Friday, February 26, 2010

The story of a guava tree

Rajkot is full of interesting ‘Gandhi’ places, but it’s funny how nearly every place has been renamed after Gandhi!
Alfred High School, for instance, is now Mahatma Gandhi Vidyalaya… I had only seen photographs of the school, seeing it in brick and style was very exciting and all of us took turns taking pictures in front of it. We also went inside to watch a play, but I mostly watched the teachers, imagining how it must have been when Gandhi was little.
Rashtriya Shala was where ‘Talking Gandhi’, a series of interventions organized by the Galaxy School, was inaugurated. Jitendrabhai Desai, trustee of the Navjivan Trust that publishes books by Gandhi, exhorted us to draw inspiration from Hind Swaraj the way Gandhi himself drew inspiration from a play on the life of Harishchandra. Well, there are many things we can draw inspiration from in our lives, and many things that must elicit our indignation, that we must speak up against. Demeaning behaviour, injustice, affront to human dignity, unfairness, cruelty…
Rashtriya Shala also houses a fantastic library of books that belonged to Mahadev Desai, Gandhi’s trusted secretary for many years. Some of us sat in the room in which Gandhiji had observed a fast unto death in 1939, and listened as Tenzin Tsundue told us about being Tibetan, a refugee, and living in Dharamshala. “Remember the scene in ‘3 Idiots’ where these two guys drive up to Shimla? It’s not the Shimla road, it’s the Manali road. That’s where I was born, on the roadside, somewhere there. My parents were road construction workers. Then they were relocated to Karnataka.”
The Rashtriya Shala campus also houses a patola weaving and training centre. Patola silk weaving is an old and intricate technique famous in Gujarat.
For me, the best part was visiting his home in the middle of a crowded market where a tiny shop also sells lovely bandhini saris. Called Kaba Gandhi no Delo, it’s been kept nice and neat, although the flooring is modernly smooth. A lovely, elderly gentleman called Prabhatbhai is the caretaker and he affectionately took Astrid Kummer (a clown performer based in Pondicherry) and me around. But I was most excited about the guava tree in the compound. Prabhatbhai said it was not the same one that was around when Gandhiji was around, but it had grown, on its own, from that root. It was its baby, so to speak. Remember how little Mohan’s heart bled for the guavas that had been pecked by birds and how he would climb to the topmost branches, bandaging each ‘hurt’ fruit with cloth? That’s the image that came to me when I beheld this really tall tree. Seeing how thrilled I was, Prabhatbhai said, “Just as Gandhiji gave us the sweet fruit of freedom, so this tree bears sweet fruit, even today.” 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Silent fighter

Gandhi lived in Rajkot. Gandhi fought for our freedom. Gandhi actually fought with his mouth. I thought that meant he used to bite everyone. But then I realized that it was his silent fight that got us freedom.

- Aadya.T.A., 7 years

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

He looked at me!

I met a really interesting gentleman over the weekend who, when he was 12, actually saw Gandhiji, in person! How it happened was: He lived near Gandhiji's Sevagram ashram in Wardha. And, much like some of us keep pestering our parents for this or that, he kept pestering his dad: I want to see Bapu! I want to see Bapu! Finally, the day dawned and they went over to Wardha.

They had been told strictly not to fall at Gandhiji's feet, or to shout 'Gandhiji ki jai!".... It seems he abhorred this. A crowd had gathered and they all waited for Gandhiji to appear from his hut, to make his way to the place where he would have breakfast (which was just some ground groundnuts anyway).

He appeared, and there was a hush as people gazed. "I felt he was looking at me!" said the gentleman. "And I'll tell you, everybody there felt that. There was a kind of magic about him."

Indeed, many people have said that when Gandhiji gazed upon a crowd, each one in the crowd felt he was looking at him or her directly. Such was his personality.

In 'Picture Gandhi' you will read about how people would hold up their babies, even in a large crowd, so that Gandhiji's gaze would fall upon them. 

