Monthly Archives: July 2012

Gandhi Museum

This post is dedicated to my second grade ahimsakas from this past year – I wish I could have brought all of you to the Gandhi Museum today!  There were lots of interesting exhibits including replicas of the ashram he lived in, and the workspace that he used his spinning wheel in.  My favorite part of the museum though, was a chronology of his entire life in photos.  It took over 2 huge rooms to show his life this way, and it was incredible! We weren’t allowed to take photos in certain parts of the museum, but here are some I was able to take:

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Jain Bharati Mrigavati Vidyalaya School

On Tuesday (July 10), we had the opportunity to visit the school that is on the Smarak campus.  What a welcome we received! We entered into the courtyard along a pathway lined with students greeting us.  We each received a bindi mark on our foreheads and a marigold garland on the way to our seats.  We were guests at their school-wide assembly, which is how they start school everyday.  1800+ students gather together for mediation, the national anthem, shakras, daily news, and skits.  Afterwards, we got an extensive tour of their medicinal garden, which grows over 40 plants and is maintained by the students and staff.  Here are some photos from the morning visit: ImageImageImageImageImage

After the morning assembly we were part of an interactive session with teachers, staff and students from the school.  We learned about their 3 most important themes: “Understand, analyze, create.”  There were many things that stood out to me about this school but the one that I noticed the most was the push for students’ need to be aware of social responsibility.   All the clubs, activities, and opportunities that exist for students have the notion of social responsibility at the core.  We had the opportunity to hear several students present and talk about the school, and it was clear that the school was reaching what it believes about every child – “You were born to shine.” ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Stuck in the middle of rural India

Sorry for the lack of blogging the last several days. We have been in a rural part of India called Aligarh, and I’m not even sure if they know what wifi is. My roommate has a usb hub that allows us to access the web, but the connection is slower than molasses, so it’s been frustrating being on. It will most likely take almost 10 minutes to upload this post.  By Monday night we’ll be in Jaipur (back to civilization), so I’ll be able to post photos and updates. Oh – and we’re going to the TAJ MAHAL on Monday!!! The anticipation is killing me!! 🙂

School Visits and Smarak

Today we left the “compound” we’d been staying at for the first week of our trip and we made our way to a new part of Delhi.  On the way we made some school visits to find out from teachers how they teach/use ahimsa (nonviolence) in their schools. The first school we stopped at was Hira Lal Jain Secondary School.  It is located in one of the most impoverished areas of Delhi and was created by the Jain Society to offer free, quality education to the students in this neighborhood. Here are some photos from that school:

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After some presentations by education scholars and board members of the school, they invited us to stay for tea and some snacks. All of us on this trip are learning that “snacks” is just a code word for “we want to stuff you full of delicious homemade Indian food!” Feeling full, we said our good-byes and walked out to the bus that was parked maybe 50 feet from the entrance to the school.  Somehow, our bus got stuck (before we even were on it) and the easiest solution seemed to have people literally push the bus from the back. After several tries, they were able to move it 6 inches, so they decided more people pushing would mean they could move it further.  Image

While this demonstration of brute force was going on, monsoon rains started to descend, and we were being ushered to the closest covered area.  School officials from Hira Lal brought us back to their school to wait while the bus was fixed. Except it never did. Instead, we were brought outside and put into a variety of vehicles being driven by people we didn’t even know.

We arrived at the second school, The Mahavira Senior Model School, which is a private school run by Jains, but the students population is 30% Jains, and 70% other. There was a beautiful sign in the entry welcoming us  Image and we were each greeted with a bindhi mark on our foreheads. Image

We were brought up to a meeting room where some students performed songs about ahimsa,Image followed by a dialogue with teachers.  We asked them how they teach nonviolence to their students, and they asked us questions about challenges of dealing with the types of violence we face in American schools.  We went for a tour of the school and one of the highlights was the medicinal garden run by the school to help cultivate the ahimsa principle of community.Image

We hit the road again in a new bus that took us to our next school, which is where we are spending the night. It is another Jain complex called Smarak, which is similar to the one we stayed at last week, but this one is much bigger. The complex houses two schools (one elementary, one high school), a university, a male monk ashram, a female monk ashram, a Jain temple, the Institute of Indology, and several dorm-style living facilities.  Here are some photos from Smarak: ImageImage

Noises in the Night

Whenever I travel overseas, it usually takes a few nights to get into any semblance of a sleeping routine. Given the rough trip over here and battling some sort of illness the first few days, it’s taken longer than normal.  The first few nights I was knocked out by 9PM but waking up at 2:30AM and unable to fall back asleep.  Every night my goal was to wake up later than the previous day.  Anyone who’s traveled can probably relate to what I’m describing.

