like a true soldier, I was determined
to quit only if I am dead. Although, I have been practising trekking all my life but I never experienced continuous
walking like this. I knew there was something wrong
My fear was right BLISTERS!

Chapter 04: The first morsel


I had felt the pain of blisters long time ago and I knew how killer theyre. The temperature was rising and I couldnt
walk much but we had to take our first break. Sheetalbhai had suggested an ashram for our halt.

Sitaram Ashram (near Gandhinagar) was a beautiful little ashram and a perfect for our break. I was dying to remove
the shoe and see the condition of blisters. The sage of the ashram offered us water to drink and directed us to the
washroom. My blisters had taken monstrous form and were quite painful. I got blisters on almost all the fingers. I was
not afraid but worried. The sage gave me his blessings and offered healing by a hand gesture. Just then, I realized
that he wasnt speaking at all. His peers told us that he is in the silence mode since many years. Maybe, it was his
way of meditation, communication or his atonement.

I distracted my mind and took a nice bath with cold water; in an almost open bathroom. The bathroom was raw room
made of bricks and had put my towel to act as a curtain. I also had frog to accompany me inside, and he witnessed
the act throughout; uncensored. Soon, were called for food Ram Roti, as they call it. Its actually nothing but charity
food. The ashram serves food and shelter for beggars, saints, homeless and pilgrims like us. This was our first food of
the journey and believe me, this simple food was one of the best food I had eaten in my life. We told our entire story to
the sage. He was listening eagerly and was quite impressed by our mission.
After eating, I almost forgot about my blisters and spent entire afternoon watching this cow eating and doing her
activities. It was a beautiful time with oneself. I tried to sleep but there were hell lot of mosquitoes that didnt allow any
of us to sleep.
Soon, it was late afternoon and I had a glass of cold butter milk and we stepped out of the ashram after taking the
sages blessings for the pilgrimage. We kept walking and walking, passing farms, highways, villages, water holes and
people. The evening was searching for us and soon we could feel the tiredness and decided to take a stop. But this
time, there was no suggestion like we got last time from Sheetalbhai. I had an idea!
I have been an ardent traveller, rather a low-impact traveller, all my life and I promptly suggested to the group that we
enter the nearest village and meet the village head to support us. We all agreed and met the village head of village
Gozaria. He was a kind person and made arrangement of food and shelter in the community hall.
This was my first night stay earned by begging; although for a cause. Back in the room, dear Vijaibhai turned into a
lover and a doctor. He held my foot and started treating my blisters in his own sweet way. He burst the blisters,
cleaned them, applied medicine and tied bandage to it. I had never seen such a act of compassion that this first day of
my walking pilgrimage showed me. The gift of day one - Food and Love - took my breath away
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Chapter 05: Night in a maternity ward


We left the community centre 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, I passed the danger. The team was very cooperative and we even wished them Good Morning, As
the sun started coming up, Yogeshbhai 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 almighty for the support.
As we were walling, I suddenly got a call from the nature. I looked for a bathroom but soon realized that we are
walking on inter-state 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. Vijaibhai (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 Guajarati people are
trying to get a visa to the US! But jokes apart, it was a beautiful town very close to Vadnagar; birthplace of our Prime
Minister Narendra Modi.
We reached at 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 is man of
service and golden heart. He runs this hospital on the
concept of 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 (somewhat) comfortable in this room. This was
the first time I was to spent a night in a maternity. I have
spent many nights in hospital but never in a... You see!
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 about our mission. We got
mixed responses, some thought it was a good idea, and some thought it as bullshit. There we me this man
Himmatbhai who came as our saviour and guide. He took up the task of guiding us to the barber shop.
He spoke in English and offered Ill guide you. Youre our guest and guest is God, Sir.
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 grandsons age and
Ill feel most comfortable if he calls me by my name. But he was quite
determined to accompany me till the shop. He took me to a nice
barber shop that was his favourite. 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.
Were (sometimes) so materialistic that we dont 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 theyre courageous
enough to treat them like that. I was extremely touched by this act. Not
that I couldn't pay or dont 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 in 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 Ministers birth place. 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 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 night, there was an urgent delivery and the maternity ward was upside-down. It was a chaos outside but 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!
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Chapter 06: On the feet of a living legend


