Karma Kitchen – Growing in Generosity

I had heard about Karma Kitchen and its concept, but this was my first time volunteering for it. I had gone to Mumbai all the way from Surat for volunteering. I was a bit worried in the beginning as I was spending 3 days (travelling + volunteering) plus I knew none of the organisers and other volunteers, I knew just one cousin sister.  I was terrified because befriending new people wasn’t my cup of tea. In the morning of 1st May we were all strangers and to my surprise, by the end of the day, I had made 20 different friends of all ages. This way my paradigm about myself broke, I never knew I could make friends so easily.

What is Karma Kitchen? Imagine a restaurant where there are no prices on the menu and where the check reads $0.00 with only this footnote: “Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those who dine after you.” That’s Karma Kitchen, a volunteer-driven experiment in generosity.

Planning for the event had begun months before but there were few decisions that could be made only on the event day. I was in department of serving and decorations. The restaurant had to be decorated, so we had all the decorations ready by the night. To make the posters, cards and charts were tedious and hence we had divided the work amongst the few of us. However, there were many decorations that we had to do on the spot at the event which we realised were mandatory. It got a bit hectic with so many volunteers looking for something to do and the idiom “Too many cooks spoil the broth” striked me in that moment as I could relate it well to the situation.

Karma Kitchen in Mumbai was just for 1 day, in Ahmedabad there is Seva Cafe with the same concept and is open everyday. I inquired about Seva Cafe and got to know that they were breaking even financially, and this was just on a local level, if it was introduced in the global market, it would suffer a great loss. Hence, this concept was to be applied locally to create a global significance, otherwise people will not understand the concept but just grope for the free food.

The ethics of pricing food is at question here. The grains that the chapati consist is because of the farmers that worked day and night to harvest them. Then the manufacturers who clean them up and make them edible for us to eat. The vegetables in the salad and the sabzi are also because of the small scale farmers that grow them and sell them, pricing them according to the market demand than their own requirement. The water company that associated, the cooks, the servers and the cleaners – all have a contribution to the food that one eats. Hence, how is all that priced? Is it practical to calculate a price for the contribution and the sacrifices that are made by various people for providing food to someone they are never going to meet probably?

When guests are done eating, we give them an empty envelope. They are supposed to put in whatever amount they think appropriate for the next guest to eat, as their food has been paid by the previous guest.

This ripple effect of kindness is never ending, it gives me hope that there are good people left in the world. There are so many stories and memories from the experience of volunteering that I am never going to forget. There are so many inspiring people to meet, new friends to make and explore the realm of selflessness.


Naggar – The Capital of Kullu

After struggling for a long while to decide a place that we could enjoy in the winter season – Naggar was finalized as our Grade 11 CAS trip.

Exploring Naggar on foot

A lot of new information about Naggar was told us while we trekked in the morning and afternoon, on the first day. The one information that stuck with me throughout the day was the changing scenario of the village – which was told to us by the local guide. Villagers’  way of living has drastically changed over time and also about the recent human impact on the ecology.

In the evening, we also did yoga. Even though I am not fond of doing Yoga, I tried it and learned about its benefits and reasons behind it.



We were explained about the consequences of littering and harm that we might cause to this beautiful place. Nobody was going to watch us all time, and it is all about how true our morals are for us to not dirty this place. How ethical is it for us to visit a place and leave it worse off than before?

A walk to Rumsu Village

We were informed about the customs and tradition of that village. We also got to know about the way devtas (Hindu gods) that come there every season and possess few seniors of the village, and then they answer any questions that are asked to them. This information fascinated me, the way people get possessed and can answer any question you ask them, villagers have the faith that the answers will be true.

We had a walk planned for the afternoon which wasn’t compulsory for all. The morning trek to Rumsu had been tiring and the reason for having this walk was to prevent the muscles from getting rigid, and hence, out of all the people, I was one of the few who chose to go for the walk. This walk was the most beautiful and the best walk of the entire trip. The serenity and the sunlight pouring through the long pine trees was scenic. I learned that the mountains are all covered with tall pine trees although the pines are of no use to humans nor animals, except the birds that nest on them. I realised that adventure comes with responsibility. What we do and leave behind will affect the people living there and the ecosystem.



