Museum of Mankind

On Thursday morning, our class visited the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, or the National Museum of Mankind in Bhopal. Its sprawling campus includes not only a large indoor museum, but a number of interactive outdoor exhibits. Focusing on the lifestyles and cultures of India’s indigenous people, these exhibits are not meant to glorify the grand achievements of man. They are not about showcasing our “progress,” or showing how far humankind has come in development. Rather, they are about reminding us of where we have come from, of what values we once held.

This is a museum that inspires its visitors to think about their connection to nature, a connection that humans have so long forgotten. Too often, we place ourselves outside of nature and cease to recognize how our actions are affecting not only the environment we live in, but also ourselves. We are a part of this world, but for some reason so many of our actions are bent on destroying it. The values and cultures of indigenous people, though, show us a lifestyle that is much more connected to the earth.

One of the first exhibits we visited was the Tribal Habitat, which is built on a large hill overlooking the main museum. Here, we were able to learn about the different dwellings that each indigenous community had created. Exploring the inside of each house and discovering all of its contents was like stepping into another life, another way of existence. I was continually struck by how varied the structures were from tribe to tribe—each had adapted their dwelling to the environment that they were a part of. And though these were only replicas, they were constructed with the same materials that each tribe traditionally used. We also went through the Technology Park, which showcased different traditional tools that were used. The ingenuity of their tools was impressive, and it gave a clearer picture of how sustainable their practices were.

My favorite part of the Museum of Mankind, though, was their Mythological Trail, an outdoor exhibit that displays the creation stories of different adivasi tribes. Reading each story and seeing it played out in the traditional artwork of each tribe was unbelievably amazing. In those stories, humanity sprang from the earth, from rock, and even from animals. The interconnectedness of everything, of us, of animals, of the earth—all of that was so clear. It is stories like this that we need to value and respect. We cannot dismiss them just because they are different from what we know and understand. They show us something about humanity that we have forgotten.

In today’s world, we lavish chemical fertilizers upon the land. We dig deep into the earth, wounding it with our machinery. We consume more than we need, mindlessly tossing our waste aside. We treat animals as if they are “just animals,” forgetting too that we are animals as well. All that we rely on, from our systems of food production to transportation, requires “resources” from the earth. We take them without giving anything back.

There is no better place for the Museum of Mankind than in Bhopal. We have spent the last week learning about the gas leak that occurred in 1984 at the Union Carbide factory (now a subsidiary of Dow Chemical). Union Carbide was welcomed into India at the dawn of the Green Revolution, when chemical agriculture was being embraced. Their factory in Bhopal manufactured pesticides, but over the years it began cutting corners to save costs. Safety measures were dropped. Equipment wasn’t properly maintained. And unbeknownst to the people of Bhopal, Union Carbide was burying toxic waste throughout the city and within the factory grounds. The health affects resulting from the water contamination and the gas leak on December 3, 1984, have been disastrous.

Why does it take an industrial disaster to make us realize our mistakes? Why has little changed since the Bhopal tragedy? Why is Dow Chemical trying to sponsor the London Olympics, other than to green-wash their company and further convince people that their chemicals are indeed “sustainable”? Why can they do that when they refuse to clean up the Union Carbide factory or address the water contamination caused by the company they own?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. But walking through the Museum of Mankind, I could not help but think of all these indigenous cultures, all these people who knew so much about how to work with the earth, not against it. How did the world manage to move so far away from that?

To learn more about the Bhopal incident, please visit:
To sign a petition to remove Dow Chemical as a partner for the London Olympics, please visit:

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Choosing Justice

Our field visit on Wednesday began with a journey by van into the middle of Bhopal, navigating through narrow streets and intertwining neighborhoods. As our van came to a stop we all piled out and began walking between rows of houses, smiling at the children who passed by and wondering what our final destination would look like. Upon turning the corner, we were met with the sudden presence of an open, sunny courtyard and a two-story brick compound with flowers trailing along the walls. After walking inside, we met with a woman named Rachma and began to learn about this organization.

