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The Mahatma


Be the change you wish to see in the world ~Mahatma Gandhi

 Today, on the 143rd anniversary of his birth, I pay tribute to one of my favorite historical leaders, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi. Physically, at 5′ 3″, he was not an imposing character. Still, this shy man was able to lead a movement that resulted in the British Empire scurrying back to their little island in the North Atlantic. His non violent protests were the lever that pried the steely grip of English fingers from the land they occupied by force and maintained with violence.

One would think that violence would be able to over come nonviolence but such was not the case as Gandhi proved. His counterintuitive method would eventually inspire Martin Luther King Jr. as King led a nonviolent protests to attain equality for Blacks in the US.

Of all Gandhi’s quotes, my favorite is: Be the change you wish to see in the world. It’s a quote on my Road ID to remind me to live a life of action. And, If I ever do get a tattoo, I envision it being these powerful words.

I like this quote because it is simultaneously a call to identify needed changes and a call to action. It is very easy to point out problems, to let everyone know what’s wrong in this life. It’s difficult to outline a plan of action to address the problems. The level of difficulty jumps significantly when we must put action to our words and live the plan, to be the change. I like that it starts with us and not someone else. If we don’t have the conviction to live the change how can we ever convince someone else to change and not be completely hypocritical?

On my first trip to India about 6 years ago, I had the good fortune of visiting one of the places Gandhi was imprisoned. I say good fortune because today it is a shrine to this gentle man with the heart of a lion. I was able to get a feel for what this man meant to the country of his birth through the eyes of my guides. As they talked about Gandhi, there eyes lit up and they talked with a reverent passion.

I am getting ready this month for my first trip to India in over five years, a two week trip to meet the team with whom my company partners with in software development. I have tried to get back every year but something always came up. Either there was no money or I was not the right person for the trip or something else blocked my attempts. I am again the lead for a project being jointly development in the US and India. This was the last star that needed alignment to enable my trip, that and the new fiscal year began 01Oct which means their is some cash available.

Whenever I travel to a foreign land, I like to read books that will prepare my mind for the adventure, to help me get into a mindset for the culture. I find the appropriate perspective helps me to better understand the experience. I was reading Magic Seeds by V.S. Naipul, a book which referenced the Gandhi Autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth. The reference piqued my interest so I started into the Autobiography as soon as I finished seeds.

So, today, on Gandhi’s birthday I find myself 24 chapters into the rather lengthy 64 chapter autobiography. Is it coincidence that I am reading the biography as I am getting close to the trip? I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe everything happens for a reason and the intersection of the book at this time has a purpose, a purpose which may or may not be revealed to me. Though I may never truly understand why this intersection occurred, I will finish the book before setting my foot in India for this the fourth time and be sure I am prepared for any lesson that may come my way.

I figure, at the very minimum, I will have a better grasp of the Gandhian mind and, I hope, of the generations of minds that were freed from oppression when Gandhi toppled the mighty British empire with nonviolent protests and I will be better able to connect with my Indian teammates.

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