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MCG – SCG Yatra - Day 8

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

Mooroopna to Shepparton to Cosgrove

Before I start with day's account of events, I would like to talk about what the word Yatra means. In layman's terms, yatra means travel. Yatra means going from A to B. Yatra means change of place. Yatra means travel by not just physical body, but it could also mean travel by subtle body or travel of thoughts, However, the most commonly used expression of yatra means travel to a holy place or shrine or pilgrimage, Millions of Hindus travel to Tirupati BalaJi, or Mata Vaishno Devi, Sikhs go to the Golden Temple (Sri Harmandir Sahib), Muslims travel to the Mecca, and similarly, Christians go to Rome or hundreds of thousands of pilgrims walk to the famous Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. This definition of yatra is associated with traveling to please the Divine and spiritual upliftment. And that is exactly my feeling about this walk to support the McGrath Foundation that has been doing such a commendable work on behalf of the Divine to assist thousands of Australian families affected by breast cancer. Hats off to everyone involved in making this level of care possible. The 1,000 Km walk on my part is just a small droplet in the large ocean of things and I thank everyone for giving me the opportunity to be a part of it.

There would be a change of guard today. Jit Ingrish (commonly known as Doctor Sahib) my friend, who had been kind enough to be my pilot since last Sunday would be returning home to Craigieburn. Michael, a Chinese friend would take over to drive the support vehicle for the next seven days.

The arrangement was for three parties to meet up at around 8:30 AM in Shepparton outside the council offices, an easy to find landmark in any town. First, my brother Vinod Malhotra would bring supplies of ready-to-eat food in disposable plastic containers. I would just need to heat them up in the microwave that we had in the van. Second, Michael would drive from Melbourne and meet us there. His car would be left in Shepparton parked somewhere for a week. Third, Jit and I would drive from the Gurudwara to Mooroopna and resume the walk where it was left off yesterday outside the Post Office. We would also reach the council offices around 8:30. Vinod on his way back would drop Jit off at Craigieburn which is directly on the way to Footscray where he has a restaurant.

After spending the night in the van parked at the Gurudwara Shepparton, Jit and I were getting ready when there was knock on the van door. Bhai Makhan Singh, the world’s humblest Granthi (priest) was standing there in person and requesting us to come in and have tea before leaving. Of course, we obliged. We first went upstairs to have darshan and pay respect to Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Meeting Bhai Makhan Singh and his team was a very humbling experience. The level of hospitality was unbelievable. To the most respected Bhai Makhan Singh ji, A Big Thank you for taking care of us in a town where we didn’t know anyone. Thank you.

Jit and I drove to Mooroopna and resumed today’s walk towards Shepparton. Michael sent me a text saying that he was running late and he would arrive around 10:00 as he had to attend some urgent business. Vinod cancelled the trip because he had been coughing throughout the night and hadn’t slept well. Vinod had just returned from India a couple of days ago and perhaps had not yet got over the jet-lag.

Jit and I had a coffee at a place on Wyndham St in Shepparton. Georgie from the ABC Radio was going to interview me for her morning program that she ran Monday to Friday. She joined us at the coffee shop and recorded the interview. By the time, Georgie completed her Q&A session, Michael had arrived. We started looking for a safe and secure parking place to leave Michael’s car for the whole week. Someone suggested the parking lot at Coles/Kmart would be alright. I was a bit apprehensive about the idea of leaving the car unattended in a public place for that long. So, I rang some people I had met the previous day at the Gurudwara. We drove the van and the car to the Shepparton Railway Station and dropped Jit off to catch the 12:28 train to Melbourne. We parked the car outside a young Indian friend’s place and dropped the key into his letter box, in case he needed to shift the car.

Finally, we started the walk from Shepparton to Cosgrove around 2:30/3:00 PM which was very late for my liking. However, sometimes the circumstances are as such and you just have to accept it. About two hours after we started the walk, a car travelling towards me stopped and the woman driver asked me if I was walking for fundraising. When I nodded my head in yes, she handed me $20 and didn’t want a receipt. Before I could get out the receipt book, she had driven off. Nevertheless, to keep account of every dollar we collect, I wrote one out anyway under anonymous.

After a couple of breaks, we were still five Kms away from our intended destination Cosgrove. It was after 7:15 PM and it was beginning to get dark and there was no sign of any town for miles. A farmer and his wife travelling from the opposite direction coming towards me stopped and asked if my car had broken down and if that was the reason why I was walking on this quiet road at that time of the evening in the middle of nowhere. When I told them that no, my car was not broken down, but the reason for my walk was fundraising for the McGrath Foundation and pointed out to the support vehicle following me. The farmer’s wife then realised that she had seen me on the TV and my face looked familiar. They asked me where we planned to camp that night. I said, we would continue to walk to Cosgrove and stay at a caravan park. The farmer explained that this place was Cosgrove. He told me that Cosgrove was not a town but an area and there was no pub or caravan park for miles. They asked us if we would like to stay at their property, which was just a few hundred meters away. We took up the offer and followed them to their farmhouse.

Paul and Maree O’Sullivan looked after us (Michael and myself) as if we were part of their own family. The level of their hospitality was incredible and extended beyond any limits. It wasn’t just coffee and dinner or the dessert that mattered, it was the feeling, the positive vibes that connect us all humans as a society. It was the approach from the moment they invited us to stay at theirs. Thanks to this incredible family, we had a great evening and a safe place to stay.

I went off to have a shower in their bathroom before going to sleep in the van. They left their front door unlocked all night so that we could enter the house anytime we needed to use the toilet or the bathroom. Next morning, we had breakfast with them and borrowed their ladder to put some stickers on the van. Paul was extremely helpful with everything we asked for and Maree was like a mother feeding the family. Before we left, they also made a generous donation to the McGrath Foundation. I would like to place on record my gratitude for the trust the O’Sullivan Family had placed in total strangers. Paul and Maree, you have a heart of gold, you guys are simply amazing. I am unable to think of appropriate words to thank you for what you did to support us. A big thank and hats off to you!

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