Gandhi’s grandson speaks to BC community in Delano

Miranda Defoor, Editor-in-Chief

As part of Bakersfield College’s Distinguished Speaker Series and celebration of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birthday, his grandson, Arun Gandhi spoke to BC and Delano High students about lessons learned from his grandfather. The Sept. 30 event took place at the Delano High School auditorium, which was packed with members of the BC community. It was also live-streamed in the Levan Center on BC’s main campus.

Before Arun Gandhi took the stage, Sonya Christian led an introduction. Christian said the Delano event was to offer the opportunity to those in Northern Kern County, including BC’s satellite campuses. Christian explained that the Gandhi Celebration Committee and the Ravi and Naina Patel Foundation are helping to put on the Celebration of Gandhi events.

“His power was that of compassion, was that of love,” Christian said about Mahatma Gandhi before introducing his grandson Arun Gandhi, a former journalist for the Times of India and a prolific writer, with 13 published books.

Arun Gandhi began by saying, “In Bakersfield, I have found so many new friends.” He explained how he has been warmly welcomed into Bakersfield and the community during his visit.

Arun Gandhi challenged the audience to turn to the person next to them and make a fist, imagining that they were holding a diamond in that hand. He then told the other person to try to open their hand, and the audience members struggled to get the others hand open. He used this struggle to explain that violence is a part of everyday life – and while each audience member struggled physically to get the other’s hand open, they could have communicated and asked for the person to open their hand.

“We have to recognize the violence within us,” Arun Gandhi said.

Mahatma Gandhi was married to Kasturba Gandhi when he was only 13 years old and she was 14 years old. Arun Gandhi said arranged marriages at young ages were common during his grandfather’s lifetime, and though his grandparents were young, they were able to teach each other.

“It was through [my] grandmother that [my] grandfather learned nonviolence,” Arun Gandhi said. He described the beginning of his grandparent’s marriage and his grandfather’s struggle to be in charge of the marriage. He explained that Mahatma Gandhi had read books about marriage, many of which were written by “male chauvinists,” according to Arun Gandhi. He said these books led his grandfather to tell his grandmother she couldn’t leave the house without his permission and when she continued to do so and live normally, he confronted her. During this confrontation, Kasturba Gandhi quietly said she was brought up to believe in obeying her elders and Mahatma Gandhi’s parents were her elders. Her calm approach and simple explanation were Mahatma Gandhi’s first experience and the most profound lesson with a nonviolent resolution, according to Arun Gandhi.

His book, “The Gift of Anger and Other Lessons From My Grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi,” explores many of the topics he discussed in his talk. His grandfather helped him learn to understand his anger and come to peaceful solutions. Arun Gandhi explained that when he lived with Mahatma Gandhi at 12 years old, he was able to learn how non-physical violence affects the world even more than physical violence.

“There is passive violence,” Arun Gandhi said, like violence against nature or waste, and violence against humanity, like overconsumption.

“Passive violence fuels the fire of physical violence,” Mahatma Gandhi once told Arun Gandhi, along with his famous quote, “We must become the change we wish to see in the world.”

Arun ended his talk by calling on his audience to keep an open mind to enhance their lives before saying, “Every day, every person I meet is a learning experience.”