Our next stop was scheduled in a school in a sacred town—Siddhpur. This town is an ancient town most famous for performing religious rituals for deceased mother. This doesn’t happen anywhere in India, except here. This town also holds importance to the affluent Bohra Muslim community and also the largest producer of husk in the country.
I was quite uncomfortable with the blisters on me and took a halt every one hour. This made us quite slow. In the morning, when we walked silently, I looked up above the sky so high and saw many diamonds in the sky. The sky was full of stars that I never noticed in my city – the concrete jungle. The sky was so clear, the climate was beautiful and we were walking silently towards our destination. This was the first time we touched the national highway and took utmost precaution not to come under the tire of any truck. Yogesh Mathuria is fond of using a global positioning system on his mobile phone and I am fond of asking for address personally. I think that by using too much technology, we kill the human touch.
We had almost completed walking 100 kilometers and almost reach our destination. We were welcomed by our host in Yoganjali School. This school was founded by a great woman who is a Gandhian and had walked with Acharya Vinoba Bhave all around India for more than 10 years. They had hundreds of little children that I met. After breakfast, we met this 80-year young lady—Ramila Gandhi and just kept watching her for a few moments.
She was like a Goddess, wrapped in cotton Indian drape, sitting on her seat, fluent in English, Hindi and Gujarati, and an aura around her. A lady, in her early 80s, but beautiful than Miss Universe!
I got hijacked and they way she welcomed her with her sweet voice, it killed me, man. She started asking about our journey and my mentor told him about our peace pilgrimage.
Then, I asked to share her story. As she was sharing her journey, I was just looking at her like a rock and feeling so frightened within. She shared that she had left her home at the age of 20 and joined national teacher and spiritual successor of Mahatma Gandhi for the Land Gift Movement. I was getting chills listening to her story and felt almost like a quark in front of her. I thought that I was the one who is doing a difficult task, walking for peace and all that stuff but when I got to know that she walked for the cause for 10 years, I remained quiet for the whole day.
Can you believe? A young lady of 20 years or so, leaving her home against the will of her parents and joining a man who was supposed to walk India for 25 years asking for land for rich landlords.
This is f***ing awesome!
She told us how she walked all around India in the 1950s and collected land from the rich landowners and gifted the poor farmers. After that, she came and established this school, all alone. It was a “Man Oriented” world then (and it is still now) and all that she did to establish a school at that time was a real tough job. She never married and has given all her life for education and service, selfless service. She is a firm believer in self-reliance and had built a home of mud and all Eco-friendly products.
We were eager to meet the children and address them about our mission. Children are the tools for change, and I blend well with them. Yogesh Mathuria started addressing them and told all about his mission and life. But, I think he means serious business and they got a bit bored. Seeing this, he handed over the conversation to me.
I started with a bang. I told them about my career in the animation industry and my journey of life since childhood. By the grace of the almighty, I have a talent for connecting with children within a minute. I won their hearts and attention. We shared our mission and I even promised them to share the craft of Origami.
After lunch, immediately we came together and I taught a few of them making a fighter airplane with paper. They were so mesmerized like they have never seen such a thing before. And, it’s such a crude truth that they have never. We in big cities see airplanes in our daily life but children sating in small towns or villages rarely even see paper planes. This information gap makes me unhappy.
In the evening, we were offered a city tour by a member of the school. He promised us an exciting tour with joyous moments. He was kind to become our guide and we started with the famous Bohra Muslim area of the city. It’s a plush locality with ancient homes. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Then, we visited the famous temple that offers to perform religious rituals for deceased mother. This place became popular when the superstar of Hindi film industry visited this temple for her mother.
We had lots of fun in the evening and we came back just before the prayer time. After the prayer, the second-in-command of the living legend requested to share some video and audio editing skills, so that she can become self-sufficient. I happily—and effectively—fulfilled her wish and gifted her a bit of my knowledge that will support her become self-reliant for life. After that, we had good food, joyful chat with children and went to sleep.
All night I had been thinking that I missed an opportunity to put my feet on the living legend’s feet. I had never done this before because I never felt this way for anyone else. But, this lady was something different. I had missed the opportunity but I got a shock of my life in the morning. The living legend was waiting to wish us goodbye in the morning. This was a nostalgic scene and I immediately put my head on her feet and took her blessings.
We both were first timers that day. I had never done this before, she—the living legend—had never done this before!