(Mom, Dad-this story ends well ok? Don’t freak out.)
It all started when my shoes got stolen. I left my only pair of sandals outside the exterior entrance to the Golden Temple, in a pile with a bunch of other shoes. When I came back an hour later, they were nowhere to be found. I had no choice but to spend almost all my money on a pair of overpriced, touristy sandals that don’t quite fit. I was already late to catch an auto to go meet Gurprakesh, a teacher at the Sikh residential school Miri Piri Academy. I had been looking for an ATM since I had arrived in town, but the only one I had tried was out of order. I put it off until the taxi ride back, where I found out that my debit card was not working. Luckily, I had enough to pay the auto driver. Thus, I was dropped off on the corner without a functioning debit card and 3 rupees in my pocket.
I have tried to remain calm. God is good. Stressing out doesn’t do anything except distract you from fixing the problem or being patient until it fixes itself. I don’t really need anything. I have a functioning cell phone, and wonderful friends in Pondi, Delhi, and Amritsar to call for help. I have my train tickets already, and a metro card to get back to Arti and Vikas safely. I’m staying across the street from a gorgeous, sacred temple. I have free food and lodging at the niwas. So really, I couldn’t be in a better place to be a traveler and broke. I spent the night in a room with a fan and a locker for my luggage.
With three rupees in my pocket, I went to a dinner of dahl, chapatti, and a gruel of sweet rice. And you know what? When I said a blessing over my food I felt a deeper level of gratitude for it than any other meal since I have arrived in India. It made me stop and notice the sweet bits of coconut in the rice and garlic of the dahl. God is good.
In India, people are very willing to help each other financially. Money, if given with a loving heart, will be returned to you tenfold. Besides, many sadhus and rishis have wandered the country for thousands of years without money or worldly possessions. As Vijay told me yesterday (he calls every so often to check in on me), “it is a beautiful thing to be out in the world today with no money.” Money does not make you rich. What makes one truly wealthy is the capacity to cultivate joy, to want what you have, to love others, and be able to accept love in return. A rich heart is worth much more than a Murdoch fortune.
Money is energy, and if you begin to think about it in this way, you worry less about how much you have or don’t have, and start to notice the ebb and flow of how money comes and goes. Money can be an indicator of how well you are following God’s path for your life. If a certain project or initiative is to be, then the funds will provide themselves. Sometimes you have to put in the work, but the path is easier and filled with purpose.
September 5, 2011
The Penniless Traveler (Continued)
On Monday Gurprakesh lent me 70 rupees to use an internet café. I called my debit card company and found out that they were closed, as Monday happened to be Labor Day. Gah! On Tuesday I got my card unblocked. For some reason, I just knew it still wasn’t going to work. I went to the ATM and it said no balance. At this point, I know that the Divine is trying to bang me over the head with the idea that I really do not need money. At this point, God has put up so many barriers for me to obtain money that it is clear that God is trying to teach me something. I just need to enjoy the ride and learn as much as I can from this experience. (If I really, really needed money I also have the option of going to a bank and using my credit card to withdraw, but the fees are ridiculous). This was an opportunity for me to trust in God, The day I was to leave Amritsar I had 33 rupees left. Guess how much it costs to take a cycle rickshaw to the train station? That’s right, 30 rupees, exactly enough. More for ceremony than anything else, I gave my last three rupees to a beggar on the train steps. Since all I have to do is not miss my trains for the next few days, I don’t feel anxious or panicked. Nay, I feel free and at peace. I have been taken care of more than I deserve, and I got to do everything that I wanted to do in Amritsar.
Sept. 10th Update: When I returned to Delhi on Sept 7th, I got a call the next day from Shivakumar checking in. He offered to transfer money to the Arora’s account, and since I am learning to not reject offers of help, I said okay. I explained the situation to Vikas and Arti who were happy to help. I now have money and it feels…strange, as if I spend it I will be a pox upon my head. I have resolved to spend it only on necessities.