This is not how I expected my evening will turn out to be. We were doing an event in our office called Seva Sandwich. There were volunteers who came with loaves of bread, butter, jam, tomatoes and cucumber. There were some 10 of us huddled together. We were peeling cucumbers, spreading butter and jam on bread slices and packing the finished product nicely in aluminium foils ready to be distributed to people on the streets and shelter homes in Delhi who sometimes find it difficult to manage one square meal.
Seva Sandwich was first introduced to me by my friend Marriete. The idea was very simple yet powerful. A bunch of us would get together in a room to make sandwiches. Before we start the activity we will think about the person who is going to enjoy our labour of love. Then the actual process of making sandwich starts. I can tell you it is one of the most enjoyable things to do together with a bunch of people. Once the sandwiches are ready you take them to a location to distribute to people. You can give it to anyone you like with one condition. You have to have a conversation with the person you will give this sandwich to. And Marriette promised that something will happen through this act of making, giving and listening.
For the event on the 30th we decided to go and distribute sandwiches in Safdarjung Hospital Dharamshala. This is a place where extremely poor patients from all over Indian come and stay during their treatment in Safdarjung hospital. We contacted our NGO partner Sapna who agreed to help us in organising the distribution.
To be honest in the first instance I was quite reluctant to go to Safdarjung Hospital Dharamshala. I personally cannot see suffering. I almost thought of asking my colleagues to go with the volunteers to the Safdarjung Dharamshala. In the end I ended up going myself too.
Safdarjung Hospital Dharamshala is exactly like what you would imagine. Its not very clean, there are lots of patients huddled together in small spaces. Every patient has a bed and a small cupboard. The whole space is not bigger than a king size single bed. And in this space there are whole families staying together.
We started distributing sandwiches and talking to the patients and their attendants. Patients had come from all over India. One person got electric shock and he fell from the third floor of a building and now has fractured spine. There were burn patients who were covered head to toe in bandages. One boy got burned by a kerosene lamp. Yes in in this day and age millions of people have to go through the hazard of using Kerosene lamp for lights There are people who are undergoing cancer treatment. Some have fractured legs and waiting for surgery. One man was victim of reckless driving on the road and he fractured his foot very badly.
As I spoke to more and more patients one thing become quite clear. The physical suffering was greatly amplified because of lack of financial resources. One patient asked me how we will get well because he cannot afford a healthy diet. One cancer patient told me that they had come for 10 days and its been now 2 months. He had no idea how he will survive the next few months without any income. If you are not well, its a big problem. You feel helpless. On top of it if you had no means then it can break any person.
I have never been to a place where there is so much of human suffering. But surprisingly even here life was blooming. There were young kids laughing and running around the place .They smilingly took our sandwiches. One girl who had come to support her father was studying rural economics in Bihar. Our namastes were promptly returned with a smile. Everyone one we spoke and gave sandwiches graciously accepted them and took time to talk to us.
By any measure it was an overwhelming experience for all us. Nothing could have prepared us for this. The experience gave me a new pair of eyes to look at my own life. My problems are not problems at all. We all are so blessed but sometimes we just don’t seem to notice. With this simple act of making Sandwich and sharing with someone taught me a very important lesson. What good is a life that is only about yourself. How can you connect with people who are not your friends and family. What can I share with people who I don’t know. Can I stop, pause and reflect for a few minutes about what I’m doing to make this world a better place for everyone.
We have everything. We don’t need more. We will die one day and with money in our bank account. So when will we start sharing love and happiness with others.
An evening can change your life. And it all can start with a Sandwich.