Days 378 and 379 were days of rest.
The yatris woke up to another cold, foggy morning today. The forecast of another fortnight of similar weather cast a bit of concern among most. However, thanks to the excellent accommodation and competent preparations, most of them have been coping well with the kind of weather hardly ever seen down south, where from quite a number of the yatris hail.
Being the second Republic day on the walk, another past time was to try and recount how each one spent this day last year!
Today's walk was relatively short, leading up to the Sirsaganj Public School where the walkers joined their Republic Day Celebrations. Sri M hoisted the tri-colour and addressed the audience comprising students, teachers and prominent citizens of Sirsaganj.
Sri M thanked all present, introduced some of the padayatris like Ex-DGP of Karnataka, Mr Ajai Kumar Singh who hails from a village nearby and Ms Tara Ajai Singh IAS, his wife, before starting his talk. He said, "I apologize for any mistakes in my Hindi. I know this is an English medium school but I don't want to speak in English. If I get stuck somewhere, I'll shift to Sanskrit and only where necessary I'll use English. The programs that the tiny tots put up were very nice. Even the announcer was very good. Entertainment can bring about a change in the mind. That's why cinema, drama and poetry have an important role to play. Instead of saying it directly, art influences indirectly. I wish everyone a Happy Republic Day and congratulate each of us for living in a free India that we consider a Swarajya. I don't want to say too much because I have had cold and flu for the past three days and I'm on antibiotics. But I wanted to be here for this wonderful program, especially because they asked me to do the flag hoisting. Even if I had fallen sick, I would have ensured that I came for it. India deserves that respect.”
“You probably know that this walk started from Kanyakumari on 12th January. It's been over a year since we started. When we reached Kanpur, where the Chief Minister came, we completed a year. From 12th January 2015 to 12th January 2016, we completed a year of walking. While we've got good response everywhere we've been, in UP and in Kanpur particularly, it was great. We are so elated by the response that we feel our yatra will certainly succeed. We've covered over 5800 kms on foot. For the last two days, I haven't walked. Even today, I apologise to the padayatris for not coming walking with them because I've been sick. I didn't feel good coming here by car, because I'm so used to walking. Anyway, we have around 3000 kms to go and we hope to reach Srinagar in the first week of May. We believe that from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, it is one united India and we'll surely reach Srinagar with the tri-colour in hand, with God's grace, of course."
"The objective of the walk is Manav Ekta and a united India. We need Manav Ekta because we're a country with many religions, many languages. For thousands of years, we've welcomed everyone into this country. And now, we're all Indians. If teachers and students understand this, then India will definitely be strong in the future.”
“We are human beings because we're all born of our mothers' wombs, and no one falls from the sky. This little drama that unfolds between birth and death is too small for us, may be a long one for you all young ones. In this short duration, why not maintain peace, harmony and unity? That's my question. When people blame religion for any violence, I don't believe it, because no religion asks people to fight. These fights are given the name of religion but, if you look closely, you'll find some personal interest in these fights. Once the fire breaks loose, it's difficult to douse it. Our intention is to never let this happen”.
“We hear India is growing to heights of greatness and these religious fights keep occurring and slowing the progress down. Each time we're forced to start from square one. If I can sow seeds of oneness in your hearts, there will come a time when it'll grow into a huge tree with fruits of peace, harmony, unity and Indians can sit under its shade peacefully. Please think about this carefully or India will suffer. The future of this country lies in the hands of these little ones. You are the ones who will achieve great things in the future. Great people come from small villages, not from cities. Where did Dr. Abdul Kalam come from? A little town called Rameswaram. Where does your Chief Minister come from? Saifai. Now, it's become a city but it still is a small place. Even Mahatma Gandhi is from Porbandar.”
“Our yatra is to spread the message that we are human beings and Indians. No matter what others say, you don't get swayed. If you can do this, we will definitely become a strong, united country. I'll tell you another very scientific thing. When a patient falls sick, he's given medicines, and he either survives or dies. This is similar. If we give medicines after the disease strikes, anything can happen. But we think prevention is better than cure. So we must try and maintain the peace and harmony that already exists. If someone needs blood, we get it from the blood bank. Does one enquire whose blood it is – Brahmin's, a Shudra's, Muslim's or Christians? So, children should understand this, we're after all too old. I know you can't walk with us to Kashmir but if you agree with what I said and understand it, then our yatra is successful.”
“Finally I would like to tell you that a thousand years ago, my family migrated from the North to Kerala. Marthanda Varma was the king then. My family was brought down to be his body guards. When I was born, my parents called me Mumtaz Ali Khan. I learnt a lot about Islam then. At the age of 19, I was so attracted to the Himalayas, and I ran away from home. You please don't do this. And, I met Maheshwarnath Babaji who belongs to the Nath Sampradaya. I lived with him in the Himalayas for three and a half years. Even today I know such places in the Himalayas that you'll never see on the tourist map. That's why you should definitely visit the Himalayas at least once even if you don't have a spiritual interest. It's beautiful. Kalidasa described it beautifully and likened it to a pole in the sky with snow at its peak. You must see it for yourself.”
“Vedanta, The Bhagavat Gita, Brahmasutras, whatever there was to learn in the Hindu Shastras, Babaji taught me in the three and a half years I spent with him like it was a crash course. He belonged to the Nath Sampradaya. His name was Maheshwarnath, but he knew about all religions. He then took me to a Christian priest, and in Ajmer he took me to Sufi saints. After studying everywhere, I understood that the essence of everything is the same. No religion asks one to fight. When one Muslim meets another, they greet each other 'Salaam Alaikum', meaning, 'May the peace of Allah be upon you'. What do we say, 'Om Shanti Shanti Shanti'. So when Maheshwarnath Babaji initiated me into the Nath Sampradaya, he gave me the name Madhukarnath. You must be wondering what sort of a name this is - 'M'. Mister M was James Bond's boss's name, but I'm sure you've never heard of Sri M. The first letter in Mumtaz is M and first letter in Madhukarnath is also M. But most importantly, I like to call myself a ‘Manushya’ and the first letter of Manushya is also M. If I'm M because I'm Manav, then each one of us sitting here is also 'M'. If you understand this, even after I leave, each of you must live as human beings with peace, harmony and unity in all hearts. That's my prayer."
It was a memorable day for Sri Ajai Kumar Singh, IPS, the first person who volunteered to accompany Sri M on the padayatra, when it was mooted. Sri Singh hails from a village a few kilometers from the Sirsaganj Public School though his professional career was in Karnataka. He was honoured on the occasion. His wife, Smt Tara Ajai Singh IAS, who is also one of the yatris and his elder brother Sri Ranveer Singh, also spoke on the occasion.
Sri Ajai Singh's remark that there is no place on earth like your native place. Sri Ranveer Singh's powerful exhortation to the children to enjoy what they are learning and retired School teacher Sri Gupta's remark that he had not taken even a day's medical leave during his career of 40 years caught the imagination of all.
A variety entertainment program by the school children brightened the function immensely. Thereafter, the padayatris were treated to a sumptuous lunch in the school premises where food was served by the smart and polite students of the school.
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