This is the interview with Arun Gandhi, about being the change you want to see in the world, on Monday Night Radio. Monday Night Radio is an online (Internet-based) talk radio show where different experts are interviewed, and people around the world can listen via the Internet, and call in to talk with the expert, and ask them questions.
The Internet Patrol’s Anne P. Mitchell, Esq., is the host of Monday Night Radio.
This Monday Night Radio show with Gandhi was first aired on 11/22/10. In addition to reading the interview below, you can listen to the recorded show via iTunes – where you can also subscribe to the podcast of all of the recorded shows. Here is the iTunes link: http://www.MondayNightRadio.com/ref/MNR-iTunes.
Links to the guest’s website and book, if any, are at the end of the interview. You will also find links to books and websites that our listeners called in about.
Anne: It’s time for Monday Night Radio. Monday night is your night to talk with the experts. Call us now to get into the queue at 866-Monday6. That’s 866-Monday6. Call us now, or e-mail your questions and comments to email@example.com. Tweet them to us @mondayradio. Now, here’s your host, Anne P. Mitchell, esquire.
Anne: Good evening and welcome to another episode of Blog Talk Monday Night Radio. We are so very, very honored tonight to have a very special guest with us. We have with us Mr. Arun Gandhi. He is the grandson of Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi. He is also doing many wonderful things in his own right. We are going to bring him on in just a moment to tell us about those things. First I would just like to remind you that next week we have with us an expert on workplace issues. So, if you are an employee experiencing problems at work or an employer wanting to boost morale in the workplace, then next week’s show is for you. Our guest will be Lynda Barbaccia. She is going to tell you how to handle those workplace issues and how you can change going to work where you work from dreaded to enjoyable. That’s next week’s show. Now, let’s turn our attention to this week’s show. It is my great, great pleasure to welcome as our guest Mr. Arun Gandhi. Mr. Gandhi, are you there?
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Mr. Gandhi: Yes, I am here. Thank you very much for having me on your show.
Anne: Oh, Mr. Gandhi, it is such a pleasure and a privilege to have you on our show. We are so very glad to have you here with us.
Mr. Gandhi: Thank you.
Anne: One of the things we are going to talk about is your grandfather had a saying that people around the world are familiar with, “Be the change.” We are also going to talk about how individuals can make a difference. I’d like to just tell our listeners a little bit about how you as an individual along with your late wife made a difference. You spent I believe almost 30 years working with children to help abandoned and impoverished children, helping to lift them out of poverty to help orphans find homes. You have really put that to work making a change with your own work. Right?
Mr. Gandhi: Yes. We were living in India and at that time we found many babies that were abandoned soon after birth because they were born to unwed mothers. In the Indian culture it is a stigma for a woman to have a baby before marriage. So, we found these babies and found them homes. Many of them are now in Sweden and other countries as well as many in India too. In all we have rescued and found homes for about 128 children.
Anne: That’s incredible. 128 babies and children that now have better lives directly because of you and your wife’s work. Are you in touch with any of them still? Do you know where they are now and what they are doing?
Mr. Gandhi: Yes, I am in touch with many of them. Many as I said are in Sweden and some are in India. There is one in France. I keep in touch with them as much as possible. It’s become a little easier now with Facebook. Many of them are my friends on Facebook. We write to each other and keep in touch.
Anne: That’s wonderful.
Mr. Gandhi: For them I am their grandfather now.
Anne: That’s lovely to have 128 grandchildren. That’s pretty impressive.
Mr. Gandhi: Right.
Anne: You are listening to Monday Night Radio our guest is Arun Gandhi. You can call in to speak with Mr. Gandhi and give him your comments and questions at our toll free number 866-Monday6. You can also e-mail any comments or questions you have to our e-mail hotline at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can send us a message on Facebook @mondaynightradio. On Twitter @mondayradio, also on AOL instant messenger @mondaynightradio. Mr. Gandhi, you turned this passion for helping children into an organization. We would love to hear a bit about your Gandhi for Children Foundation which visitors can go to at gandhiforchildren.org.
