Today was a historic day for the Walk of Hope padayatris as Sri Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, Honourable President of India, hosted Sri M and the padayatris. The yatris were taken on a tour of the Rashtrapathi Bhavan first. A brief history of the landmark building of Delhi was narrated by the guide. Photographs of Britain's Kings, Queens and noblemen who ruled India have been prominently displayed.
The kitchen museum with cutlery and crockery dating from the first President's time to date, instituted by President Kalam caught everyone's attention. The Ashoka hall, with its impressive murals and stately furniture and the high domed Durbar hall where investiture ceremonies are held, were awe inspiring to say the least. The banquet hall where official banquets are held, where butlers need to function without speaking, with the aid of three coloured lights was another interesting room.
Among the priceless artefacts, the Buddha Statue behind the Presidental chair in the Durbar hall and the statue of Sahasrabahu Avalokiteswara, presented by Vietnam were outstanding. Walking through the biggest and one of the most powerful houses in the country was a memorable experience for all.
All are going to treasure the group photo taken with Sri M and the President of India. Taken facing the famous Mughal gardens, yatris were put through a rehearsal to ensure that there was no wastage of time. The photograph, much to everyone's delight was promptly uploaded on the Presidential website. High tea was served in the dining area adjacent to the Yellow room after which the yatris returned, savouring the hours gone by.
The evening saw the Silver Jubilee celebration of the Temple of Understanding India, an institution inspired by Juliet Hollister and currently chaired by Dr Karan Singh. Sri M was presented with the first Interfaith Harmony Award on this occasion. It was attended by Shri Hamid Ansari, Honourable Vice President, who was the Chief guest of the evening.
Before handing Sri M the award, Dr Karan Singh said, "A most remarkable man, Sri M has walked 6000 Km from Kanyakumari. He has interacted with lakhs and lakhs of people and that's real grassroot work. We can talk theory about Interfaith, but how do you put that into operation, how do you project that on the ground? That's what Sri M has done. So we think there's no better person that Sri M to be the recipient of this award".
Sri M accepted the award and started by introducing himself and why he's called Sri M, "Above all, I love it when I'm called M because it is the first letter of Manav or Manushya. When we end a Satsang, we say 'Om shanti shanti', when two Muslims meet they greet each other with 'Salaam Alaikum', may the well being of the Lord be on you. Jews say 'Shalom', in the Jain system of thought, 'Ahimsa Paramo Dharma' is paramount, you see this everywhere in essence."
Sri M said, "After Kabir, I feel like I've somehow taken on the mantle. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not a rebirth. I want to work towards unity where human beings are looked at as human beings. And this country is respected as a garden with different kinds of flowers. Hon Vice President asked me what will you do after the Walk? All people who have undertaken such walks, have stopped somewhere and started working. So, we also have to do this. The Temple of Understanding has given us this Award. It is for all of us. I'm very thankful. I feel encouraged to go further and this walk will achieve its purpose some time or the other, God willing".
The Hon Vice President spoke next and said, "This is a joyous happening. We have gathered here to celebrate the conferring of an important award to a very distinguished person who has contributed his bit so meaningfully for making our world a better place. I felicitate Sri M."
In a touching gesture, one of the members of the Temple of Understanding, Smt Vimla Lalbhai presented each of the padayatris with a wonderful memento, which depicts the walk pictorially, footsteps along the Walk of Hope route from Kanyakumari to Kashmir!
With this, the curtains came down on an ever memorable day!