Friday, February 26, 2010

With Buddha in the heart and Gandhi in the head…

That’s the plea Tenzin Tsundue made to the young people seated before him in a hall at the Rashtriya Shala in Rajkot on February 19. He was talking about the inspiration that Gandhiji continues to provide with his ideas and the path that the Buddha shows through his compassion.
Some of us were with this energetic Tibetan poet and activist in Rajkot, Gujarat, to participate in the tenth edition of ‘Talking Gandhi’, a programme organized by the Galaxy family of schools. I didn’t know about this until this year when a young woman called Gopika Jadeja suddenly dropped by at the office one day. She reminded me that this was the hundredth anniversary of the writing of Hind Swaraj by Gandhiji.
Of course! The compelling text on self rule that Gandhiji wrote by hand in Gujarati over ten days on board a ship from England to South Africa. I read somewhere that he wrote 40 of the 275 pages with his left hand. I showed a picture of Gandhiji’s left hand writing and right hand writing (his natural hand) to some young people in Rajkot – left hand won hands up!
This was possible because of an interaction with students of Rajkumar College, DPS, Galaxy School (all Rajkot), Riverside and Ahmedabad International School (Ahmedabad) and K D Ambani Vidya Mandir (Jamnagar) at the Kishorsinhji School where Gandhiji studied for one year. This school, established in 1838, was apparently the first school in Rajkot. The kids had got up early and made long journeys to catch the interactive session on Gandhi based on Picture Gandhi, My Gandhi Scrapbook and The Story of Dandi March. Talking about him as a little child, thinking of him as, maybe, that little boy peeping from behind the door, I think gave them a whole new perspective. “I didn’t know he dressed so fashionably!” exclaimed one young person. We discussed a whole lot of interesting things besides fashion, including writing and moving to new places.
Later, Parnab Mukherjee and Cordis Paldano did a searing and moving play called ‘Unbound’ to commemorate the Hind Swaraj. They are taking this play to many cities, and it changes a little each time, depending upon events unfolding around us. Don’t miss it. What was special for me was also the venue: the main hall of Rajkumar College (a school for princes at one time, as the name suggests). It was funny to see Gandhiji’s benign face smiling toothlessly down at us from amongst the splendour of royalty on display, both brown and white. Across from Gandhiji’s portrait was a huge portrait of Queen Victoria, and it brought to mind his comment about the king of England wearing enough clothes for the both of them!
Incidentally, Tenzin Tsundue is the person who climbed the scaffolding of a hotel in Mumbai and, from the fourteenth floor, unfurled a banner that said ‘Free Tibet’ and waved the Tibetan national flag. Some of you may remember seeing his picture in the newspaper or on television, in 2002. He was protesting against Prime Minister Zhu Rongji of China who was, at that moment, addressing a press conference in one of the rooms below. Tsundue wrote a poem while he was held in police custody after this incident.

It goes:
He was tall
arms akimbo
like the Everest
I climbed the Everest
and I was taller
my hands free

Gandhi in the head and Buddha in the heart seems like a good idea.