I was in Ahmedabad, Gujarat the other day to visit my Uncle’s School, SGVP, where they organised a massive Shiva yagna which pretty much means puja or prayer. I found some time in between the prayer to step out and meet my friend Neil Patel for lunch. Neil is similar to me in that he grew up in America and chose to move to India about 5 years ago to explore personal and professional opportunities. He has since established an innovative technology company called Awaaz de and created an extraordinary community of ex-pats all living together in the city of Ahmedabad.
What I found most exciting about Neil’s life in India was the amount of social work he was engaged in through the NGO Manav Sadhna. Manav Sadhna, under Gandhiji’s presence and guiding principle “Love All, Serve All," serves more than 9000 children and women through a wide range of projects. The NGO itself is beautifully situated within the walls of Gandhi’s ashram which makes it almost impossible to forget about what selflessness actually looks like while you are there.
I met Neil about 2 years ago and, although he loves his work with Awaaz de, what I remember most about my conversations with Neil is the amount of pride he takes in sharing about the progress made by the youth footballers he teaches on weekends through Manav Sadhna. I always loved the fact that Neil was using football as a means of education and empowerment however I never could quite wrap my head around the extent of what he was doing, until last week.
So after a homemade Gujarati lunch, Neil and I walked across the street to the Gandhi Ashram where I was overwhelmed by the positive energy and the incredible people from all over the world all contributing to youth through love and service. Honestly, the second you walk into the ashram all you can feel is peace. After a quick tour of the ashram, Neil and I walked over to the football ground where he has trained around 70 youth every weekend for the past few years. I guess I pictured an actual ground but what I saw was a large area of hot sand, and a cow.
I’ve been in India for some time now and have been privy to seeing all different types of grounds however for some reason I was amazed to see that this was actually the ground Neil has been using for the past few years. It was clean and safe, however the sand was quite high and bumpy meaning that the kids would really have to work hard to play a solid pass or even just continue running without getting too tired.
There are plans to put in a full fledged natural grass or artificial turf ground in place of the sand, however I must say that seeing this pitch made me appreciate Neil even more as it was clearly a case of making the most and being proud of whatever you have at that moment.
We left the pitch and walked a short distance through the slums Neil serves to get back to his apartment. By the time we got back to his place my heart was so full of love, appreciation and a strong intention to put my head aside and begin genuinely serving the world through my heart, no matter what the circumstances may be.
|Me at the Shiva Prayer at my Uncles School|
|Me and Neil Patel|
|The ground where Neil and his coaches organise football training every weekend|