I saw the movie when I was a kid. It immediately resonated. The story of a man who saw an injustice in the world and risked everything to try to right it was exactly the sort of story I liked. So much so that it started me on a path of reading and watching biopics over the next few years. I credit Gandhi for the moment when as a pre-teen I would surprise my parents by dragging down the massive copy of Alex Haley’s Roots that at the time could be found on the bookshelf of every Black family and read it from cover to cover. His story made every historical story more interesting.
Over the years my adoration for Gandhi hasn’t waned. He remains one of the historical figures I think of most fondly and when we first happened upon a statue of the man in the soon to open Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg I began to tell the kids about him.
I wanted to offer them the magic I had found; introduce them to a personal hero.
They too loved the story and it began a conversation that has weaved itself throughout this trip. When we happened on him again in Saskatoon we talked about the native situation in Canada.
And on a long drive through New Zealand, as we talked about upcoming destinations, there he was again smack dab between a discussion about Nelson Mandela and another about the Vietnam War. Every time the boys spot a Gandhi street or Road in our travels they smile at me knowingly.
We talked about pacifists and living with passion and standing up for what you believe in. And I told them that we’d learn even more about him because we were going to visit India where he lived and worked.
But I’m not sure I ever told them he was dead.
I didn’t. They didn’t.
I think it’s because the free museum situated in the spot where he lived his last days retains an aura of peace so long after he left it. You feel pride and disappointment and wonder but only a tinge of sadness centered solely on humanity’s continued determination to kill those who seek to change the world.
Because he meant so much to me I tried to stress to the boys the importance of where they were standing. I wanted them to grasp what this man had sacrificed for a cause he believed in – but they are nine and seven and they tend to take things in on their own terms.
The boys were fascinated by the stone shoes that mark his final steps. They peeked in on his favourite prayer spot and they paused at the pictures as we walked through the house he was a guest in when he died. Together we read the boards detailing his efforts to bring about change to the Indian caste system and we read the views of those that worked against him. We peeked in on a Hindi documentary, gasped at his last letter to a friend that seems to anticipate his death and finally, we headed to the room that was his own.
Inside: A simple cot, some basic linens and a verse above the bed
“My life is my message.”
What more could I teach them.