The gentleman also told me that he had heard from others that when you met Gandhiji, even if for ten minutes, "you became his world"... that is, he gave you his full attention.

Something for us there, right? Especially in this day of mobile phones and easy distractions? How to listen, how to pay attention....?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Plate Stuff!

Hello there all you bloggers! Just wanted to share a strange discovery. The other day, I had been to my aunt's place for a function, followed by lunch of course. The lunch was delicious, but before that, I discovered, that a large round stainless steel plate being used at the function/ceremony was one that had been used by Gandhiji!!! The story is like this: my aunt lived in Sevalaya, Gujarat, many many many years ago. By then, India was independent, Gandhiji had died, and yes, I was a toddler. Her neighbour was a gentleman called V. Kalyanaraman, who had been Gandhiji's secretary. I don't know why, but he presented my aunt with this plate saying that Gandhiji used to eat off it. Wow! And all these years she didn't breathe a word to me about it! Hmmmfff!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A note from a happy mother!

The Gandhi Jayanti talk by Sandhya Rao at Full Circle was a real eye-opener for my 7-year-old daughter Aninditha Nandakumar, who is in Standard 2 at Vidya Mandir. She learnt some good points about Mahatma Gandhi during the one hour audio-video talk by Sandhya. She remembered the points made by the writer and repeated it in her class when her teacher was talking about Gandhiji. She was also asked to talk about Gandhiji in her school assembly which made her read the book she bought about Gandhi authored by Sandhya. I am happy about two things- one, that she thought of reading about Gandhiji, and two, that she was confident enough to talk about him in her assembly. Thank you Tulika for organising this session and making it easy for me.
Poornima Nandakumar, mother of Aninditha Nandakumar

Friday, October 9, 2009

A reply

You are right, Turiya, it is very difficult to be like Gandhiji. But then, remember, he actually started wearing simple clothes only much later in life, when he was much much older than you. In fact, if I remember right, he was about 50 years old when he decided to throw away all the extra stuff, and dress like the poorest of the poor, an ordinary farmer. He was going to address a meeting in Madurai, and he emerged from the room with his new ‘look’. 

“Aren’t you getting dressed, Bapu?” the people accompanying him asked.
“I am dressed,” he replied. “Let’s go.”

You are barely ten years old, and already you’re not just talking about being simple, you are actually dressing simple. That’s fantastic! Never mind if others make fun, people made fun of Gandhiji too! In fact, Sarojini Naidu who worked very closely with Gandhiji, once said she could never lead his kind of simple life, and certainly not eat his kind of simple, tasteless food! He just laughed at this! The thing is, we just do what we believe in, and soon, people start accepting us as we are.

By the way, Gandhiji was quite a dandy dresser when he was your age and for a long time after that. The world is made up of different kinds of people, who are all different from each other. So, don’t worry. 

I loved what you wrote, it touched my heart. And your cartoon is fantastic. Maybe you should try and make up a Gandhi cartoon out of your own imagination!

- Sandhya

Gandhiji in Turiya's words

About Gandhiji

What Gandhiji said:- Be simple, be truthful, wear khadi clothes.

I also follow a little. I try to be simple. I think I know why Gandhiji said to be simple:- because if the rich wear expensive clothes the poor will not have clothes to wear.
And in winters the rich will be nicely snuggled in the beds and watching T.V. At the same time the poor people will be shivering with cold and have nothing to cover them. And they have nothing to eat!

That is why Gandhiji said that my sisters have only a blanket to wrap themselves; why should I wear nice turbans and look tip-top!!!? I will wear a short dhoti. Whenever I am going out I will wear a shawl.

My mother tells me to wear simple khadi clothes. But sometimes I like to have nice, pretty dresses! My friends make fun of me and tease me. They don't understand Gandhiji.

Gandhiji told us to wear khadi clothes because poor people are only spinning the clothes and weaving the clothes. If they do that they will earn money by selling them.

But it is not simple to be like Gandhiji! We will want a lot of things. But........

The end.
Done by Turiya. K

Gandhiji ki Jai!