With frozen hands and noses, the walkers arrived at the first stop, Sri Devkali Mandir. After visiting the temple, everyone queued up for tea – the old temple structure serving as a perfect backdrop. Soon the peace of the moment went up in smoke as a fire broke out in the mobile kitchen truck. Thankfully the fire was put out just as quickly. It's strange how these incidents find new meanings and reveal a bigger picture. Sri M's reminders at every Satsang that when one gets angry, it's one's house that's on fire, not the neighbour's – a metaphor clarifying the need to douse the fire of communal violence at its source comes to mind.
At the next stop, Eklak Shah Baba Dargah, Sri M and a few walkers offered prayers and proceeded to walk into the town of Auraiya. Gurudwara Gurusingh Sabha was the next place of halt where the entire Sikh community had come together to welcome the yatra. They offered fresh ginger tea and biscuits to the yatris. Their hospitality is something one needs to emulate. In fact, the religious text of the Sikhs, the Guru Grant Sahib, is extremely inclusive as it has verses contributed by people of different religions.
The short city walk culminated at Tilak Inter College, Auriya. A giant banyan tree decorated with marigold flowers created an ideal setting for the Satsang that was to follow. College students, staff and the padayatris sat under the giant tree and Sri M started his speech saying ‘Namaskar, Salaam, and Sat Sri Akal‘ to everyone and thanked all the dignitaries present.
Advising the students, Sri M said, "this is called Tilak college, named after Bal Gangadhar Tilak who you probably know well. But I don't think you've read his commentary on The Gita. You should try and read it."
Speaking about the Walk, he said, "This yatra started from Kanyakumari which is at one end of India, the meeting point of three oceans, in 2015. This yatra is for the meeting of minds so we thought it's the best place to start. January 12th is also Swami Vivekananda's birth anniversary. What he did a100 years ago for Manav Ekta, a 100 people couldn't have done for a 100 years. That's why we started on 12th January. We've walked through 6 states so far and this is our 7th state, Uttar Pradesh."
"In an age where everyone travels by a jet plane, people must be wondering why this man is walking", Sri M said.
Giving the demographics of people walking with him, he said, "We have a core group of 60-70 people walking with us all the way from Kanyakumari. They come from all regions, caste, creed and religion. Their common identity is just that they are padayatris for Manav Ekta. This is the group that will go all the way to Srinagar. Everywhere we go, people join us. You won't find a single day where there are less than 200 people. In fact, once we've even had 5000 people walking with us. In Bangalore, we had close to 3000 people walking."
Addressing all the young minds, he said, "It's my experience and my belief that a spark of the all-pervading divine resides in all hearts. If the all-pervading divine resides in all hearts, it means that everyone here - you and I- are walking temples, gurudwaras and masjids. Usually, you go in search of temples, gurudwaras and mosques. But these temples are always there sitting in front of us. If these temples of God are sitting in front of us, how does one worship them? Through service. Swami Vivekananda said, 'Atmano Mokshartha Jagat Hitayacha'. Both liberation for the soul and welfare of the world need to go hand in hand. Gone is the time when liberating the soul could happen by meditating, while sitting in caves in the Himalayas. I had a friend, a Swamiji, who went and sat in a cave beyond Lakshman Jhula. He left Rishikesh saying there are too many tourists there and that it was too noisy. Three days later, he returned. I asked him what happened? He replied, ‘Well, I was meditating when I suddenly felt like someone was standing there. When I opened my eyes, I saw a guy wearing a helmet with a gun in hand. I thought an alien had landed up there. When I asked him who it was, he replied, that he'd come from the Corporation with a spray to keep the mosquitoes away!. But there's no need to go sit in a guha. You can sit in your homes, and serve the people around you.’
Before closing, he explained why he is called Sri M and said, "Each of you sitting here is also Sri M, because you're also a Manav. So there's not just one Sri M but crores of Sri Ms. We are walking with this message and if every Sri M understands this message, then Manav Ekta will be maintained and our spiritual values will once again be exported from here."
Sri M got everyone to repeat the slogan 'Hum Sab Ek Hai and Bharat Mata Ki Jai' (We are all One and Victory to Mother India) and bid farewell.