Atheist Centre 50+ Golden Jubilee (1940-1990)
International Conference on
"Future of Atheism -- Humanism"
Vijayawada, December 29-31, 1990
[OCR, HTML, editing, Cliff Walker]
In 1969 my brother, who had discovered the address of the Atheistic Centre from an American whom he met on a train, recommended me to visit it while I was in South India. My visit there, and my decision to stay for four months, have changed my life and influenced my attitudes and my lifestyle since that time.
I very much appreciated the simple life and work of the people at the Atheistic Centre, and their invitation to me to work with them. I enjoyed helping with domestic chores, sweeping the ground, cleaning cooking pots and eating utensils using ash from the wood fire and grass, to scrub them clean, then rinsing them in clean water. This method used naturally available materials, which cost nothing, and added nothing to the pollution of the environment, which we regard as so important today. Gora explained to me that at that time many people would be surprised to see a western woman doing menial work, but I have learnt that physical work is essential to our mental well-being, especially if our lives are involved in mental work and in trying to improve conditions for society. I particularly enjoyed preparing vegetables, although I never learnt to grind dahl correctly and I loved to watch Mrs Saraswathi preparing and mixing spices for the daily meals. The words of Telugu which I learnt were 'annam' and 'majjiga'. I teased my friends that I was learning to eat in Telugu, 'Annam kavali'.
As humans we share the very basic activities in life eating, cooking, cleaning and working, and through this grow the very strong bonds of love which bind us together. Although I am twice as old now as I was when I visited you, the influence of the simple lifestyle and the practical ways of helping people in society have stayed with me and I have tried to continue living and working in that way, although in our highly technical, busy and stressed western society that is not easy. People expect us to follow the 'rat race' and to live with speed and tension. It is hard to ride a bicycle when a car is available. It is hard to eat simple vegetables when all sorts of 'ready-made' meals are available on the supermarket shelves.
Gora was a devoted and very practical man, who believed in doing, as well as thinking and talking, and he inspired courage in many people who saw how he lived and worked.
The women's work which has been developed is a particularly important aspect of the Atheistic Centre and my very best wishes go to all of you who are continuing Gora's important work, and to those of you who are able to be present at the celebrations of December 1990.