I wound my way to my final, northerly destination the day after visiting Ellora. It was Sevagram Ashram, the “village of service” that Gandhi established and occupied towards the end of his life. This is a place where Nai Talim (“New Education”, the philosophy which Gandhi developed throughout his political life & the Indian structural wall of my project’s theoretical framework) was explored and experienced, where its principles are still routinely practiced, and where a working school of Nai Talim was relaunched about 5 years ago. It predictably turns out that I am not alone in noticing the synchronicity between Nai Talim and European models for childhood education; the new teachers of new education have been trained by an experienced Montessouri educator who lived at the ashram for three years.
This leads to all sorts of excellent collaborations in concepts, like this wall of alphabet letters cut from sandpaper, a Montessouri concept for introducing literacy through the sense of touch. Of course, the literacy to be learned is in the mother tongue, a major tenet of Nai Talim.
And marvelously, I was able to speak with two expressive people who had been part of Gandhi’s educational system back in its first incarnation, who could tell me about the reasons they had come to his school, their impressions over the years, the crafts and the curriculum. They hardly needed to tell me about the lessons they carried away, because Nai Talim is an education remembered through living rather than through memory, and I was touching and seeing and eating those lessons along with them in every minute I spent at Sevagram.