Journey to India: Exploring contrasts, enjoying similarities

As the 15 American students prepare to depart from the Sri Ram

For the last two weeks, Morgan Hill MMS students have written
about their experiences as they travel India – including a meeting
with the Dalai Lama, no less – and sent photos straight from the
scene. You can read and see more about their travels right
Fifteen students from Mount Madonna School are deep into their journey to India. The Times follows their trip across the world until their return April 30 back to California. It’s going to be a trip of a lifetime. Their two-week venture is known as the Vidya Dharma (Path of Knowledge) Project – part of MMs teacher Ward Mailliard’s two-year “Value in World Thought” program.

MMS students continue their blogging from India, writing about their experiences as they travel – including a meeting with the Dalai Lama, no less – and sending photos straight from the scene. You can read and see more about their travels here.


Hari ki Pari

James Clifton, MMS senior

April 23, 2011: We are halfway through our trip and I can still remember every second of each day. Our day in Old Delhi is just as fresh as our experience at Hari ki Pari last night.

In Hari ki Pari there is a ceremony called Aarti in which people give offerings to the river Ganga. Seeing Aarti yesterday was amazing. It seemed more like an annual event and I find the fact that it occurs nightly unbelievable. We got to stand on a bridge overlooking a portion of the Ganga. Below us, 10,000 people stood in prayer. The dedication and intensity that I saw on their faces is my new definition of faith.

The fact that everyone comes together each night and makes offerings and prayers to the holy river says so much about the people. Aarti at Hari ki Pari was unlike anything I have ever experienced, seen, or felt elsewhere. I am still in awe and look forward to what the rest of the trip has to offer.

Gurjar Village

Susie Bryan, MMS senior

April 24, 2011: Exploring the Gujar village was a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Just as the heat began to fade, we loaded ourselves into a bus and drove 10 minutes down the road, where we turned onto a dirt path leading to the Gujar village. The people there had migrated to the foothills of the Himalayas during the Mughal Empire to escape forced conversion to Islam, and their lifestyle has largely stayed intact.

They earn their income from selling buffalo milk. It is the most expensive milk in the area because their buffalo graze on untouched land. Besides the men riding their bikes to the main road to exchange their milk, they have virtually no contact with the outside world. Seeing the way they live was amazing; their houses are constructed of dead wood frames and wheat packed with clay.

The roofs let out the smoke without leaking when it rains. The triangular and circular windows painted with faded colors were beautiful. They made their own rope to construct beds that looked more comfortable than hammocks and used coal irons for their clothes.

The dry forest landscape they call home was much more barren than I had expected. The heat left the area normally occupied by the Ganges River dry and dusty, with random patches of green trees and shrubs. Yet somehow, the Gujar people manage to live a more efficient and environmentally friendly lifestyle than most of the world. They use only dead wood to fuel their fires, live in clay huts which stay warm in winter and cold in summer, barely use the solar lights they have, are highly conservative with water, use as much from their livestock as they can, and generally work with the land rather than against it. Exploring their village was both eye opening and humbling. I feel grateful to have been given the opportunity to experience something so pure and simple that contrasts so greatly with the kind of life I’m familiar with.

Goodbye Sri Ram Ashram

Emma Petersen, MMS senior

April 25, 2011: Today has been an emotional day. It was our departure day from the Sri Ram Ashram. Those kids truly touched my heart and even though we were only there for three days I fell in love with every single one of them. The two kids that really stood out to me were Janvi and Kiran. Janvi was 8 months old and was the youngest child there. She was found down the road in August 2010, at 3 days old.

She was the calmest baby ever; she never cried, was always smiling, constantly dancing, laughing, talking and blowing kisses.

Kiran is 9 years old. She was so sweet and such a beautiful dancer. It just came so naturally for her. The last night she was teaching all of how to dance and was very confident in her dancing, especially around all of us older girls. Today when I was saying goodbye, I was crying and she came up to me, wiped my tears and said, “Don’t cry, there is no reason for tears because you will be coming back soon.” Then she hugged me and kissed my cheek.

It was so hard for me to say goodbye to her because she had touched my heart so much. I could only imagine how hard it is for them, with new people coming all the time and leaving so shortly after. They need a consistent love, and with people coming and going so much it must be hard for them.

For a 9-year-old, Kiran was so aware of everything and the way that she consoled me was amazing. As we were leaving, she held my hand out the bus window and didn’t let go until we got to the gate. She will forever be in my heart and I cannot wait until I can go back and visit them all.

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