Gandhi Jayanti will be observed with speeches, solemn meetings and grandiose announcements of schemes and awards. But in the melee, what is often lost is the spirit of Gandhi’s teachings and principles. Many pay lip service to his ideals and philosophy. His teachings are observed more in the breach than in observance. However, there are many in the city who continue to be inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s life and values. MetroPlus takes a look at some of the institutions and people who are trying to keep his legacy alive…
Footprints in the sand
Artist Deepak Mouthattil still builds castles in the sand. In addition he also makes portraits and abstract expressions in sand. For the last two years, on Gandhi Jayanti on October 2, Deepak has been paying homage to the Father of the Nation by making Gandhi’s sculpture in sand on Shanghumughom beach.
“In 2011, it covered an area of about 100 feet. Forty of us worked on it from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Some of them were my friends from Kannur, my home town, who are working in the city. The end result was really pleasing,” says Deepak.
In 2012 too, he created another work in sand to pay his respect to Gandhi, but on a smaller scale. As usual, in addition to his small team of friends and well-wishers, passerby and visitors to the beach joined in when they saw him working. “Who does not like to play in the sand? asks Deepak, all smiles. According to his instructions, they heaped the sand in certain places, made mounds of it in certain other places and flattened it elsewhere. At the end of three hours, they were able to sculpt an image of the Mahatma. His creative endeavour on Gandhi Jayanti has been supported by various organisations.
Prior to that, Deepak had painted 22 works showing different incidents from Gandhi’s life, all in water colour. The works were put up in an exhibition that was sponsored by the Public Relations Department of the Government of Kerala.
Deepak says an article he read in a newspaper about Gandhi’s picture being misrepresented motivated him to paint the pictures. Once the exhibition was over, Deepak compiled a book with the paintings and Gandhi’s quotes. Beautifully produced in glossy paper, the book is a collector’s item. Although Deepak did the rounds of several publishers, he says all the them turned down his request to publish the book.
“They say that such book may not have buyers,” says Deepak.
However, that has not demolished Deepak’s hopes that one day someone might want to publish this work on Bapu.
Till then Deepak, trained in applied arts from the College of Fine Arts in the city, plans to create works of art in sand. They may be transient and disappear with the waves but his works in sand have made his reputation as an artist.
Gandhi Bhavan, the no-frills, quiet headquarters of Kerala Gandhi Smarak Nidhi (KGSN), is located on a one-acre plot at Thycaud. This is the nerve centre of all activities of KGSN, which started functioning in 1951 as the state unit of All-India Gandhi Memorial Trust which was formed to carry forward the visions of Gandhi.
Gandhi Bhavan, built during 1965–66, has been involved in rural development programmes, promotion of Khadi and village industries, holistic health care, green initiatives and inculcating Gandhian ideals among the youth, among other activities.
The Gandhi Museum inside the Bhavan is perhaps the only such museum in the State. Photographs, most of them rare, capture the life and times of Gandhi. So too a series of paintings that capture significant episodes from his life, right from his childhood. Visitors can listen to Gandhi's speeches and watch movies. It is open from 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
However, most of the visitors to the place seem to be school students who come there under the Gandhi Darshan programme, an informal education scheme to introduce Gandhi to children. “We are planning to develop our Charka museum which already has a few Charka models. We hope to bring in whole new varieties of the Charka soon,” says K. G. Jagadeesan, secretary, KGSN.
A flagship enterprise of Gandhi Bhavan is the pottery production centre at Thozukkal near Neyyattinkara. “Recently, the centre came up with Grameenasheethakam, a natural cooling system, and pots for composting developed in association with College of Agriculture, Vellayani,” says Sasikumaran Nair, joint secretary of KGSN.
The Gandhi Bhavan premises also has the Khadi Bhavan, a marketing outlet for Khadi and village industries products. Gandhi Seva Kisan Mart is an outlet for organic produce, fertilizers, health care products, snacks and savouries. A naturopathy centre and publishing house also function here.
Most of us would have learnt about Mahatma Gandhi and his legacy in school. But now, thanks to Kerala Gandhi Smarak Nidhi’s ‘Gandhi Darshan’ programme, school students get to learn about Gandhian philosophy and teaching. As many as 1,400 schools across the state are part of the programme.
At the higher secondary school level, students can opt for Gandhian Studies as a subject as part of the Humanities stream. The unfortunate part is that since 2000 there is no prescribed textbook for the subject. We have a prescribed syllabus and teachers prepare notes referring other books. This is the case with 12 other subjects taught in Plus Two level too. However, we are all set to introduce textbooks from the next academic year,” says K.V. Pramod, who is part of the group preparing the textbooks.
Gandhian Studies is a part of four subject combinations under the Humanities stream. Model Boys’ Higher Secondary School, St. Mary’s Higher Secondary School, Lourdes Mount HSS, Vattappara, and St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School are the only schools in Thiruvananthapuram district that teach Gandhian Studies.
“The subject is taught with the intention of inculcating dignity of labour among the students. They are expected to imbibe a Gandhian approach while dealing with different situations. In the first year they learn Gandhian philosophy. In the second year, they have two practical tests. One is ‘village study’. The other is a craft-oriented project as part of which they have to create a product, demonstrate how it is made and come up with a marketing strategy, highlighting its advantage over similar other products in the market,” says Pramod who teaches Gandhian Studies at Model School. Nearly 2,400 students in the state study the subject at the higher secondary level.