Sambhavna Trust Clinic was started to provide assistance to the victims of the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak and the resulting water contamination. Through speaking to Rachma and touring the campus, it became apparent that Sambhavna works at all levels to address this disaster. At one level, Sambhavna provides medical treatment to those affected by the immediate and congenital effects of the gas leak, as well as those harmed by the water contamination. Victims can come to Sanbhavna and receive treatment free of charge, whether this involves healing through yoga, therapeutic massages, or Ayurvedic herbal remedies that are made right at the clinic. To provide continually effective treatment, Sambhavna employs psychologists, pathologists, and community health workers to go out into surrounding areas and work with community members. Employees of Sambhavna are also continually conducting research on the effects of the 1984 disaster.

In addition to this important work, many such as Rachma and her husband are fighting to receive legal justice from Dow/Union Carbide and the Indian government for the spill. One of the main aims of these workers is to pressure the Indian government to present correct data on the number of people that have been affected. While the government has correct data, the numbers presented and used in court cases are much lower than the actual count. Another focus of current activism centers on the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, which will be hosted by Dow. Through letters and public outcry, these activists hope to convince the London Olympic Committee to not take money from Dow, and to convince the Indian government to boycott the Olympics. Ultimately, activists from many different groups fighting for justice for Bhopal are demanding more compensation from Dow, around $8.1 billion dollars, to truly cover the costs of this disaster.

Throughout our visit, the contrast between the disaster in Bhopal and Sambhavna’s work was clear. On one hand, the forces of corporate greed, capitalist irresponsibility, and a lack of regard for human life created death, illness, and suffering for thousands of people. Just ten minutes down the street, hope and healing overflowed from a group of people fighting for justice. Two completely opposite sides of the spectrum; and yet two sides of the same species.

As humans we are tangled in injustices; but we are also liberated by goodness, by the fight for humanity. Both are in our nature, but neither is inevitable; we have the power to choose. In the midst of violence and destruction, Sambhavna created a beacon of hope and healing. Their choice was to fight for justice, to strive to restore the best of human nature. We all have the power to choose; the work done at Sambhavna inspired me to strive for hope and healing, even in the very midst of injustices.

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Seeing Hope

Although it seems impossible, we have now embarked on the final stage of our month long journey. Our group is now in our capstone course: learning about the gas disaster that took place at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal. On December 2-3, 1984, a gas leak occurred at the Union Carbide Factory, sending a cloud of poisonous gas over the city of Bhopal. This initial gas leak claimed the lives of thousands; however, it was soon discovered that there were more long term ramifications connected to this tragedy. It became apparent that in addition to leaking toxic chemicals, the factory had also been incorrectly disposing toxic waste by burying it in the ground. The chemicals were then able to contaminate the water supply and infect even more individuals with toxins.

Upon our arrival in Bhopal, we visited the Chingari Trust. The Chingari Trust is an organization that helps children of victims of the initial Bhopal incident and the resulting water contamination. Many of the individuals who either breathed toxic chemicals at the time of the gas leak, or who ingested toxic chemicals through drinking contaminated ground water, gave birth to children with a great deal of birth defects. Many of these children are severely mentally and physically disabled.

The children require extensive physical and speech therapy, as well as special education services. The staff at Chingari provide care free of charge to any child who is suffering from disabilities. Along with administering services to the children, professions will also educate family members on how to administer therapies at home. This combination of these services has caused children to improve drastically. It is clear that this organization is doing everything they can to improve the lives of the children and families affected by this tragedy.

Throughout my time at the school, I felt very inspired by the women who started this organization. Hearing their story was exactly what I needed. Throughout our time in India, our group has been exposed to topics that are very complicated and overwhelming. Many of the problems that we observe are byproducts of large and complex system. It is easy to give up and think that there is nothing I, a single ordinary person, could ever do to fix these injustices. However, hearing the story of these women reminded me of the power one person can have. We must not lose sight of the power each of us has to make a change.

During my time at Chingari, I was reminded that I do not need to have an extensive list of credentials or massive amounts of support to make a difference. Being filled with passion and a willingness to donate your time is much more important. As I prepare to return home and start thinking about what I am going to do with all the important information learned throughout my time in India, I will keep the story of Chingari close to my heart. I hope all of us will remember that if we follow our passions and put all of our energies behind those issues that really fire us up, we can make a difference.


