“Oh Swapna, I am almost going vegan and you are insisting that I should buy this ghee?” I was gently telling my friend that ghee is not the solution to my problem. My daughter was 7 years old and because of viral infections most of the year she used to be sick. I was trying to find a solution to build her immunity.
“Swapna, I have researched enough, and I don’t believe that there is any brand that manufactures ghee without unethical and cruel practices, harming the cows. I can’t do much to change that, but I definitely won’t support it by buying any animal products”. “No, Nikunj, visit the Pathmeda Website and look at the Vedic rituals followed daily to worship the cows in the Gaushalas. It’s best that you meet Kashyap tomorrow. I have placed some orders and he is coming to deliver and he will explain everything to you.”
Half-heartedly I smiled and said, “Okay, Let him come.” Swapna is one of my dearest friends and lived in the next block back when I was in Singapore.
Looking at the ethnically dressed young stranger, I felt that he had knocked on the wrong door. I didn’t invite any Panditji nor was I hosting a Pooja today. I mean, it was so strange to see a person traditionally dressed in white dhoti and kurta, holding two huge Rajasthani grocery bags. He also had a Shika (long tuft of hair) hanging from the back of his head, with a red tilak on his forehead.
I smiled and before I could say anything, he said,
“Namaste, I am Kashyap”.
I was already deeply intrigued by now and just couldn’t stop asking him questions. Where does he come from? Why is he dressed up like that? Why does he do what he does?
Honestly, I had no intention of buying anything from him. But the more I talked to him, the more my heart melted towards his sense of devotion and beliefs. He was working as a Systems Engineer at Hewlett Packard in Singapore. On weekdays after work and at weekends he would take orders and do deliveries for the Pathmeda NGO. As if his simplicity wasn’t visible and endearing enough, he would travel in public transport with huge bags full of products. He was tirelessly and happily doing this work, which was also very obvious from his talks. He would say:
“This is my seva for Gaumata (Service to Mother Cow).”
As he spoke, I felt like a child discovering all those goodies in his bags and reading everything. By now, he had already made a place in my heart with his simplicity and innocence. I was yet to realize the profound impact he’d have on my life though.
As he sheepishly took out a cardboard box, showed me small round brown-looking cakes, and asked,” Would you like to try this?” I was intrigued and excitedly asked:
“What is this?”
“This is Gauri Ke Kande (Cow dung).” He gently replied.
Huh? What is it for? How would I use it?
“If you put dal rice on these and offer the bhog to God, it will reach him directly.” He added and started getting nervous because I was gazing at him intently. (I was just in awe, alright?)
“Koi baat nahi, aap subah bas chaval ka kaccha dana bhi dal kar bhog lagaynge toh bhi chalega. Abhi aapke pas samay bhi nahi hoga nah?” (It’s okay, if you even place one grain of rice as an offering on this, it will work, I understand you will not have time in the mornings).
The way he conveyed it all, and his intention was so innocent that I gave in. Although I happily agreed, I only took one box, as I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to do the ritual every day. He explained the procedure and you can imagine how excited I felt about this new ritual.
As I started the ritual, I had no idea that Kashyap had triggered a deep change and spiritual experience in my life. It is not just because he is part of a tribe, on a mission to save cows. Him and his friends risk their lives to save cows that are transported in the dark for trade and one of his friends also got killed in the process. But the purity of his intentions, his honesty, and how simplicity is an essential part of his fabric is what helped transform me. I’ll tell you how.
He gave me a simple instruction, which I followed to 100% of my ability and mostly to honor him.
Every morning after our meeting, I woke up an hour early to accommodate this ritual along with cooking my daughter’s lunch. Her school bus would come at 6.15 am. It was very early, but I’d make sure that I took out the Naivaedya (the food offering to God) before packing her lunch and completed the ritual after dropping her off.
But, as soon as I lit the match stick, I realized that Kashyap didn’t give me any instructions about the prayer. I didn’t have any. So, I began constructing one. It was a struggle and I went blank, then I simply said, thank you oh God, please accept this offering.
I carried on for a couple of weeks, and the prayer question lingered in my mind, but my prayer improved every day, the duration increased too. I thought about the farmers, mother earth, the traders, shop keepers, delivery men, my parents, ancestors, Kashyap who all are contributing to this ritual. Om Swamiji’s Youtube videos also played a big role in shaping my thoughts on this ritual. I realized my ignorance and that I’m not the doer. I was humbled by the new understanding of being a tiny contributor in the whole scheme of things and felt empathy for all those who passed away without the opportunity to pay gratitude.
That empathy has left a permanent change in me, I see gratitude in a different light, and its precious when I am able to fold my hands connecting with God every morning.
I was so grateful to be blessed with this ritual after 3 decades of ignorance but a deeply spiritual experience awaited me, triggered by meeting Kashyap.
At the end of those two weeks, my husband and daughter had left for the day and I walked into the kitchen to complete the ritual. There was an irresistible silence, so much I could have heard a fly’s flapping wings. I lit the match stick, put the camphor below the cake, and made the offering. Today, I was composed and in complete surrender and gratitude. When I started my dialogue with God, the words that were flowing out didn’t sound like mine alone. My prayer came out as –
I thank the Universe, all the living and non-living, all the forces, all the elements and everybody in the chain, all the ancestors, my parents, for the fact that I am here at this moment is only because of everybody’s contribution. Oh Bhagwan, we all make this offering to you. Thank you for your blessings and thank you for all the love you shower on us.
And the voice in me started growing as if every being in the existence is coming together to make this offering. I could hear echoes and voices becoming one with me and my tears were flowing incessantly. I don’t know how long I was there, I was lost in the prayer. It was a moment of experience that I cannot explain in words. I cried more and more till my breath came back to normal.
This incident has changed my life forever. I keep realizing the multitude of it every day in different forms. The sense of oneness keeps coming back to me. I cannot thank Kashyap enough for walking in my life and introducing me to unconditional devotion. He is a simple guy, so simple in fact that the love for what he lives for is conveyed in each of his words and actions. His mission is to save cows, but he probably doesn’t realize that he saves us humans too, sometimes. He changed me. Forever.
On a lighter note, his mom is worried, because no girl wants to marry him. His lifestyle, his conduct reflect detachment from the world. Whenever I asked him about the status of his marriage project, his cheeks would go red and he would laugh. He is very happy that all girls reject him. He wants to devote his life to the seva of Gaumata (Mother Cow).
It’s amazing how life brings in cherry blossoms at unexpected times in unexpected places. I was in India for 3 decades of my life, but Kashyap came with this magic wand in Singapore and gave me Gauri Ke Kande (Cow dung cakes). Looking back, it feels insane, but probably that’s what happens when God knocks at your door.
Credits: Thank you Komal, it was fun writing this story with you. Also, thanks to A and Akshay for the notes exchange on the Q&A thread on practice of Sanatana Dharma that inspired me to write down this experience.