Restaurant No 72

Dr. K's Diary: Articles by Dr. Madan Kataria May 14 2024 168
Restaurant No 72-img

Let me tell you about a very special act of kindness I personally experienced in August 2006, when 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.

To begin with, the restaurant was strangely called ‘72’, which was the actual street address. On entering, we were completely taken aback – 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 completely enjoyed it. Then there was another strange custom followed after meals. Since it was a self-service establishment, we had to rinse our own dishes when we finished eating. But, the best was yet to come. There was a huge donation box at the counter for whatever contribution one felt like making before leaving the restaurant – That was it. The generosity and trust in such an unbelievable concept really moved me.

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. 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 told me that all the cooks were volunteers and while she only supplied the raw material, 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 as she practiced random acts of kindness on a daily basis made me realize that service to mankind is the easiest way to become spiritual and to glean true happiness in life. These random acts of kindness are done without expecting anything in return and whose value cannot be underestimated. This story is a beautiful example of kindness in order to generate true happiness which is bringing a smile to someone’s face, and then creating a bond for life.

As you practice the art of laughing, you will realize that generosity and the ability to give are the natural byproducts of laughter. It is the easiest method to dissolve the ego and start flowing from the inside out. Rather than taking, start giving. As Gandhi said, “The fragrance always remains on the hand that gives the rose.” You have so little to lose and so much to gain – just do it!