The Tour with Heart
by Joanna Amaral
Experiencing Gandhi with the Gandhi Family – what a gift!
I certainly took the full plunge into international travel on the Gandhi Legacy Tour. India has an incredible array to offer from slums to million-dollar buildings, the urban hubbub to the rural farms. Almost a year later, I am still digesting the whole experience, drawing on it, reading related writings and seeking ways to build nonviolence into my daily life. It was one of the most powerful and enriching experiences of my life. I am still impacted by it’s power and I gratefully recognize that I have been magnificently changed for the rest of my life.
The sights, the smells, the sounds were all so impressive and majestic. Women in vibrant colors, banyan trees, dogs and cows at every turn. 3-wheeled ‘rickshaws’ tooting and swerving, beeping horns, motorcycles, buses, cars, bikes, camels and trucks. Traffic, traffic traffic! Then, veering away from the touristy beaten path, we followed Gandhi’s footsteps, visited ashrams and museums and visited organizations and institutions that apply the philosophy of nonviolence, and attempt to transform communities by promoting and supporting social and economic growth to those in the greatest need.
We visited cooperative organizations that support women through the textile production and offer children some schooling Upon visiting these organizations we met some incredible people that are so dedicated to supporting these people. The flow of positive energy was impressive, so simplistic, yet organic and beautiful Such genuine presence these people offer. Their work is labor intensive and full of many steps, but you could see the confidence rising in them as they shared the fruits of their labor.
I was deeply moved and my heart was full, daily, as I moved from one meaningful experience to the next.
The greatest impact of my experience was our visit to Kolhapur. Here we met the teachers and children of the AVANI organization, whom will soon join the GWEI family in our efforts to build a school. We joined in with these children to sing songs and share writing. The more I interacted with them the more they opened up to me. Their eyes met mine and we entered each others’ souls. The more I connected the more I understood them. They WANT to come to school. They CRAVE new information. So much of how they are learning is ‘old school’ – skill & drill and memorization – but it’s SCHOOL! They want to come and they want to learn, even if it means being on a dirt floor in a space of 10’ x 10’ with up to 30 others in arid, hot, fly-buzzing conditions. They wanted to share their learnings and show off what they have accomplished so far. They raised up their “hand-me-down” scruffy bound books with such pride. They showed their arithmetic on slates as old as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s. Oh what joy they had in their faces. Oh what joy they brought to me! Oh what joy they have to share with the world, if just given the chance! The simplicity and pure elation was such a blessing.
This adventure of a lifetime was also packed with lessons of a lifetime, accompanied by Arun’s first hand stories of life with his grandfather and mini-lectures on Gandhi’s life, message, nonviolence and Indian culture. Tushar also offered valuable perspectives of implications of Grandfather’s works historically, as well as its present day application. Gaining understanding and organic experience through them as our personal guides and companions was phenomenal, creating a momentous experience for us all.
This journey to India was just the beginning of my journey into connecting with the power and need for nonviolence and my enlightenment of truth. I encourage others to engage in these practices and I highly recommend this tour as a stepping stone.