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  • Writer's pictureAbigail Mathias

Meeting a descendant of the Mahatma - by Abigail Mathias | Kuwait Times

Updated: Jun 10, 2019

Rude cab drivers, broken promises, when things just aren’t your fault…

There are times when you are so angry you just want to lash out. On a warm sunny day at this years’ Emirates Literature Festival, I met the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and his words make anger seem so futile.

Arun M Gandhi is an 83-year-old man who has lived, learnt, and studied the art of non-violence (Ahimsa) from a very young age. His book, ‘The Gift’, The Sunday Times bestseller, is filled with real life experiences.

It is by no means an easy path, but he offers a few guidelines. Gandhi is also an internationally renowned activist and speaker. He set up the M.K. Gandhi Institute for nonviolence in 1987 and spent 30 years as a journalist. As he joined his hands in a humble namaste greeting, before a room filled with listeners from around the world, I felt inexplicably proud of my Indian-ness.

Following the news these days often leaves me with angst. Innocent victims tortured. Infrastructure that is shoddy. Scam after scam. As a journalist I often wonder if reporting the news itself has become inhumane. While most of us prefer to be armchair activists, how many can become the change we want to see in the world?    

“Violence is destroying the humanity in us. Our lives and speech have become so violent,” says Arun Gandhi. Do you hurt people through your actions and inactions or through passive violence? Do we even have the time to introspect?  

We first need to understand that we are not here by accident. - Arun Gandhi. 

The author resides in the US where he often visits prisons to speaks to inmates. He discusses how gun control has gotten out of hand precisely because we cannot control our minds. Growing up in South Africa wasn’t easy for Arun. Just like his grandfather, he often faced racial discrimination. “I fought back many times. But of course, that wasn’t the answer. “I was overpowered by bullies who said I didn’t belong and I could not defeat them all,” he says. At many times he did hit back. 

His parents then sent him to India to live with his grandfather who although loving, had strict rules of conduct. The Mahatma wanted his grandson to learn the perils of poverty and encouraged a young Arun to teach other children who weren’t privileged enough to go to school.

“Anger is like electricity you have to use it intelligently, channel it for the good of humanity. If you feel angry, no one is asking you to do nothing or say nothing. Journal your anger but with the aim of finding a constructive solution. Figure out how it can be resolved peacefully,” he told a teacher in the audience who asked how nonviolent ways can be applied to everyday life.

While making notes, I too had a question for this fellow writer.  Unfortunately, the moderator was ignoring my raised hand, for some time even though I sat in the front row. Discrimination? I disregarded it. The lady sitting by my side finally spoke up. “You better allow her to ask her question,” she yelled. Thanks to a complete considerate stranger, I asked my question.

With trembling hands, I said. “Sir, I stand here as a proud Indian. Your grandfather always advocated non-violence and was killed so brutally. How were you and your family able to deal with this loss when the entire nation and the world was also dealing with grief?”

The author smiled and said, “I was just 14 years old when I learnt that my grandfather was assassinated. It took me a long time to get over my feelings of anger. In fact, at the time I was very bitter. However, my family knew that my grandfather would have wanted to forgive the person who did this. We made our peace with it; though, we were forced to abide by the law of the land which called for his public execution.

Many films have depicted the difficulty dealing with such a highly principled man as the Mahatma. While many of us can’t perhaps emulate as many virtues, I wonder if we have gone completely astray. Is violence and terror the only way forward? I sure hope not.

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