City on wheels-religious tolerance
A social organization from a housing colony decided to give the children of the colony a new experience.
Two buses were hired and a group of 100 children, ranging from 5 to 18 years, were taken for an educational excursion. The children belonged to various religions and various communities. They were asked to bring some typical food items of the region they came from, so that a variety of dishes could be shared. The only restriction was that only vegetarian food items. Were allowed the older children had to take care of the younger ones. Mr. Ramesh and Ms. Meena, members of the organizing committee who accompanied the children, supervised the arrangements. They also participated in the games, designed for the children.
The buses left from Andheri (East). The first halt was at Dharma Kshetra of Sathys Sai Baba temple. They spent about 20 minutes three. The entrance door of the auditorium attracted everyone because it carried symbols of Hindu, Muslim and Christian religions. The person who took them round the campus explained the symbols. They were shown all the mythological photos and magnificent gardens. The peaceful surroundings added to children’s happiness. As they ere to c0ontinue their journey, they were given breakfast.
The next halt, a short one, was at ISKCON (International Society for Lord Krishna Consciousness), Juhu. Here, they were shown pictures from Mahabharata, which adorned the wall of the temple. The swami explained to the children the value of concentration and meditation to attain inner peace. After having Prasad, they got into the buses. On the way, they passed a mosque where namaaz was on. The children were thrilled to see a small boy reciting the Quoran with much devotion and confidence. As they drove along, they crossed St. Michael’s Church and the famous Darga at Mahim, the Victoria Church and the Shitaladevi temple.
Though many children may have passed through and seen these places before, on this occasion they acquire a special significance. The children were so astonished by the innumerable places of worship of different religious groups that some of them remarked, `What a sea of people, Mumbai is! Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Paris, Jains, Buddhists, Jews- are all having their own religion, language and culture. Despite their distinct characteristics they are all really one people! Even a casual look at the people waiting to cross the road at a traffic signal is characteristic of the diversity.’ Ms. Meena added, this signifies the `Unity in Diversity.’
They had a short halt at Shivaji Park. The children shared the food, they had brought. The preparations were from almost all the regions of the country. While sharing their lunch in groups, they interacted with one another and discussed the various food habits and customs. Everyone was satisfied for having had the opportunity of partaking of delicious food from different regions.
Then, they were in buses once again. They saw the Siddhivinayak temple. Mahalaxmi temple and HajiAli the children were attracted by the sight of the people walking over the path in the sea, leading to the place of worship. There was noisy and animated discussion about all that they had seen so far.
They visited Mani Bhavan. They were shown the puppet exhibition depicting the scenes from the freedom Movement, the place where Mahatma Gandhi used to sit, stamps and postcards brought out on special occasions and collection of original letters. The staff of Mani Bhavan gave enlightening talks about Mahatma Gandhi and the freedom movement, Dandi March and Quit India movement. The children asked many questions and the staff of Mani Bhavan were happy to answer. Mr. Ramesh and Ms. Meena showed them the August Kranti Maidan and explained its significance. They also told about Hutatma Chowk though they could not go there, due to lack of time. Instead, they drove to Chowpatty. On the sands of Chowpatty they all assembled and at this meeting Mr. Ramesh and Ms. Meena explained to them how all of them, though coming from different families and belonging to various religions and communities, had become `one croup’ indeed.
The children explained, `we all are brothers and sisters of one family and one country. We also now realize that we are citizens of the world.’ Mr. Ramesh said, `we are all Indians before we are Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs.’
Ms. Meena said `God is one. God is within us when we do good deeds and serve humanity. We worship God. All the religions teach love, compassion, piety and goodness. God is one but the ways of worshipping are many’.
Then they all go into the buses and started their journey back to the colony. The children enjoyed the trip; they were enriched by their experiences. They returned relaxed and contented. They had a lot to discuss with their parents and elders. In the colony, many activities were organized where children of different age groups actively participated and cooperated in the development of the colony.
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