August 9, 2013
Lakshmi Vilas Palace – Sankalp (Lunch) – Practice – Surya (Dinner)
The day of August 9th was filled with pleasant activities. Before I describe this day’s activities, we have to remember a few people because of whom the Saurashtra trip and the stay in Vadodara went smoothly.
Nimishkaka or Nimishbhai, researched and bargained with all the hotels in the cities we visited. He was in constant communication with hotel owners and managers, and he even visited some of the hotels beforehand to see how they were. After we selected hotels he made all the reservations on our behalf. Nimishbhai took care of all our transportation logistics and anything we needed. He would always tell us to let him know if there was any work. One day, at the last minute we found out that Hotel Royal Orchid Central could not provide us a space for practice. Immediately, Nimishbhai arranged a big hall at a nearby club for our practice. Then, he was worried about our drinking water. He, himself, brought a huge package of large water bottles and carried them all the way upstairs. He was thinking of our needs ahead of time and got them done on time with a smile. He and his family hosted our lunch at Sankalp.
It is time to remember, Mukundbhai, Maltiben, Virajben and their family members, who hosted us for three days when we were finalizing most of our planning before the trip. Their support was amazing. They were ready to help us–whether it was researching restaurants in all the cities we visited or putting together all the individual snack bags, or any other work. They arranged our trip to the Lakshmi Vilas Palace and also hosted our dinner at Surya. When our city tour guide canceled at the last minute, Rasheshbhai, Nimishbhai’s brother, gladly agreed to accompany us, guiding the bus driver and pointing out historical city sights.
Nilesh and Apexa hosted a fun dinner at a pizza restaurant in Vadodara, and the Parikh family hosted a dinner in Porbandar. Jaymeenbhai, Nixitaben, Nayanaben, and Truptiben took care of the snacks for our trip. Our four doctors were constantly helpful, taking care of patients and making sure we were taking good precautions. All others helped in various ways and were ready to help whenever need arose. Having spiritual background, there was no ego creating any problem. Everyone followed the guidelines. One outsider said that having so many people together for few days and not having a single dispute, that itself is a big achievement. It was a group of happy people. They were happy within, so external adjustments did not bother them.
The bus came to the Royal Orchid Central hotel to take us all for an excursion of Vadodara and Lakshmi Vilas Palace. When we got down at the palace, Mukundbhai was waiting to greet us and to make sure we had a good time. He had paid for our tickets. It is a huge palace that is worth seeing. We can see how Sayajirao Gaekwad combined eastern and western art and architecture in the palace. A guide showed us all possible rooms that we can see. We also saw Ravi Varma’s paintings. From the literature it seems that Swami Vivekananda had visited the palace and had seen Ravi Varma’s paintings. He also had praised Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwas. Swami Vivekananda had told Prince Martand Varma at Trivandrum that “of all the ruling princes he had met, he had been most impressed with the capacity, patriotism, energy and foresight of H.H. the Gaekwad of Baroda.” Swamiji was also perhaps impressed with the Maharani of Gaekwad because he wrote on February 17, 1901 to Miss Macleod from Belur Math “I hope you will go to Baroda and see Maharani” Rasheshbhai guided the bus driver, so we could see few major sites of the old city of Vadodara.
The next stop was the Sankalp restaurant for lunch. Nimishbhai and family hosted this lunch. A section was reserved for all of us. Some people ordered 4-feet long dosa for a table and were amazed to see its length. Sankalp restaurants is a chain. The Sanklap restaurant of Vijayawada had produced 48-feet long dosa and was in the Guinness world record book. People ate varieties of things. Almost all the Vidyapith people who came to attend the convention were here. After lunch many ate “paan” and had good deserts. A group photo was taken at the restaurant.
Now, it was the time for practice. As mentioned before, Nimishbhai found a hall nearby for us. The bus took us there. We all gathered in an empty hall and sat on the floor. It was an air-conditioned room. We practiced the Shanti Mantras, recitations, Bhajan, dhoon and our “Arise! Awake!…” song. For more than two hours we practiced. During the practice there was a very heavy rain storm. It was about 6:45 p.m. and we had to go to Surya Hotel for dinner. When we left, rain had almost stopped.
Within half an hour we arrived at the Surya Hotel. As soon as we entered into a decorative and well-lit reception room, we found a sign that said, “Welcome to delegates of Vidyapith Family, New Jersey. @5th Avenue Hall (5th floor)” We went to the 5th floor and there was a similar sign at the door. It was a special dinner. The dinner was hosted by Mukundbhai and Maltiben & Family. They welcomed us inside a big banquet room. Decorative table-cloths, chairs covered with white covers, special lights, and people created a very good mood for dinner. Some soft drinks were served. People got some time to talk to each other. Soon, the room was full of joyful noise. Nisha introduced the host family members. People then enjoyed appetizers, the main course menu items, and deserts. There was a family oriented environment in the hall. After desert, everyone received a gift of the book, “In Indian Culture, why do we…” All were very happy by the loving hospitality of the host. While going home, there was no bus and because of rain it was difficult to get many rickshaws. So, Nimishbhi and Mukundbhai’s son Kunalbhai gave rides to all of us from the Surya hotel to the Royal Orchid Central hotel. For this, they had to make several trips between the hotels.
It was late at night, but a few adults who were in charge of the accounting, sat together and finalized the accounts. Then, all slept thinking about the two-day International Youth Convention that was starting the next day. We had planned to reach at the auditorium by 8:15 a.m.
“Even the least work done for others awakens the power within, gradually instills into the heart the strength of a lion.” – Swami Vivekananda