Long gone, yet Gandhi is all around


Rajashree Birla in Ahmedabad

She is a picture of grace and nobility; what she believes in, practices and works towards is selflessness, patience and compassion. “Those are among the key practices of Mahatma Gandhi that I live by and hope to spread. Gandhiji was absolutely selfless and always did so much for others. In fact, more than his own children, he has worked for others which is noteworthy. It’s not usual for people to be able to do that,” says Rajashree Birla, in Ahmedabad on Gandhi’s birth anniversary, October 2, for the opening of Eternal Gandhi, a store that houses over 500 souvenirs of Gandhi.
Eternal Gandhi Store in Ahmedabad
Chairperson of the Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiative and Rural Development, 68-year-old Birla interacted with several art and culture enthusiasts including youth whose inclination and bent for Gandhism and associated values has been as strong as of those who lived during the life and times of Gandhi. Birla is known to have assumed her moral responsibilities with a lot of influence from Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings and lifestyle. ‘This too shall pass’ may be one of her favourite axioms but there’s more about Gandhi that appeals to her. “I have read about him since childhood, his book My Experiments With Truth, is one I have read but there’s a bhajan by him that I really like – Namrata ke Sagar,” she says amid nods and smiles of Gandhi fans.
Rajashree Birla in Ahmedabad
Surrounded by people genuinely keen on endorsing her view, Birla further shares, “You know, Gandhi’s talks and learnings make even more sense in the world we live in today. They make an impression and are more relevant in present day and time, especially the non-violence angle. Indeed, there is a lot that can be made possible with love and compassion. If we package his teachings well, people will surely follow. And if it’s my wish, I would really want these to reach all homes and people at large.” Keeping in line with her wishes, there are a couple of centres coming up. There is Eternal Gandhi Peace Centre coming up in Birmingham and another centre on the Mahatma in Houston, Texas. Of course, Gandhi Smriti, previously known as Birla House in Delhi, has innumerable books and CDs on the Father of the Nation. “There are plenty of interactive electronic gadgets that help visitors (hundreds or thousands in a day) know about Gandhi, his life and the principles he lived by. What is special is that children often get their parents and grandparents to see those,” she says. There must be some  special Gandhian characteristic she adored and imbibed in herself? “Compassion,” she says, without a thought.

An interesting concept Birla and her team have worked on is the mobile exhibition that travels to different cities and countries. It travelled to various cities in India including to Science City in aapnu Amdavad. It has travelled to unlikely places, like for example, Reunion Island in Mauritius!

It isn’t surprising where all Gandhi has reached. Despite the several years since he left this world.
Rajashree Birla with Anurita Rathore

Photographs : Ravi Panchal

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