Tag Archives: India

Honoring Gandhi

A reflection paper on Gandhi from my Pacific School of Religion “Transformative Leadership” class with the Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake:

Paper

My fourth reflection paper is on the 1982 movie Gandhi, also considering parts of Gandhi’s 1927 Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. I saw the movie when it was released but this is the first time I have watched it since I made two trips to create mentoring programs in Bangalore (now Bengaluru), India. I have the deepest respect for Gandhi and his remarkable accomplishments. Watching the movie again and reading his writing have only increased my appreciation for this great and humble man. It would be hard to overstate my admiration for Gandhi as a role model for generosity of soul, vision, non-violent change, organization and communication.

I have in my mind’s eye three bronze statues of Gandhi, one in Gandhi Square, Johannesburg, South Africa, another in Washington D.C. near Dupont Circle, and the third at the Museum of Memory and Tolerance, in Mexico City. For me, these heroic artworks represent the beginning and end of his story and illustrate parts of the movie. The statue in Johannesburg shows Gandhi in a legal gown over his suit, as he would have appeared as a young lawyer. He is reading a book, looking forward, and stands on a high plinth in a large public square. When I saw the statue in 2015, several men were lounging comfortably on the plinth base. The statue represents the young Gandhi at the beginning of the movie, a man who is making his professional way in Johannesburg, working inside the British system. The statue in Washington D.C. in front of the Embassy of India is very different. Over life size, the bronze shows Gandhi as an older man, striding along wearing very little and using a long staff. The red stone base says, “My Life is My Message.” This represents the Gandhi who walked modestly among his people, getting his social justice and political work done by force of personality. I make a small pilgrimage to Gandhi’s statue every time I go to Washington D.C. It feels like visiting an old friend. The final Gandhi statue is a bust in a line in front of the museum along with busts of Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Four more larger than life statues of these great leaders make up the final exhibit of the museum, representing heroism and hope. Our Pacific School of Religion – Mexico immersion class visited the Museum of Memory and Tolerance in January 2019. Gandhi is represented among those who inspire the whole world to change for the better.

In the “Face to Face with Ahimsa” section of Gandhi’s autobiography, I was inspired by how much love was a part of his effectiveness as a catalyst for social change. Gandhi writes, “The people had for the moment lost all fear of punishment and yielded obedience to the power of love which their new friend exercised.” Gandhi uses the word ahimsa, meaning respect for living things and avoidance of violence, to describe how he interacted with the people of Champaran, in India at the foot of the Himalayas. He writes, “It is no exaggeration, but the literal truth to say that in this meeting with the peasants, I was face to face with God, Ahimsa and Truth. When I come to examine my title to this  realization, I find nothing but my love for the people.” The emotional connection between Gandhi and the people of India was profound. His leadership of the movement for Indian independence against British colonial rule was so effective not only because he was a great strategist, organizer, and communicator but also because he lead from love. I too have found that my best ideas and most effective communications come when I lead from my heart.

Gandhi is so important and beloved in India that he is sometimes referred to by just his initials. In the several weeks I stayed in Bangalore, India, in 2004 and 2007, I learned that M.G. meant Mahatma Gandhi. For example, I attended church at St. Mark’s Cathedral, which has the address 1 M.G. Road. 10 It took me a while to understand that the Bangalore hotel clerk was not saying “emmgee” but rather “M.G.” when giving directions to the cathedral for Sunday services. Gandhi is entirely deserving of this deep affection and respect by his nation, by the world, and by me.

References and Bibliography

  1. Gandhi, directed by Richard Attenborough, featuring Ben Kingsley (Columbia Pictures, 1982).
  2. Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, trans. Mahadev Desai (New York: Dover Publications, 1983).
  3.  “Mahatma Gandhi Memorial (Washington, D.C.),” Wikipedia, last modified 2 April 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi_Memorial_(Washington,_D.C.).
  4.  “Statue of Mahatma Gandhi, Johannesburg,” Wikipedia, last modified 19 August 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statue_of_Mahatma_Gandhi,_Johannesburg.
  5.  “Memory and Tolerance Museum (Museo Memoria y Tolerancia),” CDMX – Ciudad de Mexico, accessed 11 March 2019, http://cdmxtravel.com/en/attractions/memory-and-tolerance-museum-museo-memoria-y-tolerancia.html.
  6. TechWomen Tour Johannesburg,” Katysblog (blog), 25 January 2015, https://katysblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/techwomen-tour-johannesburg/.
  7. Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (5),” Katysblog (blog), 30 January 2019, https://katysblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/30/communities-of-liberation-cuernavaca-mexico-5/.
  8. St. Mark’s Cathedral, Bangalore,” St. Mark’s Cathedral, Bangalore, last modified 2017, http://saintmarks.in.

