23 July, Ahmedabad to Mumbai
I awoke at 6.30am and organized a rickshaw to go to the Heritage Trail Walk in the centre of Ahmedabad. The Gandhian lady wrote the address in Gujurati for the driver. I got there at 7.15 but didn’t open until 8am. So I sat and watched people climb the steps of the temple to pray. I saw a lady with very short legs with sticks and reflected on the struggle of life for some people. Yet this is there journey.
The person arrives and I am shown a historical slide show of the city. Then my tour guide arrives and we walk the narrow laneways in Ahmedabad. It is interesting to see the tightly packed homes double story made from wood and all the wooden doors in a little area. The communities are labeled and have gates. Apparently there are secret passages in this little communities that only locals know. So you can escape. The city did have an early fortification which shows there was fear of attack. We go past the cow feeding towers. I laugh that they feed them from up high. There are bullocks on the street, stray dogs, squirrels, cows, donkeys and all sorts of wildlife. I love that about India. People are washing clothes in the water buckets. The homes are small but doors are open. Some people sleep on stretchers outside their homes. It is the way of things here. There are little fruit stalls, you can buy little cups of tea and it is a bustling city. The narrow alley ways are paved and there is an influence of British, Persians and Moguls here. There is islam, hindu and Jainism. We visit a 400 year old Jain temple. They say women menstruating cannot go inside as they are not pure. I could debate that but will do what the Romans do whilst in Rome. This is their way of life. So I will respect that. I see the delicately carved windows from teak that are all one piece of work, no joins. The artisanship is truly fascinating. We finish the tour at the large Mosque. Apparently Kashmir carpets for people to neel, although women do not visit this mosque I am told.
I walk for a bit then catch the Rickshaw to the university. My first view of the university is a banner speaking of harmony and unity, I am in the right place. I was advised by the Gandhians to visit and it turns out it is a Gandhian university. The picture of Gandhi is everywhere. For once I am glad to see this image everywhere. I walk into the uni and find the Vice Chancellor. I ask to see him, I am told where to go.
I walk into his office and notice his desk is on the floor and he sits on pillows with a laptop. I sit on the floor as well. It is very different from western style. He asks me why I am here I tell him I don’t know what I am doing, I am being. I then explain my background and he later tells me he felt it profound. I was surprised as I am not always understood. I speak as honestly as I can and I do have a profound feeling about Gandhi. I know this is the right place for me. We talk about Gandhi and he explains ‘to be the change you wish to see’ are not the exact words that Gandhi said. So it seems those words reflect his spirit. I will keep this in mind. We talk about peace and nonviolence. I wonder if anyone practices Gandhi as it seems the Indian society has forgotten this great soul as they are not living what was taught. They call him the father of India yet his principles seem relegated to history books. I find that fascinating. He fought for independence yet we see Kashmiris going through the same struggle, does anyone see the irony here. Insecurity is still a factor and how do you create stable and peaceful societies. How do you balance a modern life style with sustainability. How do you work to the highest potential and happiness. These are important questions for this time. We are rapidly heading downhill economically and ecologically and it is clear we are coming to a wall. There are limits to these activities and it seems there is an inability to change. It appears we are locked into lifestyles that are fuelled by growth yet the planet cannot sustain this. What happens when it collapses?
I have a great chat with this lovely man and then meet an arts type teacher. We share our interests in creativity. I liked her immediately. I was invited to go to the prayer session and invited to talk to 500 students. What amazed me was that all opened their little wooden boxes and started to spin cotton wool into cotton. It was heartening to see that Gandhi’s practices were still alive and the students were very focused. The teacher explained to me that their concentration increases when engaged in creative activity. I agree with this as I teach as a clown and having kids engaged in games opens up their receptivity to knowledge. So a gentleman gets up and speaks in Gujurati. Turns out he knew Gandhi personally. He is an old man but very peaceful I notice. I then get up and speak about my teaching of peace and love of Gandhi. It is a wonderful session.
I then go for some lunch, and groups of people invite me to chat. I meet women and men involved in women’s health and the challenges of getting information out to remote areas. We have a nice laugh together. I go back to another room and do emails and return to the lunch area for a coffee. I am happy to find children there. I pull out my juggling balls and have them gather around. Had a lovely time playing with them.
Later in the day I meet a teacher and discuss her work. She then takes me for dinner. It is pouring with rain (monsoon). We can’t get a rickshaw for me to go to the train station. So she organizes a motor bike with a friend and I am whisked through the streets and arrive at the train in plenty of time.
A lovely young Indian guy helps me with my ticket. Turns out he studied in Australia and had a great time, we discuss the many India’s and how different it is from Australia. He escorts me to my seat (out of his way). I am in un-airconditioned section which is considered more suss got to watch people. In reality it is a prejudice against the poor and perhaps there are more thefts, but that reflects unequal distribution of income. I remind myself we are all one and don’t feel unnerved. So I get to my seat and it definitely looks more grotty but the people are fine. I shake their hands and settle back. The train trip was pretty wild as the train shakes around a lot and is very noisy and windows are opened (no ac). I just lie on my bunk bed (6 to a section). I can’t sleep so I just lay there.
I return to Mumbai and back to Ritin’s. Now I am about to return to New Delhi tomorrow.