TWENTIETH DAY REPORT
GANDHI SWARAJ PADYATRA
by Jeff Knaebel, sojourner free
7 September 2009
Real civilization consists not in the multiplication, but in the deliberate & voluntary reduction of wants (Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi).
Today we got underway from Chhara toward Nayabas at 0416 hrs.
Wavy strands of morning mist sparkled in the beams of our flashlights as we walked through the pre-dawn darkness in an atmosphere heavy with moisture and heat.
With sunrise at 0610 hrs, we could see the barren industrial “Truck Haul Desert” which had been choking us with dust and blinding us with headlights on a road broken into sandy potholes.
At 0625 Professor Vimal Bhanot leaves us at a big intersection in order to catch a bus to Rohtak and onward to his home and work at BITS, Pilani.
Reaching Nayabas at 0725, we are greeted by Sri Om Vir Singh who is acting on behalf of village Sarpanch Smt Santosh Devi to get us settled. We are provided charpoys at the construction site of the Panchayat office.
We speak for more than an hour to 180 students and staff at the Government High School Nayabas. We emphasize our basic theme of environmental ethics and the prophecy of Mahatma Gandhi that modern industrial civilization would finally bring destruction.
The reception was enthusiastic, with smiles and laughter interrupting the Hindi translators of Jeff’s English. One teacher asked about the good things of America, to which Jeff responded that he is not into value judgments and comparisons of individual countries – his concern is an industrial machine paradigm of war on nature that is afflicting all countries and all peoples.
The teacher cited many perceptions of ills and problems of India and good things of the West. Jeff pointed out that “man is man,” and there is good and evil among all of us. He noted the generosity and honesty of individual Americans, and their sense of commitment to keep promises, as distinguished from the behavior of their Government.
The problem we all face is described by Native Americans as the “Wetiko Disease” – the disease of violence and cannibalism of industrial civilization. This so-called “civilization” is eating the sustenance of its young and “living” by a paradigm of kill, hurt, destroy.
During the afternoon session we pass through dry barren unsown farmlands that lie fallow due to the poor monsoon this year.
We arrive at night halt Village Hasangarh at 1821 hrs and are welcomed by the Sarpanch, Sube Singh Saini. His elder son Ram Autar Saini immediately begins to make ll arrangements for a comfortable stay in their home. Others immediately present include Mahendra Singh, farmer and Panchayat worker; Prem Singh, hardware dealer; and Mangatram Yadav.
On the terrace under hanging lamps we speak to about 50 or 60 elder leaders of the village, along with youth leaders. Their focus was intense and their understanding clear. One IAS fresher took notes. There was lively discussion after Jeff’s talk, much of it related to how his perceptions and thinking related directly to the Indian situation.
The Sarpanch and others wanted us to stay on, saying that perhaps a few thousand people would come to a public meeting to hear us, but our prior commitments and deadline to reach the Himalayan yatra conclusion within the 100th anniversary year of Hind Swaraj preclude any stay-over.
After the speaking program, Niraj-ji filmed DVD documentaries. Our work was completed at 2345 hrs.
Today we walked 21 km.