Our next stop was scheduled in a school in a sacred town - Siddhpur. This town is an ancient town most famous for
performing religious rituals for deceased mother. This doesnt happen anywhere in India, except here. This town also
hold importance to the affluent Muslim community Bohra Muslim and also the largest producer of husk in the
country.
I was quite uncomfortable with the blisters on me and took a halt every one hour. This made us quite slow. In the
morning, when we walked silently, I looked up above the sky so high, and saw many diamonds in the sky. The sky
was full of stars that I never noticed in my city the concrete jungle. The sky was so clear, the climate was beautiful
and we were walking silently towards our destination. This was the first time we touched the national highway and
took utmost precaution not to come under the tyre of any truck. Yogeshbhai is fond of using Google map and I am
fond of asking for address personally. I think that by using too much technology, we kill the human touch.
We had almost completed walking 100 kilometres and almost
reach our destination. We were welcomed by our host in
Yoganjali School. This school was founded by a great woman
who is a Gandhian and had walked with Acharya Vinoba
Bhave all around India for more than 10 years. They had
hundreds of little children that I met. After breakfast, we met
this 80 year young lady Ramilaben Gandhi and just kept
watching her for few moments.
She was like a Goddess, wrapped in cotton Indian drape,
sitting on her seat, fluent in English, Hindi and Gujarati, and
an aura around her. A lady, in her 80s, but beautiful than
Miss Universe! I got hijacked and they way she welcomed
her with her sweet voice, it killed me man. She started asking
about our journey and my mentor told him about our peace
pilgrimage.
Then, I asked to share her story. As she was sharing her journey, I was just looking at her like a rock and feeling so
frightened within. She shared that she had left her home at the age of 20 and joined national teacher and spiritual
successor of Mahatma Gandhi for the Land Gift Movement. I was getting chills listening to her story and felt almost
like a quark in front of her. I thought that I was the one who is doing a difficult task, walking for peace and all that stuff
but when I got to know that she walked for the cause for 10 years, I remained quiet for the whole day.

Can you believe? A young lady of 20 years or so, leaving her home against the will of her parents and joining a man
who was supposed to walk India for 25 years asking for land for rich landlords BOSS! This is Awesome!
She told us how she walked all around India in the 1950s and collected land from the rich land owners and gifted the
poor farmers. After that she came and established this school, all alone. It was a Man Oriented world then (and it is
still now) and all that she did to establish a school at that time was a real tough job. She never married and has given
all her life for education and service, selfless service. She is affirm believer in self reliance and had built a home of
mud and all eco-friendly products.

We were eager to meet the children and


address them about our mission.
Children are the tools for change, and I
blend well with them. Yogeshbhai
started addressing them and told all
about his mission and life. But, I think he
means serious business and they got a
bit bored. Seeing this, he handed over
the conversation to me.
I started with a bang. I told them about
my career in the animation industry and
my journey of life since childhood. By the
grace of almighty, I have a talent of
connecting with children within a minute.
I won their hearts and attention. We
shared our mission and I even promised
them to share the craft of Origami.
After lunch, immediately we came
together and I taught a few of them
making a fighter aeroplane with paper.
They were so mesmerised like they have
never seen such a thing before. And, its
such a crude truth that they have never.
We in big cities see aeroplanes in our
daily life but children sating in small
towns or villages rarely even see paper
planes. This information gap makes me
unhappy
In the evening, we were offered a city tour by a member of the school. He promised us and exciting tour with joyous
moments. He was kind to become our guide and we started with the famous Bohra Muslim area of the city. Its a plush
locality with ancient homes. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Then, we visited the famous
temple that offers performing religious rituals for deceased mother. This place became popular when the super star of
Hindi film industry visited this temple for her mother.

We had lots of fun in the evening and we came back just before the prayer time. After the prayer, the second-incommand of the living legend Jignaben requested to share some video and audio editing skills, so that she can
become self sufficient. I happily (and effectively) fulfilled her wish and gifted her a bit of my knowledge that will help
her become self reliant for life. After that we had good food, joyful chat with children and went to sleep.
All night I had been thinking that I missed an opportunity to put my feet on Ramilbens feet. I had never done this
before because I never felt this way for anyone else. But, this lady was something different. I had missed the
opportunity but I got a shock of my life in the morning. The living legend was waiting to wish us goodbye in the
morning. This was a nostalgic scene and I immediately put my head on her feet and took her blessings.
She had never done this before, I had never done this before!