Mr. Gandhi: Yes, this happened in 2007 when my wife passed away after a brief illness. My son and my daughter asked me if we could commemorate her memory by building a school for her in her memory. So, I said yes and I came back to the United States and spoke with a lot of friends of mine. They all were very keen to join in and do whatever they could. Very soon, within the matter of a few weeks, I was able to collect about 50 thousand dollars. That was investing in starting the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute for Impoverished Children. Then, my friend said this is such a wonderful concept. Why don’t we make it a worldwide issue instead of just one school? We will have many schools. So, we have a very ambitious program of creating many schools for underprivileged children everywhere in the world, but the first model school is going to come up in India in a small village. If that succeeds and we are able to raise enough money we will build more schools elsewhere.
Anne: Do you have any particular model for these schools? Or, requirements as far as who may attend? How are you doing the greatest outreach you can through each school?
Mr. Gandhi: Yes, the requirement is that we are going to try to follow the model that my grandfather had talked about and written about. That is to help people more through vocational training rather than the conventional education program. The conventional education program is so city based that people living out in the villages, if they got that kind of education they would have to come into the city to find employment. That defeats the purpose. People should be able to find work where they live rather than have to uproot themselves from there and move hundreds of miles away to the nearest city to find a job. So, what we are going to do is give them that kind of education that Gandhi talked about. Also instead of taking one child from a family and giving that child education, we are going to try to raise the whole family out of poverty. This is really an ambitious thing, because nobody has ever tried to work with the entire family. They usually have schools and just one child or two children from a family are able to go there. Since our children are going to be the most impoverished people who are not going to be able to pay fees or anything like that, we are going to have to raise a lot of money to run the school. We already have one that is running. It is in a rented premises, and because the place is very small we have restricted the number of students. Right now we have about 45. They are residential there. Then, we have started satellite classes under trees and in shanties in slum areas where these children from that area are collected together and given some education by volunteer teachers. This kind of program has been going on for about the last three or four years. Once we have the campus built, then we will have about 300 children. It will be more organized.
Anne: So, your concept then is that by educating the children you will also help to lift their parents and extended family out of poverty, not only that, but the future generations to come, their children and their children’s children.
Mr. Gandhi: Yes, that is the plan. We hope that it will succeed.
Anne: Isn’t this then, and please forgive me for being presumptuous with understanding these terms, but isn’t that sort of the ultimate way to carry on your grandfather’s idea of Sarvodaya? Am I saying that right?
Mr. Gandhi: Yes, you are. That’s what he wanted. He wanted a Sarvodaya society where everybody benefits from it and everybody is able to live a descent life. Unfortunately today in the modern times we have adopted the materialistic kind of lifestyle in every country. So, everybody is very selfish, and the powerful grab as much of the pie as possible and very little of that goes down to the poor people. So, we have a tremendous imbalance in the world where some people live a very affluent lifestyle and other people live a very impoverished lifestyle.
Anne: Could you talk a little bit, because this reminds me a little bit of also Satyagraha which I understand means the pursuit of truth but also had its roots in your grandfather’s desire to let everyone have access and have these potentials. Could you talk a little bit about that and explain that for us?
Mr. Gandhi: Yes, Satyagraha was also a part of his philosophy of nonviolence. Since he used it mainly for the freedom of India, many people came to believe that Satyagraha is only a political tool to be used for political conflict. In fact, it is not just a political tool. It is a philosophy of life, because he said that life itself is a pursuit of truth. We are constantly trying to seek truths. We are constantly trying to find the meaning of life. We are constantly trying to find salvation for ourselves. All of these things are searching for truth, the truth of life. That needs to be done with greater commitment and with a greater desire. Then we would be able to find some answers to the questions that face us all the time.
Anne: You are listening to Monday Night Radio with our guest Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi. You can dial in and give us your comments and questions at 866-Monday6 or send us a message via AOL instant messenger @mondaynightradio or Facebook @mondaynightradio or on Twitter at @mondayradio. Mr. Gandhi, we have some people who have called in and some of them are working themselves on making a difference and being the change. But, first could you tell us a little bit about that philosophy of be the change and how individuals really can make a difference? Certainly while your grandfather was a supreme example of that, you also are certainly an individual making a huge difference in the lives of many, many children. Could you talk a little bit about how individuals really can make a difference? We are very demoralized these days. I think people really don’t feel like they can make a difference on their own, but they can.