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Life by the River

While in Varanasi, we woke at the crack of dawn one day to go on a boat ride on the Ganges and see the sunrise over the river. It was quite an interesting and beautiful sight that brought to light what life by this holy and revered river is like. Following is a poem of that experience.

Before us is a river,

A river according to Hindu tradition manifested from the goddess Ganges,

Who came down to earth to purify the souls of all those who bathe in her.


In the cool morning the sky becomes light,

But fog obscures the sun from sight.

We go down the steps leading to the water,

And set off on the Ganges,

Observing several facets of life.


Colorful flowers and little candle lights,

Left over from an evening prayer and offering,

Floating among the ripples.


People bathing and playing in the water,

Their colorful clothes lying out to dry.


Various Hindu temples and a mosque,

Side by side along the bank.


Sounds of laughter,

Alongside morning games of cricket and badminton on the ghats.


Scripture reading and hymn singing,

Accompanied by the beating of a drum.


Individuals standing in reverence,

Hands together by their heart,

In deep respect of the river that connects them to the heavens.

The sun peaks from behind the clouds,

Which casts a stream of soft radiant light,

On the water’s ripples,

On our faces,

On life by the river.


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Awkward Girl Spotted at Hindu Temple

The constant sound of ringing bells filled the air. Crowds of people. Wisps of incense swirling around our heads. Piles of shoes filling up every corner. Visiting Hindu Temples always prove to be a sensory over-load.
Walking around and observing the crowds at these temples was definitely an experience unlike any other. Rituals and food, adornments of statues, groups of people bowing and praying, all of these continue to be new sights for me. Being a white, middle class American girl who has always felt uncomfortable seeing anyone at church raise their hands in worship… Yea, I felt a little out of place at these Hindu temples…

With every step, I was paranoid about making the unavoidable cultural faux-pau. Can I hold my shoes in my hand? Where do I wash my hands and face? AM I ALLOWED TO EVEN BE HERE IF I’M NOT A HINDU?! Occupying these temples, I couldn’t hide the fact that I was merely a student from America. It was obvious I lacked the deep understanding these Hindu men and women possessed. Sure, I read did a lot of reading about Hinduism, and I had learned many things in my classes about eastern philosophy and belief systems, but it became clear to me that there was only so much one can grasp in a classroom. I kept coming back to the same doubts: was I justified in entering their places of worship if I wasn’t a believer? I wasn’t so sure. One thing I was sure of however, was this: that I felt out of place, awkward, almost guilty for inhabiting the temples because I felt I didn’t belong there.

I left the incense and crowds behind that afternoon with conflicting thoughts and emotions. I was still trying to figure out my respective place when visiting foreign religious sites. True, I didn’t really understand all the ins and outs of Hinduism, and because of this, I did feel out of place going into the temples and witnessing such respect and spiritual intimacy, but why was I feeling so uncomfortable in an environment that was foreign to me? I loved learning outside of the classroom, but maybe if it made me feel so out of place, I should just stick to the books and study culture that way. After many thoughts like these, I failed to come to an answer, but succeeded in coming to one question instead: Could this uncomfortable feeling have anything to do with how I viewed myself? How I viewed my identity?

Woman, daughter, sister, American, spiritual, environmentalist, friend. These were the identities I resonated with the most. What was so wrong with that? Well, the more I thought about it, the clearer the problem became. Nothing really was wrong with these individual identities, and certainly nothing was wrong with internalizing identities in the first place. As the social beings that we are, we adopt and embrace identities that either  make us unique from the masses or binds us closer to others. I came to realize that this theory proved true for me. This where I hit a realization.
I had completely forgotten about my biggest, and most important identity.
Global Citizen.
Once I started to re-think the hierarchy of my own identities, I came to see how strange and unnatural it was that I felt awkward in a place of unfamiliar culture. It was because I was putting national pride, religious affiliation and even gender above my most important identity as a human being. Because I forget about this identity, I felt like an intruder in these temples and not like a fellow citizen simply learning about a different culture.
I really feel that learning about new and foreign cultures and religions is so important and necessary that we really shouldn’t feel like outsiders in new environments. Maybe if I would have see myself as global citizen first instead of American or women when visiting the temples, my feelings and actions could have been different. Instead of feeling insecurity and guilt, I could have focused on being more perceptive, and less paranoid. Maybe I would have seen earlier just how interconnected many world religions are.  I am still quite sure that I will never be able to fully grasp what it is like to be Hindu, but realizing that the most important identity to embrace is that of being a global citizen? That realization has allowed for a more informed and more perceptive student of foreign culture and religion. Because that is all we can ever ask to be.


