For a change, you won’t hear from me today. You’ll hear from someone else. I was the note taker again at the last session of the workshop and Vijay Bhai, the executive director of the Sri Aurobindo ashram gave us this wonderful closing address. Please picture a vibrant man in his sixties (?), wearing all white, radiating wisdom and gentleness.
This is what he said, literally the words that came out of his mouth. Done totally ex tempo. (Gramodaya is the name of the rural schools for rural development concept the entire workshop has been about):
“We are coming to end of this particular workshop, but it is just one more milestone in the journey that all of us have been taking together.
My first thought is that this is a pilgrimage. I have this image of people setting out to go to a particular destination. Not all at once. Some join along the way, so that you have a wonderfully mixed group of people going towards a goal. I feel that this is a pilgrimage we are taking together. We are all moving and aspiring towards a particular destination that we may not know in full.
Second, it was such a beautiful joy to meet all of you. I enjoyed the thinking, perceptions of all, but I enjoyed more greatly coming into contact with your vivid personalities.
Third, in a certain sense, India presents a very depressing picture. If you look around today and see what is happening in this beautiful country of ours, how sad it is. ‘What is your takeback from this workshop?’, Pradeep asked us. What I say is imagine what the takeback from each of your days is. Just from looking around at the state of things as they are. But to come into contact with people who are giving their lives to something bigger and greater, that is the most beautiful part. The image of the ancient scriptures is the agouti. There is no greater agouti than yourself. It was such a beautiful thing to see how many are giving that agouti. That is what strengthens the whole and gives you the certitude that things are going to change. We’ve been given the opportunity to be part of making this change.
This group forming itself has not been planned. It is strange how something has brought us all together. That has both its charm and its purpose. We might have been brought together by something else. From this comes the idea that the results of our work will happen regardless. So long as we are sincere. Maybe we will look back and think that what a joy, what a privilege it was to have been part of this from the beginning.
We will go forward sharing our concerns, hopes, difficulties. We need to stay in touch because that is how things will become clear and keep moving forward. We will give the best we can to this adventure. It has been such a joy to have been part of this beautiful adventure.
Gramodaya started as a seed, the approach is growing and will keep growing. I have a feeling that it will keep growing.
Lots of the education work in the rural area has been along the lines of they have nothing, so let’s give them something. So, second-class education for second-class citizens. What we are saying here is, it is all one and the education we give, whether in the rural or urban, has to be of the same quality. We are not talking about rural education, we are talking about true education, integral education, what education should be. What anyone and everyone deserves, wherever you may be in India. The whole of education for India. But as education can’t be the same for all people, we need to allow this integral education to shape itself to fit a rural context. We are looking at integral education and seeing how it must change for the rural context. If we start from that reference point, that highest level we can reach, I think that many of our doubts and unanswered questions about how the model will work will melt away.
We must allow for a local context and an individual context. That is the beauty of creation. It is what happens in life. In our entire approach to Gramodaya, we have to keep all these features in mind. How do they all find their proper place?
A dream is not what you see when you are asleep at night. A dream is one that will not allow you to sleep. I think it is this dream, this calling that has brought us all together. Let us be grateful for the opportunity and aspire to be worthy of it. It has been a pleasure to have you. The ashram is always your home. You are always welcome.
I think that each one of us has something unique and special to contribute to this. Each one of us has a part that we much play fully.
The roots of Gramodaya have to be in the spiritual ethos of India. What does India stand for? What is her culture? What is her civilization? How do we bring to these children the true meaning of India?“
There is so much more I could tell you, but there will always be more.
I am not sad to leave India. Any sadness that might exist inside me has been swallowed up in a huge wave of gratefulness. To have been here, to have met such wonderful, genuine and inspiring people. To have been made to feel as though I also have a part to play in transforming something for the better, be it little, be it big, be it myself.
Thanks to friends, family and my new Indian friends and family. I will do my best to make you all smile with the way that I live going forward.
Brianna Smrke, who has been working with the SiG@Waterloo simulation team, is visiting the OaSiS Social Innovations Laboratory in Bhopal, India. She is blogging about her experiences at downwithvowels, which you can also follow here at socialinnovationsimulation.com.