The breakfast at the Shiv Mandir was a revelation. For the umpteenth time in North India, the organizers came up with a typical South Indian breakfast: idlis, dosas, sambar, the works! It is interesting to note how common South Indian fare has become in North India! As is jocularly said, the two great unifiers of modern India are Bollywood movies and the Masala Dosa!
The Manasa Devi temple presents the modern version of the Hindu temple. It has a huge area which minimises pile ups and stampedes, has clean surroundings, and has the Dharamshala and Bhandaras to take care of the boarding and lodging of pilgrims. The langar is managed on the lines of those at Gurudwaras with emphasis on cleanliness, 'no wastage' etc.
At the DAV College for women,Sri M addressed a young group of students and said:
"We believe - by ‘we’ I mean the yatris and I - that we're doing something for others, not just for ourselves. So, the inspiration is so strong that we can walk 6000 Km or do things which will appear to be not so easy. In any case, physically we've been endowed with feet and legs. Biologically, we're meant for walking but we hardly walk. Even from that point of view, it's a good idea to walk. If you go back into history, you'll see that in ancient times most people who did something extraordinary have walked. The other day we saw a map in a Gurudwara which showed how far the travels of Guru Nanak Sahib took him. I felt very belittled because we've walked much lesser than him. He's walked to Sri Lanka, he's walked to Uzbekistan, he's walked to Mecca. If we had not done this walk, we would have wondered how he did it. But now, we know it's possible. Adi Shankara has walked, Dayananda Saraswati in whose name your college has been established, he has also walked. Swami Vivekananda has walked. Chinese traveller, Hsuan Tsang, has also walked. They walked miles and miles and recorded what they saw."
Sri M then explained the intention behind the walk is to maintain peace and harmony in the diverse country that is India.
Introducing himself, he said, "The first letter of Mumtaz is M. The first letter of Madhukar is M. But, above all these things, the most important things is the first letter of Manav or human being is M. If you put it in Sanskrit, it's Manushya which is also M. That's why I consider myself, over and above other things, a Manav, a Manushya. I love it when people call me M. Out of respect, some people add Sri to it but when I sign I only write M. Even that I have only one Sri, I do not have many. This concept is from the effort put in by all human beings or Ms put together. So, I also wanted to tell you that there's one 'Khan' who didn't go to Bollywood but went to the Himalayas."
A Question & Answer session followed next.
Q: Good afternoon Sir, I really appreciate your walk. Sir, how did the idea of this walk come in your mind?
A: How did the idea of the walk come into my mind? I'll start by telling you that from childhood I loved to walk. But I have not done this kind of marathon walk before. In the Himalayas, I used to walk. Babaji used to walk so fast and I used to walk behind him like a goat. So, that interest in walking was always there. Then, when I thought of how the message of Manav Ekta could be carried to people, I thought that the walk is the best way to do that. I'll tell you why. While we walk, we are with the common man. I'm not saying that if you go in a car you are not with the common man. But, in today's atmosphere, if you go in a very big car, stop in a village, get down and try to talk to the villagers, the first thing that they expect is that this guy has come to acquire their land. However, if you walk, you get down to the level of the walking man and it's easier to communicate ideas.
So this idea was in my mind. I'm now 67 years old, 67 years young, let me put it that way because I really don't feel old. I've been walking all these days. Other people are walking with me. There are people older than me walking. Just now Commodore must have talked to you. He's a retired Commodore from the Indian Navy. He's 80 years old. I have to give you a warning. Even though he is 80 years old and retired from the Navy, be careful when you go with him in the car, he will fly. So I thought I'm healthy now, but after one or two years, who knows what can happen, anything can happen. So I decided, let me do it now. So, for the last few years, this has been kind of inside me trying to express itself. So one day I said, let me walk. You know, some things can't be done unless you decide to do them no matter what happens. So this is how the thought of the walk came to be. When I look backward into history, Gandhiji walked, Guru Nanak walked, Adi Shankaracharya walked. There was a great saint, Christian saint, Roman Catholic saint, whose name was St. Francis of Assisi. I'm sure somebody must have heard about him. He walked. In fact, once when he was walking - this is one of my favourite stories - his disciples asked, 'teach us something'. He said, 'I will talk to you after I finish my walk'. So the walk was over and they sat down in a cool, quiet place. And then it was silent. So the disciples asked, 'You said you would talk to us after the walk and you are silent'. So he said, 'My walk is my talk'. So, my walk is my talk.