Mr. Gandhi: Yes, I think firstly we need to understand that no individual can change the whole world. We should not aspire to change the world. I think much of the problem that faces people who are working in the social field is that the desire to change the world and have a very big ambition and since they cannot reach that ambition, they give up and burn out and then think that it is all a waste of time. If we set ourselves goals that are attainable and then attain those goals and set other goals, then we would have more encouragement and determination to continue working there. I think it is very important for us to remember this and to set goals that we can attain. What we have done and what I have understood from grandfather’s philosophy, I learned from him at the age of 12, not that it made a lot of sense to me at that age. I wasn’t a very bright student at the time, but he had a knack of teaching which was a very powerful tool. That lesson kind of stuck in my mind and as I grew up I began to reflect on it and I thought it was a wonderful life changing experience for me. The first lesson which I want to share with you and which explains his very famous quotation to be the change, he told me that we commit a lot of passive violence or nonphysical violence all the time that is something that we need to be concerned about. He said the only way we can find out how much of this passive violence we commit is by making an introspection. What he did with me at that time was he made me draw a genealogical tree of violence. On the same principal as a family tree with violence as the grandparent and physical violence and passive violence as the two branches. Everyday before I went to bed I had to analyze and examine everything that I had experienced during the day and put them down on that tree.
Mr. Gandhi: If it’s the kind of violence where physical force is used like wars, killings, beatings, murders, rapes, fighting, punching, and all of these things where physical force is used would go under physical violence. If it is the kind of violence where we don’t use any kind of physical force, and yet we hurt people directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, and that would be things like discrimination, oppression, suppression, economic, political, social, cultural, religious, all these little things that we do everyday which are very hurtful. That kind of thing would go on the passive violence. When I began to do this introspection, within a few months I was able to fill up the whole wall in my room with acts of passive violence. That is when grandfather explained to me the connection between the two. He said we commit passive violence all the time everyday, consciously and unconsciously and that generates anger in the victim. The victim then resorts to physical violence to get justice. So, it is passive violence that fuels the fire of physical violence. So, logically we want to put out that fire of physical violence, we have to cut off the fuel supply. Since the fuel supply comes from each one of us we have to become the change that we wish to see in the world. I would suggest for everybody, all of your listeners and everybody else in this world, we need to do that introspection. We need to find out how are we committing violence either passive or physical violence. What can we do to change our attitudes and our behaviors and our relationships so that we don’t commit this kind of violence and provide the fuel that ignites physical violence all the time?
Anne: That is an incredibly profound lesson. Thank you for sharing that very personal story with us.
Mr. Gandhi: Yes, it’s a very profound thing and I just hope and wish that people would take it to heart and make a difference in life. We seem to think that life is about going around in circles from work to death and we have nothing else to do but just wait for death. In the mean time we amass wealth. There is a lot more to life than just making money and passing the time of day. Grandfather said that life is about climbing a ladder. We are constantly going upwards and to be able to do justice to that and to be able to become better human beings we must make a conscious effort everyday that we are going up one rung of that ladder. Today we are going to be better human beings than we were yesterday. If we make that conscious effort and continue to do that every day then we will be better human beings and be able to achieve as much as he did in his life.
Anne: You are listening to Monday Night Radio. Our guest is Arun Gandhi. You can mail in your questions and comments for Mr. Gandhi at email@example.com. You can send us a message via AOL instant messenger to mondaynightradio, or on Facebook/mondaynightradio, or via Twitter @mondayradio. I want to bring on a caller now, Mr. Gandhi, because I think that she will very much have been able to relate to what you are talking about perhaps with passive violence and I don’t know maybe even direct. I don’t know. But, let’s bring in Ellie calling from Las Vegas. Ellie, good evening, are you there?
Caller #1: Yes, I am. Elle Swan. I am there.
Anne: I’m sorry. I thought Ellie. I apologize. It’s Elle, Elle Swan. You are on the air with Anne and Mr. Gandhi.