However, the transition into finding a good night’s rest over here has been made much more difficult when there are numerous, seemingly unnecessary noises in the night.  For example, every night I can hear a series of shrill whistles.  It happens every evening so I started listening for a pattern.  The only pattern I found is that it wakes me up a different time in the middle of the night.  Another noise I hear, usually right before going to sleep, is metal clanging against metal – like construction work is being done…at 11PM! Strangely enough, the noise can’t be heard at all during the day.  Wouldn’t it be more efficient to complete construction work during daylight hours?

And then there are the various voices and knocks.  In the middle of the night (have you picked up on a common theme here?), I can hear someone calling something out loud – as if he’s either lost and looking for help or as if he’s looking for someone.  Not surprisingly, no one answers him, but he continues to call out repeatedly anyway.  I wish I understood the language so I could help him (and more importantly so I could eliminate one more interruption in my sleep!)  The daily Laundry Man is yet another disturbance .  He is the most slick of all, managing to make his rounds and knock on every door at a seemingly early hour.  Breakfast doesn’t begin until 7:30AM, and it seems as if Laundry Man has taken it upon himself to also serve as our alarm clock.  It’s not a gentle knock either – it’s more of a loud, desperate knock which might make you think it’s an emergency.  The first morning this happened, my roommate answered the door (at 6:00AM) and was half-asleep as she told Laundry Man we had nothing for him.  We’ve quickly learned to ignore that early morning knock, and we’ve been able to squeeze a bit more sleep out of the mornings as a result.

High-pitched whistles, late night construction, lost individuals, and a sunrise Laundry Man.  The noises of the night will serve as a challenge as I continue to seek a full night’s sleep.

Happy Fourth of July…from Delhi!

The Fourth of July marks my fourth day in Delhi! The first few days were rough for me. The program officially started on Sunday afternoon, but that morning after breakfast, I got really sick again. I had to miss out on our first class and orientation because I was in my room alternating between sleeping and puking my brains out. I managed to get up and venture to dinner – just to get out of the room for a while. I was fine until the middle of the night when I got sick yet again. Fortunately, it looks like the getting sick part is over for now, but it was not a fun way to start off my first few days here.

The part of Delhi that we are in is quite an interesting place. Lots of dirt roads with random holes (no, not potholes – literal holes) in the road.  It’s not unusual to see cows grazing in trash piles on the side of the road or cars driving in opposite directions towards each other.  The one thing that stands out the most for me is the excessive amount of car horn honking! I think it’s an average of 15 car honks for every 10 feet you walk.  We’ve wandered around our neighborhood a little bit, but between classes and the excessive heat (the first few days the temp was 112-115), we have been seeking solace in our AC rooms for some relief. We’ll be exploring lots of Delhi through our program over the next week so I’m sure I’ll have more to report soon.

Our classes have already started – we have about 3 lectures a day.  So far we’ve been looking at the evolutionary history of the concept and practice of nonviolence, and learning the basics of Jainism. So much information has been taught already and while it seems overwhelming, it’s exciting to be part of the dialogue that’s been happening in class. The challenge of the day for me today was taking part in a 15-minute mediation exercise. I already find it hard to sit still for long periods of time, but asking me to meditate after 2.5 solid hours of lecture is just cruel! I was thinking about anything and everything BUT meditating for the 15 minutes (which felt like and eternity)! I’m not sure how I’m going to do with the 24-hour mediation camp that’s coming up next week – yikes!! Tomorrow we’ll be having one lecture at a local university – the seminar will be on ahimsa in different religions. 

That’s the quick update for now – I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July!