Traveling has been a great learning experience for me. We come across people from different cultures and backgrounds. To see how they live and to know what makes them happy is an interesting facet of wandering around the world.
I travel for almost 7- 8 months in a year to spread the word of laughter worldwide. Though tedious, my passion for laughter keeps me going. In spite of working 16 hours a day, I never feel tired.
In August 2006, my wife Madhuri and I went to Langkawi, a beautiful island in Malaysia. While on our way from the airport to the hotel, our host decided to stop for lunch. We went to a Chinese restaurant, which was perhaps the most unique eatery I have ever come across. The whole concept in that place deeply touched and inspired me.
What was different in this restaurant?
Next time you visit Langkawi don’t forget to visit Restaurant Number 72
To begin with, the restaurant was strangely called 72, which was the actual number of the shop. On entering, we were completely taken a back – there were no waiters, no menu cards, no managers and no system of billing! There was just a tastefully laid out buffet with a board that read, ‘Eat as much as you want and pay whatever you can afford’.
What a treat! There was rice, noodles, soup and different kinds of vegetables. Being a vegetarian, I loved it. As part of self service, we even had to rinse the dishes after eating.
But, the best was yet to come.
There was a huge donation box at the counter and before leaving the restaurant, one could make some contribution – That was it. An unbelievable concept! It really moved me to see generosity tapped in such a subtle way.
By now, I was very curious to know the person behind this ingenious idea. Luckily, the founder – a young Chinese lady happened to drop by. Excuse me for not remembering her name as I misplaced her card. She looked very happy as we sat down to chat. I had seen several charitable organizations serving food for free but never seen a restaurant in a market place that literally offered a free fare. The kind hearted lady told me that Langkawi is a haven for tourists but very often some of them, especially students do not have enough money to pay for meals. She even told me that all the cooks were volunteers. She only supplied the raw material and they prepared the food in their house and brought it to the restaurant.
Intrigued by her logistics, I couldn’t help but ask her how she managed the funding as there was no guarantee how much people would donate. She said, “You’ll be surprised to know that we never run out of finances. People always put in more money than they eat.”
Incidentally, I had put 100 USD in the box which was much above the actual cost, but I was very impressed by her benevolence and the contribution was just a small way of thanking her.
Meeting her was no less than a spiritual experience. Seeing her radiate with happiness doing this divine job, I realized that service to mankind is the easiest way to be spiritual.
Next time you visit Langkawi don’t forget to visit Restaurant Number 72 – it is really an act of charity in accordance with the inner spirit of laughter…Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha
See some more photos of Restaurant No 72 –