Ali, Faiz and Abdulai at the Gandhi Memorial in New Delhi, India
Indian, Afghan and human poverty Faiz, Abdulai, Ali and I are travelling in India to learn from Gandhian practitioners ( in Ekta Parishad ). We wish to learn how to mobilize people from the villages to protest non-violently. Immediately, we’re encountering our own poverty. Our flexible travel itinerary : 6th Jan to 9th Jan : New Delhi 10th to 15th Jan : Bhopal 15th to 21st Jan : Ahmedabad 23rd to 26th Jan : Aliabad? 27th Jan : Return to Kabul Afghanistan 6th Jan : Firsts for Faiz, Abdulai, Ali First time on plane First time above clouds First time having pineapples First time on elevator, travelator First time using standing urinal and automatic sink-tap First time in a big city that’s green ( Delhi ) First feelings penned at Kabul International Airport : Faiz – ‘excited’ Ali – ‘very happy’ Abdulai – ‘eager to learn’ Hakim – ‘opportunity’ Kathy Kelly – ‘relieved, open’ Maya Evans ( UK peace activist ) – ‘discovery, adventure’ 7th Jan : Other Firsts First time up close to a Hindu temple First time seeing so many women with uncovered heads First time in underground Metro First time being a foreigner
homeless in India
8th Jan : More Firsts First time in multimedia memorial museum ( Gandhi Memorial ) First time seeing a lifelike statue ( of Gandhi and his wife ) First time presenting to an audience abroad ( about 100 students at Jawaharlal Nehru University ) – AYPVs spoke about : ‘Upon awakening, do not live normally.’ 9th Jan : Lodhi Garden and Gandhi Peace Foundation Lodhi was a Pathan – the garden had green lawns, old ruins, swans, squirrels, parrots and other birds, smooching lovers Gandhi Peace Foundation -meeting held to discuss a high court case of an Indian activist charged with visiting a political prisoner, sedition included as one of the charges -short messages to Indian human rights activists, AYPVs spoke about : ‘Dissolving the borders of peace’
Kathy Kelly ( USA ) , Paul and Kathrin ( Canada )
at the World Peace Gong in Gandhi Memorial
10th Jan : Railway train to Bhopal It was a comfortable 8-hour ride on the train from Delhi to Bhopal. Fields, fields, fields, litter, litter, litter, cattle, cattle, cattle… We shared a urgent feeling for human livelihoods to return to the fields. Jim Loney, a Canadian Christian Peacemaker Team activist shared his experience of being kidnapped for 118 days in Iraq, which he describes in his book ‘Captivity’. Kidnappers have those who love them and whom they love, too. The Iraqi kidnappers had told Jim stories of the HURT and ANGER created through US military offensives that killed loved ones. 11th Jan : From Guns to Gandhi
Front page of The Times of India
The Youth’s interview got onto the front page of the Bhopal edition of the Times of India! See http://vcnv.org/guns-to-gandhi-afghan-boys-on-a-peace-pilgrimage 78 year old Bagvir and his wife had established the Gandhi ashram we stayed in. Bagvir shared with the youth, “All human beings are one. God is one and religions are different paths to God. Gandhi had said that Truth is God and that God is Truth.” Paul and Kathrin ( husband-and-wife Canadian volunteers with Ekta Parishad who kindly arranged and co-ordinated our Indian trip ) brought us to old Bhopal Market which had a Hindu temple at one end and a mosque at the other. Kathrin gave us a treat of banana, papaya & chiku milk shakes, opposite colourful shops of mannequins modeling lingerie . Another ‘first’! 12th Jan : India lives in the villages
We visited Bhimkothi, a remote village located in the jungle, off the beaten path. Rakash of Ekta Parishad had been working with the villagers to obtain official documents for land ownership, to establish a school and to dig a village well. Importantly, Rakash shared that he spends a few nights a month in the village because ‘it is in the night that the stories and lives of the villagers become more transparent.’ Poverty in a land of plenty. Life transpires in the Indian village nights.
Gardener, over 100 years old, :
‘ We all die…
we should leave something behind.’
13th Jan : The mosque in the city, the mosque on an island
with Indian youth at ‘Begum’ mosque
The mosque we visited in Bhopal City is the 2nd largest mosque in India, built by a Begum from Afghanistan. To the youth, Bhopal lake was not a lake. It was a sea.