Caller #1: I am very excited, and you are absolutely right. The passive violence it just hit me in my core. Mr. Gandhi, I do a newsletter it’s called “Be Fit, Live Rich”. I also am a motivational speaker, an international speaker, and a life coach who is dedicated to helping people understand that the violence against ourselves specifically with drug addiction, alcohol addiction, addictions to food, etc., especially prescription drugs in America is rampant now. 7 out of 10 Americans are overweight. My back story very briefly is that 10 years ago I lived on the streets. I was a college graduate with an Ivy League education and during the course of five years I spiraled into depression, I used drugs and I ended up living on the streets. My family didn’t know if I was alive or dead. I overdosed in an abandoned van, and I had a spiritual awakening as I was overdosing and dying. From that I realized that I had been making the choice to take my hatred, take my disappointment with life in general from what happened as a child or just what was happening in the world and I turned it against myself. In that moment I made a decision or actually God showed me that I could choose to love myself. What is underneath as you said with the passive violence, what is underneath the addiction, the rampant addiction is self-hatred, which is absolutely based on what you just said, passive violence. As we learn to love ourselves and live without the crutches of cigarettes, of drugs, of alcohol, because the prescription medication for example, it just suppresses the hatred. It suppresses it.
Mr. Gandhi: Exactly.
Caller #1: I’m sorry, sir, go ahead. So, I’m very excited to be on this call with you tonight.
Mr. Gandhi: No, I agree with you. I think that this is a waste of life when we slowly die with all of these addictions. Nobody benefits from it. It’s a waste of a good life. I wish people wouldn’t get into those addictions and waste their life because life is too precious to be wasted.
Caller #1: It is. It is. The model for my newsletter and all the work I do, I love what you said about climbing the ladder, it’s rise above mediocrity. If we can make a commitment on a daily basis to be better today than we were yesterday we inch by inch day by day rise above mediocrity and when we do that everyone is operating at a higher vibration. I don’t want to take much time. For other people that are listening that want to collaborate, my website is elleswan.com. Thank you very much for your time.
Anne: Elle, thank you for the call very much.
Mr. Gandhi: Thank you.
Anne: That’s a very interesting aspect that I hadn’t really thought about and that is sort of the self violence and how that perpetuates in a ripple effect to others as well and to your families. I think maybe even more so here, I’m not sure, but certainly here in America the concept of loving yourself even now, people say it all the time, but I think many people don’t get it. I think just the concept.
Mr. Gandhi: Yeah, the thing is what happens here in the United States and now increasingly in other countries also is that we mouth the words. We just tell ourselves and tell each other we love you but it doesn’t really reflect in our actions or our behavior. It’s just a kind of empty words that we say. That doesn’t have any effect at all. I see this all the time when parents and spouses are constantly telling each other I love you, I love you, and really they don’t even mean it sometimes. They just mouth the words. Now people have come to realize there is really no meaning in these words, so they don’t believe anything. That’s what really adds up to the frustrations and people get into addictions and all that. My wife and I lived on a university campus for many years when she was alive. She was a tremendous mother figure. She loved to mother everybody there. She used to gather all of these students and invite them to join us for lunch in our office. Everyday we would have about 6, 8, 10 students with their pack lunches would come and sit with us and we would chat and eat. She would mother them. Many of them cried to her. They said, “You are nobody to us, and yet you are so considerate and thinking about us and showing this love and affection and all that. We don’t get that in our own homes. Nobody has time for us or for any of these niceties.” That’s a very sad situation, when children themselves realize that their parents don’t have any time for them. I think that is the worst thing that can happen. I tell parents these days very openly if you don’t have time for your children, don’t have children. You have no business to give birth to children and bring them into this world and leave them to the four winds to raise themselves up.
Anne: We have evolved. I’m sure I’m going to get all kinds of letters about this for saying it, but we have evolved at least in the United States, a very selfish society. I in my previous professional life as an attorney for fathers and children, I saw exactly what you are talking about all the time. Children are just warehoused and sort of sat in front of the television. There are two income families and the kids are latchkey kids. It’s just so sad.
Mr. Gandhi: Very sad.
Anne: We managed to convince ourselves it’s ok.
Mr. Gandhi: I do a lot of traveling.
Anne: In your travels do you see this same?
Mr. Gandhi: I see this all the time. At the airports you see little kids traveling alone from one parent to another parent going on a visit. Sometimes they are escorted by a flight attendant and sometimes they are just traveling on their own. It’s such a painful sight to see these kids living with that pain and agony inside them. They bury themselves with the music, and they live in their own world. They don’t know what is going on around them. It’s a sad life that they face. You said about society becoming very selfish, but that is the result of a materialistic society. Materialism develops selfishness in people. When we foster this kind of selfishness when we tell their children when they are growing up that they have to be successful in life and reach the top and get there by any means possible, all that is sowing the first seeds of selfishness. Success in modern times has come to mean possessions and property. What do you possess? How much do you own? What do you drive? That is the measure of success.
