The Ground Breaking Ceremony of ”Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Plaza" in Thomas Jefferson Park, Irving happened today, Saturday, May 3, 2014 in Irving (Caveat - please read my note at the end of this write up).
Hon. Nikki Haley, Governor South Carolina, Hon. Beth Van Duyne, Mayor of Irving City, and India’s consular General from Houston, Hon. Mr. Parvathaneni Harish and many other dignitaries including Dallas’s two Padmashri’s (India’s civilian Medal of Honor) Dr. Venkat Ram, Ashok Mago and the India's who is who attended the ceremonies.
The 7’ Bronze statue was cast in Andhra Pradesh, India and will be installed by October 2, 2014 on a 6’ platform, and a granite wall in the back will be adorned with inscriptions from Gandhi’s saying and the quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Einstein. The cost of approximately $250,000 is borne entirely by the community and not a dime will come from the public funds. However, you can donate generously.
Nothing ever happens in the world without the drive of an individual and his or her supporters. For the last four years, Dr. Prasad Thotakura, Tayyab Kundawala and Dr. Rao have been working hard to have an iconic representation of Mahatma Gandhi in Dallas. There are many others who are involved in it in so many ways, but these are the faces of the organization that I have seen.
The event was graced by her Excellency Gov. Nikki Randhawa Haley. She is the first woman governor of South Carolina, youngest governor in the United States, and the first Indian American female Governor, and Bobby Jindal is the first Indian American male Governor. As Shabnam Modgil, Dallas' face of India said, "she is the most beautiful Governor".
The Governor said, “ that there is no reason we cannot have peace and love with everyone, and one thing he constantly said was if we want to truly have peace and love, we have to start with Children. By putting this statue in a park, we are starting out with children, reminding them who he was, reminding them what he was about, and reminding them of the celebration he wanted his life to live on. He said be what you want.
She then turned to Prasad Thotakura and said, " Prasad, there is nothing you could not do.” Indeed, that is the truth.
She continued, “when I look at the statue, I see a man of the peace. To walk in the state house of South Carolina as a first India American woman as Governor, I hoped that's exactly what he wanted for all communities, for all people, and for all minorities to be able to be free as they wanted to be, as peaceful as they wanted to be, and to get to contribute to the world, and that is what we are celebrating today.
She said, "Indian American community is the least dependent community on receiving aid from the state, and most educated communities in America."
Nikki Haley must be a moderate Republican like me, even though she is billed as a conservative Republican. She sounds like Obama with inclusiveness, a trait missing among the conservative Republicans and acutely deficit with regular Republicans.
Later in the evening I mentioned to her that Sean Hannity is a great fan of hers, and we have talked about her - as fellow Indian Americans. She was excited to hear about the message of my upcoming book, standing up for others and wants to read it.
At the dinner she mentioned about skills data collection from recipients of unemployment benefits, and matched it with employers that could use those skills and thus removed several thousand from the welfare to income ( I forgot the number). Then she said something interesting that is unlike Republicans - These men and women want to work rather than receive the benefits, wow Nikki! Glad to hear the affirmation that she is a moderate Republican and I can relate with her. I did mention to her earlier that I was glad she was speaking like a moderate, rather than a conservative Republican.
Mayor Beth Van Duyne appreciated the community for funding it entirely on their own and she asserted that zip code 75038 had the most diverse population in America.
I must also mention the role of John Hammond and Shabnam Modgil of FunAsia in the affairs of desi community. It was my dream a long time ago, like the dream of many of you here in Dallas that there should be an energy that brings people together, and facilitates knowing each other. Thanks to John, his Radio is a major catalyst in Dallas to bring the Desi communities together.
Funds are needed to complete this project by October 2nd. , please donate generously, and be a part of the future. If you donate over $5000, your name or your parents name will written on the granite wall.
Remembering Mahatma Gandhi
This statue symbolizes the work of Mahatma Gandhi, who believed in resolving conflicts through non-violence. I hope this statue does not remain a symbol, but an inspiration to all of us – to think, talk and act like him.
As a pluralist, I often think how he would handle a given conflict, up0n reflections pat comes the answer – no bias towards the other and justice to all. He once said, a good Hindu is a good Muslim, a Good Muslim is a good Christian and a Jew… and so on.
Gandhi is an example of what a Hindu ought to be. He believed in many of the guiding principles of what is known as Hinduism – of them I will mention two here;
The highest ideal of a Hindu (or any one) is to become Brahma – i.e., become one with energy of the Universe also known as God – when you become Brahma , then there is no distinction between you and another human being, you and the mountain – this all become part of you, and you become part of the whole.