Q: During your journey in Haryana, what did you talk to the farmers about? We had the Jat eruptions last month and there was havoc. It's not exactly what the Jats did, but I think there were some other issues out there as well. So, I would like to know what you have done to prevent that since you said you are trying for prevention.
A: Are you Jat by any chance? (Student shakes her head indicating a 'No').The question is relevant because this has happened just before we entered the state. You know, we entered Haryana before Delhi. We went to Gurgaon and then entered Delhi. Where did we enter Haryana? We entered Haryana at Palwal. From Palwal, we went to Hodal and to Gurgaon and then to Delhi. That was before this agitation. The moment we left Delhi, the agitation started and people said, how are you going to walk through Haryana? Because we had to enter through Sonipat. Luckily for us, it ended before we entered. In this part of Haryana - that we were walking in after the riots - we have been talking to the panchayats, to the leaders, to the sarpanchs, wherever we went. Even in small villages, even in Kurukshetra we went to very remote villages. We actually walked through Kaithal where lots of problems were there before. We engaged them in a dialogue and we said, 'Look, this is a democracy. We may have differences of opinion, you may have your demands, which is legitimate in a democracy, but can we do it without resorting to violence and without destruction to public property? When you say public property, it doesn't belong to the Government, it belongs to you and me’. So, this is the dialogue we engaged them in.
Now, for your question, I want to say one more thing. After passing through that part of Haryana, we came to Delhi. In every big city, I fast for one or two days. It's a token fast, a 'Nirahar satyagraha'. This is against terrorism. So, we did that in Delhi in Jantar Mantar. On the second day, one of the Choudharys who had welcomed us in Hodal in Haryana and had a big gathering, came to me and said, ‘I want to tell you this. I want to bring you good news’. He is also a Jat himself. He said that even in his place, there was an agitation which was peaceful. There was no destruction of public property. I asked how? He said ‘I called all the members together and said that just one week ago Sri M came here and he talked to us about unity and peace. How can you forget this? He has just gone from this place. Can't we think about it?’ I think if all of us put in a cooperative effort, like you will go home and talk about it, right? Then people will get the feel of it. It is not easy to talk and talk and talk.
Q: Sir, how is it with your family?
A: The thing is that I am also a family man. I have my wife and 2 kids. They are both married now. So in a way I am free, but I too have responsibilities. Fortunately for me, I have a wife who appreciates what I am doing and tries to help out in all ways possible except coming on the walk - except at certain times - because she is the principal of our school, near Madanapalle. It's a full fledged boarding school. ICSE certified, plus two. So she looks after the school and she looks after other activities including our free rural school and so on. She has been very cooperative and helpful. I've not given up my responsibility, I have temporarily transferred it to somebody. And that is also the reason I give when people ask me why have I neglected the North East? They say: ‘You have only gone from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, you have not gone to Andhra Pradesh or to Orissa, Bengal, Bihar, and the North East, Assam.’ People ask me this one. This is connected to your question. This trip has taken us 16 months at one stretch. We shouldn't overdo it, I don't want to get a divorce petition on the way. I'm being honest. So, we will certainly do the other sector but we will give it a little time. Maybe a year or so, or two years. I think many of the padayatris who are here are coming. Then we will do the other sector. I certainly don't feel guilty that I've given up my responsibilities. I'm doing something good, and I think they understand that it is for the good of humanity. I think that answered your question, thank you.
The evening featured bhajans by Prof Murlidhar Soni and party at Sri Chandan's residence. A sumptuous dinner followed. The host thoughtfully presented each one with a CD of devotional music brought out by him dedicated to the Walk of hope. Another memorable day slowly wound to a close.