Oct 2 2009

Blessings to the Women Taxi Drivers from Mahatma Gandhi on his 140th Birthday.

Today, October 2nd 2009 is the hundred and fortieth birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Today I will place a flower at the feet of his wonderful statue that stands at Union Square in New York City. His legacy and life will influence the World forever. I have always been in awe of him.
Another fact which always astounded me was that at the same time in history there lived a man who managed to compel masses of people towards non violence while another being provoked them towards genocide. Mahatma Gandhi and Hitler were contemporaries. Imagine a movie with a split screen showing the peace and self will involved in non violence (ahimsa) alongside the holocaust, simultaneously in India and Germany. A horrific image that makes my heart beat faster. I wonder what it is that can drive one human being towards peace and humanity and another towards the extreme opposite? But then again, why must I look back in time with a sense of disgust and horror when the World around me still hasn’t yet blown out those demonic fires of terror and violence.

In 1950, the great Jewish physicist, Albert Einstein, a genius and noble being in his own right recorded an interview in his study in Princeton, New Jersey. In this United Nations radio interview he said about Mahatma Gandhi, “Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth. ”

These words ring like a loud Buddhist temple gong reverberating into the air for minutes. These are my favorite words about Gandhiji. They are inscribed in stone at the Gandhi museum in New Delhi. They came to my mind when I spoke to taxi drivers in Bombay. I had earlier thought of calling my project, ‘If Gandhi were a filmmaker.’ I wondered what his insights and documentary recordings would be while driving around the country. What would he make out of this fine Nation of ours that he had strived so hard to keep from partitioning into Pakistan and Hindustan.

Mumbai Taxi drivers said that if the great man had existed in today’s day and age, no one would give him the time of day. Materialistic, superficial people would laugh at his ascetic lifestyle and flimsy loin cloth and no one would heed his call to non violence and ‘satyagraha.’
Taxi drivers cursed the current politicians and literally spit on them as they were driving around. They spoke of how not one politician had it in them to lead a country to Independence from 200 years of British colonialism like Gandhiji yet alone help us get out of the shackles of terrorism that India is facing now. In fact it is the people in power, they said, who have brought on these acts of terror and violence for the common Indian citizen.

I know that Mahatma Gandhi, may his ‘great soul’ rest in peace was a great champion of women’s rights and empowerment. In 1940, reviewing his twenty-five years of work in India concerning women’s role in society, he had said:
“My contribution to the great problem lies in my presenting for acceptance truth and ahimsa (non-violence) in every walk of life, whether for individuals or nations. I have hugged the hope that in this women will be the unquestioned leader and, having thus found her place in human evolution, will shed her inferiority complex.”
“…Woman is the incarnation of ahimsa. Ahimsa means infinite love, which again means infinite capacity for suffering. And who but woman, the mother of man, shows this capacity in the largest measure?… Let her translate that love to the whole of humanity… And she will occupy her proud position by the side of man… She can become the leader in satyagraha..”

I know he would find great solace in the young breed of women taxi drivers who can be seen on the streets of Mumbai nowadays.

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