Indian Cultural Week conveys Gandhi’s virtues

When the word Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, or the various monikers associated with him, such as the likes of ‘Bapu’ and  ‘Mahatma’, are first heard, minds often swirl around the tapestry of many shades in which he painted the world. 

People think of India’s impassioned struggle with the British or maybe, the Salt Satyagraha and the Khadi Movement. Perhaps, they know him as the guy who barely wore any clothes and looked kind of scrawny but managed to rally an entire country to win back their independence. 

Whatever awareness of him and his many humane endeavors that they might have had, they know he changed the world. 

Gandhi, a pioneer of truth and peace, showed the world how freedom can be achieved through the innocuous yet powerful means of non-violence when he played a prominent role in the seething struggle of Indian independence. 

To commemorate his life, his birthday, Oct. 2, is celebrated as Gandhi Jayanti, one of India’s only three national holidays.

This year, the Indian Cultural Week at Woodstock, stretching through an entire week of splendid performances and exhibitions, was a monumental event. 

“On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, we really felt we should do something out of the ordinary, which became the basis of this year’s Cultural Week,” Mrs. Sanjaya Mark, Director of Community Engagement, said.

On Sep. 28, An inter-school poster making competition was at the forefront of creativity, where students from across the hill were invited to compete across four age groups and exhibit their talent and appreciation for the father of their nation.

Mrs. Mark, who also helped organize the entire event, said, “What I’m really excited about is taking this small art exhibition to schools around Dehradun and Mussoorie, where students from low-income families don’t get enough opportunities.”

On Monday, a special assembly planned for everyone at the school offered great insights into Gandhi’s life and why he is still an integral part of the Indian experience. 

Mellifluous musical performances from Mr. Aditya Manral, Hostel supervisor and maternity cover for the Alumni department, Mr. Prateek Santram, I&S teacher and MUN coordinator, and Aviva Philip, Class of 2020, serenaded half-asleep students who were sent into a spur of euphoria. 

Of the songs performed, ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’ is a notable Hindu devotional song that was widely popularized by Gandhi and talks about the universal ideas of brotherhood.

Kyutae Kyung, Class of 2021, said, “I was especially moved by that song and its ideas of striving towards the path of righteousness and virtue.”

The next event leaned towards the first half of the 20th century, when India was still clasped in the cruel cob-webs of British colonizers.

Mussoorie was considered a ‘rich people’ town boasting of preppy bungalows and streets in place to cater to the whims of the fancy. What many people are unaware of is that Gandhi shared a profound history with this town, dating back to the 1920s, where it was considered his preferred town for recuperation.

From delegating the opening of Landour Temple to all castes, or addressing the Mussoorie Municipal Council which brought a fixed wage practice for coolies and rickshaw-pullers, he left a deep imprint on the same ‘preppy-English-neighborhood.’

To further explore his ventures and the ‘Mussoorie connection’, Surbhi Agarwal, one of the youngest members of the Heritage Centre, put up a revelatory exhibition which enlightened the students and faculty members on this rather obscure part of his life.

Mounted across the showcase were a variety of items, all vestiges of Gandhi’s essence of the past, from small objects like coins and pyjama-pullers dating back to the time, to a Charkha, an indispensable symbol of the freedom-struggle, this exhibition satiated any mind’s burning desire to familiarise themselves with his deep-rooted history with the town.

Ms. Agarwal rues that for many Indians, Gandhi is reduced to a symbol on the rupee note. She feels like the impressionable minds of the future have a lot to learn from his philosophies and should take pride in their rich culture. 

Gandhi’s story, awe-inspiring to the fullest, has been told numerous times in several ways. 

You’ve heard it many times, read about it, watched it, but never before in this manner. 

On Wednesday, the Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust, founded by Padamshree Dadi D. Pudumjee, put up a thoroughly authentic puppetry performance that defied audience expectations and overwhelmed them with their mastery of the craft. 

It was deliberate, purposeful and fully in control of its ideas.

The lighting straight out of a fever dream along with the relentless clobbering of smoke put students and staff in a position of discomfort, to stimulate the horror of the partition and freedom movement, while the visceral, gut-wrenching music elevated them to another realm of existence.

At the end of the act, a hand-woven cotton yarn was passed into the audience, symbolizing that they are the torch-bearers who have to carry Gandhi’s legacy forward. Poignant and beautiful.

Mr. Pudumjee, recipient of the Sangeet Natak Academy Award, said, “We use puppetry as a means, and not the end of it all. It is just a medium to convey emotion.”

Of all the different means to tell one singular story, the Richard Attenborough film, Gandhi, winner of the Academy Award in 1983, was screened for students on Friday in Parker Hall to mark the end of Cultural Week. 

The near-three hour biopic is a fine achievement in cinema led by a magnificent Ben Kingsley in the titular role.

Talking about what her favorite part of organizing the entire event was, Mrs. Mark, said,

 “I love exposing Indian culture to the community since it is so rich and diverse. Every time there is a festival, I love it.”

Woodstock is a community that shelters people across the entire spectrum of diversity and Gandhi, a figure so prominent in the Indian freedom struggle, has managed to emphatically influence the mouldable minds of its residents in a startlingly positive manner.

In a country whose political discourse has lost all nuance, Gandhi’s wise words of tranquility surely bring reason to the unwavering chaos.

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

 

Naman Agarwal is a staff reporter

Edited by Archita Aggarwal

Photos by Archita Aggarwal and Janvi Poddar

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