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Chapter 07: The untouchables


We started walking in the early hours of morning and this dog walked with us for almost an hour. He was like our
guard or messenger or perhaps, God manifested in the form of a dog to support our cause. We had been given a lead
to visit a family of socially neglected and looked down upon The untouchables, in the hamlet Chhapi.
Its shocking but true. India is one of the few unfortunate countries in the world that has this taboo community in
almost all the regions. And, we knew this very well while hunting for the address of this family. We asked a man on the
way and he was crazy.
Why do you want to visit that area? he exclaimed.
I made him understand, politely, that its none of his business. He didnt cooperate much but after an hour of hunting,
we found the place. Yogeshbhai called this man up and he agreed to come to pick us up. Were standing on the
cross road where were at the centre of attention. It seemed like every shop, every customer, every dog or cat was
looking only at us for that moment.

He was so surprised and shocked upon learning this fact that someone really wants to meet them. Anyway, we
reached the venue somehow after an hour of asking and getting lost in the village. Upon reaching the location where
he told us to, he came running to meet us. It seem that he was coming to rescue us or something as were the focus
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of all the shops around and for the first time, after many years, I felt like an alien from X999 galaxy; some 3.3 x 10
trillion light years away from our planet.
But, we met after sharing few calls of Where are you, I
am here types. He took us to his little home in a nearby
place. The place was filled with beautiful little homes and
colourful people. There was a beautiful woman washing
utensils, a (too) healthy stray dog barking at us, lots of
fine dust kissing our feet, little children running here and
there, mud walls displaying their tribal art, fragrance of
some pungent food and finally the gutter water flowing
here and there. A perfect picture of an Indian village!
They first served us a sweet dish with dry fruits and later
were served lentil and rice in the same utensil. It was so
tasty that I kept licking my finger. Were served chilled
Butter Milk and the women of the home was doing the
fan for us; like the women used to do to the King in olden
times. It was an AWESOME lunch and after that we
exchanged telephone numbers and offered our goodbyes. Our hero came to escort us to the outskirts of the village.
He also told us the way forward.
On the way forward, we had only one topic the hospitality of this untouchable. We the people have coined them a
name, keep them neglected and suppressed but there is so much love in their heart. There was no feeling of
inequality in their heart. Maybe, its us, the over educated and uncivilized lots who create differences because they are
simple folks with only love in their heart and glint their eyes. While, most of us in the cities have (almost) forgotten the
hospitality toward guests, these forbidden heroes are keeping the head of our culture high

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Chapter 08: V.I.P. treatment


Our next destination, as guided by a well wisher, was to be a school - Lokniketan. We never thought that itll become a
nostalgic memory. We thought it will be a small school but were all shocked as we set to find out the address of this
school in Ratanpur; a small town in north Gujarat. The principal guided us the way and told us to reach at the main
gate. When we reached the main gate, I was clean-bowled!
There was a ban waiting for us and as we reached near the gate, beautiful music welcomed us. Were offered a warm
traditional Hindu welcome. There were a crowd of almost 100 students and teacher to welcome us and they took us
respectfully near the prayer hall. It was almost like the celebration of a king assigned to the throne. I was very excited
at least as i has never experienced such dashing welcome before.

We entered the prayer area that was a huge hall. The principal introduced us to all the students (who were already
waiting for us) and told us about the founder of the school and his story. It was mega-school spread in acres and
acres of land. But this is not it; the founder built 15 such schools in Gujarat. After the prayer, we had a good talk with
students and interacted with lot of them who stay in the premises.

