15th October 2012
The Power of We – Mahatma Gandhi
No-one in India exemplifies ‘The Power of We’ more than Mahatma Gandhi, even over 60 years after his death. He sought to improve the conditions of the poorest and to lead one of the world’s first non-violent mass movements, first in South Africa and then in India.
Hundreds of books have been written about his influence on the world’s second largest country. Since I came to Mumbai nearly three years ago I can recall at least three: an absorbing, albeit controversial biography ‘Great Soul‘ by distinguished New York Times editor Joseph Lelyveld, a more intimate account of his life, with anecdotes from his grandchildren, by British writer Graham Turner, and most recently a book comparing Gandhi’s famous spinning wheel with the Internet.
So there is no need for me to add even more words than necessary about Gandhi. But his power still resonates, not only by books about him, but in other ways of which I am sure he would approve. I had the good fortune to take part in an event this month to mark his birth anniversary on 2 October.
For the second year running Footsteps4Good took place in Mumbai, the first having been inaugurated personally by Gandhi’s great grandson Tushar.
Walkers and runners, who all made a donation to an NGO of their choice, took part in a 10 km event around Mumbai’s new business district, the Bandra Kurla Complex.
Footsteps was inspired by a 360 km trek that my wife, with huge support from the Association of British Scholars in Baroda, undertook in November 2010 to follow the route identical to that of Gandhi’s famous Salt March to Dandi in Gujarat in 1930, which was one of the turning points in his movement against the British authorities. The trek raised over £100,000 for NGOs in Mumbai and Gujarat, and many people requested an opportunity to take part in something similar but on a smaller scale.
In its own modest way Footsteps, which jumped from 700 to 2700 participants this year, is demonstrating vividly ‘The Power of We’. Sponsored principally by the ever generous Tata Group, who brought alone over 800 people to raise funds for their cancer hospital in Kolkata, as well as Reliance Industries, Cox and Kings, HSBC, GSK and Aava Water, in one morning Footsteps raised over £60,000 for charities ranging from a shelter for the children of Mumbai’s sex workers to Magic Bus, providing recreation for slum dwellers.
As Boman Irani, one of Mumbai’s most famous Bollywood stars said when he inaugurated Footsteps this year, it demonstrates how a movement can capture the imagination of people, and allow them to be a small contributor to improving people’s lives – a vivid and telling example on the streets of Mumbai of ‘The Power of We’.