Anne: How would your grandfather have defined success?
Mr. Gandhi: He would have defined success by what the person has been able to contribute to society. How has he enriched the society in which he or she lives? In what way has their life been meaningful to other people, not for themselves, but for others?
Anne: On that note, let’s go to another caller. I think this caller would certainly agree with you. Let’s get Jeff who is calling from Australia on the line. Jeff, are you there?
Caller #2: Yes, I am. Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure listening in. It is quite an interesting conversation for sure.
Anne: Well, you are on the air now with me and Mr. Gandhi.
Caller #2: I’m the CEO and founder of a company called SOCO Games. How we applied that philosophy of being part of the change is right from day one we tried to figure out a way that we could be a part of the change. The only way that we could really do it was to keep it really simple. So, what we have done in our games is we have built in a mechanism that automatically extracts a percentage of revenue and applies it to what we call the SOCO Games Players Fund. That players fund based on the votes of our players now supports 31 charities around the planet. We try to take into account every continent except for the really icy one, because that is where our players are. In your discussion the one part…The people I meet, and the people that play our games, I don’t find them apathetic. I don’t think they really want to be like they are, it’s just, it’s really touch for the everyday person to find a means that fits into their family life, their work life, and just their lives so that they can make a difference. So, what we were really happy about was providing them a mechanism where they don’t have to do anything but play a little game for about 15 minutes every once in awhile and then we take care of the rest. Through the players fund they can feel good about also being part of something. We are not tapping into an already depleted bunch of resources, whether it is time or finance. The questions I would like to ask Mr. Gandhi is one of the hardest things for me in setting all of this up was picking the charities. I went to probably 200-300. I researched. I tried to figure them out. Even to this day, everyday I get somebody asking me, “Can you add us to your players fund?” In your travels, how do you deal with that guilt of saying no to one person and then helping out another? Everybody has finite resources. You’d love to save everybody, but every once in awhile a child gets left behind. It’s something that scares me as we continue to grow and the players fund continues to grow. That guilt is starting to be real in me. It scares me that it will get to a point where it is actually not fun anymore.
Mr. Gandhi: This is a difficult thing. As I said earlier, we cannot set ourselves goals that we cannot attain. We would love to help all the children of the world who are needy and who need any help. I know that I don’t have that capacity. Really nobody has that capacity to deal with so many millions and millions children who are languishing in the world today. That doesn’t mean that we don’t help those who we can. We have to take that although it is very painful decision that we can do this much and we will do it and make a difference in the lives of a few. The only thing we can do is to inspire others to continue to do what we have been doing and lob the spear. Then we will be able to help more children. It is just getting other people motivated to do the same thing. Many years ago I found there were lots of people living on the sidewalks in Bombay City. They had no homes, no shelters, no clothes, no food, and very little work. They were really in a miserable state of affairs. This was because the government in India had focused much of the development activity in the cities and neglected the rural areas. Six of my friends and I got together and we decided to use Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence to help rebuild these people’s self respect and self confidence and make them realize that they could do things for themselves. What we did was we rounded up about 500-600 people. We sat with them and we talked with them. We told them that this is what we are planning to do, and they would have to be a part of the solutions, because they are a part of the problem. They were willing to do whatever we asked them, because they were so desperate. So, we told them ok, we want you to create a fund, so that with that money we can create an economic base for you. Ordinarily one would have expected us to go to a rich person and go and get the money and create this economic base for them and hand it over to them. That would cripple them much more. That would make them believe that we can ask for whatever we want and these people will provide it for us. That is not what we wanted them to feel. That is not what Gandhi’s philosophy is about. Gandhi’s philosophy is about rebuilding the self respect and self confidence of the individual so that they can stand on their own feet and not have to depend anybody for it. So, with this challenge that we threw to them that you save a coin every day. We don’t care how you do it. You work extra hours or you deny yourself something. Whatever it is, you collectively all together save a coin everyday and make this fund. They surprised us when they came back about two years later with the equivalent of $11,000.