Photos Copyright 2015-2019 by Katy Dickinson

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US-India Panel Hosted by IIE at LinkedIn

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I enjoyed hearing the “Roundtable on Strengthening Educational Ties between India – U.S.” panel from Gujarat last week.  The event was hosted by the Institute of International Education, with Trish Tierney of IIE-SF as the moderator. The panel was held at the LinkedIn San Francisco offices when registration numbers outgrew the original venue.  I was particularly interested in the discussion about the importance of entrepreneurship and mentoring in India.

The subject of women in technology came up several times. My favorite quotes:

  • “We are focused on women because men would happen in any case.”
  • “For women, Engineering is the last frontier.”

Image Copyright 2014 by Katy Dickinson

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Photos of Sravanabelagola (India)

Below are some photos from our trip to Sravanabelagola (Karnataka, India) last weekend. I am sorry to write that we will not make it to Delhi and Agra (to see the Taj Mahal) this weekend after all. After long complex discussions with several travel agents, the trip price just
kept going up as they added more items somehow not in the original amount; when the quote went over $2,000, we said enough. John and I are disappointed and frustrated but hope to see the Taj on a future trip. We will visit Goa instead this weekend. I will post more pictures (Belur and Halebid) as time allows.

We started before dawn from Bangalore and after a long drive, we got to Sravanabelagola before it got too hot. On our climb in socks up more than 600 granite steps to see the huge A.D. 981 Gomateshvara Jain sculpture, we saw carved inscriptions commemorating ancient pilgrimages. My favorite inscription was translated:

THIS WORN OUT INSCRIPTION IS DATED SAKA 1568 PHAI SUNA VADI 6,
CORRESPONDING TO THE 16TH MARCH 1647 A.D. TUESDAY. IT SEEMS TO
RECORD THE PILGRIMAGE OF SOME PERSONS.

The exactness of the date combined with total lack of information abut the pilgrims who carved it is funny.

Sravanabelagola sign:

Sravanabelagola sign<br /> photo: copyright 2007 John Plocher and Katy Dickinson

Sravanabelagola

600 plus steps (in socks):

Sravanabelagola steps<br /> photo: copyright 2007 John Plocher and Katy Dickinson

Sravanabelagola

Doorway at the top:

Sravanabelagola Shrine doorway<br /> photo: copyright 2007 John Plocher and Katy Dickinson

Sravanabelagola

rock inscription and sign:

Sravanabelagola, Rock inscriptions<br /> photo: copyright 2007 John Plocher and Katy Dickinson

Sravanabelagola

rock footprints:

Sravanabelagola, Rock inscriptions<br /> photo: copyright 2007 John Plocher and Katy Dickinson

Sravanabelagola

stone dancer:

Sravanabelagola, Dancer carving<br /> photo: copyright 2007 John Plocher and Katy Dickinson

Sravanabelagola

small statues:

Sravanabelagola, small statues<br /> photo: copyright 2007 John Plocher and Katy Dickinson

Gomateshvara

head:

Sravanabelagola, Gomateshvara head<br /> photo: copyright 2007 John Plocher and Katy Dickinson

Gomateshvara feet with

carved snakes and termites:

Sravanabelagola, Gomateshvara feet<br /> photo: copyright 2007 John Plocher and Katy Dickinson

Gomateshvara

statue:

Sravanabelagola, Gomateshvara statue<br /> photo: copyright 2007 John Plocher and Katy Dickinson

Truck demon

on road:

Truck demon<br /> photo: copyright 2007 John Plocher and Katy Dickinson

Tree roots over

road:

tree roots over road<br /> photo: copyright 2007 John Plocher and Katy Dickinson

Images Copyright 2007 by Katy Dickinson and John Plocher

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Gardening and Karel Capek

I have been preparing my garden for me to be away in India for several weeks. We have arranged for a housesitter and our daughter will also check in on our plants and pets (2 dogs, 2 cats, and a bird) but other than “mow-and-blow” upkeep, no actual gardening will be done. I have put down weed cloth and mulch and trimmed and tidied and hope that all is in readiness.