For the first time, I skied in Gulaba. I wasn’t able to stand wearing skies without someone constantly helping me. It was a great, exciting experience. We had a fun story session in the night where we heard about insane and epic incidents of members from previous tours. We were also told about Gujjars, a semi-nomadic tribe in the Himalayas.





Solang, Vashishth and Manali

That day, we walked around the Solang valley and understood the gradual change (living status) it has gone through in time and about the regulations banning adventures activities (paragliding) for safety norms. I did two adventure activities – A ride in ATV(All-Terrain Vehicle) for each student and Tubing (slide down a snow slope in a big tube). Then we visited another place Vashishth, which is famous for the occurrence of natural hot springs. While experiencing the hot water of the springs, we were told about the history of the hot springs, the adjoining temples and the new construction of cement-based houses.

Exploring Thava

We went for a walk to Thava, an ancient city above Naggar, completely destroyed by an earthquake. Only surviving structure is the famous Krishna temple. Reached there after a short and tiring uphill trek. Explained to us about the temple, its significance and the prominent tilt that was caused by the Earthquake. A story session was conducted in the temple courtyard. Met the resident Pujari of the temple, as well. On special request, the castle’s cooks made local delicacies, called dham, for lunch.



Return Journey

Rejuvenated by the beauty and serenity of the Himalayas, we headed back to the our city, Surat, excited to talk about our experiences to the ones that missed this fantastic trip. ____________________________________________________________________________________


The Ultimate CAS Project (SUO 2015)

Surat Ultimate Open (SUO) is an Ultimate(frisbee) tournament that is held at the end of the year. Ultimate is a non-contact game. It isn’t an official sport as yet, but is spreading fast all over India. There are no referees in the game and all the disputes are supposed to be resolved by the players that are playing. It is also, therefore, called a spirit game.

SUO has always been hosted by Fountainhead School (my school) and this year also by Tapti Valley International School (for their grounds), where teams from across India come to participate. This time the event was co-ordinated and put into action by Pranjal and me. To top it off, I also played. It all began few months back when we were returning from a frisbee tournament in Bangalore (BUO). There we were elected as Tournament Directors(TD). Another reason why I had taken up SUO was because I like to organise events and SUO was one of the biggest opportunity to organize an event on a national scale. Last year, 2 of my friends had taken up this and they had a lot of fun organising it. I know what my strengths are such as, I can easily manage things and talk to people but I need to learn to control my words in certain situations.

Celebrating after winning

Celebrating after winning

The event was supposed to happen on the 5th and 6th of December, but there was a lot of prior work that was to be done before the event. And the biggest obstacle was that Pranjal and I were going to play on both the days. So,we appointed Jayani and Yash, who’ll be responsible for the work while we are playing.

There were total 28 teams (Open- 22, Women- 6). Getting their arrival and departure details and making people pay money wasn’t easy. I was so glad Pranjal was with me and took care of the other half of the teams, otherwise I would have gone furious collecting updates (accommodation, transport, food) from all teams. Apart from that, we were not able to get  volunteers. Most difficult was to get volunteers for score keeping. We spoke to some of them and convinced them for score keeping. We could’ve have given them the task without consulting, but that would have been unethical.

Team line-up

Team line-up

As our midterm exams got closer, we drifted away from all that we had to do. I had one week before I was going on a holiday for 15 days out of India. I had to do all the work in that one week because as soon as I got back, I had 5 days till the event. Managing studies and doing all the work in that one week’s time before going on a foreign trip seemed impossible.

After I got back from my foreign trip and realised what a big mess I was in. There were 7 days left for the event. We got the shocking news that a massive flood had hit Chennai and they won’t be able to come for SUO, which was a major disappointment. All flight and trains in and out of Chennai had stopped.  We refunded their payments as it was ethical and the reason they couldn’t make it was genuine.

