Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Another three hours in the car, and we arrive at the ashram of P.V. Rajagopal, to the south and east of Madurai. It is a beautiful and well-kept ashram, donated by a European well-wisher, with many guest rooms, a bright and open kitchen, and many tables set up for discussions, with Europeans and Indians engaged eagerly together in conversation. The ashram itself is designed to promote multicultural dialogue.

Raji, as he is known, is probably the leading light among the next generation of Gandhian leaders. Roughly 50, he is a prolific writer, thinker, and traveler, but all aimed at transforming India toward a more people-centered direction of development. His major complaint is that India is selling off its national treasures – water, land, mineral wealth, petroleum – to the highest bidder, without regard to the more than 500 million people who are increasingly on the periphery, malnourished, and despairing. His organization – Ekta Parishad – seeks to unite those working more regionally or locally on various issues under one banner, and to train them in the techniques of nonviolent action, He is hoping (and working) to train five million young people ready to engage in action leading toward a new India. (Ekta Parishad is well worth looking up on the Web.)

He is also the editor of the very fine journal Ahimsa Intenational and asks me to contribute articles to it. I have one on “Education as Displacement” (more on that in a future blog, if I ever get there!) which would fit the bill. Our discussions go well, and Raji agrees to send one of his own workers to join us at Kuthur, and to solicit support and contributions toward the housing movement on a national basis from Gandhian organizations.

We sleep well, and wake the driver, and are off at 6:00 A.M. Krishnammal is in fine fettle this morning, and her head is spinning with ideas. She is going to contact cinema stars, and every member of Parliament (she knows lots of them). Also the spiritual personages (or as I call them, those with Holy Feet; I minorly sprained one of mine two nights ago and, it being black-and-blue, does not qualify.) We are going to appeal to communities that each member contribute one bag of cement. There will be folk musicians walking from village to village, beating on drums, awakening the people to the right of decent housing. International organizations will join in.
And so on and so forth. She really doesn’t have the staff or resources to carry out even one-twentieth of her spinnings, but, as she insists, quoting her Saint Ramalinga, “Everything is Possible.” She notes that when she started her movement for land reform, it was only herself, in an area where she knew almost no one, and it took several years for the local inhabitants to feel free even to talk with her. Now the landlords are almost gone, just nine more in the area of the 1968 killings, and she says she will have the last remaining portions of their land within ten days, and she can wish them fond goodbyes. She has supreme confidence that this is all going to happen, and a little faith goes a long way.


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