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Understanding Buddhism, Understanding Ourselves

Imagine a class room: a black board filled with writing, chalk dust hanging in the air, the bustle of traffic and church bells pouring through the windows and endless questions hitting us square in the face. What is reality? What is the mind? Where is the mind? What is the self? How do we know what we know?  Is there universal truth? What is it? Where does it reside? These were just some of the questions we faced during our three days in Varanasi.

Father Emmanuel, a Catholic Priest as well as a student of Buddhist and Hindu philosophy, was our patient teacher and guide. In two days we tried to cover practically two years of course material. We were quickly immersed in Indian philosophy, specifically the philosophies behind Hinduism and Buddhism. Studying these philosophies gave us a much richer understanding than if we had just studied the basic tenets of Hinduism and Buddhism. Religions are so often misunderstood because we evaluate them using our own lens; we do not see or understand them from their own perspective. We see differences as divisive or wrong without ever stopping to understand their meaning and how they developed.

One great example of this is Buddhism. Father Emmanuel began one of our classes by challenging us to distinguish between liberation in Buddhism and salvation in Christianity. If we operate from the understanding that both aim to reach heaven, then our answer is inherently wrong. Buddhism and Christianity are addressing two distinctly different problems. In Christianity the problem is sin; in order to be saved from sin, and get to heaven, we must have faith and we are then saved by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In Buddhism, the problem is not sin, but suffering. Therefore, the goal is liberation from that suffering which can be accomplished through the eight fold path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right meditation and Samadhi, the highest level of meditation. One is liberated by their own efforts, not saved by God and they do not go to heaven. Liberation is one’s own accomplishment that allows them to escape the cycle of life, suffering and death and attain nirvana.

Instead of examining different religious traditions from our own lens, we must learn to see them as they see themselves and we must seek to understand the philosophies behind different religions. Then, we will realize that though our differences are distinct and important, there are also powerful commonalities. We are all struggling to understand the world and our role in it.

Religious philosophies are just the beginning. The most important lesson Father Emmanuel taught us this week is the difference between religion and spirituality. Religion is the way to God. Religion is the external ritual, creed and a way of life. Spirituality is the inner search for relationship with God and the world. Spirituality requires us to live lives of truthfulness and love.  Spirituality comes from within but is rooted in religion. Father Emmanuel believes you cannot chose religion OR spirituality; it must be a combination of both. He used the example of a lotus flower. Religion is like the roots of the lotus flower; religion gives us a foundation, a practice and a way to know the divine.  Like the lotus, we must rise above murky water and algae to strive for a relationship with God and with the world by cultivating our own spirituality.

This week as we gained a better understanding of Hinduism and Buddhism, we also gained better understanding of ourselves, our role in the world and what we believe. Studying different religions, spiritualties, philosophies and perspectives allows us to not only understand  those who are different from ourselves, something that is essential in our pursuit of social justice, it also challenges us to reexamine and clarify our own beliefs and better understand the commonalities such as desire for truth, love and connections that unify us all.

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An Introduction to Hinduism: We are all One

Religion in India is not a hidden or rare thing.  After three months in India we have come to notice signs of religion everywhere we look. These symbols are found in places ranging from tiny shrines scattered throughout the city and countryside to the clothing and accessories that people wear. Thus our introduction to Hinduism, the majority religion in India (comprising 83 percent of the population), during our first day in Varanasi was very welcomed.