Next morning, we got up early and sat for the prayers. Thereafter, I wanted to share the message of cleanliness with
the students. Actually, the students clean the premises everyday but I added some spice. I made a fictional character
called SAFAI-MAN that means something like a super-hero. It clicked with the children and they got crazy with this
idea. Suddenly, a stereotype boring activity became so interesting that almost all of them took part. Within no time, the
whole school wad clean and tidy.
Finally, after delicious breakfast, we had to leave. We addressed a small group of students and again were escorted
by this band till the gate. I dont like such special treatment much, but this was selfless and hence I also accepted it
with great love and happiness!
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Chapter 09: Tribal affair


I can call it a miracle or a divine design that a dream of connecting with a tribal family got fulfilled when I got to know
were visiting such a family; deep in the forest of north Gujarat. Our host for the next two days was scheduled with a
Muslim family inside the Balaram-Ambaji Wildlife Sanctuary. I was thrilled but the way, I was told, was like climbing Mt.
Everest. I crossed my fingers both of hands and legs!
With help of uncle Google Maps, lots of walking in the wild, and a little bit of asking local humans, we reached at the
base point. This was small hamlet from where we were supposed to start. Our host was to meet us at this spot. We
were greeted warmly but the rural family. They offered us water and food. The head of the family had already been
directed by our host.

I fondly, interacted with the children while Yogeshbhai and Vijaibhai


were busy talking other things and taking directions to the destination.
The children couldnt speak my language and I couldnt speak theirs but
see the magic; we were good friends in no time. Heart-to-Heart
communication showed us a way. Once again, I was prompted by love
that it has no border; none of those we humans create. I had an iPad
Mini on me and aha! Before I go ahead, I need to thank my previous
employer who gifted me this gadget for working for a decade with them.
So...I went ahead to teach them photography. I just showed them the
basic tool view and click button. To my surprise, actually not, some of
them clicked beautiful pictures - of their home and school. One such
special child was Bibili. She was too much. Shes the girl is extreme
screen left and seemed like the leader of the mischievous gang!

After sharing our good-byes, we started our journey to the top of the mountain. Luckily, we had a small boy to
accompany us. He took us though the forest, river, Greenland, bushes etc. We were quite slow and cautious and this
boy was like a rocket. Although, I have a good experience of trekking but this time I was thrown out of my ego by this
little tribal boy. Time and again, this trip never missed any opportunity to show me my real face.
Finally, after a rough and tough walk, we reached our destination village - Khatisitra.

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This village - in a small district - was like a dream come true. Were welcomed in a beautiful tribal style by the family of
our host Mustukhan Sukh. Its a small hamlet deep inside the forest; not even on the map of India. It has been
completely forgotten by the Government and people. There is nothing that a rural village of our country has. It shares
border with the western state of Rajasthan and is very close to the popular hill station Mount Abu. The location on
the border is its biggest problem as well as advantage. But, the people are colourful and lovely!
Within no time, they made us so comfortable. Mustubhai
has done his graduation in rural studies and postgraduation in social service. He always wanted to serve
the rural community and in the young age of around 25,
when most of the youth are busy thinking to either go
abroad or earn lots of money and fame, he left his home
to work for the rural population of his state Gujarat. He
came to this area and adopted this village and started his
journey to serve these tribal.
In the start, he was not welcomed because people thought
that he is one of those people that comes there to do
nothing or destroy their peace. They condemned his stay.
But, he was very clear. He wanted to open a school there
and work for medical assistance. Even the forest
department threatened him several times because of his
home school he started in inside the forest.
There were many instances of quarrels but one day there was a medical urgency where he was of big help to the
villagers and this marked his victory in their hearts. He put his life in trouble to support a delivery case and saved both
the mother and child. This made him a hero overnight plus almost two years of hard work.
Now, he is the official village mentor and has been given a land by the tribal head to run his home and a school. There
was no education in the area and now, 60 students attend school to learn primary education.
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He, along his wife Mumtazben, serves the tribal village and has written their life to the service of this village. The
forest department is now supporting him and encouraging more such work in the area. Not only this, he has also
started Eco-tourism in his tribal village to make community self reliable and lift them economically and socially.
What a wonderful contrast! In a world where our country is seeing
terrible hatred between two communities, especially Hindu and
Muslim, we see a Muslim man serving 100 Hindu families. In a
world where there is growing hatred for Muslim community and they
are being targeted as terrorists, there is this man who has given all
his luxuries of life and sitting deep in the forest and doing the work
that Government and all of us should have done.
One community cannot be terrorist, maybe a few from them but
definitely not all. We need to change our mindset and understand
the real meaning of Terrorism and people associated with it.
Muslims (real ones) round the globe are doing awesome work and
Mustubhai is the best example I have come across.

