In 2014, I was on a no-money walking pilgrimage with one of the designers of my life. I walked more than 300 kilometers from Ahmadabad to Udaipur; without any money on me. Isn’t that awesome!
On our journey, we had many schools and one such school—Yoganjali—was very special. They had hundreds of little children that I met. After breakfast, we met this 80-year young lady, Ramilben Gandhi, and just kept watching her for a few moments.
She was like a Goddess, wrapped in khadi saree, sitting on her throne, fluent in English, Hindi and Gujarati, and an aura around her. A lady, in her 80s, but beautiful than Miss Universe! I got hijacked and they way she welcomed her with her sweet voice, it killed me. She started asking about our journey and my mentor told him about our no-money walking 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—Vinoba Bhave—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 with Vinoba 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 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 men 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.
Next morning, I put my head on her feet and had her thoughts all through the journey. I wonder when I see some women who say I am a modern woman, today’s woman. I feel that wasn’t she a modern woman too? Left her home in the 20s, walked for a cause all around India, promoted self-reliance, establish a school alone etc.
Who is modern then? Maybe, both women are modern but I firmly believe that modernism has nothing to do with clothes, language or gadgets. It has to do with courage, thoughts, character and a heart full of love that Ramilaben Gandhi had got 60 years ago!