For many years we have been inspired by the idea of the Karma Kitchen, but we never thought that we could be the ones to initiate it. This year, one member of our core group of 6 friends was very inspired to try this experiment. Since we have always supported each other in all explorations, we all jumped aboard.
A gift that started with a gift
We knew Karma Kitchen was a big project but how big … we got to learn only when we started the planning. Looking back, many magical things happened to keep us going - stopping us from even having second thoughts. For example, when we were still talking about starting the Karma Kitchen, our mentor and a sister Karma kitchen project gave us the seed money to get started. That was so unexpected and such a gift of generosity that we felt that we must respect this blessing and take it forward.
We are grateful to our mentors from aKarma Life and Service Space. They give us a lot of encouragement. They helped us understand the true spirit of generosity behind Karma Kitchen and gave us the necessary support to go ahead without fear. It felt like an experiment we were getting into with no strings attached. That gave us a lot of freedom which we did not fully appreciate initially. But through the process, we realized that not having that kind of pressure did help in getting the best out of each one of us.
Motivation and intention
We chose The Atelier Cafe in Bangalore because it belonged to someone we knew and the owner, Rhythm, showed an interest in the concept of Karma Kitchen. The cafe was closed because of the pandemic so this was not going to be like the usual Karma Kitchen set-up where the team takes over a running restaurant. However, all of this was outweighed by the beauty of the cafe, ensconced in natural beauty.
We would need to invite guests. We would need to keep it limited in the current Covid situation. And we would need to get more cutlery and kitchen equipment. Furthermore, none of us had any real hotel management experience.
In our core team or the anchor team, we had two very talented chefs, one of whom was an expert in the field and the other had become an expert in the last two years cooking whole plant-based food. As most of us followed a whole food plant-based diet, we decided that’s the food we’d serve our guests as well.
With these basics sorted, we began conversations with our tribe and quickly became a group of 27 volunteers.
Four committees were made - hospitality, kitchen, communications and accounts - each headed by a core member. Zoom meetings were held with all the volunteers once a week, within core team members twice, and within committees, as needed.
Some pics of the creations.
Our volunteer Devyani made sure that as much as possible, all arrangements were eco-friendly - cloth napkins, reusable printed materials, natural decorations, handmade decor & gift items, and plastic-free food service.
Here’s a video to take you through the day.
We get more than we give
Many heartwarming stories emerged from the Karma Kitchen experience.
Tharanath, who ran the earlier Karma Kitchens, came before time to support and encourage us. His presence was like having access to a storehouse of kindness we could always depend on - for tips, communication, and engaging the guests.
Our core team member Deepali Sawant opened her cooking institute with such an open heart - sharing the space, cutlery and equipment, as the cafe was not adequately equipped to serve 50 guests at a time.
A volunteer's daughter, Sampoorna, who just tagged along, started cleaning the tables before the servers could get back to their tables after clearing the plates.
And another volunteer’s daughter clicked away memories for us all to cherish later.
So many children poured their hearts into the decorations, making the already beautiful place shine the light on generosity and kindness. My Mom, who is still grieving the loss of my father, put her energies into crocheting beautiful flowers for the name tags.
Another volunteer, Shalini, chose to be away from the hive of activities to post herself near the gate so the guests would feel welcome as soon as they stepped into the cafe’s entry pathway.
Another … well, there are stories and stories … too many to share.
Once the guests started coming in, the adrenalin was up. An energetic buzz ran through the team. We could feel the positive vibes. Some of us had goosebumps.
It was heartening to hear one guest say that she felt the positive vibes envelop her as soon as she entered the venue.
Many guests remarked on the thought to detail - in the decor, food, hospitality, and ambience. So many small items had been the brainwave of volunteers - a beautiful emergence from the collective. And each contribution was seen and appreciated, from the kindness table and selfie booth to the food and hospitality.
All the volunteers in the kitchen were working with constraints, yet they worked like a well-oiled machine.
We served 100 meals to 70 guests and 31 volunteers. Looking back, it’s hard to believe we did it. But when one considers the power of the collective, it doesn’t seem unbelievable at all. On the day, we were buoyed up by a collective spirit of love, kindness, and a strong intention to give our best to our guests.
We couldn’t play any music that day, but I think many of us heard music, nonetheless.
Some words from the guests
“Had a wonderful experience. The food was awesome. And oozing with love and dedication from all the karma kitchen team.”
“Amazing. Would love to be a part of it again.”
“Absolutely amazing! I love how everything has a homely touch to itðŸ’• Beautiful place and lovely people. Love the teamwork, ambience, FOODâ¤ï¸”
“Did not expect clean eating to be tasty. Loved the food and the experience.”
“What better than healthy food, love, kindness and laughter in one place. May we all pay it forward.”
Some sharing by the volunteers
“I had an awesome time helping around, it felt very good to be able to meet so many new people and bathe in the liveliness of the environment. It was definitely a welcome change from my hectic routine.”
“It was a magical experience, from the days of planning to the actual event, there was a flow of energy that was stimulating and uplifting. The synergy between the volunteers was great.”
“It was a soul-filling joyful experience. Continuously training myself to be selfless/generous.”
“It was indeed a very fulfilling experience to give without any expectations. It was also an eye-opener that how much is taken for granted with our near dear ones and how the act of selflessness would just make us better beings. This journey helped build a lot of new connections and a very different feeling.”
“First ever such a fulfilling experience! Made new friends, connected with existing ones deeper, had lovely food and came back home with warmth in my heart.”
We documented as much as we could, to make the second run easier, not just for ourselves, but also for the next core team. Handing over to another core team in 3 months was a part of the plan from the start.
Karma Kitchen has changed something in each one of us. We are a gentler, more compassionate tribe and hungry to experience more. We are just waiting for the second run. Some of us are even missing the planning meetings! Now, that’s something!
Thank you for reading through and sharing a slice of your precious time with us :)
Posted by Monica samuel on Oct 18, 2021
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3 Past Reflections
On Oct 19, 2021Nisha wrote:
Thank you for these heartfelt recollections of what transpired behind the scenes and in front of t Monica! The documentation of the process itself is another gift to the communitym