I have been wanting to come and volunteer in uttarakhand relief work since a long time and time was an important factor as I had to be back in delhi by mid october for starting my visa process. So after calling and meeting a lot of people, I decided to put my faith into pratyush. he had spoken with a few people who have been working in uttarakhand region for long and they were coming to rishikesh on 15th so we just decided to meet them and then take things further It was very difficult to convince my family and I have a feeling that they are still worrying a lot because there is no “fixed plan”. I read sometime back that plans and rules only make you feel safe initially.. nothing goes according to plan anyway I am lucky there are so many people who worry about me and I hope that I can serve some of those who have lost the people they used to worry about.
We reached rishikesh on 15th late evening. Pratyush had booked rooms at shivanand ashram in rishikesh. this is my first time in an ashram and I didnt know what to expect but shivanand ashram is beautiful! One of the biggest in rishikesh it beautifully brings together karm, bhakti and gyan. there is a big library of books and also an audio video library and many learned people to listen and learn from. Being an ashram, there are plenty of bhakti activities as well. They have a hall in which the akhand mantra is chanted 24 hrs since the last 60 years! I have heard that their ganga aarti is also very beautiful though I havent been able to see it yet. We have a lot of opportunities to serve as well. One can help in their hospital, in cleaning the ashram and in the kitchen. Wouldnt take much guesses to where I go . Gandhi ji used to call it bread labour. Even if we are not paying for the food we e here, we are offering our service and that is bigger than money!
currently a group of 40 very young students are staying at ashram. They have come from a tribal village in koraput district in orrissa to observe the life in an ashram. These children not older than 10 years are beautiful… So eager, so full of questions and also very much the children. So you can see them running around in their break time . Last night they performed a 1 hour satsang session. It was beautiful to listen to the combined chanting of 40 children and to imagine that at this tender age they already have learnt so much sanskrit! Today morning they all left to clean the banks of ganga.. Each had a big plastic bag and a green himalaya volunteer tag! We wished them good luck as they marched out of ashram in a single file!
Yesterday we met Devendra Bahuguna and his neice Archana Bahuguna. Devendra ji has been working in uttarkashi for many many years now and he shared stories of how tragedy has struck in many households. How the floods have washed away 80% of livelihoods. He was also expressing anger at why should the villages have become so much dependent on tourism! That its time to bring gram swaraj and make the villagers see that they need to become self reliant. Relief is only a temporary fix. It will make people even more dependent. Archana has an ngo called space for nurturing creativity in guptkashi. She works with children of the region through alternate education forms based on Gandhi ji’s nai talim principles. Since the floods they have suddenly become the focal point for every other organisation doing relief work in the region. Their school serves as the storage and their staff in distribution. Recently they started a tailoring and a paper bag making center for the women and youth in the villages. She says we dont think these centers will provide much livelihood support as not people in the mountains do not get many clothes stiched and there is hardly any forward linkage to send the stuff but for now its a way to engage the women and divert their minds. Many have lost their husbands, brothers, sons and they spend the whole day crying.
Yesterday, we went into rishikesh market to buy some blankets, pillows and books for the children. Archana has a list of few more things needed there. Today we hope to finish all the stuff that needs to be bought and then be on our way to guptkashi on 19th morning.
Reblogging from Lime’n’Lemony <http://limenlemony.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/in-rishikesh-preparation-for-going-up/>