The Gandhi Legacy Tour

Posted: January 3, 2010 in Published Articles
Tags:

 

Gandhi Legacy Tour with Arun and Tushar Gandhi filmed by Garth Dykes

 

Every year the Global Exchange Organization based in San Francisco arranges a tour, also called the reality tours, aimed at educating the visitors about the realities of that country, co-ordinated by the Director Malia Everette. They are an advocacy group and non-governmental organization. This year the tour was unique since it was to India, led by none other than Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and his son Tushar Gandhi. It was a journey of retracing the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi through his days of Satyagraha and his life until the fateful day he was killed. Dr. Arun Gandhi being a tireless activist for peace and conflict resolution is lauded for his efforts at showcasing how Gandhian principles are applied today in conflict resolution situations in India and elsewhere. The tour began in Mumbai and ended in New Delhi. Kathy Smith an active volunteer of the Association for India’s Development Organization (AID) for the past 9 years in San Diego was one among the 28 member delegation, who accompanied the Gandhi’s throughout India. 

                                                                  

Arun and Tushar Gandhi on their Legacy Tour

“I was very moved by the amazing amount of smiles and gestures of hospitality by people from all parts of India.  When I was traveling after the tour as well I felt such a curiosity by so many people who wanted to know where I came from, even those who gave me blessings, for which I had done nothing in particular to deserve,” said Kathy.

Regarding the reality tour, “I do have deep admiration for Dr Arun Gandhi and his son, Tushar Gandhi who led our Reality Tour. It is not often in life where we can meet individuals whose lives have been shaped by such an uncommon man of principle as Gandhiji. It was a privilege to hear stories as told by Dr Gandhi when he stayed with his grandfather on the Sabarmati ashram.  It was privilege to have these men from the lineage of Gandhi guide us along our way throughout our two week trip in India.

 

Kathy Smith at the Gandhi Samadhi

 

I was amazed by the sheer diversity of peoples and their conditions everywhere I went from New Delhi to Mumbai. The juxtaposition of established enterprises next to hovels, all competing for space in the big cities was the most jarring impression.  The plight of migrant labor and their working or unschooled children whom we saw in Maharashtra State, around Sangli., was very compelling. The Gandhian Foundation along with the Verala Development Society is trying to make a difference by offering up small alternative child education centers. The vision is to create a larger school with the help from many where a true Gandhian education can take place, and serve the needs of some of the many children who have been caught in the child labor system,” opined Kathy.

 

Garth Dykes and Arun Gandhi

Garth Dykes the renowned Canadian filmmaker of documentaries and short films joined the entourage filming the legacy tour along with a Bangalore based filmmaker Ranjan Kamath. He captures with candid interviews and anecdotes, Arun and Tushar Gandhi’s memories growing up with Gandhi, the struggles they had to face finding their own identities and the lessons they learnt about non-violence and self-reliance.

When asked what prompted him to make this documentary Garth  replied “ I was terribly interested in Arun and Tushar Gandhi who have the same goals in mind and who are very different in their personalities from each other and from Gandhi whose main intentions now is trying to raise money for the school project that rescues children. People everywhere expect them to be like Gandhi but they are regular modern people and it surprises me as well as others how they are and very much engaged in the modern world. It is interesting to study and document the thoughts and beliefs of these controversial figures who are burdened with the name of Gandhi, yet are trying to lead normal lives while spreading his message of non-violence across the world.”

Global Exchange Team

Through his documentary the viewer will circumnavigates India with them traveling through big cities, villages, farms and factories as they discover how the legacy continues.  “What would Gandhi do if he were alive today?” That was the question that Arun Gandhi and Tushar Gandhi set out to answer, the two unlikely heroes walk through villages and cities. The documentary will also have interviews with freedom fighters and prominent leaders in environmentalism and social justice convey how Gandhi continues to inspire new grass root movements in India, punctuated often with memories, scandals and occasional absurdities and stories never before told before camera.

