Sewa Ashram at Wardha

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.

Simplicity-

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 :

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Gandhiji’s reading place.That is where he wrote most of letters and books.

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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….

Dr.Mallaya,Liquor,Gandhiji…

The cynics are on my Nokia.I have received 10 sms messages since yesterday declaring : Gandhiji hated liquor his whole life and his belongings were bought by Liquor baron Mallaya. 7_gandhi

How absurd and silly ?His great grandson and people who have devoted their life to Gandhiji’s ideals are so joyful that his belongings would not fall in the hands of some greedy firangi collector and they could perhaps be kept at the Ashram for Indians to see and get inspired.But my Cynical friends are crying their heart out for no rhyme or reason.

By forwarding a message they feel as if they are the true crusaders for the rights of a man who showed the entire world how to fight the oppressor.

Would highlight a few points to drill some sense into the matter :

1.Drinking was a social evil at that time as the villagers and mill workers used to spend all their wages on it depriving their families.It’s not like GandhiJi kept a bottle in front of him and kept saying“I hate you,I hate you,I hate you”

By this token the kind of fine spirits that Dr Mallaya makes cannot be afforded by laborers,daily wagers,small farmers and mill workers therefore we are targeting the wrong guy and fighting a wrong cause.

2.Gandhiji started the Khadi movement and spun his own yarn.Considering this GD Birla,the owner of largest textile mills in  India,was his opponent and competitor. Gandhiji’s freedom movement was not only  supported by Mr Birla.but in fact Mr. Birla was one of his closest friend and associate.

3.The cellphone operators have a bunch of copy writers who keep doling out cheeky remarks on subject that they know nothing about.People keep forwarding these congratulating themselves on being harbingers of reform and these guys keep watching their bank accounts swell.

Get some sense – by supporting a socialist cause you are in fact playing in the hands of smart capitalists.

60 Greatest Indians..

An old april issue of April 2008 of Indians today was lying on  someone’s table in the office so I picked it up.It has stories of 60 greatest sons and daughters of India which have been written by people who are either their biographers or disciples or in some cases children and relatives.The contents are highly inspiring and with each story I felt as if my own life was not reaching its logical conclusion.There is so much to be done if one decides to leave the safety net and decides to test their limits,potential.

One thing which is of significance is the fact as I went through the life stories of each of these extraordinary men and women I realised that they were all conected to each other.Almost all great scientists were mentored or inspired by Sir CV Raman.In more recent times Prof Abdul Kalaam gives and example of true leadership of Prof Satish Dhawan who stood for the failures of his team when the missile dropped into the Bay of Bengal but let Kalaam do the press conference when the mission succeeded.Similiarly Sardar VallabhBhai Patel stepped out thrice to head the congress convention in the favour of Nehru and both of them continued to work together for the making of India despite ideological differences.And the there was Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore who coached every great indian of his time and advised them in troubled times.Mahatma Gandhi perhaps did more work in the form of his disciples like BabaAmte,C Rajgoaplachari,Dr Rajendra Parasad than he did by himself.Where has that mindset gone? Why have we become so emotionally and socially bankrupt? When we fought the British the best came out of us and when we are fighting ourselves the worst in us is coming to life.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee is perhaps the only Indian listed who has proven to be above caste,creed religion and politics.He has proved to be a leader with a vision for modern India which even his adversaries admire.I will leave you with one of my favorite lines from him :

हार नहीं मानूंगा, रार नयी ठानूंगा

क़ाल के कपाल पर लिखता मिटाता हूं ,ग़ीत नया गाता हूं…..

Haar nahin manoonga,Raar ( Zidd) nayee thaanoonga

Kaal ke Kapaal par Likhta Mitata hoon,Geet Naya Gaata Hoon…