It was fitting that were taught about Hinduism in Varanasi. It is the most important place for Hindus. The city is built on the Ganges River which is believed to wash away the sins of the people. Varanasi is to Hindus as Mecca is to Muslims and Jerusalem is to Christians. Our course in Varanasi was taught by a Father Emmanuel, a Catholic priest who specializes in Indian philosophy. Thus throughout the class he made many parallels between Christianity and Hinduism, which was helpful because we were socialized in a society whose worldview is deeply impacted by Christianity. The similarities between the two religions struck me and effectively exemplified the idea that there is just one truth. We all express this truth in different ways which leads people to believe that truth is different.  Religion is a way of life that leads to a collective conscious or the divine. All religions are only ways or options to reach the truth. Once this truth is found and practiced it is spirituality – a sort of inner dynamism and authentic living – and religion is no longer needed.

Some similarities that were highlighted by Father Emmanuel are ones that are not visible to an outsider. For instance, I was under the impression that the various deities that we have seen worshipped in India in the form of figurines on the sidewalks or in temples were separate Gods, which would make Hinduism polytheist. It is true that on Hinduism there are many Gods who have diverse characteristics, but they are ultimately only different forms of one God. There is also a false view that people have of Hindus being animal and tree worshippers. Hindus venerate trees and animals to show respect for them. Like the worship of saints in Catholicism or the Virgin Mary in Christianity, through the medium of trees and animals Hindus are worshipping God. Where Christians believe in panentheism (God in everything), Hindus believe in pantheism (God is everything). In Hinduism, this belief elicits the significance and equality of all of creation and explains the importance of respecting and worshipping the natural world.

The crash course that we had in Hinduism was an important piece of the diverse puzzle that is Indian culture. Especially in a country like India it is impossible to separate religion and culture. The course also truly emphasized the idea that if you remove the periphery of all religions, the core of religion is the same. This core reflects similar sentiments of goodness: love, service, and compassion.

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Down by the Water

I think our group came away from our time at Varanasi with a fresh appreciation of religion. For myself, I was reminded of the wonderment and the deep connection people cultivate with their spiritual life, and this is something I began to see only when I started looking more closely.

Last Friday evening, after spending the last two days in full concentration over philosophy, religion, and theology, we ventured out into the city towards that heavenly river, the Ganges. Father Emmanuel, the man responsible for the mental workout of the last two days, gave us some insight into the history of Varanasi and why it was such a holy place for practicing Hindus. In myth, the Ganges was a literal gift to humankind; Ganges was the goddess of sacred water in heaven and was brought down, tamed and purified through the god Shiva’s hair, to earth. The river serves then as a connection between the earth and heaven, as well as being purifying to the spirit of human beings who bathe in her waters. Father made the analogy for us: just as Jerusalem is to Christians, so Varanasi and the Ganges are for the Hindu tradition.

Another one of the things we as a group have experienced, over and over in India, is the way religion is very present in society here—it is neither bashful nor timid, and as far as Hindu shrines and temples go, their presence dots the landscape everywhere. And yet, being such an outsider, it has taken a very long time for me to recognize the spirituality and devotion in the temples we have visited. To my curious eyes, what I see inside the temples—people clanging bells, lighting incense, marking their foreheads with ash—is hard to recognize for what it really is. The same meaning that stirs my spirit when I take communion, or when I pray over lit candles, exists for the people who visit these temples and gaze at these painted idols. Both of us are searching for connection to the divine, and it has taken me some time—and some really engaging lessons of Indian philosophy with Father Emmanuel—to be able to make that connection on deeper level.

So, when we went down to the river that Friday night, it was to see the evening Aarti (akin to a devotional or ritual service, performed by Hindu priests) at the Dashaswamedh Ghat. Walking down the crowded streets and down the steps, the crowd grew and grew. By then it was quite dark, but we saw the fires alight under these constructed arches right at the edge of the river, and the beginning of the docks. Beyond the circle of light you could see tens of boats bobbing together in the darkness, watching the service from out on the water. There were several priests arrayed in a line, each on their own platform, and in front of them was the offering table to the god(s). They swung their arms and moved to the sound of a man’s voice, singing through loud-speakers all around the Ghat—to me, it seemed like a dancing prayer. And it wasn’t until after we had returned to our beds that night, and I was reflecting on the experience in my mind’s eye, that I recalled the spirituality and religion present down by the water. I remember a man, arms raised and eyes closed, chanting by heart the words coming out the loud-speakers. I remember a woman and her family uplifting her hands toward the god’s table, and cupping the smoke of the fire onto her face and over her head.

