Monday, February 28, 2005

Dancing Peacocks



I thought that peacock sightings were rare even in India, but we seem to run into the beautiful birds everywhere!

As we were walking around in an ashram for our early morning prayers, a peacock quietly sat on top of a gazebo watching the sunrise. At this particular ashram, you can find almost 80 species of birds...perhaps because there are rows and rows of mango, amla, and chikoo trees whose fruits can't be plucked by humans and are only to be enjoyed by the birds!

Sunday, February 27, 2005

A Quiet Afternoon Nap



Gandhi once said, "The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated." Near the Sabarmati river that runs behind the Gandhi Ashram, you can see all types of different animals ... especially pigs. Above is a whole family resting on a hot afternoon, although the little one in the middle seems to be done with his nap.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Bloom



Those who know me know that my blog wouldn't be complete without pictures of nature and animals. Fortunately, India has both in abundance. :)

The flowers above (I forget their name) are beautiful and are just starting to bloom. As a kid, I would hold the little bulb between my fingers until it made a "pop" sound and revealed the flowers. You're probably not suppossed to do that, but hey, I was kid. And I have to admit that I had to do that even now, at least once to make sure it still works. ;)

(This picture is taken in Matar, Gujarat.)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Mmmm...paan


Mmmm...paan

After dinner with some relatives, John tries the sweet Paan for the first time! From the aloo paranthas and curd in Punjab to paneer dosas of Mumbai to the freshly cooked Gujarati meals at the Gandhi Ashram, the food has been amazing! We keep thinking it's going to go downhill any day but it just keeps getting better.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the children at ManavSadhana eat some of the most nutritious as well as delicious meals in the area. Every day they have milk and ghee (which is uncommon for any hostel in India) as well as ladoos every week. ManavSadhana also runs many nutritious centers around the city for children as well as newborn babies and their mothers.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Messiah


Jayesh-bhai greeted us at the entrance of ManavSadhana with a huge smile along with a hundred kids from the hostel. This man that I’ve heard so much about, the inspiration behind ManavSadhana, who’s met everyone from the Dalai Lama to the President of India, is truly one of the most humblest person I have ever met. Born at the Gandhi Ashram, he’s dedicated his entire life to service.

The next few days he took time out from his busy schedule to show us around and introduce us to various projects that MS is involved with. There are literally hundreds of initiatives serving the poor around Ahmedahbad. One of the most inspiring days for me was a walk through the slums that are a home to about 150,000 people. The major occupation there is rag-picking, which involves sorting through trash to find anything valuable to sell for a few rupees to the recycling hubs.

Jayesh-bhai knew pretty much everyone in town or rather everyone knew him. As we walked through the tiny streets filled with trash, the young and the old alike stopped what they were doing and shouted a hearty Namaste with folded hands. He discussed health with the sick and cleanliness with the children, as he picked each one up and stroked their hair. Most of all, he made them feel loved. Whether it was a baby, an elderly, or teenagers, they all had his undivided attention. He had nothing but concern and compassion for everyone he passed.

As we walked back to the Gandhi Ashram seemingly worlds apart, Jayesh-bhai had more people waiting in the living room for his advice and help. Patiently he sat listening to each person’s problems. No one was ever turned away, which explains the number of programs run by MS, if they don’t have the solutions, they’ll create them.

I pondered over the magnitude of not the number of people Jayesh-bhai has helped throughout his life, but the humility and compassion that he approaches each situation with day after day. I feel both privileged and blessed to be in his company for he represents the light that is in each of us but he's definitely someone that shines that light a little bit brighter.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

In Tune


Gandhi Ashram, India

Music and art are a huge part of ManavSadhna. On this particular day, someone randomly started playing the tabla, someone else pulled out the guitar, and before we knew it, everyone gathered around in a circle for a little singing. More than the bhajans, we all laughed our hearts out!

(This is the main living room of the Gandhi Ashram, where hundreds of people would come each day, asking for help and advice. They' ve preserved most of the ambience, from the time Gandhi-ji was here.)

Monday, February 14, 2005

Reaching Gandhi Ashram


Gandhi-ji's Home

Rows of smiling kids greeted us, as we first lay foot on the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad. It was all courtesy of Jayeshbhai, Anarben, Virenbhai -- the founders of "Manav Sadhna", which means 'service to humanity' -- who gave us a hearty welcome.

As we toured some of the projects, we also met with Tushar Gandhi (the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, pictured third from the right) who happenned to be visiting at the time. He's organizing a re-enactment of Dandi March, the 385 kilometer walk that Gandhi and his followers embarked on to protest the salt tax in 1930. Commemorating the 75th anniversary, Tushar Gandhi's ‘International Walk for Peace, Justice and Freedom’ will follow the same route from Gandhi Ashram to Dandi, from March 12th to April 7th.

The above picture is in front of the house where Gandhi-ji and Kasturba lived for many years.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Mumbai

The streets filled
with people,
coming and going
minding their own business.
Stopping for a moment,
means running the risk
of getting trampled on.

Stalls selling chai
in little plastic cups.
Dogs in deep sleep
under the hoods of taxis
hiding from the scorching sun.
Taxi-wallahs
looking for passengers.

Each block has its own smell:
freshly made samosas,
mouth-watering sweets,
flowers, trash,
human waste,
sandalwood incense,
and of course,
freshly made chai.

A city filled
with millions of people
from the richest
to the poorest;
Homeless kids begging for money,
even younger ones playing
on the sidewalks.
What will become of them?
Who will look after them?

A blind man singing
in a crowded train,
from the deepest part
of his heart,
makes you want to
give him everything
you’ve got
but I let him pass me by.
Grateful
to the next guy
who gives him a rupee.

Seeing the poverty,
one can fathom
why the rich,
want to hold onto
their wealth:
the fear, the insecurity,
of becoming like --
the others.
Poverty
so close to home.
The glamour of Bollywood,
fancy restaurants,
designer stores
much more
appealing.
It’s easier to look
the other way
than to find
a solution.

Yet, there are
the courageous ones
who find ways to help
that often go unrecognized.
Bit by bit
they’re making
a difference.
Food for the hungry,
services for the poor,
a kind word for the down-trodden.

This is Mumbai,
Gateway of India.
In all its glamour,
With all its trials
and tribulations.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Doors Opening


Hawa Mahal (Jaipur, India)

Doors have always intrigued me ... architecturally and symbolically. You never know what lies on the other side until you open it. Fortunately in this journey, many people have had their doors wide open for us and awed us with their hospitality.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Beginning of a Journey

After months of much thought and consideration, we're finally off to our journey in India. We've moved out of our place and gotten rid of most of our belongings. We have no real plans. With the blessings of many, we'll go with the flow.

PapaUncle -- Nipun's Dad -- used an analogy couple of weeks ago that seems appropriate for the trip. During one of our meditation circles, he shared that life can either be like a mountain where your goal is to get to the top, or like a river that flows effortlessly into the direction that is most natural and eventually merges into the large ocean.

When you're climbing uphill, going to the mountaintop, there's a constant struggle but in the end you reach the top no matter which side you start from and see the entirety of the universe.
For me, the analogy of the river flowing along is naturally a more attractive one. In this journey, I hope to be like the river that flows along. I know we'll hit a few rocks along the way but if the current is strong even the largest rock feels like a mere pebble.