No one says Bon Appétit better than the French.
I love this story about the French comedian Coluche having a little idea of finding sponsors to open a free soup kitchen in Paris in 1985. He was planting a seed for an idea which grew to become the heart warming Restos du Coeur — a name that translates as Restaurants of the Heart, or Restaurants of Love. Currently they serve meals to over 600,000 people a day, with over 40,000 volunteers.
This is my first post for Aurai Online, a blog that I hope to blend my love for photography, for travel and my goal of awakening others to help people.
As I grew up, I moved around, living in three different states. Then, in high school, an opportunity came across my plate and I spent a year abroad in Germany. That year changed my life as I started questioning differences in cultures and breaking down my own judgment to understand people better.
In college, I became very involved in a volunteer group called Circle K, the collegiate division of the Kiwanis service organization. I spent hundreds of hours each year, participating in service projects throughout Baltimore (and all along the East Coast) — and began to dig deeper on how people relate to each other. I remember serving people in the Baltimore soup kitchens: it opened my eyes up as to how starkly different my life was and realized what I took for granted when I compared myself to those who struggle from day to day. Those days in the soup kitchen fed my compassion for people, as well as the feeling of gratitude, for all the opportunities that had come my way.
Fast-forward 5 years, I moved to London, UK to study my MBA. Being back in Europe, I took the opportunity to travel, but also started getting into photography with my first DSLR camera — the Canon 10D. I loved wandering around the streets of London taking pictures; and over the 9 years I lived in London, I polished my photography skills by joining meet-ups and social photography classes. You can browse over my portfolio at myemptybucket.com, or over on 500px.
My time in London was transformational.
Let me share how this transformation came about. A classmate in the MBA organized a meditation trip to India, where I joined my first 10-day Vipassana meditation course in 2005. It was one of those random, “this sounds interesting” things I did without any prior experience meditating, or really any forethought about what it entailed. It was challenging, and yet it planted seeds to what has become a daily practice in my life. During my MBA, I also met my wife, Anu, who was born and raised in India — adding yet a new perspective in my travel and culture: a wonderful combination which takes me back to India most every year.
In London, I started volunteering with the Samaritans — an organization supporting people who feel suicidal or who are in crisis — a group I volunteered with for 5 years, which furthered the compassion I had fostered in Baltimore. It was a strange balance between realizing how lonely and disconnected some people felt, but feeling an internal joy being surrounded by other volunteers who were giving up their time from their busy life to simply help support those in need. I miss the Samaritans greatly, but the immense love of serving and being of service, lives on.
I have since returned to the US to work more closely with my father, capitalizing on my skills in technology. But outside of work, I find myself curious to connect with an international crowd, to share my photography, and to learn more about cool and inspiring projects may be happening around the world — hence the motivation to start Aurai Online.
Like Coluche, having a seed of an idea to sponsor a soup kitchen, I hope this little seed I have will also blossom into a tree of connections and become a community of people, doing great things, to make life in our little blue planet even more wonderful and meaningful every single day.
Thank you for stopping by to read & share!
Also published on Medium.