Walking like Mahatma Gandhi

Walking like Mahatma Gandhi

In spite of what some people think, Mahatma Gandhi’s values and principles are more relevant now than ever before. Today, even as his ideologies are being criticised by people of far less stature, we would do well to remember that the world’s most respected thinkers openly declared their reverence of the father of our nation – Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, George Bernard Shaw, Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo, Dr Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Sardar Vallabhai Patel – the list is endless.

October 02, 2005 was Gandhiji’s 136th birth anniversary. It was also the seventh consecutive year of the Shanti Yatra or peace march in the city. The focus was on children this time, with more than 500 students from 12 prominent schools participating in the march. Like in the past, the march began at St John the Baptist High School and ended at the bust of Mahatma Gandhi at Shivaji Path. People from all religions participated in walk that covered prominent city areas like 3 petrol pump, Hari Nivas, Naupade Police Station, Ice Factory, and Dr Ambedkar Road.

85-year-old Cardinal Simon Pimenta came all the way from the Archbishop House Colaba to participate in the Peace March. Notwithstanding his old age, the Cardinal walked the entire stretch of five kilometres without a break. Such was the Cardinal’s regard for the Mahatma that when come concerned volunteers offered him to sit in the car that was travelling alongside as a precaution, he replied, "If you’re tired, why don’t you sit in the car?" Commissioner of Police, D Sivanandan, Dr Homi Dhalla, president of the World Zoroastrian Cultural Federation in Mumbai and Dr. Dawood A Dalvi, ex-Principal of DnyanSadhana College were among the other dignitaries who participated in the march.

Shanti Yatra started as an initiative of Garden School at Cherai in 1999 and then in the subsequent years, several city-based NGOs joined hands to participate in organising the march. The peace march receives the support of hundreds of peace loving residents of Thane. The purpose of Shanti Yatra is to spread the eternal wisdom of Mahatma’s values. Observing October 02 as a holiday and paying a tribute to the great man is not sufficient. What we need is to remember what Gandhji lived and died for. Throughout the march, nobody shouted slogans, but instead carried placards with Mahatma’s messages written on them.

After the March, Pranjali Deshpande, a class VIII student from Vasant Vihar School spoke spiritedly about the significance of ideals such as self-reliance and simplicity that Gandhiji strongly advocated and practised. The participants of the march also sang Gandhiji’s bhajans. Cardinal Pimenta spoke about Gandhiji’s philosophy of ahimsa (non-violence), while Commissioner Sivanandhan congratulated the organisers for the rally and stressed on the need for embracing Gandhiji’s values in the present times. "We must follow his teachings to make this country a better place," he said. The participants then took an oath read out by Anand Turakia from NGO Sevadham. Loosely translated from Hindi, it read thus: "We pledge that we will follow the path upon which the apostle of non-violence walked. We will assimilate the essence of all religions. We will give importance to humanity, non-violence and peace. We will strengthen the bond of love between people and we will strive to make our country a haven of peace."

Most of us tend to become discouraged when we think about the sorry state of affairs that surround us today and wonder whether it is possible to adhere to Gandhiji’s principles. At such times, it would be wise to remember what the Mahatma once said when describing how the British would react to his winning strategy of non-violent activism: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Let this philosophy of persistence guide us along our way so that we never give in to hopelessness; let us walk the path of peace like the Mahatma did.

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