There is no electricity, so in the night, we did camp-fire. We talked about our


experiences of life. Yogesbhai has been all around the world and was
talking of the outside world. The tribal village head has been all around the
forest and was talking about the inside world. Spoken language was a
problem but Mustubhai did a good job of translation. We asked them about
our country, the Prime Minster etc but the only world they know is their
tribal village.
We talked about their dreams, needs, wants and to my surprise; their wants
are just so simple and basic. They have Mini-Menu of life. They love and
seek love and love only. Theyre often afraid of being wiped off by the
greedy corporate and politicians. Youth, both girls and boys, asked us
various questions about our mission and the outside world. I found them to
be very sensitive and compassionate. After the camp fire, we had delicious
food prepared by the ladies of the house. There was some dance and songs
to accompany the dinner.
Next morning, we were scheduled to leave a little late i.e. after sunrise. The
tribe gathered to wish us luck for the journey and I had already made up my
mind to offer them support. We asked them about their immediate
requirement. The tribal village head immediately replied Electricity.
15

Chapter 10: Awakening in paradise


The universe had kept a keen watch on us since the day we started and was always very benevolent. I was getting
used to witnessing miracles everyday and suddenly, there was one more. It so happened that we were not sure of our
next destination, but just look at the miracle, one angel from Pakistan made our arrangement in a huge spiritual retreat
centre own by one of the biggest cult of modern times Bramha Kumaris
This paradise is situated in the lap of one of the most popular hill
station of Western India Mt.Abu. We travelled our way through
the steep hill-road, chilled breeze and numerous gangs of
monkeys. We were welcomed by our French host Monaben,
who was a member of this community.
The spiritual retreat centre is home to millions of followers
everyday and that day was some sort of conglomeration where
people from more than 100 countries were present. Our host
took us lunch. We had one of the most delicious local foods at
one restaurant that was owned by her friend.
After the lunch we went around this huge paradise. There was
one member from the organization who took us around the
place. The people were so nice everywhere. All the followers
dress up in white clothes. There was peace sitting everywhere. I
was wondering all along that, were in India but one friend from
Pakistan helped us in getting accommodation and another friend
from France hosted us there. Ive always believe in the idea of
ONE GLOBAL VILLAGE but here, I saw it time and again. We
met so many beautiful people from different parts of the world.
This one is a must visit place.
One host also managed to setup a radio interview for us in All
India Radio. We were so excited to give our first interview. It was
late evening and we entered the office. We were welcomed by
the in charge of the office. Actually, due to cost cutting, he was
the technical person, interviewer, creative director and officer in
charge.
He grilled us (in a friendly way) for an hour. He was very excited
about our journey and wanted to know more about it. We told him
everything we knew - all of it and some more only to learn that he
cannot relay our conversation from his station. He suggested us
to go a big station in the main city and even scheduled an
interview there. So kind of him!
But, but the main highlight of this destination was that we got to
meet the highest in the spiritual rank, one of the most decorated
and elderly spiritual mentor of the community. Dadi Jayanti, as
they call her, is the one everyone is looking for. Shes one of the
most important and popular person in the centre. We just took
our chance and requested the security guard to let us meet her
for a couple of minutes.
Well just tell her about her mission and take her blessings we
said and as a miracle, he agreed. He sent us inside. The
chamber was a sombre room filled with meditation music and
fragrance. After a little waiting period, she came into the room;
like a white fairy straight from something much higher and
beautiful than heaven. She spoke to us so sweetly that I still cant
take away her silky voice from my ears. She heard us and also
blessed us. She also offered us with a shawl each and fruits.
OMG! I never imagined this to happen. We were just strangers
and not even followers of them but the loved they showered on us was something I have never experienced before.
This had brought a sense of awakening in me that I promised to use in my life; all the time

