Understanding the History of Gandhi and King by Anuja Konda
As we pulled up to the Mahatma Gandhi International School (MGIS), I was surprised to be welcomed by a large crowd of teachers, students, and cameras capturing the occasion. We were escorted to the audio-visual room where the traditional tikka ceremony was performed to formally welcome us to the school. As I walked through the campus, I was constantly thinking about how this school seemed so different from any school I had been to before. Children were free to be playful, loud, and simply themselves, and this was evident within just the first few minutes I was at the school.
After a short introduction, we all filed into a bus to head over to the Gandhi Ashram. At the Ashram, I quickly became friends with some students who guided me around the Ashram and answered my many questions. At the museum, I learned a lot about Gandhi’s philosophy, the rights that Gandhi stood up for, and what exactly he did as a non-violent freedom fighter. I learned about the Salt March, the burning of imported British clothes, and his peaceful efforts to abolish the caste system to create a more just society. Additionally, I was amazed to learn that Martin Luther King Jr. actually drew a lot of inspiration from Gandhi during his peaceful fight for equal rights of people of color. We also saw a museum of charkas and Gandhi’s home where you could still feel the calm and serene presence of Gandhiji himself.
After a stop to a paper factory, we went back to MGIS and learned that over the next three days. we (the HeritageINDIA and MGIS students) will be working together to create a mosaic depicting the ideas and beliefs shared by Gandhiji and Martin Luther King Jr.
My teammates and I got right to work. We had a huge range of materials, such as beads, mirrors, buttons, paint, and yarn, to pick and choose from to create a beautiful piece of artwork. As a group, we had to display immense teamwork, communication, time management skills and efficiency. It was easy to communicate, and we were able to find connections between our likes and dislikes. I learned a lot about Gandhi from the students, and I shared my knowledge about Martin Luther King Jr. as we worked on the mosaic. Moreover, we spoke a lot about what their high school experience has been like and what they like to do for fun.
Over the next three days as we continued working on the project together, I got really close to all the students. It honestly felt like we had always been peers at this school. The students took us all in as their own and never made us feel like outsiders. The whole experience was very welcoming and by the end of the three days I was proud to display the mosaic we had collaborated on. My team’s mosaic depicted Gandhi and King’s efforts to tip the scale towards the side of good (peace, equality, love) instead of bad (violence, war, anger).
Overall my visit to MGIS was a rewarding one. I had deepened my knowledge about an important Indian freedom fighter who essentially inspired the fight for equality for people of color in America, and in the process I made a new circle of friends at MGIS. Saying good bye was difficult on the final day and I honestly did not want to leave my new friends, but I know that the lessons I learned over the past three days about Gandhi’s philosophy and about being an upstanding citizen will stick with me forever.
Anuja is one of 8 students in Indiaspora’s inaugural HeritageINDIA Program. A unique, immersive, 3-week summer program, this initiative gives high school students of Indian descent the opportunity to connect to their ancestral homeland. Students experience and engage with India’s rich and diverse cultural history by completing hands-on projects, participating in stimulating discussions, and building friendships with a cohort that will share in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. With the exciting theme of India’s Riches: History, Culture, Diversity, & Democracy, students visit three areas of India that are geographically and culturally diverse, yet all very much represent India: New Delhi, Gujarat, and Kerala.