Seva Cafe on YouTube


It is a restaurant like no other, a shimmering oasis of the gift-economy in the heartless desert of the market economy. Diners pay what they want, from the heart, so that someone else may in the future enjoy the experience they are having; their food has already been paid for in advance, and they will recieve no tally at the meal’s end. It is a place where the volunteers who run the place, and patrons who dine there, share in contemplation — and the direct cultivation — of service, compassion, and giving. It is Ahmedabad’s Seva Cafe.

This experiment in unconditional giving is now more than one year old, and going strong. It has not only thrived, it has been replicated elsewhere: at Auroville’s Indus Valley, at the Be the Cause Southern California Seva Cafe, and soon at a new Seva Cafe in Berkeley.

It is also the subject of a very nice short film currently playing on YouTube. The film was made by four students at Ahmedabad’s National Institute of Design: Arti Shah, Namrata Siviya, Shagun Rastogi, and Bhavana Singh. Service superstar Anjali Desai makes her Indian film debut! Check it out!

I had the priviledge to work on Seva Cafe prior to its opening, to be its very first customer, and one of its first volunteer chefs. I wrote about those experiences in Ocober of 2005 in Seva Cafe and Seva Cafe Rocks On. I was also lucky enough to be at the opening night of the Seva Cafe in Southern California, and plan to dine next week for the first time at Indus Valley Cafe, which is about fifteen kilometers from my home in Ponidcherry.

You may not have a Seva Cafe near you, and may never have the chance to experience what it feels like to be served in a restaurant with pure generosity, and unconditional love that you may have felt when dining in the homes of your friends and family. But we can all celebrate this unique achievment in institutionalizing the gift economy. I challenge each of you to find one opportunity to be of help to someone you do not know, and from whom you expect to gain absolutely nothing from your service. In the parlance of the day: go out and commit an act of anonymous kindness. And when you do so, remind yourself how lovely it feels to operate in the gift economy.

To learn more about the gift economy, check out the many scholarly articles available on the web. Wikipedia is always a good place for a summary. If you want a nice example of how it works in daily life, you can read about one recent transaction in my post, A Gift of Cloth.


6 Responses to “Seva Cafe on YouTube”

  1. 1 Nitesh Jain 10 February 2007 at 2:53 pm

    hi my name is nitesh. i am regular volunteer at seva cafe, ahmedaabd,India…since 1 month after it was started. I am very to see that you had written about seva cafe on your blog…..would also like to know more about you….reply me soon…..

  2. 2 mbjesq 10 February 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Nitesh, et al.:

    There is more than this on Seva Cafe on my blog. Pop “Seva Cafe” into the search box and it will come up.

    Also, check out Yoo-Mi’s blog, essere ( and John’s blog ( for other stories.

    To learn more about me… um… read my blog. This stuff is the best peek into my exciting life and twisted mind.

    Thanks for serving at Seva Cafe. You rock!


  3. 3 sandrar 10 September 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. :) Cheers! Sandra. R.

  4. 4 Ahmeabad 30 January 2010 at 4:59 am

    We are very much thanksful if you can provide the more details of SEVA CAFE on as we are just blogging specially for Ahmedabadi’s we are planning to publish in gujarati also.

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