“Hey, I am taking a short break. I may come back to work in the evening, not sure though!”
“No. You aren’t going. You aren’t allowed to.”
“You haven’t exhausted your karma yet.”
“What! Hahahaha… You are kidding. Aren’t you? See you later.”
“Yup, I was. Bye”
One full day passed by before I could recall this conversation with one of the kitchen crew from Switzerland at a public programme in New England. Away from India, it was one of the rarest opportunities to connect with like-minded people. I chose to volunteer at the dish room in cleaning and assorting dishes. With an apron, a hairnet, a pair of gloves and a pair of croc shoes I landed in a beehive where everyone seemed to be knowing the entire process, where everyone worked in a perfect sync at a steady pace, yet relaxed. Not knowing whom to approach, I stood their exchanging smiles with the crew. Then, there came a man, whom I called “Chief” from then on, to assign me a small task of arranging cleaned reusable cups in stackable plastic storage crates. While I was doing that, another crew-member turned up to teach how to arrange spoons, knives and forks in trays. Having observed that, I tried my hands at arranging bowls, plates of different sizes and juice glasses with some guidance from Chief and others. All of these dishes had to stacked so orderly that they wouldn’t make any rattling sound while they were ported from the dish room to the kitchen, dining hall or cafe.
Next in my do-list was to learn how to remove hot and cleaned dishes from the gigantic dishwasher, inspect them and put them in appropriate places. If they weren’t clean they had to be fed into the dishwasher conveyor belt again for re-cleaning (just like how the souls which aren’t free of their karma have to take birth again and again until they exhaust all of it.). Except for scrubbing and feeding the dishwasher with soiled dishes I had tried my hands at almost everything.
The new-bee just got competent enough for the second day of volunteering. Time flew so fast and least did I feel fatigue at all. I took leave of one of the crew members there when he laughingly forbade me to. My thoughts sped backwards to what I read at the Volunteer sign-up desk or the Seva Desk in the morning— “Seva means selfless service. An attitude of selflessness gives joy. By helping others we are actually helping ourselves. Please sign up!” The spirit of Karma Yoga— one of those few ways towards perfection by exhausting the karma— unfolded so beautifully. How meaningful the whole day turned out to be!
With such an atomic experience in my diary, I need not look into the translation to understand this verse anymore. Joy!
तस्मादसक्तः सततं कार्यं कर्म समाचर |
असक्तो ह्याचरन् कर्म परमाप्नोति पुरुषः || (भगवद्गीता 3.19)