Women Tryouts For National Team

Women Tryouts For National Team


Pranjal and I had distributed few activities and on some we worked on collaboratively. We had arranged rooms for every team. We allocated rooms as they arrived from 4th November. After dinner, Pranjal and I were playing frisbee in school, Pranjal slipped and she had to be rushed to a hospital and got to know that she had fractured her bone. It came like a shock to me and I couldn’t process that she wouldn’t be able to play any of the matches (she was one of the main players in my team and also the Spirit Captain). I sat with my coach to discuss strategies as we were one player down, which was not good for us. Around midnight, more teams arrived – I took them to their allocated place and asked them to take one mattress per person to sleep on. Soon, we got people coming to me and asking for mattresses and I realised that we were out of them. I panicked. I freaked out. This happened because few teams that had come without informing us, hence we were short on mattresses. I thought of all the possible solutions and decided upon utilizing the spare mattresses that the security guard has. After some time everybody was well settled, then Pranjal, Jayani, Yash and I had to look for a place to sleep. We called off the long, tiring day around 2 am in the morning.




Next morning, another glitch occurred where the Organising Committee(OC) members (scorekeepers, registration desk heads, photographers) were 30 minutes late which led rescheduling and postponing of all the matches. However, I ensured that the issues with OC members didn’t affect my game play.

I was able to maintain a balance between my game and management work. We had a match against the toughest team post lunch, which we lost. Last match was the easiest match of all, we won against Surat B team with straight 13 points. However, during the spirit circle we realised that players of Surat B had been offended with our behaviour during the match. They had thought that we were laughing on the mistakes that they were making and mocking them. But, honestly, that wasn’t our intention at all – all we were doing was enjoying the last game of the day and refreshing ourselves, we had no clue that they were hurt by that. All of us apologised with the bottom of our hearts and gave our reasons, they still didn’t look satisfied, so we listened to what they had to say and we accepted our mistake. We ended the day with distributing chocolates and dissipating the grudge between the two teams.

After losing the semi-finals on the second day and securing the 3rd place, I went to Tapti Valley grounds and helped there with score keeping. After the finals, we had the award ceremony where I presented the trophy to the winning teams, as I was the TD. Many people stood up and appreciated for organising SUO. It was a proud moment when people applauded me and acknowledged my efforts for making this event a success.
Sleepless nights, disputes and confusions, end minute hassles, misunderstandings – were few of the things that I experienced from the day one of the event. I was exhausted and filled with glory (irrespective of the fact that we didn’t win the tournament). I learned something that I would have never realised by reading or by watching other people go through it: time management, how to talk to strangers and making them feel comfortable; how to act calmly in crisis; to persuade people and make them do things they otherwise wouldn’t; how to not shout at people and control feelings when needed; and many more. According to me, the most important thing I learned was the importance of appreciating others. Appreciating always strengthens relationship bond and gives out a positive vibe. I’m glad that I took the opportunity to organise SUO’15.

Literature and Arts Fest – Worth waking up early on a weekend

Firstly, was really pissed at school for having the literature and arts fest on a weekend (22nd July – 23rd July 2015), and not just on Saturday but also on Sunday. I mean, who likes to come to school on a weekend? I was hoping for a nice 2 day break from school, studies, tests and deadlines – but no, our school won’t let us have a weekend to relax.

Anyway, I got to know on Saturday that there were many activities happening, separately for Arts Fest and Literature Fest, all over school in different places. Here is the list of few activities:

  • Arts: Music, Line drawing (Still life), Mehndi, Rangoli, Thali/pot decoration, bBest out of waste, Salad decoration, Photography, Quelling, Dance and many more
  • Literature: Scrabble wall, Bingo, Logo quiz, Anagrams – time bound, Crosswords, Cross and Zero, Just a minute, Spell Bee, What’s the good word, Debate, Ads to ad up (Creating adverts for products) and many more

Later I got to know that there was going to be competition between the houses (our school has 4 houses – Integrity, Dignity, Unity and Liberty) and the points will be added to individual houses as per their wins. This got me excited. It ignited the patriotic feeling for my house, which is Integrity.

