About 2005 Walking Pilgrimage
Imagine being fully alive, awake and engaged. Imagine utilizing body, mind and spirit in a rapturous three part harmony that sets feet tapping, hearts beating and souls soaring. Walking together from the self to the selfless, this is our pilgrimage to the heart of the infinite.
Six months into our marriage, we -- Nipun and Guri -- left home to journey India by foot. Living on dollar a day, eating wherever food is offered, sleeping wherever a flat surface is found, ours was an unscripted spiritual pilgrimage to greet life in the farthest corners of our own consciousness. As we walked, we learned much about India, a lot about humanity and most about the stranger we call "I".
We "left home" on January 31st; after a halt in Singapore, we spent three days in Punjab, a day in Jaipur, couple more in Bombay, and finally went to Ahmedabad via a short flight to Hyderabad. About 25 of us, did a 15-day pilot project to Kabirwad on March 12th.
On March 31st, Guri and I started walking from the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad. We went south towards Chicodara, circled around Baroda, headed to Vedchi, before marching in the Mumbai direction. After about 1000 kilometers of walking, we stayed at a meditation retreat for three months in Igatpuri.
All the sorted stories are listed here.
Some frequently asked questions ...
What are you doing?
Guri and I are walking "South" from the Gandhi Ashram, in search of the "good". We are profiling inspiring people, in the hopes that more goodness spreads in the world. And we are walking to increase our trust in the inter-connectedness of life; to that end, we sold our belongings and left with a one-way ticket to India on January 31st. After a few pilot experiments, we left the Gandhi Ashram on March 31st without knowing anyone, without having any resources, or without charting a path to walk.
Why are you walking? It takes so long.
That's exactly our point -- it is slow. Walking teaches you patience, walking teaches you humility, walking helps you connect with the common man. [more on why we walk]
What inspired you to do this?
In April 1999, Guri and I were part of a four-person experiment in service. It later came to be known as ServiceSpace, which leverages the web to inspire service amongst thousands of hearts around the world. While that small act of service became big, our fundamental belief remained: one can only do small acts with big love. To continue to deepen our awareness, we left ServiceSpace, in its peak, to hit unknown terrains, both physical and mental. The challenge facing us is this: can we preserve that heart of service and continue to do small, immeasurable acts of goodness?
What has been your experience thus far?
When we started the walk, we wondered how many days long we'd survive. Somehow, we're still going. :) We have slept on the streets, had food from people you might call "beggars", washed our own clothes (by hand) everyday, stayed in places without phone or electricity, walked into places where we knew absolutely nobody, lived on less than 25 rupees (50 cents) a day ... and we have seen "good" in the most unassuming of places, in the farthest "uncivilized" tribals. None of which I previously thought was even possible. Fortunately, our (irrational? :)) faith in the universe has yielded encounters with tons of mind-bending, inspiring people ... who have taught us incredible lessons about India, service/development, and ourselves along the way.
How do you survive?
We have a small backpack, in which we carry our basic necessities -- two shawls, couple pairs of clothes and toiletries. Generally, someone or another hosts us; if not, we find a temple ground or a tree shade or an empty bench. We get some basic food for lunch and eat fruits for dinner. Sometimes it's a good life, sometimes not; for us, the point is to be equanimous through it all.
Do you keep money on you?
Some. On the first day of our walk, we decided to live on dollar on a day since more than third of the world lives on that amount. That gets you some fruits in most places. Regardless of our budget, we don't have any cold drinks, ice-creams, sweets and things we would typically love to indulge in. :) We also don't carry forward any balances or take loans from future budgets; everyday is its own karma.
How do you update your blog?
We carry a portable computer, digital camera and a mobile phone. Whenever we get reception, we try to share some thoughts, photos and stories. Primarily, this was done to keep our friends and families posted with our experiences; but we are delighted that our family has grown to include many others around the globe. Photos on Guri's blog are also getting much attention, including offers to buy and reprint ... to which she responds: "I'll charge 1000 smile cards per picture." :)
What is your background?
After my Computer Science/Philosophy degree from UC Berkeley, I used to optimize compilers at Sun Microsystems; that's the only formal job I've had in my life. I quit at 24, to attempt a life of service. That attempt is still in progress. Online, you can find far more info than you'd ever want. :) Guri has done everything from being a teacher, to doing human resource work at a healthcare company, to working as a volunteer recruitement manager at a mentoring agency. Liz Garone wrote an excellent profile about her previous trip to India.
What is your primary purpose?
To live in a space greater than our ego. We know it exists, and that it is within us, but we need to cultivate our awareness so we can first experience the change we wish to see in the world. This is our primary purpose. Our secondary purpose is to bring light to good people in remote corners of the world, in the hopes that it helps other people come alive. To that end, we share blog entries and iJourney profiles and invite others to do the same.
Can I join you on the walking pilgrimage?
Sure. However, we encourage people to create their own journeys and find their own inner calling. If it inspires you to join us for a short period of time, you are more than welcome; but know that you have to walk long distances, eat whatever little food is offered, and be smilingly ready to face absolutely *any* kind of circumstances. Dozens of folks have walked with us; some for a day, some for a week, some for couple weeks. Everyone benefits in proportion to what they bring to the table. And ultimately, the walk by itself won't change anything unless it is accompanied by a committment to an inner revolution.
How can I contribute?
By merely asking this question, you are helping with your kind wishes. You can also spread the word about the profiles we write, or directly help the organizations that are recommended in the stories. You can also research innovative programs or inspiring people for us to visit, during our "south of Gujarat" walk. If you live in India, perhaps you could host us along the way. Of course, if you have other ideas for helping, we are generally only an email away.
What is next, after the pilgrimage?
We have no idea. Absolutely no idea. In fact, we don't even know when the pilgrimage will end. The way we figure, at least once in your life, you should do something with reckless abandon. :)
To find new ground, you have break old barriers. In hopes of moving from the ego plan to the divine plan, my wife and I decided to drop practically everything that is known and comfortable to us. We hope that our pad-yatra, walking pilgrimage, in India gives us the courage to live like pilgrims for the remainder of our lives.
Thank you for being a part of this journey.
[We're also printing a crude version of all our combined writings; let us know if you'd like a copy.]
Last Updated: July 17, 2005