When money became powerless

by Arpita Gaidhane

A leap into the unknown India


I don't think I should do this, I thought for the millionth time. It was crazy. Who goes for a week-long journey across 125 kms, with strangers, WITHOUT money? We were all gathering, tying our bedding to our bicycles, filling up water bottles and packing away money and electronics until we'd be back to the city of Udaipur at the end of the week. Each cycle had a message hanging off of it, the intention of the rider. Mine had no language, it simply had a picture of community dancing in a spiral - a common motif of the Warli Tribe of western India. I figured, if I was going to be traveling to strangers, I might as well go beyond the politics of languages as well. So despite my trepidations, off we went, away from the city of Udaipur and towards villages and forests. 21 people, some familiar and some strangers. We rode along in high spirits, singing and chatting at first, until the growing silence of the road also gave way to growing silence within. We'd stop every once in a while to hear birds chirping or spot a kingfisher or drongo. Sometimes we'd stop to collect seeds for jewellery-making or to collect fresh fruit: tamarind or wild berries under massive trees or on roadside shrubs. Soon, though, it was getting dark. We hadn't yet reached a village and there was no plan. On the first night, we ended up at a temple, asking for and receiving shelter from saffron-robed fakirs who were deep in discussion and songs about the spirit. They invited us as their own, and cooked on firewood late into the night to ensure that we didn't sleep hungry. It was terrifying and gratifying at the same time. My city mind chimed in - would they want to harm us? Rob us? Hurt us? But they were free spirits - unbound by the fears of the urban crowd. To them, it was simple. Love others, they're a reflection of my own self. So they starved themselves and fed us first, and ensured that we had the warmest spots near the temple cave. The next morning, we were off to the village, asking for alms, and letting people know that we were on a yatra: a sacred journey. Suddenly, money didn't seem so important any more. Yes, it's a form of energy that does a lot, but it is only one of them. Here was kindness, and conversation, and work exchange and simply - Love. It was love, I realised, that makes the world go round. Not money. The rest of the journey had its own crests and troughs, but a deep knowledge was within me. A trust for the infinite love that makes anything possible, with faith.