01 March 2008

draft of authors introduction for "sometimes we walk alone"

which should be ready in a couple of weeks...

Authors Introduction
(worth reading first)

On March 12, 1930 Mohandas K. Gandhi began walking with 78 satyagrahis from his ashram at Sabarmati, through the Gujarati countryside, to the Indian ocean at Dandi, to break the law. When he did so, on April 6th, through the simple act of making salt from seawater, millions of his soon-to-be countryhumans broke the law with him, and the Indian independence movement entered a stage of massive non-violent civil disobedience.

That's the short version of the story. Clearly, there's a lot of pregnant background. Thousands of years of pregnant background that this book will not provide.

Instead I have chosen to focus on another journey. On March 12, 2006, I began walking from Gandhi's ashram at Sabarmati, through the Gujarati countryside, to the Indian ocean at Dandi, to understand a little of Gandhiji's life and message.

I have provided glossaries of words, concepts, songs and recipes that I consider necessary to understand the text. Please use it. It is an extremely limited introduction to the vast and united territory of Indian philosophy and culture.

There is a mountain in the South of Indian that is Shiva (a God). We call it Arunachala, Arun being the color between black of night and the first red of the dawn. Since Arunachala is Shiva and the rocks on Arunachala are Shiva and the dirt shimmying down the side of Arunachala too is Shiva then she who would seek the end and extent of Shiva should walk, it seems, unto the sea. And then even, she, in her dedication, may not be sure to stop.

So it is with the pregnant background.

In the glossary you may also note a frustrating diversity of titles and suffixes to peoples' names. In general it is impolite to refer to an elder by their first name only, sans respectful suffix. For historical personages, such as Gandhi, I tend to use the "ji" of respect when I am referring to him as a personal influence, and to leave it out when I am referring to him as a historical figure.

As for the text that follows, it is a transcription and translation of the scragged journals I kept while walking. I typed them into a computer two weeks after reaching the ocean, at a computer in Sri Lanka, fearful I wouldn't be able to read the handwriting any longer. Over a year later I spent two weeks at Nash's Organic Produce in Sequim, Washington revising, correcting, clarifying, and translating from my private dialect to something shapely for public digestion. And now, almost two years from my first footsteps, I have returned to the tranquil campus of the Environmental Sanitation Institute to assimilate my editor's corrections.

I have resisted a great deal of temptation to insert sentiments, reflections, and supposed wisdoms that I have accumulated over the past two years – I want the book to reflect the pilgrim's progress at the time. If I have caved, you will note the phrase "I see that now" or some such construct to indicate a willful anachronism.

The epigraphs I have used to precede each chapter are all from a book of Gandhiji's writings called "My Non-violence", published by Navajivan in Ahmedabad. It was the only book I carried with me and though I did not record on what day I read which passage, it served me as a faithful guide throughout the evolving moral and physical topography of rural Gujarat.

A great deal of thanks are in order, for those who have helped this become whatever it is. To everybody's Gods, to all those who have walked before, to Jayeshbhai and Anarben and everyone mentioned in the journeys that follow, to Mattji always, to Malavika, to everyone and their computers at Nashs's -- including Neilu, Scott, Shaun, and Stella -- to all my teachers, to Adam for not preferring, to Ishwardada and the staff at ESI, to Kate and Samantha for reading, to the music, and to Erikbhai, my editor. I hesitate to involve the names of others, being unsure of the value of these words that follow, but I can say with confidence that no harm was intended in the writing, and all errors are my own.

Finally, a note on the title. The most common question I fielded during my pilgrimage was "you are walking alone?". I would be asked over and over by the same person in successive moments, with total disbelief. I should normally have said "yes" – I had set out with the intention to walk alone, in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, to Dandi. But due to the interference of the observer in the experiment, I would be required in the interest of Truth to say "no". For anytime I was being asked, I was not alone. And – remember, this is India, mystic and sacred and superpopulated – I was always being asked. Hence the title, "Sometimes We Walk Alone", which I conveniently remembered from a beautiful stanza in the song "Eyes of the World" written by XXXXXXXX and first performed live at Maples Pavilion, Stanford University, on February 9th, 1973.

"sometimes we ride on your horses
sometimes we walk alone
sometimes the songs that we sing
are just songs of our own"

- ankurbhai

back to mangolandia.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

I like the title.