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Walking with Jayeshbai

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In Ahmedabad, Jayesh Patel, founder of Manav Sadhna, takes us on a walk through the slums next to the Gandhi Ashram, home to approximately 120,000 people.

Under a hot sun, in a sea of mostly women and children, surrounded by the smells of poverty and the hope of a better future, this man of service explains to us what it means to walk:

“W means ‘witness the nature’,” he says as we pass an expansive tree on our left, shade to women working in the dirt. “Unlike driving,” he explains, “You see and witness the small, small things when you walk.”

We see Jayeshbai reach into a hanging cloth hammock, tickle an infant, then pull the child out for teasing and hugs. He points out a tiny gold cross on the neck of a young Hindu girl and reminds us that spirituality allows for all traditions, while religions limit the many forms of love. Sensing a little hand prying its way into his, he opens and holds on, and walks with the child along the dusty earth.

“A means ‘accept circumstances’. Don’t stretch,” he says knowingly. “Simplicity adjusts.”

Jayeshbai enters a small tent to greet an elderly woman, who tells him the man of the house is in the hospital. His casual talk turning to concern, Jayeshbai offers to send someone to help her, if she needs it.

“L means ‘love your life’. Connect the people to people, the heart to heart,” Jayeshbai says, pointing to his heart as he smiles and smiles, reaching out, laughing, touching, and smiling some more.

“K means ‘know yourself’. We all are one,” he says, “and through service we connect the people.”

We walk for an hour at least, talking, listening, watching, and seeing the small things and also the big things.

As we say goodbye to Jayeshbai, he flows up a small set of stairs toward his office, seemingly carried along by a river of children, canyoned by yellow earthen walls.

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