Seven Gandhians, 108 days, and travels across the nation in order to spread peace

The group consists of an organic farmer, a reporter of a Gujarati daily, an M.Phil student pursuing Gandhian thought, an advocate, a retired engineer, an owner of a petrol bunk and his employee. They are now at the end of their ‘journey with purpose' and, naturally, look a little exhausted. For 96 days, they have trundled in a van from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, to advocate peace, harmony and Gandhian principles. On their way back to Kanyakumari, they have halted at Coimbatore and gathered at the Kumaraguru College of Technology to interact with students.

The extra mile

The ‘Gandhi Parikrama for Global Peace' began its journey from Kanyakumari on October 17, the birthday of Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande (better known as Didi). Headed by P. Maruthi, an ardent follower of Didi, the Parikrama was formed in order to take her mission of promoting peace to the masses. “We initially set out to cover a distance of 6,000 km. But so far, we have travelled over 16,000 km,” says Maruthi.

They stop in village squares, schools, colleges and places of worship to carry out their mission. They speak of the evils of alcoholism and drugs and create awareness about compulsory free education. They also carry out discussions about the difficulties faced by people in various villages and the possible solutions. Singing Gandhiji's favourite hymns along the way, the Parikrama also encourages people to pray for global peace at exactly 6 a.m., 8 a.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. everyday. “If all of us do so together, we believe that the positive vibrations could bring forth a definite change,” says advocate Bala Srinivasan.

“It was amazing how welcoming people were, especially those in Jammu and Kashmir,” says Maruthi. “We were treated with utmost affection. We wished we had an extra stomach to accommodate all what was offered,” he smiles. The group undertook backbreaking journeys along mud roads and forest paths and also spent nights in the most unexpected of places.

“It's been an unforgettable journey. We came across a lot of wonderful people,” says Bala Srinivasan. “In Chhattisgarh, for instance, we were surprised to know that the Collectorate was called ‘Seva Sadhan'. Everyday, at 10.30 a.m., everybody, including the Collector gathers to sing Vaishnava janato. The song is played through speakers the entire day, rendering the place peaceful and hospitable,” he adds. Srinivasan recalls meeting a young visiting professor in Pune. “The youngster said he was a petty thief once. He was arrested 18 times, but was not convicted even once, for lack of evidence. He roamed free doing what he liked. But, his life changed drastically when he came across a book on Gandhian principles. Gandhiji changed him for the better - he wrote to the judge, confessing all his crimes. The judge awarded him a two-year sentence and he is now happily married.”

“The parade for peace in Delhi University is yet another unforgettable incident. There we were, raising the slogan ‘Gandhiji ki jai' with the students. Two little girls who were collecting firewood on the way joined us of their own accord. We were amazed at their love for Gandhiji at such a tender age,” says an emotional Srinivasan.

From fried verkadalai with jaggery to delicious lotus stem curry, the team also got to partake on the delicacies from the different parts of the country. Festive village fairs, rides along fog-covered roads in the dead of the night, prayers along the banks of the Ganges, nights in a cattle-shed open to the stars – the Gandhians cherish every moment of the journey.

Sixty-four year-old Comrade M.H. Gandhi, the eldest in the group, is always seen scribbling in his writing pad. “I have to write about the Parikrama in Mathur Gujarat, a daily,” he smiles. Wasn't the journey arduous for him? He shrugs - “It's more important that we spread Shanti amidst today's youth.” The Parikrama will come to an end on February 2, 108 days after it began. A feedback camp is to be conducted in Kanyakumari the same day. To take part in Gandhian activities, call 09381007304.