One of the great gifts of going abroad to a foreign country is the way it can encourage you to look and see with new, and opened eyes. One of the ways this has been most relevant for me has been in rekindling my ability to see the spirituality in the world around me, and appreciate the role of religion in people’s lives. To Varanasi and the river Ganga, I offer up my thanks in this regard.

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Train Ride to Varanasi

After sightseeing in Delhi, our group began preparations for our journey to Varanasi.  We were planning on catching an overnight train around 6pm on Tuesday night and arriving in Varanasi early the next morning.  We had taken train rides like this before and I found the experience quite relaxing compared to some of our other modes of traveling.  However as our train journey approached I started to grow a bit wary.  The week had been unusually foggy and it was starting to affect the railway system.  A couple days before we were scheduled to go to Varanasi we tried taking a train to Agra.  We woke up early and walked to the station only to find that our train had been delayed two hours.  We sat on the cement floor of the crowded station, we read, talked and some of us even fell asleep while we waited.  When we finally caught the train, the actual ride took twice as long as we anticipated.  The fog inhibited the trains from travelling at their normal speed.  When we rode back to Delhi from Agra later that day, we faced similar delays.

The foggy weather continued after our trip to Agra so I am sure most of us were a little worried we would face delays on our way to Varanasi.  However we were cautiously optimistic when we called ahead and the train was reported on schedule.   We arrived at the station an hour before scheduled departure which was 6pm.  About 20-30 minutes after we arrived we got the news that our train wouldn’t arrive until 10:45pm.  The railway station had been crowded before.  Now it was packed!  My classmates and I, with all of our luggage barely had anywhere to sit and we had to position ourselves awkwardly between a small booth selling travel goods and the station’s public sink.  We were surrounded by other delayed travelers.  Entire families sat on news papers huddled around their luggage, staking it out until their trains arrived as the speaker system continuously announced more delays.  We settled into our surroundings.  Most of us essentially sat on top of our luggage, pulled out books, took naps, bought snacks from our new neighbor the convenience store worker next to us,  and prepared for the long wait.

Around 7pm a group of us decided to try and find some dinner.  We maneuvered through the masses of people; even more had accumulated in the past couple hours.  Outside of the station the streets were also crowded and noisy, probably full of our fellow delayed travelers.  We made a turn and came across a cozy and surprisingly quiet Tibetan restaurant.  The menu had everything from Tibetan momos to Indian curries to westernized pizza.  I proceeded to order two entrées, like I usually do when I am hungry.  All of us were delighted with the food and settled into contented dinner conversations as we ate.  However the meal was over all too soon and we rushed back to the station so the rest of our classmates could have a chance to eat before the train arrived.

The station had reached a new level of crowded.  We could barely walk down the stairs because of all the people trying to get up and down them.  When we reached our group most of them were reading or using their laptops.  Some of them were interacting with the family stationed next to us who had two toddlers, happily oblivious to the inconveniences of waiting at the station.  They gurgled and played with my class mates as their caretakers ate tins of food which they had spread out on news papers and ate with plastic spoons.  I sat down near my bag and prepared myself for the next couple hours.  I started reading and time seemed to start picking up speed.  However around 9pm we received news that our train actually wouldn’t be arriving until 3am.  I took comfort in the fact that at least I had a full stomach for the long wait that stretched ahead.