“As a young boy I learned of who I was and found it to be a burden. People would point at me and say, ‘How can you be Gandhi’s grandson when you are so big and he was so lean? My grandmother taught me that my name could be used as a burden or as light.” Across the villages of India Arun Gandhi pronounces into a microphone, “We must change from a culture of violence to non-violence. We must think non-violently act non-violently and dream non-violently.”

Arun Gandhi’s 48 year old son Tushar had this to say about the current generation “These days the only thing the younger generation knows about Gandhi is that his image is on the rupee.” Tushar believes that only by revealing the human side of Gandhi the younger generation will be inspired. “He was an ordinary man, like the rest of us. By putting these people on a pedestal, like Jesus or Buddha, it’s an escapist route. It is saying that we are mere mortals and they are holy.”  Tushar Gandhi had struggled to find his own identity under the shadow of his great grandfather with the legacy being hoisted on him.

Through their journey Kathy and Garth learnt not only of Gandhi’s teachings but how these descendents are trying to integrate Gandhi’s teachings into their own lives. They are currently devoted to the building of the Sunanda School in Kolapur, in memory of Arun’s wife, based on Gandhian principles. It is a small orphanage that rescues untouchable children from child labor. Arun Gandhi is tipped off to where children are working in a mine, kiln, granite or other factory and brought to the school.

In Delhi the tour participants visited Billah House, the residence where Gandhi lived and was killed. They also visited Raj Ghat, the Gandhi memorial, where an external flame for Gandhi’s memory still burns, as well as the Gandhi Museum which houses the clothes that still bare Gandhi’s blood. Included in the documentary are accounts by Arun and Tushar as they reflect on personal stories, not known by public, about the life and death of their grandfather and great-grandfather.  They went on to meet Vandana Shiva who runs Navdanya, a progressive sustainable farm in India.  In the company of Arun and Tushar they toured the countryside, encountering rural projects in housing, irrigation and reforestation through the Verela Irrigation and Development Society.

When Tushar Gandhi was asked about terrorism and how Gandhi’s teachings could apply to that her states, “Turning the other cheek is not the definition of non-violence. You must prevent the situation from happening in the first place so that no one would wish to hit you.”

Arun Gandhi discussed the time when he did try to talk to Arafat about opposing terrorism. “You shouldn’t be blowing up people. If you do that you will get what you deserve. You should mobilize people and walk there.” Arun Gandhi discloses his thoughts on how people are missing the point on Gandhi’s ideologies saying that Gandhi needs to be emulated, not imitated.

The entire journey has been chronicled following the dreams of Arun Gandhi and Tushar Gandhi, taking them through India, traveling through big cities, villages, farms and factories to discover how the legacy of Gandhi still carries on and to spread his message.

Garth Dykes hopes to finish filming and putting the documentary together by next year sometime and hoping to showcase it in several film festivals around the globe. Kathy and the rest of the tour members meanwhile hope to undertake several such trips to India and other countries in the future.

 

(Contributions from Garth Dykes and Kathy Smith during their Gandhi Legacy Tour that took place from December 29-January 11, 2009. Excerpts from the interview with Arun and Tushar Gandhi were provided by Garth Dykes as part of his documentary that is being put together titled ‘In the Footsteps of Gandhi.’)

 

Published in Indian Express- Noth American Edition-2009

Advertisements
Comments
  1. sunil kumar says:

    I happened to work as a Stenographer under Mr. Rajmohan Gandhi, Gandhiji’s grandson, who was the Resident Editor, Indian Express, Chennai. Actually when I got another appointment order, he asked me to stick on to IE and try for a transfer to Kochi.
    I read the article with much enthusiasm. Fantastic it is!-Sunil Kumar NN

  2. That’s wonderful. I had no idea Rajmohan Gandhi was an editor at IE…He is a multi-talented person and very interesting too..thanks for enjoying this one…Suji