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Gandhians live Mahatma’s dream

india Updated: Oct 02, 2009 00:31 IST
Prasad Nichenametla

On Mahatma Gandhi’s 140th birth anniversary, even as many perk up at the thought of an extended weekend, HT meets three senior citizens committed to the Mahatma’s values in Gujarat, the state he was born in.

Chuni bhai Vaidya (93), Surya ben Shah (80) and Amrut bhai Modi (77) were young during the freedom struggle — but they responded to Bapu’s call and participated in the Quit India movement.

Sixty-seven years later, the trio is living by Gandhi’s credo of simple living and social commitment.

Vaidya, a veteran of three national movements — the freedom struggle, Bhoodan (land donation) under Vinoba Bhave and Sampunra Kranti (Total revolution) led by Jayaprakash Narayan — remains feisty at 93.

Vaidya recently fought the Gujarat government against forced acquisition of land for industry. “I had to threaten that we would throw away the pillars erected for the industry. Fazed by stiff resistance, the government shelved the plan,” Vaidya said.

Amrut bhai Modi was not born when Gandhi left the Sabarmati Ashram for Dandi in 1930. Today, the 77-year-old’s biggest passion is preserving the memorial where the Mahatma lived between 1919 and 1930.

“Every day is a beautiful experience … an introduction to a new person with Gandhian thoughts,” says the secretary of the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust.

More than 1,500 people visit the ashram every day.

Unlike many others, Ben Shah, 80, visits the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad on her birthday. The former teacher heads Ahmedabad’s Andh Kalyan Kendra that trains blind women in tailoring, making candles and music.

Is Gandhi relevant today? “People questioned him even when he supported the cause of Muslims during the Partition. But he’ll remain the hero of the nation even 50 years from now,” says Shah.