No more will you consider another human to be anything less than you or greater than you, but another spoke in the wheel of life.
The second principle he really believed in was the wisdom of our pluralistic ethos embedded in the Sanskrit phrase Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum, a concept where everyone is considered to be a part of one big human family and hence must take care of each other. If one is hurt, you feel the hurt, if one is happy you feel the happy – thus creating a cohesive world where no one has to be afraid of the other.
This is also the Islamic concept, where God says we are all made from the same couple into many tribes, communities and nations and enjoins us to know each other to create harmony and cohesiveness.
The third principle is that of non-violence. When God created animals and humans, he programmed them how to handle conflicts between any two.
For instance, when two goats or tigers are fighting for food or a loved one, God has given them horns or fangs to settle the dispute, the mighty gets it. In Hindi and Urdu there is a saying Jis ki laathi us ki bhains.
However, look at the non-violence built into us that we forget often, and Gandhi invoked it all the times. God did not give us horns or fangs or paws to tear each other apart in a conflict – instead he gave us a tongue – to dialogue and resolve the issues. That is non-violence method of resolving disputes.
I hope this statue reminds us how to deal with each other, particularly during this election season. We have a tongue to dialogue without tearing each other.
I hope every time, and every day, if we feel biased, hatred, or angered towards another human being, think of this great man – the great soul, Mahatma Gandhi and find inspiration to seek freedom from the shackles of bias.
Mahatma Gandhi’s soul would be smiling at the people gathered in the park today. He lived and sacrificed his life for the unity of people of the Subcontinent. As the balloons were released into the bright sunny blue skies, I was imagining the smiling affectionate face of Mahatma Gandhi – seeing the Pakistani community members joining hands with the Indians to get the memorial built as a reminder of unity. Indeed it is a great accomplishment for the people of Dallas.
I hope this statue beams the energy of positive living, learning to respect the otherness of others and accepting the God given uniqueness of each one of us.
Peace be upon all the peacemakers!
Glad to see three newspaper carried my story verbatim with a few additions, they could have given credit. http://www.indoamerican-news.com/?p=25204 and
Several other news papers have carried the story.
1. This my personal note as a member of the community and not an official note of the organization. the information I have added is from what I have heard from the podium. For the full official version go to http://www.iafcusa.org/ and http://mgmnt.org
2. There were many people involved in this, and all of that will be in their official record. When this gets published, it will be reduced to 1200 words, but here on my blog www.TheGhouseDiary.com and http://MikeGhouseforIndia.blogspot.com will remain in full size.
3. I am not a paid to paid to write, nor do I write for any organization on a paid basis, when I attend an event, I usually write a short to long note depending on the availability of time. when I see something good, I write and I have written over 2500 pieces in the last 30 years, none were paid even though most of them were published including a bulk in Dallas Morning News (over 160), Huffington Post (nearly 100) and news papers and magazines around the world. I encourage you to write, to get all perspectives in. Most of them are at www.TheGhousediary.com.
PICTURES - https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeghouse/sets/72157644499431684/
These pictures were taken by me personally, and I wish I had ten hands and ten cameras to capture every one who attended, but no one can do that except the paid photographer, in this case Bombay Photography. I will add the link later where you can see almost all the pictures where every one who attended (impossible) will be in the pictures.
I am a proud life member of India Association of North Texas, and I urge you to become one by reaching out to any one at: www.iant.org
I could not resist watching the caps on the ground, I made a mistake by not wearing one myself, God willing I will dress up and urge all to do the same on October 2, 2014 when the Stautue of Gandhi will be unveiled. The best fitting topi award should go to John Hammond, and the runner ups were Kuntesh Chokshi and Jack Godhwani. I meant it looked good on them. If you differ, propose the names as I have not seen all of them. Look at John's picture and Pandit Jawahar Lal’s topi - well creased - the perfect topi.
Among the founding fathers of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi did not wear the cap in the last years of his life, even though he did at the beginning. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad had his own cap, Sardar Patel probably did not wear the cap and neither Dr. Ambedkar (correct me if I am wrong). Anna Hazare made it popular again and Arvind Kejriwal has made it his trade mark now.
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. He believes in Standing up for others and a book with the same title is coming up. Mike has a strong presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News; fortnightly at Huffington post; and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes all his work through many links.