I had the opportunity of visiting Sevagram on the outskirts of Wardha during one of the “store visits” last week.I was not only impressed but inspired by the simple message which Mahatma Gandhi gave to all of us by way of his living.I was left with an impression that while a lot of other leaders just “talk” Gandhiji “did” and that is why there are and there will be no parallels to him in times to come.
To share a brief history,in 1933 Gandhiji donated his ashram at Sabarmati to Harijan Sevak Sangh and moved to a village named Shegaon near Wardha which he renamed as Sevagram or the “Village of service” at that time it had just 1000 residents and the lad for the ashram was donated by Seth Jamnalal Bajaj who a great disciple of Mahatma.
Gandhiji had chosen Wardha essentially because it was at the center of India.Initially he built a kuti or hut for himself and another one for Ba.Later on his secretary Mahadev Desai and other moved in.
The key take aways for me after the visit to the ashram were :
Alpaahar – eating less
We had ordered for a ‘thali’ at the cafeteria which serves home cooked organic food and as the food was tasty we asked for refills which we were denied.Later I learnt that Gandhiji believed that food has to be taken with a belief that it is a medicine which will help my body to get strength and fight diseases so it has to be taken in an amount which justifies this belief – hogging is just not allowed.
I tried o keep my “alpaahar vow” for a couple of days but could not keep up.The good news is that my habit of watching what I eat has got more resolve.
Another aspect of the ashram that was striking was its simplicity.Today we live in a world that is full of sights and sounds.In fact if you look around you will find that most of us are afraid of being alone with themselves.We need someone or something constantly picking our senses whether its TV,radio,Ipod,cellphone,newspaper or something else.
We have just forgotten to relish our own company.Being by your own self is looked as a sign of going insane.
At the ashram There were none of the above distractions.Just a lot of good books to read and think about.
Dignity of labour
I had seen in the movie how Gandhiji has a fight with Ba and asks her to leave the house if she was not ready to clean the toilet by herself.
At the ashram I learnt that each and every chore was performed by the inmates whether it was cooking or cleaning.Even during the free time they spun the yarn with the famous “wheel”.Even the day I visited I found several of the old disciples of Gandhiji silently spinning the wheel completely immersed in their own self and enjoying what they were doing.Just by looking at them I could see a still mind full of patience,completely at peace with itself.
Interesting bit – The name “Bapu” or father was given to Mahatma Gandhi by Mahadev Desai at Wardha ashram.Soon everyone started calling him the same.
Below are some pictures that would help you capture the experience :
Gandhiji’s reading place.That is where he wrote most of letters and books.
Adi Niwas – Gandhiji’s hut
In a recent interview when President Obama was asked that if he gets a chance to have lunch with one of the great personalities in history who would it be.Obama promptly said that “it would be Mahatma Gandhi for sure”.He added that no other leader has inspired him more or has managed to change the thought of mankind and influence it as much as Mahatma Gandhi.
I think he made the right choice.I would do the same….