16

Chapter 11: Angels in disguise


We were warned about tribal men turned dacoits on the route. The route after the paradise was almost like a stonedesert. It was a long highway with very little green patches or villages around. This is the time that we got a little
worried because there was no civilization around and top of that the cult of these dreadful dacoits. And as you sow,
you reap and as you think, you get...we heard someone shouting at us from a distance.
We looked around carefully and realized that it came
from a tribal hunt on a nearby hill top. We saw a small
man running towards us with something on his shoulder.
We got shit scared and thought that the time to get looted
has come. But suddenly we realized that we didnt have
anything on us that can be taken away. We were ZERO!
This man started coming closer and we realized that he
is a tribal man but the thing on his shoulder is not a
weapon but a vegetable. The afternoon was really hot
and there was no one around. We were a little scared
and more surprised at the moment. Together, we made
up our mind to deny buying the vegetable.
In a fraction of minute this man came down running barefoot with a huge cucumber on his shoulder and started taking
to us. He knew a little bit of Hindi language and asked us about our mission. Mission? But how on Earth did he came
to know about it? Later we realized that the route is quite popular for pilgrimages and he is habituated to see people
walking on that path.
He offered us the cucumber but we denied. We told him
that we dont have any money to buy it. I lost all my
senses when he explained us that he came not to sell us
but offer the cucumber to us so that we dont feel the
heart. I was really taken back by this compassionate act.
He just came all the way to offer us his contribution in
our mission and we were thinking him to be a dacoit. If
sold the cucumber would have given him enough money
for the day but this angel rather decided to gift us. This
was an amazing act of selflessness towards a complete
stranger. We left after a conversation but all the way I
was thinking that who looted who? Did he loot us or did
we loot him instead?
On our journey, we many people who hosted us
teachers, tribal, untouchables, priests etc. But, this man
was a special case.
Raja Ramesh was a crazy mystic and owned a hotel on
the highway and he hosted us for a night. He offered
food and love. He is a Super-Fan of popular Indian
mystic Sai Baba and we talked at length about his
favourite topic. His tone of speaking reminded me of my
friend from Afghanistan and there was time in the
conversation that I even asked him if he was from that
country. But, actually he was from an eastern state of
India. Strange correlation though but somehow it
connects with the philosophy of ONE GLOBALVILLAGE.
He went out of his way to serve us and the next day came to offer lunch, making time form his busy schedule. He also
told me about another Indian mystic Meher Baba, who is considered a disciple of Indian mystic Sai Baba. I never
knew this all my life and I waited all my life for this man to tell me about him.
How wonderful and hence, I think he was the link who was designed or destined to introduce me to this infamous
Indian mystic. Such were some encounters with angels who, I feel, was God himself in disguise or maybe that was the
real image of almighty!

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Chapter 12: Rise and fall of the ego-trip

It was almost 20 days and more than 300 kilometres of walking, begging, enjoying, connecting, getting surprised,
experiencing acute compassion and witnessing miracles. Were quite close to the grand city Udaipur. We had just
taken a nice cold bath in a sanctorum. Although, that was the first place where we were asked money but later when
Yogeshbhai told the caretakers about our mission, they happily agreed to help us for free. This was the first time I
experienced a pinch in my heart but I took it in a positive way. I forgot about it in a while, after this great lunch they
offered us.
On the way, I met this man of substance. He was from a
very typical clan of the vagabonds. This clan belong to
the desert rich area of Rajasthan. There life is a travel
and they keep walking all around the country in search
for greener and better life. I had a little idea about them
but I never had an actual encounter with one.
But that day was something different. I started walking
next to him and ignited a conversation. The man, who
looked like the head of the family, was a level-headed
and a calm human. We exchanged our ideas of walking
and our mission. Our mission was inner and outer
transformation and his was searching a better
opportunity to live. At first, it looked like that we had
opposite missions but on close examination, I realized
that our missions were actually complementary; both
incomplete without each other.
I became stuffed with ego and told him that I had just completed walking more than 300 kilometres. He smiled at me
and informed me that they had completed walking more than 1,000 kilometres and they do like 5,000 kilometres every
year...all their life...with their family, cattle and stuff_____________________________________________________!
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Chapter 13: Saturday night fever