Mr. Gandhi: They all saved together. With that money we bought them ten second hand textile machines and installed those machines in a little tin shed in their hometown in their village and sent back about 75-80 of them to run this factory around the clock so that they could make it possible to for all of the people who had contributed to this fund to come and live on the profits of that factory. They did this. Of course they didn’t know at the time how to manage money, how to plan productions, marketing, and all of these things. They had no idea about this. We had to train them and spend a lot of time training them and teaching them. Once they became confident we handed over charge to them. I’m shocked that today, this program began in 1970, and today that program has six factories with more than 1000 machines. They have their own cooperative bank. They just changed their lives completely. We also taught them that just as we came to help them attain a better standard of living, they must now help other people to attain that standard of living too and not become greedy. So these are the kinds of programs that we can do. They can multiply and eventually we can be able to solve the problems of the world. If we get frustrated or we feel guilty and give up on it, then we are not doing the right thing.
Caller #2: I don’t think I will ever give up. That is for sure. I love that philosophy. I think the social giving philosophy from what I can see is moving in that direction. There’s a lot more emphasis on things like building schools, providing education, and something I really like is the emergence of the micro financing organizations like Kiva that help individuals in order to help themselves and become economically stable instead of just giving the money to survive for a week or two. I love that philosophy.
Mr. Gandhi: Gandhi used to say that charity takes place in two forms. There is the charity that is motivated by pity and charity that is motivated by compassion. The difference here is that when we go out into the streets and we see a hungry person our immediate reaction is to dip our hand in the pocket give the person a couple of dollars and tell them to go and buy some food. What we are basically telling them is, “Get out of my face. I hope I never see you again. Take this money and go and buy something and just disappear from here.” By that kind of charity what we are doing is making that person dependent on the charity. We are not concerned whether that person buys food or he goes and buys cigarettes or drugs or alcohol or whatever. We feel that we just did our good deed for the day and we walk away from there. Yet, that deed of ours has not done any good. It has done something very bad. So, we have to be more conscious of what we do and how we do it. If we were to work out of compassion, then we would stop to find out why are these people incapable of taking care of themselves, what is wrong with them, what are their strengths, and what are their potentials that we can exploit so that they can stand on their own two feet and achieve things? So, it’s very essential that we understand charity in the right sense and do it in the right way too.
Anne: Jeff, thank you so much for the call. We do need to move on, but before we go, is your game an online game? If so, would you like to give out the web address for it?
Caller #2: Ok, you can access the game. It’s on Facebook. You can search for it. It’s called EARTH 2.0 or you can simply go to socogames.com and there is a link. It will also tell you about the SOCO Games Players Fund. In the last month we went from about 1000 players, I haven’t checked in the last hour, but we are probably about 65,000 players. Through the fund we are hopefully going to do a lot of good on behalf of everybody. Mr. Gandhi, I love the idea of your school. I am going to look you up and perhaps we will add you if we can afford it to our list.
Anne: That’s ghandiforchildren.org. Thank you, Jeff.
Mr. Gandhi: Yeah.
Anne: That’s really such a wonderful way I think that imagine if other people running businesses, the Internet is such an incredible resource to connect so many people at once.
Mr. Gandhi: It is.
Anne: The way that Jeff is doing this with his game is just such a wonderful idea because it is painless for the people playing and yet they are really being part of effecting change.
Mr. Gandhi: Yeah it’s good, wonderful things. Technology has really made things much easier now.
Anne: I’m wondering if you have any special fond memories of times with your grandfather that if they are not too personal you would be willing to share with us.
