'Namaste !' - the charm of the age-old salutation - Punjabi market
Reception at Punjabi Market
Reception at the HMS Islamia Inter-College - the oldest in the region
'The Human Tricolor !' - Islamia Inter College
Sri M inside the Sai Baba Mandir - Pukka Talab
Garlanding the Saint of Shirdi - Sai Baba Mandir
Reception at Numaish Pandal - Numaish Chouraha
Sri M addressing students of 21 schools at Numaish Pandal
The city walk in the town of Etawah started close to a local school and negotiated its busy and narrow roads. Some of the padayatris, who double up as traffic marshalls to keep the walkers in line and make way for traffic, had to work extra hard as the walk was inside the city.
The region of Etawah is believed to have existed in the Bronze Age and is also the confluence of river Yamuna and Chambal.After many stops with locals wanting to garland Sri M and offer him tea, the walk reached HMS Islamia Inter-college where all the students were sitting in rows wearing caps of the tri-colour. An aerial view of them looked like the Indian flag. The way the youth interpret unity and find unique ways to express it has been refreshing to see. This is apparently one of the oldest colleges in the area and also the place where former President of India, Zakir Hussain, and his brother did their schooling.
Sri M addressed the students and told them about the yatra, the distance covered, completing a year of the walk in Kanpur and his hope of reaching Srinagar in May. Speaking of the objective behind the walk, Sri M said, "Manav Ekta has existed in India long before government and democracy. Three thousand years ago, the Vedas proclaimed 'Ekam Sat Viprah Bahuda Vadanti' - truth is one and the wise call it by many names. Someone told me recently that God has only one name. I said, according to my understanding, God has 99 names but God is one. I also believe and know that a spark of this all-pervading divine resides in all hearts. This is my experience. That's why whatever be our religion, whatever be our practice, no matter which place we belong to, and which language we speak, we are one, we are human beings. People must understand this.”
“Like I quoted from the Rig Veda, I want to tell you a story from Khalid Nabi Sallallah Ulle Wasallam’s life. Because we are at Islamia Inter-college, we would also like to understand a little about Islam. We have so many languages, so many religions, so many customs, if we understand each of them properly, we are bound to live together in harmony. The story goes like this, once when Nabi Sallallah Ulle Wasallam was sitting in Mecca and speaking with people, a human dead body was being taken along the road. As soon as he saw it, he stood up. Seeing him, the others also stood up. Later, someone asked him why he stood up for a Yehudi. He replied, ‘Don't you know that a Yehudi is also a child of God’. We hear these stories but it doesn't register. That's why we are walking, to tell people about these things."
Explaining further, Sri M said, "Why not maintain peace, harmony and oneness during this short drama between birth and death? What's the use of violence? We don't belong to any party nor do we have any political affiliation. We are just human beings. Looking at the response we've got so far, I feel like something good will come of it. If you students understand this, you'll ensure that peace is maintained in the future."
"I've heard that Zakir Hussain studied here along with his brother. I'm sure you all will also do great things in the future. I'm confident you'll take India to greater heights, Inshallah", Sri M said and revealed the mystery behind his name and how he believes that most importantly he's a human being, a 'Manav'.
The next stop was a Sai Baba Temple where they performed an arati to Sri M and felicitated him. Some of the padayatris used this time to give alms to sadhus lined up outside the temple. The walk then passed through a busy market and reached Numaish Pandal where students of 21 schools had gathered to hear Sri M.
Sri M thanked the dignitaries present and gave some details of the yatra like distance covered and said, "We walk in summer, rain and cold. The winter hasn't started yet. The real winter is between Jammu and Kashmir. But we won't stop. We'll keep walking because this message is very important for India. It's not that Indians don't know this. It's been a part of our culture for thousands of years but, sometimes, this unity breaks and turns into a big fire that cannot be doused. Our objective is to never let this happen. Religion isn't the reason behind this. It happens in the name of religion."
Quoting from The Bhagavat Gita, Sri M said, "Krishna tells Arjuna that the one who thinks of the welfare of all human beings is the dearest to him, 'Sarva Bootha Hite Rataha'. And every religion says the same thing. I don't want to talk too much because our walk is our talk."