In May 2020, Amanda Reid had a realization that would take her on an unexpected emotional journey.
She was on the phone seeking help for her sleep problems from a spiritual teacher she met in India seven years prior.
While she was walking around in the sunshine close to her coastalin Maroubra, he was in a hard lockdown in Pune, a sprawling city around 150km southeast of Mumbai.
“He was sitting in his apartment with no food, with– and he was trying to help me sleep on the other side of the world. I got a real sense of who he was,” Amanda told SBS News.
Before that call, Amanda hadn’t spoken to Vikash Gaurav since she met him in Pune in 2013.
Vikash, a social worker, and therapist, helped Amanda practice her mantras and meditation.
“He realized I was searching for something spiritual and not finding it,” Amanda said. “From the goodness of his heart, he wasthat there was nothing beyond that.”
Then after COVID-19 hit, Amanda became absorbed in her spiritual practice again and reached back out to Vikash.
“I sent him a text. He didn’t remember me but said, ‘you’ve come to me for a reason, so let’s get into it.”
Amanda then decided she wanted to help Vikash and the other Indians in lockdown somehow.
“Knowing how tough the pandemic had made things in India, I asked him if he could suggest a charity for my friends and me to donate to,” she said.
His reply was short: “Justto me, and I’ll make sure it’s used effectively”.
It triggered an inward journey for Amanda – could she trust a near-stranger with her money?
Unable to work and rely onwhile recovering from her complex health issues, she had little money.
“The reality was it had been six and aof no contact, and then someone who was clearly in dire financial straits themselves, from what I could gather, was saying, ‘Send money to me’. It was this inward journey of ‘do I trust him or not?'”
Amanda took what felt like a “leap of faith” and cobbled together $200 to send.
“I had to trust it would go where it needed to go,” she said.
‘I started crying.’
Vikash used Amanda’s money to distribute food and essentials to those in his community unable to work or claim financial support and pay his neighbors’ electricity bills so they could.
It was no easy feat.
Established charities on the ground in Pune had been hampered by not being able to risk the health of their volunteers.
Vikash had little money himself, and his scooter had broken down. Plus, he had to garner police support to go into prohibited areas.
To prove what he was doing, he sent Amandawith messages of thanks from those her money had helped.
The footage brought her to tears.
“I started crying when I saw them because all these people were ‘thank you, Amanda’. It had a big emotional impact on me,” she said.
“II’m any more special than others here, and it’s not much money, but I guess that is the point – over there, a little went a long way.
“[Vikash’s] dedication and commitment spells hope to me – and that is worth nurturing.”
In the months following, Amanda collected more money from. In August 2020, she sent another $600; in May 2021, when India was in the throes of a deadly new and combatting a new virulent variant, she sent another $1,150. Vikash said he will always be grateful to Amanda and others in Australia who gave money to help.