Mr. Gandhi: No, no, I always share them wherever I go and speak. One memory is the lesson he taught me about violence and nonviolence and the important of doing introspection. I think that is a very important lesson for everybody to learn. I think also a very important lesson was about anger management and understanding anger. We don’t speak about this. We don’t teach anybody how to deal with their anger, and the result of that is that everybody ends up abusing their anger and causing death and destruction. Grandfather taught me because I grew up in South Africa at a time when apartheid was at its worst. There was so much hate going around that at one point I thought that there was no love in this world at all, that it was full of hate. I was beaten up at the age of ten by some white youths and then I was beaten up by some black youths. Both of the times because they didn’t like the color of my skin, I was so angry that I wanted eye for an eye revenge. It became an obsession with me. I started doing exercises and pumping iron so that I could become strong and able to fight back again. That’s when my parents took me to India and I had the opportunity to live with Grandfather. The first lesson that he taught me was about understanding that anger and being able to channel that energy into positive action. He said anger is like electricity. It is just as useful and just as powerful, but only if we use it intelligently. It can be just as deadly and destructive if we abuse it. Just as we channel electrical energy and bring it into our lives and use it for the good of humanity, we must learn to channel anger in the same way so that we can use that energy for the good of humanity rather than abuse it and cause death and destruction. He suggested that I write an anger journal. He said, “Every time that you feel angry about something don’t act on it. Write it down in your journal. Write the journal with the intention of finding a solution to the problem. Then commit yourself to finding a solution.” This is very important, because today a lot of people tell me they have been writing an anger journal for a long time but it doesn’t really help them because every time they go back and read the journal they are just reminded of the incident and they get angry all over again. That is not what we want. We don’t want to be reminded of the incident. We want to be able to find a solution and put it behind us. So, it is important that we learn to write the journal with the intention of finding a solution, and then commit ourselves to finding that solution. I did this for many years, and I must say it helped me considerably in learning how to deal with my anger properly and efficiently.
Anne: So, can you just sort of give a little bit of an overview of how you would approach that in order, because I can well imagine that most people would simply go back and read that and just be reminded and get angry all over again. So, what is the key to taking that and doing something constructive with it? What did you learn about that?
Mr. Gandhi: Well one of the reasons I have been going around and speaking and sharing my legacy with people all over the world is motivated by that anger. Instead of seeking revenge for the racist attacks on me and all the prejudicial attacks that I have suffered, I decided to change people’s hearts and minds by talking to them and transforming them. I had a very beautiful experience that I had in the late1960’s when I was living in Bombay. I was forced to live in India because the South African government wouldn’t allow me to bring back my Indian wife with me to South Africa. So, I had to set up a home in India and abandon my mother and my sisters and be in a new country starting life all over again. At that time one day a friend from South Africa wrote to me saying that he was coming to India for the first time and he was rather nervous. He asked me if I would meet him when his ship arrived in Bombay and make arrangements for his stay. Since he was a very good friend I said alright I will do that. When the ship came and I went to meet him I was the first Indian to go on board the ship. Instead of meeting my friend I first met a strange white man who came up and grabbed my hand and shook it profusely and introduced himself as Mr. Jackie Basson, a member of parliament from South Africa. The moment he told me his name I realized who he was. I realized he was responsible for apartheid. He was an outspoken supporter of apartheid. In many ways I held him responsible for all of the humiliation that I felt in South Africa. The very first thought that came into my mind was to tell him and insult him and to tell him to jump into the ocean that I am not going to do anything for you. Treat him as badly as I was treated in South Africa. That was my first reaction. I immediately stopped my self, because I realized that if I did that my parents and my grandparents would never forgive me. So, I reached out to him and I shook hands and introduced myself. I told him that I am a victim of apartheid. I am forced to live here because his government wouldn’t allow me to come back to South Africa with my Indian bride, but I am not going to hold it against him. I am going to treat him as a guest of this country and I am going to do my best to make his stay as pleasant as possible. From that day, for the five to six days that the ship was in town my wife and I spent every daylight hour with them, his wife and himself. Taking them around and showing them all parts of Bombay and doing all of the touristy things and shopping and everything that they wanted to do, we took them around and did all of that. During that time we also talked about apartheid. I would try to question him and find out how he could justify apartheid. He was making a valiant attempt to justify it to me. Every time the discussion became a little uneasy we just changed the topic and talked about other things. I wasn’t expecting that this person would be changed, but on the last day when we said our final farewell to them, he and his wife both embraced us and cried tears of remorse. Tears were streaming down their cheeks. They said, “You have to forgive us. You have opened our eyes to the evils of apartheid. We are making this promise to you. We are going to go back to South Africa and we are going to fight apartheid.” I was still a skeptic at the time. I wasn’t willing to believe them. I told my wife, “These people have a habit of coming out of the country and saying one thing. When they go back into the country they revert back to their old methods. So, let’s wait and see whether they really mean this or they are just saying this to make us feel good.” We followed his political year for the next four or five years. I must say that he was a changed person. He fought apartheid tooth and nail. He lost his election. He was kicked out of his party, but he didn’t give up on fighting apartheid. I wonder about this very often in my life. If I had submitted to the first reaction when I wanted to insult him and tell him off, would I have been able to change that person, or would I have had that momentary satisfaction of having insulted the white man and gotten away with it? I think that is all I would have gained from it. But, by reaching out and showing him kindness and understanding and love, I was able to transform a man who was a confirmed racist. That is the power.
