I saw Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi, speak over the weekend at a conference in London. He was inspirational…and also a little jaded. But who can blame him…he must have seen lots of good and bad, over his 78-year-old life.
After his talk, the New York-based writer and activist, told me a few things that made him despair, such as the disturbing phenomenon of soldiers returning from war and committing suicide. “It’s breaking all records, the number of suicides after this Iraq invasion,” he said. “It’s all because we send young people to war, train them to kill and destroy people and then they have problems when they come back and they go berserk and kill, or kill themselves…all these things have to be addressed.”
He resignedly said that as a collective, Indians did not seem to be interested in embedding his grandfather’s non-violent values into Indian society at the moment. He told conference delegates: “[After his grandfather’s death] Indians had replaced British Imperialism with Indian Imperialism.” But Gandhi does his bit to help the motherland through his organisation, Gandhi For Children, which helps children abandoned by young, unmarried mothers into foster homes. The stigma of unmarried women having children in India drove them to abandon their children and Gandhi called for more female empowerment.
His own grandfather, he said, had been influenced the most by three women: his own mother, his nanny and his wife. Arun himself has written a book about Mahatma’s long-suffering wife (is there any other kind?), Kasturba….which is one of my favourite subjects: the significant, yet unsung women flanking powerful men throughout history.
Unsurprisingly, Gandhi’s overall message was one of non-violence and love towards each other….by changing how we live our lives. He said: “I am just a peace farmer….I sow the seeds [of peace] and it’s up to you if you want to nurture them and let them grow.” Amen to that. But how many people are really ready do this?
Arun Gandhi was speaking at the Global Transformation conference organised by Ozark Books.