Karma Yoga – Blessings from the Universe

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I don’t know if it was karma, fate or pure coincidental luck that introduced me to your employee Arwind Rawat on the streets of Mumbai that hot October evening but I was open to any blessings the universe would offer at the time. I had been in Mumbai for 4 days and was beginning to feel quite alone in this big city. My current hotel was less than adequate for a good night’s sleep and I was beginning to wonder if I had made a mistake doing the first part of my second trip to India on my own. My husband was in Paris at the time and was planning to arrive in Mumbai on the 23 October before accompanying me to Goa for our long awaited honeymoon.

Mr Rawat, I learned, works as a chef at The Leela Hotel. I thought this would be a great opportunity to find out more about one of the most prestigious hotels in the vicinity, close to the airport, in the hopes that my husband and I would be able to book our last night in India in a hotel we knew would meet our expectations. On Friday morning after a restless night at my current hotel we headed to The Leela for breakfast. Wow! We were met with open faces, welcoming smiles and polite greetings, a far cry from my nightmarish week at the ‘other’ hotel which was not so far away. Sleep deprived, at this point I’m sure I thought I was dreaming when I walked into The Leela, my closest simulation to a royal palace. Everything shined! There was space, order, magnificent objects to fill my senses and a breakfast for a queen. I had arrived, I thought, and this was it! The duty manager Paramjeet Singh was so kind, I’m certain he could feel the stress I had been through and was attentive to us beyond measure.Our flight to Goa was leaving soon so we filled our stomachs and followed the necessary procedures to check in for our last night, and thankfully were allowed to leave our excess luggage at Leela. No problems at all! We were escorted to the ‘other’ hotel by The Leela chauffer and checked out.

There are very few that know me, my recent introduction to yoga, and the journey I went through in Rishikesh last year. The floods in the northern region of India during June/July 2013 devastated the countryside and many lost their homes and what little belongings they had. I felt compelled during my time at the ashram where I was doing my 200hr yoga teacher training to take the skills I had in first aid and specialist foot care to the streets to help the poor and elderly. I have attached some articles which were published in Cape Town shortly after this experience. I continued to long for what I still feel is my second home every day since coming back to South Africa from Rishikesh.

Planning a second trip to India was difficult as the country is so vast and although I had fixed ideas to shop and explore none of my travels would exclude doing some karma yoga on the streets or wherever I was taken if the need was honest and necessary. During my time in Mumbai I did engage with many on the streets, including vendors and also had the privilege to treat an elderly man’s feet 3 times over a two week period ensuring that when I left he would be well on his way to recovering from very tired and worn feet. After just 2 treatments I noticed significant changes to his overall wellbeing, a twinkle in his eye and he had coloured the grey from his hair, there was hope! I realized at this point that just changing the ideas of one man, the many spectators that watched and the words that were spoken many times after to friends and family about what they had seen could ultimately cause a ripple of change and adjustments in attitudes. No matter how insignificant it may feel to me that I only treated one person in Mumbai’s city of millions the change was great enough to make a difference in a community and that’s what counts!

We returned after an indescribable week in Goa feeling refreshed, revived and ready to take on the world. Our final gift was our return to The Leela. Once again the duty manager exceeded our expectations and we felt welcomed by the philosophies portrayed in the gestures by staff and correspondence in the room, “Namaste, guest is God”. Upon our departure from the hotel very late on Friday 31 October I noticed a sign in the foyer which I had not noticed before. It gave me a warmhearted feeling and I felt overwhelmed with compassion.

In Memoriam of the founder of The Leela Group how wonderful it would be to think that the universe and our encounters with one another are being guided by the spirits of such great men. I felt that this was a message for me, and I was in the right place at the right time.

Thank you! I hope to return many more times to your beautiful hotel.

The Leela - Memoriam