The Extra "Ordinariness" Of Wednesdays

Posted by Pavi Mehta on Feb 11, 2011
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While in the Bay Area last November, writer Suchitra Shenoy had the opportunity to attend several "Wednesdays" at a humble family home in Santa Clara. A home that over the last thirteen years has unfailingly opened its doors up to thousands of strangers in the spirit of service -- and stillness. Months later thinking back to those unique evenings Suchitra sends in this thoughtful reflection on the extra "ordinariness"  of Wednesdays...

“My father tinkering with the sound system, my mother moving pots in the kitchen – it is all so very ordinary,” says Nipun. “But they have been hosting these sessions, every week for thirteen years, and that,” he pauses, looking around the room, making eye contact with every individual seated in the circle, “is extraordinary.”

Wednesday. It is such an ordinary day isn't it? It lacks the lure of Friday (Nobody eve says, "Thank God It's Wedesday"). It does not have the religiosity or relaxation of Sunday. Wednesday sits there, not quite-the-middle of the week. A bit like a boring aunt whom you visit on your trips home, more from a sense of obligation than choice.

Visit the Mehta household on a Saturday or a Monday. There’s an odd feeling that perhaps they run a catering business for weddings or rent their house out for parties. The entire breadth of the front porch is taken up by shoe-racks. The kitchen cupboards hold plates that stack three shelves high. A drawer near the sink contains nothing but steel glasses for water. Furniture in the living room is movable and hidden closets hold dozens of cushions. All very odd for a house where only two people in their sixties, live.

But come on a Wednesday. Yes, that boring middle-of-the-week day. The suburban town’s street is lined with cars. The porch has shoes, slippers and clogs neatly lining the racks. The front door is slightly ajar. Push it open; walk in. A large sign with an arrow points you to the inner living room.

Every Wednesday at 7pm, a group gathers. It has an hour of collective silence. Someone opens the session by reading out a passage from the week’s iJourney selection. A mike goes around the circle and people share their reactions to the reading. At 9pm Mrs. Mehta offers a meal. It is one that she has planned, shopped for and cooked. She stands at the kitchen counter, next to her able assistants who load up plates with admirable efficiency. She offers a plate to the 60 or more people who attend. It is not a simple exchange. If you are a young college student, an extra chappati will magically appear on your plate. If you are vegan, you’ll be warned that the dessert might have eggs. Much love and service from the Mehtas goes into that Wednesday meal. Dinner is eaten in silence.

An hour of sitting in silence. An hour of sharing insights to a thoughtful passage. An hour of eating in silence. The unusualness of it is extraordinary.

“It was the first time in my life where I had a meal with people and did not talk through it – a struggle for me,” emails Renuka Shankar after her first Wednesday-experience. “As I walked in, I thought that a whole hour in meditation would be too long, but afterwards, realized that this much time is what it takes to truly disconnect from your outer life to your inner you.”

Renuka came because she is the cousin of the mother of the co-author to one of the daughter-in-law’s of Mr. and Mrs. Mehta. (Got that?) Other paths to Wednesdays have been: “I heard about it while I was hiking in the Grand Canyon”, “the guy next to me on the plane told me about it”, “I overhead a conversation at the coffee shop”, “a homeless guy told me about it”, “my interviewer at Microsoft told me about it; I didn't get that job but I got directions to this house!”

Occasionally a person is invited to share his or her life with the Wednesday circle. Past speakers have included Bhikku Bodi (one of the most renowned scholars of Theravada Buddhism), Shri Lavanam (the last active disciple of Gandhi), World Woman of Peace, Deepak Chopra, and incredible pilgrims like Satish Kumar and the Reverend Heng Sure.

Giving people the chance to be silent. Giving people the time to reflect on the passage, and from there, to reflect on their own lives. Giving people the warmth of family, especially for those whose security blankets either do not exist or are hundreds of miles away. This and much else occur at Wednesdays.

Friendship, caring, love, generosity, warmth – there is all that more. But underscoring Wednesdays is one strong principle: focus on internal change, for only when you change within, can you have the whisper of a hope of changing the world.

--Suchitra Shenoy

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Comments (12)

  • Pancho wrote ...

    BAAMplex! :-)

    This is an extra-ordinary piece that describes very well why I _love_ Wednesdays so much.

    Many people don't realize the (r)evolutionary power of the rebellious Mehta family. They embody the foundation of the ahimsa (r)evolution in the 21st century: healthy food --with the main ingredient: love-- and being in receptive silence. Constructive program at its best! :-)

    If you ever experience one of these Wednesdays, your heart won't be ever the same for the song of service will be planted as a blessing in your soul.

    If you want to be a rebel, be kind. Human-kind, be both.

    May all become compassionate, courageous and wise.

  • Nisha wrote ...

    Totally second Pancho - including the BAAM :)

  • Neeta wrote ...

    Love it!

  • Lavanya wrote ...

    Love it too!

  • Polina wrote ...

    What a beautiful, beautiful article, thank you so much for sharing! I've recently returned home from my first 5-day silent retreat, and was awed but all that can open up in the space of silence, stillness and community. What an incredible gift Wed evenings are.

  • Kevin Rutter wrote ...

    GREAT STORY! I guess the day of the week is a state of mind. Good can happen no matter what day. Heck for some Wednesday is there day off and there for is like Friday or Saturday.

  • sachi wrote ...

    LOVED IT ! I Second Nisha !! Thank you for sharing :) !

  • Viviana wrote ...

    This was great! Do you happen to know how one might be able to find the house, or get in contact with those who run this program? I have a friend who frequently visits the area and she was curious.
    Thanks for sharing! :0)

  • Nipun wrote ...

    Viviana, for anyone to attend a Wednesday in the bay-area, they simply have to RSVP here: [View Link] And then they'll be emailed the details. As the event gets full, a waitlist notification will appear on that page itself. And for those not local, there's a listing of other cities as well.

  • sheetal wrote ...

    wednesdays= gratitude+ love+ joy + inner net

  • Bela wrote ...

    Loved reading this...the love of the Mehta family inspires me to make Wednesdays DC even more welcoming in creative ways, but also by working to become a better listener, and be more present...

  • Dipakkumar wrote ...

    This is really great! I am an abhyasi belonging to the Shri Ramachandra Mission, having our world headquarters at Manapakkam, Chennai, India. We follow the path of 'Sahaj Marg'. In this practice, one of the method is that we all abhyasis meet every Wednesday for an evening Satsangh at a fixed place and meditate for one hour and receive transmission from our Living Master through our prefect in total silence. I think your every Wednesday gathering gives the same condition that we experience every Wednesday and hence I would like to extend my appreciation and thanks to Mrs. Mehta for conducting this wonderful evening.