Be the Cause

My first day in India

My dear family…

There is so much I want to say … but the truth is that I am still a little stunned by all that has transpired over the past two weeks. So I think I am going to stay in this space for some more time… till I can find the words to express my gratitude for all the love you have given me. For now, all I can say is that I love you all more than you know.

I had a safe flight back. Besides getting a little sleep, I could not bring myself to do anything else. Usually I would catch up on my latest film quota or reading. But this time I just sat quietly through most of the flight, observing the emotions… the tenderness… and the deep affection that I was feeling for all of you. I recently read somewhere, “Love is hard to believe. Just like God is hard to believe.” I feel the reason I am in such a shock is because I have witnessed love in its most powerful and wholesome form in the past two weeks from all of you. And my mind is finding it hard to grasp its overwhelming presence around me.

My parents picked me up at the airport. More love to receive :) It has been raining heavily in Ahmedabad. It was beautiful. The smells, the moisture… the people on the streets, the rain drops glittering under the street lamps, the noises and the silences. It was about 12.30 at night. From my car, I saw a man pulling his heavy vending cart up on the bridge, drenched by the loud pouring rain. Something seemed to move inside me in that moment.

I woke up late the next day and found missed calls from Jayeshbhai from Manav Sadhna. He was traveling back by train from Hyderabad and I decided to surprise him at the train station. After conspiring with Anarben, the plan was set. I ended up a little early at the railway station. So I decided that I would go into the platform and buy some cookies and chocolates to give kids over there.

The kids were all smiles. Some ran back after me to say, “thank you! thank you!” As I walked further I saw an old man lying flat on the floor. He must be in his 70’s. He was covered in a thin shawl. There were hundreds of people around, bustling back and forth on the busy platform, but no one seemed to notice him. I went up to him. Wow. I was amazed to see his face. He looked like Gandhi in his older years. I kept staring at him for about a minute before I could speak anything.

I asked him if he was okay? His voice was feeble and unclear. After some time I found that he was a pilgrim, on his way to Ajmer, but his health was giving up on him. The rain had made him sick and water had gone into his ears drums. I touched him and almost felt a slight current. His body was steaming with high fever. I asked him if he had eaten anything? I tried offering the cookies I had. He said that he was not a beggar and he could not accept anything from me.

I went to get him water. After some persuasion, he drank some. Then I ran on the other end of the railway station to find a medical shop. I bought some medicines and Glucose powder for strength. I went back and mixed the glucose in water and gave him the medicines. A hoard of people gathered around us… surprised by what was happening. I was dressed up in some formal clothes and in India it is a little rare to see people of such diverse economic backgrounds interacting so closely. Somehow all the attention didn’t bother me. I simply reached out and the old man held my hand tightly and kept staring in my eyes. He was surprised. Maybe he wanted to say something. But did not have energy to communicate. I tried to feed him some biscuits but he tried saying that he was too weak to eat right now. I wanted to take him to the doctor. But he said that he just wanted to go home. He said that I had given him all the medicines a doctor would have anyways. So I just sat next to him for some time… with about 20 people gathered around, gazing at us in surprise. Then the old man opened his eyes once again and said very softly, “I cannot believe you are here. Thank you.” And he smiled the most beautiful wide smile I had ever seen. It was so sweet that it melted into my heart and I felt a vibration through my body.

He lifted his weak shivering hand and placed it on my head to bless me. My hands came together and my neck folded down into a bow.

I had to go. Jayeshbhai and his father were supposed to arrive at Platform no. 6. So I asked some people around to take care of him. I got up slowly and touched his feet with reverence. I knew in that moment that I was blessed to have met him.
I walked briskly towards Jayeshbhai’s train and saw him climb down. I could not bring myself to go to him right away. So I simply stared from a distance for a few seconds. I have never known or met anyone like Jayesh Patel. He is ‘compassion’ in its pure form. Many say that they see a sacred aura around his head. I don’t know about the aura. But I have seen love emanate through this man in all he does. I slowly walked in his direction and went down to touch the feet of this holy saint. He was so surprised to see me. His kind eyes said it all.

On our way back, I was still thinking about the old man lying on the platform. I was not sure if I had done enough. So I asked Jayeshbhai if he would come with me and check on him once again. The old man was pleased to see me again. I checked and the fever had surely gone down. He also looked better than before. Jayeshbhai also agreed that it would be best for him to go back home. So we picked him up, with his tall umbrella and a small bag and took him towards his train. We got him some water and food for the train ride. Jayeshbhai also slipped in some money in his pocket. But the old man had so much self-respect that he refused to take anything. I touched his hand and explained that I was like his daughter and he should not refuse this small gift from his daughter. Reluctantly, he took the money.

He had a good spot in the jam-packed train by the window. He was staring at me as I stood outside. He looked peaceful and content. He smiled at me so wide that his joy radiated into my own being. We gave him our phone number incase he needed anything.

I looked at his face one last time before walking away. He really looked like Gandhi. Bald head, keen bright eyes, small gentle face, wrinkled soft lines and a smile that will spread wide into every heart…

Please know, my dear family…. through this entire incident you were with me. I know I felt your presence in all that happened today.

From far away… but still together,


  • michele

    Nirali, I was trying to think of something to put on the blog to express how I’ve been feeling about my experiences with you. I wanted to have it up before you wrote something, but I wanted it to be thougtful so I’ve been thinking about what to write. Needless to say, you got there first… As I’m reading your words tears are streaming from my eyes. I was trying to really understand why you were crying so hard on Weds evening, and now I’m trying to figure out why I’m crying. Yesterday, someone asked me if you had left yet and shared about the time she met you and how she felt connected to you the first moment. We talked about what we thought made you special and we concluded that it wasnt any particular action, but the fact that when we are in your presence, you make us feel like we are so special that as hard as it might be to accept, we feel like it must be true coming from you, just like you made that old man at the train station feel special. Your memory will stay with give him the strength to make it home. Just like you said that we are with you in whatever you do, please know my dear sister, in everything we do, you are with us too.

  • Nirali Shah

    I just received a message from the Old Man. He has reached his village safely and is doing much better. He is still very weak but he has his family to take care of him. He said that he was thinking of us with love. He walked all the way to an STD booth to call us and inform us that he was okay. He was happy. I am happy too :)

  • gianna

    Dearest Nirali, thank u so for this beautiful note of human kindness. I have a song for you that I could envision you singing to this Old gentleman:

    “How could anyone ever tell u…you were anything less than beautiful. How could anyone ever tell you, you were less than whole? How could anyone fail to notice that your loving is a miracle? How deeply you’re connected to my soul?”….

    We are all one. I am so pleased to hear from u and so happy you are happy too. We love u!!!…from far away, but always together.

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