Gandhi: The new global hero!

Gandhi’s message transcends as well as encompasses the current issues of the world today.

Ankita Chakrabarty & Siddharth Tak/ Zee Research Group

She maintains a busy schedule regularly receiving visitors of all ages including students, teachers, professors and other working professionals. The yearning to know more and more about a simple man who was born about 142 years ago is simply astounding!

As the director of the 52-year old Gandhi Memorial Centre at Washington in USA, Carrie Trybulec has her hands full doing what she loves doing best. Ask her why is Gandhi revered more and more now, she has a simple but profound explanation to offer: “We often view Mahatma Gandhi as having had a particular relevance during a particular time in history. Yet, Gandhi’s message transcends as well as encompasses the current issues of the world today.” His message has universal and eternal appeal and his timelessness is rooted in his faith in truth and the higher self, she proclaimed.

The Gandhi Memorial Center connects with after-school organizations in the DC, Maryland and Virginia areas offering programs during the school year for student groups in order to introduce them to the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. The children engage in interactive programs at the Gandhi Memorial Center that introduce them to Gandhi and to India. Gandhi has high resonance today with him occupying perhaps greater mind space than ever.

Howard Gardner, professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and also the author of the books on Gandhi titled - Creating Minds and Extraordinary Minds - told ZRG that he considered Gandhi to be the most important human being of the last millennium. “He not only realized that individuals of different backgrounds, religions and values had to be able to confront one another nonviolently; he worked out the methods, the algebra whereby such confrontations would be staged and resolved, ultimately strengthening each of the struggling parties.”

While Gardner offered Gandhi as the centre-piece of his solution to the many vexed problems of today, Trybulec propositioned Gandhi as the way of life. The gushy sentiments have a circumference that go beyond the academic. These in fact offer a valid and profound context to what President Barrack Obama said of Gandhi a couple of years ago. When Obama said Gandhi was his real hero, many might have felt he was perhaps playing to the gallery. But in emphasizing that America of today had its roots in the India of Mahatma Gandhi, he was only alluding to the growing influence of Gandhi all over the world.

It’s not only in US but in Canada also that people are following Gandhi’s thoughts as some foundations are engaging into spreading his message. Mahatma Gandhi Canadian Foundation for World Peace based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, traces its origins to 1988 when observances of the anniversary of Gandhi`s birth were so well received by the people of Edmonton that the initiators launched plans to enlarge the annual observances, to memorialize Gandhi and to share his teachings through a national foundation. The Foundation establishes, maintains and supports academic chairs, lectureships, professorships, exchanges and assistantships on its own account and in conjunction with other institutions.

Gandhi’s presence can also be seen in the form of statues across the globe. The city of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa — where Gandhi was ejected from a first-class train in 1893 — now hosts a commemorative statue. In the United Kingdom, there are several prominent statues of Gandhi, most notably in Tailstocks Square, London near University College London where he studied law. January 30 is commemorated in the United Kingdom as the "National Gandhi Remembrance Day". In the United States, there are statues of Gandhi outside the Union Square Park in New York City. In the year 2007, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was erected in the capital Wellington, New Zealand.

But clamor for Gandhi is ever growing! As world celebrates Gandhi Jayanti or the day of non-violence on its soil, India’s chief cultural diplomat Dr Karan Singh is to inaugurate the Gandhi Centre at The Hague in Netherlands. But why now a Gandhi Centre in Netherlands? Suresh K Goel, director general at Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) had this to say: “Of course in today’s times where conflict of civilizations seems to be a pre-eminent thought in the minds of many people, Gandhi’s philosophy of promoting dialogue and understanding for equal rights for all has an increasing relevance.”

ICCR, headed by Dr Singh (a former external affairs minister), recognizes the growing importance of Gandhi. ICCR DG Goel said, “The fact that increasing number of people specially the young is acknowledging this truth is evident in a higher number of writings on him and analysis on his philosophy. The key factors responsible for growing acknowledgement of Gandhi’s relevance are the peace and coexistence which are the foremost wishes in the minds of the civic society.”

Try measuring success of brand Gandhi globally and the response is in line with the overwhelming sentiment. Washington based Gandhi Centre’s director Trybulec argued, “The success of the work and mission of the Gandhi Memorial Centre cannot be quantified. The purpose of the Gandhi Centre is life-building. It is the life mission of Gandhi that is the heart of the Gandhi Centre.”

On cue, Harvard’s Gardner elaborated, “If one wants to understand the difference that one person can make and then he went about Gandhi mission, there is no better source.” Back home too, ICCR’s Goel averred, “Gandhi cannot be used as commercial phenomenon and therefore brand Gandhi would be a misplaced approach to recognize his importance.”

Gandhi comes as a package, often driving world attention to the ethos of India. Dr Ithamar Theodor, director at the Program for Hindu – Jewish Studies, Department of Asian Studies, at University of Haifa, Israel said, “To be honest my attempt to establish a full Gandhian program was not that successful but perhaps my more successful program is furthering the idea of the Bhagavad Gita, as a possible source or foundation based upon which a new global philosophy could hopefully be developed.”

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