Drifting between lakes in Sat Tal, as we tried to extend our day in the area, we noticed some similarities between them. There seems to be little renewal of the waters, and the surrounding activity has made them eutrophic. The green waters of the lakes are a sure sign of increasing bacterial activity, and the lack of fish is apparent. At late as the 1943, I could trace a record of mahseer being fished from these lakes. It seems that the eutrophication of these waters started in the 1960s. These studies are in concordance with my memories of granduncles back from holidays discussing the changing quality of these lakes.
The area around the lakes seems to have been divided up between the state tourism department and something called the Sat Tal Christian Ashram. The latter seems to have been founded in the 1930s by a Methodist missionary from the USA called Eli Stanley Jones and two of his associates. Gandhi had spent some time in the ashram, and seems to have influenced Jones, who became a spokesperson for Indian independence at home. Since he was in regular touch with the US president Roosevelt in the lead up to Pearl Harbor and later, his opinion may have had some influence in Washington. I cannot see any study of the letters between him and Roosevelt, so it seems to me that here is an opportunity for a thesis.
This was Garur Tal, one of the smaller lakes in the area. I enjoy walking around these lakes, taking photos. Garur Tal was completely deserted in the early afternoon. The light had been gloomy all day, filtered as it was through smoke in the air. As a result the afternoon was not too bright for photography. I took a photo of a leaf floating a few meters away. The light on the water looked oddly like grains on wood. Closer to the edge I found a leaf which had begun to sink into the water, and would be consumed into mulch soon. The stones below it looked like quartz.
Closer to my feet I found stones which seemed to have folded layers. I think this is the stone called a phyllite. It is a slate which has metamorphed into this fine-grained form that you see in the large slab in the foreground of the photo above. I found bees hovering over the water around it, their shadows quite detached from them. In a stronger light the bees and their shadows would have made a nice photo, but then the photo would not have showed the striations in the rock. You gain some, you lose some. I was quite content at the edge of water, looking around, walking with The Family, delaying the start of the journey back home.
Gandhi changed Indian politics. He mobilized India between the non-cooperation movement, which ended in 1924 with his arrest, and the Salt March in 1930. In the five years between, he toured the country, constantly meeting and talking to ordinary people. Passing through Kausani in 1929, he decided to take a two week break. The place where he stayed is at the top of a low hill near the center of the town, and has come to be known as Anashakti Ashram.
Where did this name come from? I found that during these weeks he wrote his commentary on the Bhagwat Gita’s philosophy of judging the need for an action by its morality rather than consequence. The article is called Anashakti Yoga. He wanted to make this the core of his political method, satyagraha. He tried to live by it, and he died by it. In any case, the ashram is a quiet and beautiful place. Small panels of hand-carved woodwork decorate the otherwise simple pinewood buildings.
The day was overcast. The clouds and smoke from forest fires filtered out the sunlight. A brisk wind made the hilltop rather colder than the bazaar below. We walked around, but there was no feel of the political morality of the mahatma in the air. The main hall had a permanent exhibit of Gandhi’s life and work. We’d seen it before, but we wandered through it again, looking at pictures of people and meetings that influenced the early course of independent India’s history. They are familiar images.
Off at one end were the ashram offices. I decided not to peek in. The door to this block had an old-fashioned red post box. Was it in use? Once the next collection time used to be posted in that little window at the bottom. There was no time on it. The lock looked like it was in use. So perhaps the letters are collected on a regular schedule which the staff knows. The lack of visitors made the ashram a rather boring place, we thought, as we left. Gandhi strikes you as a man of action, not one who would shut himself away in a secluded ashram.
A month ago, on the occasion of Gandhi’s one hundred and fiftieth birth centenary, I wrote that I did not have any Gandhi memorabilia. I remembered later that it was not true. I had a photo of a memorial to Gandhi just outside the eastern wall of Madurai’s Meenakshi temple. It is a sign of the very high esteem that Gandhi is held in that this statue is placed so prominently near the very center of tradition in Madurai. At the same time it is outside the temple, and not inside, with statues of gods and goddesses. A very calibrated placement, I thought. I post it a month late, but better that I post it now than forget it.