The station had begun to look like a refugee camp now.  Most people produced sheets and blankets and curled up on the concrete to sleep until their trains arrived.  How strange it was that I had been enjoying dinner in a cozy and quiet restaurant only hours before.  We decided to spit our group in two and half of us would go to a different, less crowded platform.  The sink we were stationed next to had started leaking and the water was gradually encroaching on our luggage.  There wasn’t enough room for us all to sit anymore.  I was in the group who was relocated to a different platform.  It had grown quite cold at this point and I couldn’t lay down to try to sleep because the concrete was too cold.  I didn’t mind sitting up and talking with my friends though.

Eventually the train arrived.  We hopped on, found our compartments and slept.  My compartment woke up around 11am the next day.  No one was sure when we would actually be arriving in Varanasi because all of the trains were going slower than normal and hadn’t started at the right time to begin with.  I spent my time laying around, listening to my ipod, reading and taking naps.  We had lunch and dinner on the train.  I wondered if we would ever get there, though I hadn’t gone stir crazy quite yet.  Finally we reached Varanasi at about 2:30am Thursday morning.  We had been delayed at the train station for about 9 hours and spent a whopping 23 hours on the actual train!  We missed a complete day of classes but I was just happy to arrive safely to our destination.  The whole experience was an adventure and now I have another great story to tell when I get home!

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“My life is my message.”

After leaving Hyderabad, our group headed to Delhi for three days of “tourism.” We had no classes, no papers to write, and no set schedule. We were set to explore the city.

Our first day started with a tour of Old Delhi, starting at Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. From there, we continued to explore the surrounding area, traversing through narrow, twisting back alleys and uncovering the beautiful architecture of the Old City. After we finished this tour, we split into small groups to explore the different parts of Delhi we were interested in—some went to the Red Fort, some to Fatehpur Masjid, some to the Raj Ghat. But despite going our separate ways, almost all of us ended up at the Gandhi Smriti.

The Gandhi Smriti (“remembrance”) is a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. It is located at what once was the Birla House, where Gandhi spent the last days of his life before being assassinated on January 30, 1948. It houses not only a museum, but a Martyr’s Column that marks where Gandhi was assassinated. A group of us came here directly from the Raj Ghat, the memorial where Gandhi had been cremated. As we were walking from the metro station, we managed to run into another group heading to the same place. Once we got to the museum, we realize that we were not the first SJPDers to arrive—another group had been there all afternoon.

It did not surprise me at all that on our free day in Delhi, so many of us would end up at this museum. Gandhi has been a recurring character in our classes and discussions, whether it is through independent research projects, learning about Gandhian economics, or through discussions on non-violence. After exploring the museum, it was quite apparent that Gandhi’s presence in our classes was no coincidence—there was not a single part of the museum or his teachings that we were unable to connect to our SJPD experience in some way, shape, or form.

“My life is my message,” reads the first panel of the museum. It is the only sign on the white wall of Gandhi’s bedroom—a simple, bare room filled with only the most basic of essentials. From there, one enters a long hallway filled with framed pictures, quotes, and articles written about Gandhi’s assassination. As I made my way down that hallway, I could not shake the goosebumps that had risen on my arms. Walking through the room that documented the last forty-eight hours of Gandhi’s life, I could not get rid of the lump in my throat.

I had read about Gandhi before coming to India, but not much. Most of what I learned was picked up through a few classes, and through the ever-famous movie, Gandhi. This museum, though, exposed me to Gandhi in a very different way. It was not just historical background on Gandhi, but his teachings that were displayed—and they were almost always from selections of his own writings. The number of teachings that I could so easily connect back to recent class discussions amazed me. From non-violence, to land use, to community living, to women’s rights and education, to interfaith, and even to vegetarianism—Gandhi had something to say about so many of the issues we were discussing.

The Gandhi Smirti was, for me, a way to connect many of the larger issues that our class has been struggling with. So many of them made an appearance on the walls of the museum, and I couldn’t help but think of that first quote: “My life is my message.” The walls displayed his writings, his written message, but Gandhi did what so many of us are struggling to do. He had so much to say about social injustices, but he did more than just say it—he lived it. That, I think, is what inspired me most about my visit to the Gandhi museum. I don’t think it was a coincidence that so many of us converged on the museum that afternoon—as the semester winds up, we have all been looking for ways to live out our own messages. A visit to this museum provided yet another source of inspiration.

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