Gandhi Grandson Pursues Peace Arun Spent Time with Indian Leader as a Teen; Now He Teaches Nonviolence in US
Brad Knickerbocker, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
AS a boy living in Durban, South Africa, in the 1940s, Arun Gandhi was bullied from all quarters. White kids beat him up because he was nonwhite. Black youths assaulted him because he wasn't black. The thing he most wanted, he recalls, was "to grow up and be strong and beat everybody back again."
But his parents had a different idea about how to deal with their son's adolescent rage. They sent him to India to live with his grandfather for a time. And those 18 formative months at the side of the man who personified nonviolent resistance to oppression changed Arun Gandhi forever.
Today, the grandson of the man called "Mahatma" by his followers is walking in his footsteps. He works with schools, businesses, and government agencies in the United States to address the passive violence that he says inevitably causes the anger that leads to active violence between individuals, within families, and among nations.
"We'll never be able to get rid of physical violence until we address passive violence ... anger, hate, and prejudice," he told a packed lecture at Southern Oregon State College recently.
Mr. Gandhi is a soft-spoken man who rouses audiences with the power of ideas rather than the force of rhetoric.
George Elder, headmaster of the Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, Tenn., heard Gandhi speak and says, "I just fell in love with the guy and wanted to make him part of our faculty."
Arun Gandhi now conducts a for-credit course on nonviolence for high school students at Lausanne, a highly academic school with an enrollment of 560. He has also led workshops for a hotel-management company, for recovering drug and alcohol addicts supervised by the Shelby County (Tenn.) Correctional Center, and for counselors with the Youth Services Department in Memphis.
At the request of the US Information Agency, Gandhi held workshops in conflict-resolution for rival youth gangs in South Africa. And as a scholar-in-residence at Ball State University, he works with students and police in Muncie, Ind.
Although he had become a world figure and was in the midst of negotiating Indian independence with British colonial leaders, the elder Gandhi kept his grandson close at hand and set aside an hour every day to be alone with the boy.
Gently but persistently, Mohandas Gandhi taught Arun to recognize his anger and turn it to constructive uses. And also to appreciate the "violence to humanity" and the "violence to nature" caused by wasting something even as insignificant as a pencil stub.
The last time Arun saw his grandfather, the old man slipped the boy a piece of paper with a list of what have come to be known as Gandhi's "Seven Blunders of the World" that lead to violence. (See item below.)
ARUN GANDHI rejoined his parents in South Africa before his grandfather was assassinated in 1948. He returned to India a few years later to begin a 28-year career as a journalist, writing four books and becoming a senior editor with the Times of India in Bombay.
During this period he and his wife, Sunanda, began working to improve the lives of poor villagers, including India's lowest-caste "untouchables." Over the years, the Gandhis and a group of like-minded friends established India's Center for Social Change, helping to fund programs (including a cooperative bank) to help farmers and textile workers in more than 300 villages. …