I had taken my camera with me for photography, as a volunteer, so I had to roam all around the school to capture all activities. While going around I met few of my classmates and they forced me to participate in few activities only because there weren’t enough participants. So, I took part in Anagrams. Where jumbled words are given and the right word is to be formed. We were 4 students in a team of Integrity. There were going to be 2 rounds, in the first round I was able to guess the maximum number of words. Before the 2nd round more students turned up to participate, but everyone still chose me to be 1 of the 4 to be in the team. We won because we were able to identify the most number of right words than the other houses. I realised I was good at this. Before Literature Fest, I had no clue that something like Anagram existed. It was a new discovery for me and by me.


I also took part in Ads to Ad up. Where you are given a product for which an advertisement has to be designed. I had gone there for photography but was forced to participate as the team needed a person good in drawing and creative. We could only have 7 people in team and there were 11 of us. So we split, and I was in a group with students one to two grades below me. I was kinda disappointed because I wanted to be in the same age group as me. Everyone had to design an advertisement for a pen that only writes the truth. We all took a moment to let the imaginary and weird product sink in… I could relate the “only truth” with one of the book I had read (Divergent) and with that I suggested that we keep the name “CANDOUR” and then we began thinking about the tagline and other things that we plan to include in the advertisement. After some time it dawned on me that we need to consider the global factors into our advertisements, and we can’t limit it to just India or any one country. Few members from my group left so I gave my idea to the other Integrity group and made only one advertisement from our house. We came up with a good advertisement but none of us seemed that satisfied. We submitted it, we could have done much better if we had more time. There were in all 4 advertisements and in this also Integrity won. Everybody appreciated my contribution.  


There was Zumba being played in the assembly some my us started dancing and others joined. It was fun, all of us were dancing with great coordination.IMG_5314IMG_5321

Having a camera with me all time kept me busy, otherwise there were chances that I would have been bored the first day and then wouldn’t have attended the second day. In the next fest, I would participate is as many activities as I can so I wouldn’t need my camera. 

I was glad to attend the fest because all I would have done if it was not for the fest, is sleep. I am looking forward to the next Literature and Arts Fest.

Plantation, Vansda

Date: 18/7/2015

Place: Vansda, Gujarat

Time: 7:30 am to 8:00 pm

This was our first CAS trip planned by school. We went to Janki Van – a new botanical garden which is being developed by Ministry of Forest (Gujarat) under the guidance of Head of Forest Department in Vansda, which is about 90 Kms from Surat. The garden has periphery of about 4000 meters and contains beautiful and variety of plants, flowers and trees.

We fulfilled our service and activity component by planting saplings of “mehendi”. It was a new experience for me as I learnt the skill of neatly planting delicate seedlings in their designated area. It was simple yet tiring, I out in my best efforts because it was something of my interest.

Our work was to get the plants from a place where they were assembled and then plant them. I even watered the plants. When we were quite satisfied with our work we went to the other group and planted some more. We leveled the ground, clicked photos and had fun. Digging up was a lot of labor and the sun was hard on us. We cleaned up when it was time for lunch, and during that I broke my footwear. So I had to walk barefoot all the way to the bus where I had an extra pair – however, on the way we found a tractor and climbed on it. It was the most fun riding the tractor on it’s back while standing, the road had so many bumps and that’s what made it more adventurous and fun. Few of my friends who didn’t get the opportunity to get in the tractor watched me and were jealous to be at my place.

Janki Van garden has numerous species of plants and shrubs. As per different constellations it has formation of certain plants and flowers. The vibrant colors of the flowers and leaves gives the place a beautiful and scenic view.

After the tiring day, we had lunch in a nearby restaurant – we all ate till we were completely full because we were all so hungry and tired.

We went to Check-Dam of Padamdungri, where some of us got refreshed by getting into the water, but I didn’t want to get wet so I had fun by clicking their pictures.

On the way back to Surat, I reflected on all the activities done and concluded that gardening is something I enjoy, so would make it my hobby for example, there are plants in my house just because on my request, and now everybody is glad because at night entire house is filled with the aroma of the flower that blossoms, and I water them regularly.

I realized I didn’t mind getting my hands dirty for a while.


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