mosque on Bhopal Lake
14th Jan : Railway train back to Delhi
train buddy Utkarsh
Dearest Abdulai It was really great meeting you and clicking those pictures. You have a tough task ahead. Stand brave against the odds and your genuine heart and crystal clear thoughts will take you to your dream. I wish you all the luck, happiness and success in all your future endeavours. Looking forward to meet you again and this time at your place. Keep smiling. Your train buddy Utkrash Pandey 15th Jan : Registering the Afghan ‘States’ presume out of fear that every Afghan is ‘guilty until proved innocent’, though out of the nineteen September 11th hijackers who provided a ‘justification’ for bombing ‘guilty Afghans’, none were Afghans. When I went with the youth to the Foreign Registration office ( Afghans and Pakistanis need to register their existence in India within 14 days upon arrival ), I asked an official where I could find a toilet, and he said, “ Inside ( the building )!” I tried at the guarded door which led into the building, but the official told me,” Outside!” 16th Jan : Frisbee and Astronomy
making friends through frisbeeing
solar time and astronomy
17th Jan : Sleepless on the 20-hour train to Gandhi’s birth city of Ahmedabad
the good, slow train
In the sleeper class cabin of the slow train with unpleasant toilets, Gandhi may have said to us,
“Feel as cold as everyone else.”
the sleeper cabin with Ali under colorful blankets
life inside the train
life outside at railway stations
thoughts while on the rail way tracks
18th to 22nd Jan : Ahmedabad – The world is not yet connected enough for Mankind to live equally Ahmedabad is the city where Gandhi began his India independence struggle, establishing 2 ashrams in 1917. It was from Ahmedabad that Gandhi initiated the Salt March in 1930. We spent time with the people of Demar village ( located 40 km from Ahmedabad city ), an agricultural and livestock village growing cotton and rearing cows for milk.
almost blind in Demar village
ladies sorting the cotton
cotton dreams aren’t white enough because of insufficient irrigation water
meeting village elders to understand the dreams and wishes of the people
Together with 15 Oasis program participants ( from India, Bangladesh and Denmark ), as well as 40 high school students from Gandhinagar International School,we listened to the wishes of the villagers and worked with them through self-help to fulfill one of those wishes.
Included in the villagers’ wish list were :
- Sufficient water – for drinking and irrigation
- Good education, especially addressing youth issues, including drug addiction…
- Cleaning up a road – muddied by accumulated soil and drainage water ( which caused the village women to fall frequently when they carried the milk containers on their heads )
On the last day of the program, we worked with the villagers on wish Number 3, and managed to clean up the muddy stretch of road in the village!
Abdulai getting into his hands and feet into the mud
Ali digging a drainage pit
the people and children working hard together
water is a basic need
food is a basic need – treated to a Gujerati meal!
helping others to help themselves
Governments accumulate wealth while the people contend with basic needs.
The human masses everywhere are not yet connected with one another enough to address the inequalities that challenge us all in the face of an increasingly wealthy global elite.
No short cuts. Connect globally. Relate revolutionarily!
After the Oasis program, we spent a day at Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati.
Gandhi’s spinning wheel of independence
can we create ashram-like, self-reliant communities in Afghanistan?
Gandhi’s room of simple living
Gandhian three of ‘no evil’
Signboard at the ashram which said :
building bridges with an ashram gardener
23rd to 27th Jan : The Crown, and brevity
The Taj Mahal is the ‘Crown of Palaces’, built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his third wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died during the birth of their 14th child.
Ali asked, “Did he build anything for his first and 2nd wife?”
next to the Taj Mahal
I commented to the immigration official, Mr Kumar, at the Gandhi International airport who ‘processed’ me at departure ,“ I came with these 3 Afghan youth and we feel that Afghanistan urgently needs Gandhi today. There’s little time…life is short, isn’t it?”
Mr Kumar replied, “ I watched a video ‘Interview with God’, in which God had made 3 observations :
- When Man is young, he wants to grow up quickly. When he’s old, he wants to stay young forever.
- In youth, Man spends his life to earn money, and when he’s old, he spends his money to earn his life.
- In youth, we live as if we’ll never die, and then we die as if we’ve never lived.
new friends from India, Bangladesh, Denmark
We’ve made many friends in India.
Life’s brevity. We’re back in snowy Kabul, where the global 1% elite are negotiating our lives away!
No short cuts. Connect globally. Relate revolutionarily!
Thanks to all who made this trip to India possible!
1. South Asia Peace Alliance http:// http://southasiapeacealliance.weebly.com/
Thanks to Vijay and Rita of South Asia Peace Alliance for inviting, hosting and teaching us!
Vijay ( extreme right ) with us at the Sabarmati Ashram
2. Ekta Parishad http://ektaparishad.com/
The team at Bhopal : Aneesh, Lilly, Vinod, Rakash who organized our field visits in Bhopal
Vinod and Lilly
Muntajan in the centre
Kathrin teaching art to Abdulai
3. Kathy Kelly ( Voices for Creative Non-violence USA http://vcnv.org/ )
and Maya Evans ( Justice not Vengeance UK http://www.j-n-v.org/ )
Maya ( centre ) and Kathy in a boat on Bhopal Lake
4. The Oasis Program facilitators and participants, including teachers and students of Gandhinagar International School
Oasis facilitators and participants
Gandhinagar International School girls