Saturday, July 10, 2010

100 Acres (Land, Women, and Spirituality)

I arrived back to the offices late last night and didn't expect to be doing much LAFTI-related work early in the morning, unless it involved coffee or continual sleep. Although I woke and only intended to see why the loud horn of the foundation's Jeep was being honked so early in the morning, I had five minutes to be in that Jeep that was honking so peacefully at 8am. My Uncle Bhoomikumar had come to town from Cambodia where he works as a psychiatrist and mental health counselor for local youth, and when I went outside to see what was happening, he immediately asked me if I was going along. My grandma overheard and told him that both she and I had intended for me to sleep in for a bit of the morning since I had been traveling a great deal in the last week and was more than slightly behind on the sleep cycle. He said "okay, but if you change your mind since you're already awake, we're leaving in about five minutes".

Instead of going back to sleep like a sleep-deprived person might normally do, I continued on with the conversation by asking my grandmother where we were going, after telling her that I would be ready in five minutes of course. She insisted that I get some rest because my body was not used to so much traveling, but I assured her that I was learning to be just like her, doing what needs to be done even if the work doesn't come at the most convenient of times.

A few hours and over a hundred honks later (because that's just the main form of Indian road communication), we arrived to the village of Pethavelankottakam where Krishnammal was expected to speak. The event began with a several songs and prayers "to honor Amma's presence". After all the musical and other introductions were complete, as I would say now after hearing her speak on numerous different occasion and seeing the results in the past, my grandmother then began to "work her magic". Having listen to her speak to large and small groups in Hindi, Tamil, and English with various translators along the way, I can now confidently say that I have a simple and most basic understanding of the message that she is continually trying to convey. Land, Women, and Spirituality, that's the best Krishnammal speech summary I know. Her speeches intrigue me not because they are amazing, motivational, or more sincere than all others I have ever come across, but because they combine three subjects that are quite uncommon to be combined. Dealing with such a practical and physical problem such as the ownership of land, then solving that dilemma by informing and encouraging some of the most uninformed and discouraged people in Indian society, and doing so all through the notion of finding that of God within (spirituality) is an idea well beyond even the wildest possibilities of any other speaker to be found.

After nearly a full hour of land, women, and spirituality-speaking, it was on to what would later be referred to as the "100 acres of land" village. Almost 20 minutes later and several other Jeeps all filled with various different LAFTI staff members, we arrived at a small paved road surrounded by nothing but 100 acres of "usable land" as Amma would call it. After Amma and "her people" made it clear exactly what is was they wanted with this large plot of land, the really important person parked and stepped our of his highly Americanized shiny silver vehicle. This man was the CEO of a major Indian company who had come to discuss and negotiate (in grandma's mind) the possible sale and price (in grandma's mind) of the surrounding land. Although it seemed as though this CEO would talk to "his people" and get back to LAFTI with formal documents in the next 10 days, the pressure of Amma and nearly all of her staff who had come out to this road just to support her in the endeavor seemed to motivate this business man to move the process alongat a slightly faster pace.

I am not what exactly were the details of this 45-minute movie-like stand off in the middle of this 100-acre plot of land, but the speedy results made me think that maybe Krishnammal gave this man another one of her Land, Women, and Spirituality talks.

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