MAIIC Residency Report from India #2
A Real Report, (from November 14, 2011)
Michael Real, Professor
”In the Footsteps of Gandhi”
This is the heart of Gandhi country in India. Our RRU-MAIIC residency begins where Mahatma Gandhi, the father of modern India and world-famous advocate of non-violent social change, based his work after his return from South Africa in 1917 until he departed on his historic Salt March in 1930. The city of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat is rich in Gandhi institutions and spirit. We’ve met with the vice-chancellor, Gujarat Vidyapeeth (Gandhi University) which Gandhi founded in 1920. Here next week we will return with our 31 graduate learners to hear from the Vice-Chancellor about Gandhi and the university and will watch the film “Gandhi;” also I will talk a bit about his disciple Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Before then we also visit the Gandhi Ashram.
The first night here in my jet lag sleeplessness, my mind ran through connections between Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. The phrases of “I Have a Dream” became “Let freedom ring from the slums of Mumbai to the living dead of Calcutta. Let freedom ring from the political impasses of New Delhi to the terrorist shutdown of Kashmir.” The sense of continuity from Gandhi to King to current efforts to better mankind is almost palpable in this place.
The spirit of Gandhi continues to inspire a large number of NGOs in the city and region. Those NGOs, or non-profit service agencies, are the focus of our field work over the next 12 days: a women’s cooperative of street vendors and workers, a participatory video centre for social change, a grassroots community organizing group, and others continuing the Gandhian mission of encouraging the poor, the untouchables, the marginalized to organize themselves to solve problems and improve society. We will also meet with the communication and development unit at Gujarat University and with the National Institute of Design. In two days of visits to finalize plans, we have met with an amazing array of dedicated, generous, articulate (yes, with sometimes difficult-to-understand accents) people. It has reminded me of the people I met in Chicago and elsewhere 50 years ago in the Civil Rights Movement, self-sacrificing and good-humored people intent on helping people and changing the world.