It was my last day and we were finally entered the beautiful city Udaipur. We had completed walking a little more
than 300 kilometres; without money. I was quite tired and feeling a little sick because of changing weather conditions
cool in the night and too hot in the day. On that, I had been drinking chilled buttermilk several times a day.
Our host was fixed. This one had already invited us even before we started. The host were the founders and directors
of one of the most unusual university of the world Swaraj University. The focus of this university is on self-designed
learning and on green entrepreneurship, including exploration of basic business skills within the context of ecological
sustainability and social justice. Its as much about developing the capacities and confidence we need to create and
pursue our unique learning paths as it is about strengthening the leadership capacity and right livelihood opportunities
in communities.
I was feeling feverish as soon as I entered the hosts residence. The host offered us a nice and hot green tea made of
magical herbs. It took my fever away for a while but it came back again. We were schedules to give a talk in the
university later in the night, but I knew my battery was down. I requested a room in a hotel and my partners escorted
me to a budget hotel in the city. I selected a hotel very close to the inter-city bus stop because I was anticipating that I
might have to leave through the night bus.
I took a room in that budget hotel and went outside to have a hot
water gargle. It was busy market place and I found a tea vendor. I
requested to give me hot water so that I can add salt and gargle.
He demanded Rupees 10!
For the first time I was being asked for money. I told him all about
our journey, the mission and hospitality we received. But, he cared
a shit about all that. He was only interested in his money. I was
very curios and a little bit angry but I think, I missed his point. He
had encountered many customers who ask for a glass of water and
never return them back. I was wrong because I didnt understand
him but instead I interpreted him. Good example of best and worst
behaviour; in me and others. This is also a good example how
things start changing as we get into urban life.
Anyway, that was surely my last day. I called up my family doctor and he prescribed me some pills. I took the pills and
slept for few hours. In the evening, I got up, informed Yogeshbhai and boarded the first bus for my home city. I very
well remember that night...it was ill, magical, hopeful, satisfying, sad, rough, tiring...and a Saturday
19

Chapter 14: Lemon juice


I returned to my home next morning. All night I was thinking about our walking pilgrimage. It was one of the best things
that have happened to me. It was such beautiful memory. On the way, I was looking at the map on the internet and I
realized that we walked almost 340 kilometres in 20 days whereas it takes just around 6 hours by car or bus. The
whole journey was like a lemon sweet and sour!

Paths are made by walking. The first question that hit me before even starting was that WTF happens by walking?
Does peace come by walking? Are you crazy? All these questions were not from strangers but from the people whom
I call family and friends. Very inspiring tough, but I couldnt answer them at that time. But, after I have completed the
journey I can at least take an attempt to answer them through my perspective. At first, it seemed an outer journey.
Walking many miles every day, passing through various villages, beg for food and shelter, and spread message of
peace. But, as days went, I realized what saint Kabir said hundreds of years ago. He quoted in one of his lyrical
poem:
When I began to search for the evil or wrongfulness, I couldnt find them outside. And when I looked inside my heart,
there was no one more evil and wrongful than myself.
Really, the good, bad, wrong and right was all inside me. It was not an outward journey but it was an inner one and
the juice or what you can say the conclusion was that:

It was all about letting off ego


It was all about noticing small things
It was all about enjoying little movements
It was all about community living
It was all about no money transaction
It was all about learning inside lives and
culture
It was about exploring the Guest is God
attitude
It was all about best and worst behaviour in
myself and others
It was all about making new connections

It was all about trust


It was all about seeing beyond what is seen
It was all about believing in miracles
It was all about looking at the world with a
different perspective
It was all about inner peace, love and
compassion
It was all about solving oneself and aligning
with universe
It was all about knowing oneself
It was all about unlearning
It was all about inner transformation

When you walk your vision is 180 degree. One can see more, do more and learn more. It was by this walking that
Mahatma Gandhi connected people from entire country to stand up for freedom. It was by this walking that Acharya
Vinoba Bhave collected 4 million acres of land for poverty ridden farmers of India and it was by this walking that
Gautam Buddha became enlightened. Walking is a powerful tool. Looks simple but the ripples go far. Its not only a
good exercise for body but a good one for the soul too. Dont underestimate the potential of walking and grab an
opportunity to walk if you get it in this life.

20

FOOT
Travelogue of a Foot-soldier

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