Anne: Absolutely, that is a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing that. It so illustrated exactly how one person really can make a difference. I really appreciate you sharing that. We have just a couple minutes left. I know we have another caller who would really like to speak with you if we can get him in. Just before we do that, I want to remind everyone that we are speaking with Mr. Arun Gandhi. His website for his foundation is at gandhiforchildren.org. In just a minute so we can get to this last caller, I also wanted to mention that you have several books out. I am wondering if you could just quickly tell us about your books. Then we will close with this last caller.
Mr. Gandhi: Well the two books that are now available in the market here is “Legacy of Love”, which is a compilation of all the stories and lessons I learned from my grandfather, and given me an understanding of his philosophy of nonviolence. The other book is the biography of grandmother. I realized many years ago that people had written a lot about Grandfather, but they had omitted my grandmother and didn’t pay much attention to her at all. So, I researched her life and wrote her biography. That is called, “The Forgotten Woman”. That also is available through the website gandhiforchildren.org. Money from sales of both of these books goes to the school project and helps the poor children of the world. So, that is another way that your listeners can contribute to this project instead of making a donation, they can buy a book and still fund that program.
Anne: The books look wonderful. Alright we are going to let Travis, calling in about the Peace Corps and his experience with the Peace Corps to talk with you have the last minute. Here you go. Travis, are you there?
Caller #3: I am here. Yes.
Mr. Gandhi: Hello, Travis.
Anne: Travis, you are on the air with Mr. Gandhi.
Caller #3: Hi, thank you so much for allowing me to say something here. I have been serving with the Peace Corps for two years. I have one more year that I have extended beyond the normal two years of service. I am in Mongolia. One of the things I have really noticed is that other people want to make change. They see needs in the community. People who are living very miserable lives have extraordinary dreams; one of them has to come true. As a Peace Corps volunteer, one of the things that I have seen, it’s part of my job is helping people see (inaudible).
Mr. Gandhi: You are breaking up there, Travis.
Caller #3: Oh, I’m sorry.
Anne: No, don’t be sorry. It’s a long way to Mongolia. Can you restate your question?
Caller #3: Sure, sure. I’ve worked with a lot of people and helping people who are very inspired to change their communities. They don’t think they are capable of doing that themselves. I wanted to ask what your experience has been when you are helping people and when you are working with others and you are trying to inspire them and see what they are capable of. I think that is also what a great leader can do is help see people what potential they have to make change themselves and do simple things in their lives to help others. If you are trying to help others and be a leader and share with others what they are capable of doing, what kind of things have you seen that are really helpful?
Anne: That is a great question, Travis.
Mr. Gandhi: One of the things that I did was to study the people and find out what are their potentials. Even the people who are volunteering to bring about the change, they have certain potential and certain capacities and we need to learn about them and project them. Very often we are motivated through change but the person themselves they don’t know how they can use their own strength and their own abilities to help that change. We as the leaders of this group we need to examine this and find their strengths and make them realize those strengths and then use those strengths to help the poor people there.
Caller #3: Yes. I think that is so true.
Anne: Travis, thank you so much for the call. I’m sorry to cut you off, but we’ve run over.
Caller #3: Thank you.
Mr. Gandhi: Thank you, Travis.
Anne: Thank you for your service as well.
Caller #3: Thank you so much.
Anne: Mr. Gandhi, thank you again so much for joining us. This has been just a wonderful, wonderful hour. Thank you for sharing the stories and your insights, and above all, thank you for your foundation and what you are doing.
Mr. Gandhi: Thank you, Anne. Thank you very much for having me.
Anne: Again that is gandhiforchildren.org. Thank you so much Namaste.
Mr. Gandhi: Namaste.
Anne: That website again is gandhiforchildren.org. That was Mr. Arun Gandhi. He is the grandson of Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi. Again just to remind you next week we will be talking about boosting workplace morale and changing your own experience of a bad workplace. Thank you all so much for joining us.
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