I’m writing this from a train at 7:30 in the morning, rolling past plowed fields of orange dirt, scrubby bushes, and occasional shacks, which are an all too common sight in India.
We were supposed to be in Ahmedabad (pronounced HAHM-ne-bad) by now, but the train was 5 hours late (welcome to India). So, after seeing the glorious Taj Mahal yesterday morning (it really is awe inspiring), we spent all afternoon in the Agra train station.
The train provided a good night’s sleep, though, with its rocking and rumble, and I hope to have a full afternoon in the Sabermati Ashram near Ahmedabad today, to see where Gandhi spent many years of his life.
This will be the next step in my search for Gandhi. Here are some of the questions I’m asking myself as I search: Who is Gandhi? And with all the slums and inequalities and craziness in the cities, where is Gandhi in modern India? Are the things he stood for out of date, or is there still a reason for kids today to want to know about him and connect with him?
According to Suhas Borker, an activist and documentary film maker who met with us on Wednesday night (a contact made through Rajmohan Gandhi), modern India in many ways has lost sight of Gandhi, with its corrupt government and many problems.
Suhas and some others started a program called Taking Children to Gandhi. High schoolers take a vow to follow some of Gandhi’s most important ideals, such as tolerance and inclusiveness. They also go to see speakers to commemorate important days, including hearing a man who was in prison with Nelson Mandela to commemorate Mandela’s birthday.
So, they’re trying to bring kids back to Gandhi, knowing that (as Gandhi said) they’re the hope of the future.
And on Friday morning, I found Gandhi in modern India when I spoke with a class of school children. That was a special morning. I asked the students – 5th graders – what they would share with American kids about Gandhi if they could, and what Gandhi might be proud of in modern India, what he would want to change, and what they themselves carry with them of Gandhi.
“Do your own work,” said one boy (to a giggle from the class).
Tell the truth – always,” said another.
“Don’t want for more than you need.”
The answers were mature and honest, and I felt their sense of responsibility and told them I thought that Gandhi would be proud of them.
That’s it for now – plenty more to share later, and hopefully some photos next time too. Been taking plenty!