We have about 1/4 acre of yard and garden (including 170 feet of the Guadalupe riverbank) and all the plants and trees have just woken up for Spring. My almond trees are in full bloom, the jessamine vine flowers are just opening, the orange, apricot, and peach are in bud and I have pots and beds of daffodils and narcissus cheerfully nodding in day’s warm breeze. The weeds and stray grass are working to colonize any bare ground; snails and slugs are always with us. My garden is still recovering from the long hard frost we had last month. There are sections of bougainvillea and trumpet vine and bird of paradise which are yellow brown. I am not sure yet whether these hardest-hit plants will sprout green soon or are as dead as they look. By the time we are back, I will know.

Karel Capek is most famous for having introduced and made popular the word robot, which first appeared in his play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) in 1921. However, my favorite Karel Capek work is The Gardener’s Year from 1929. Here is Capek’s description of a dedicated gardener leaving on vacation:

[The amateur gardener] departs, however, with a heavy heart, full of fears and cares for his garden; and he will not go until he has found a friend or relation to whom he entrusts his garden for that time.

“Look here,” he says “there is nothing to be done now in the garden in any case; if you come and look once in three days, that will be quite enough, and if something here and there is not in order, you must write me a card, and I will come. So, I am relying on you then? As I said, five minutes will be enough, just a glance round.”

Then he leaves, having laid his garden upon the heart of an obliging fellow-creature. Next day the fellow-creature receives a letter: “I forgot to tell you that the garden must be watered every day, the best times for doing it are five in the morning and towards seven in the evening. It is practically nothing, you only fasten the hose to the hydrant and water for a few moments. Will you please water the conifers all over as they stand, and thoroughly, and the lawn as well? If you see any weeds, pull them out. That’s all.”

A day after: “It’s frightfully dry, will you give every rhododendron about two buckets of tepid water, and each conifer five buckets, and other trees about two buckets? The perennials, which are now in flower, ought to have a good deal of water — write by post what is in flower. Withered stalks must be cut off! It would be a good thing if you loosened all the beds with a hoe; the soil breathes much better then. If there are plant-lice on the roses, buy tobacco extract, and syringe them with it while the dew is on, or after a rain. Nothing else need be done at present.”

The sixth day: “I am sending you by express post a box of plants from the country…. They must go into the ground at once…. At night you ought to go into the garden with a lamp and destroy snails. It would be good to weed the paths. I hope that looking after my garden doesn’t take up much of your time, and that you are enjoying it.”

In the meantime the obliging fellow-creature, conscious of his responsibilities, waters, mows, tills, weeds, and wanders round with the box of seedlings looking where the devil he can plant them; he sweats, and is muddied all over; he notices with horror that here some damned plant is fading, and there some stalks are broken, and that the lawn has become rusty, and that the whole garden is somehow looking blasted, and he curses the moment when he took upon himself this burden, and he prays to Heaven for autumn to come.

And in the meantime the owner of the garden thinks with uneasiness of his flowers and lawns, sleeps badly, curses because the obliging fellow-creature is not sending him reports every day on the state of the garden, and he counts the days to his return, posting every other day a box of plants from the country and a letter with a dozen urgent commands. Finally he returns; still with the baggage in his hands he rushes into his garden and looks round with damp eyes —
“That laggard, that dolt, that pig,” he thinks bitterly, “he has made a mess of my garden!”
“Thank you”, he says dryly to his fellow-creature, and like a living reproach he snatches the hose to water the neglected garden. (That idiot, he thinks in the bottom of his heart, to trust him with anything! Never in my life will I be such a fool and an ass to go away for the holidays!)

While I am in the Garden City of Bangalore, I know I will enjoy being where I am (and not behave like Capek’s gardener!). I will visit the Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens and maybe bring back new gardening ideas.

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Diversity at the Hopper Conference

It may seem odd to write about diversity at a conference of 1,300 women and just a few men; however, in many dimensions the Hopper attendees were impressively varied. I particularly noticed this at the Systers lunch. I shared my table with women from Morocco, Mexico, Russia, India, China, and America. There were women who were older and women who were much younger. Many were just starting their career and others were over twenty years into it. Some were rich and others were students.

Conference dress ranged from faded jeans and a t-shirt to an elegant sari, from a western business suit to muslim hijab. Ijeoma Terese Ihenachor of Nigeria (a recipient of the Anita Borg Social Change Agent Scholarship underwritten by Dr. Fran Allen)
was remarkable for the complex elegance of her personal presentation: it was worth looking for her in any crowd.

Still, it was notable that almost everyone at Hopper was both female and working in or
studying science or technology. Stu Feldman (ACM President) opened his remarks
by saying that gender discrimination was alive and well: when he went to register for the Hopper conference, the woman at the desk asked if he didn’t mean to be at the Grocer’s convention, next door.

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Filed under Hopper - Anita Borg Institute