Arun Gandhi, “Lessons from my Grandfather”

Arun Gandhi, “Lessons from my Grandfather”


[Music] In a gentle way you can shape the world.
We welcome you to Human Rights Day 2016. My name is Julie Pasamonte and I’m a
member of the Students Awareness League. Spokane Community College
along with our friends, Phi Theta Kappa and the International Club we are pleased that you are joining us
today. Before we get started, I’d like to introduce to you the president of
Spokane Community College Dr. Ryan Carstens who will share a
little bit about our honored guest. Thank you, Dr. Carstens for your support. [Applause] Good morning everybody. Students, faculty, staff… and I think we have some guests from the community. We welcome all of you here today. I was invited to come up and introduce our speaker. This is a great privilege and honor to do so. Gandhi is one of the few names in
history that evokes such powerful images of integrity, courage, social harmony and above all hope. Arun Gandhi carries within himself the
same guiding principles as his grandfather. And you may have heard of his grandfather – he was a peacemaker and spiritual leader… Mohandas K. Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi. What I did not know about some of
Arun Gandhi’s background was that he spent a number of months with his grandfather. So I have a question for you:
How many of you have had been able to have vacations with your grandparents? Many of you. When I was a child
we used to travel to my grandparent’s place and we would go see him for a week or two
in summer and sometimes at Christmas. What’s so unique here for me,
reading about Arun’s life is he had an 18-month stay
with his grandfather – which I never have gotten to do.
What what a privilege that was; an 18-month stay where he, his grandfather would give him the keys to the powerful philosophy of non-violence and which helped shape the foundation of Arun Gandhi’s life’s work. Now when he was doing this visit,
this was a dangerous, exciting time because Mahatma Gandhi was leading the people of India in their revolutionary and non-violent struggle for independence from British Rule. Arun grew up in apartheid South Africa.
And because of his Indian heritage he actually suffered racial
discrimination, violence, bullying from both the blacks and the whites because
he did not fit in with either one of them. As a young boy he could be
persecuted or beaten by the black youth because he wasn’t black and also by the
white youth for the same reason. And this is an interesting story too –
At one point in his life he was filled with rage and plotting to avenge what was happening to him. And he subscribed to the
Charles Atlas bodybuilding magazine, so that he could
have the strength to fight back. You know, that does make sense, right? But when his parents discovered the reason for their 12 year old son’s sudden
fascination with exercise they decided that a visit to his
grandfather in India was in order and thus began his 18-month stay. Well, as an adult Mr. Gandhi came to the United States in 1987
so – what is that? Almost 30 years ago. And he completed research on racism in America. This resulted in his wife Sunanda and he
organizing in 1991 The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Non-violence, which is now headquartered at the
University of Rochester, New York. The mission of this institute was to
foster understanding of non-violence and then how to place or put that understanding
or that philosophy into practice. 16 years later in 2007 he started another Institute: The Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute. And their focus is educational and training centers. So they build those for children who live in poverty and suffer from the injustices in society. In 2013 Arun was invited also to be on the board of
Legacy of Hope, which is Nelson Mandela’s children’s hospitals in Africa. We are very honored and privileged to
have Arun Gandhi here with us today. We are one of hundreds of opportunities
that he has had to speak to governmental, social, or educational audiences, many colleges and universities, many corporate and civic organizations. He is a worldwide speaker. He has this wonderful personal
experience that lends him an element of expertise and wisdom that he can share with us from his cross-cultural experiences
as well as the experiences of his family. And he brings that first-hand insight with us from spending time with one of the world’s most influential leaders –
his grandfather. So I’d like you to give a warm Spokane
welcome to our honored guest speaker today – Arun Gandhi. [Music] [Applause] Thank you and good morning. It’s a great
pleasure to be here today. Especially because you are all
celebrating the Human Rights Day. And I would like to caution you that human
rights should not be celebrated just on one day. It’s part of our life and we should
be conscious of human rights throughout every day of our life then. But we also need to remember that rights go along with responsibilities. We cannot enjoy human rights if we are
not willing to shoulder the responsibilities. And so it’s equally important to think about what are our responsibilities as citizens
of a country and the world and what do we need to do to make this world
a better place for everybody to live in. And that would be creating peace in the world. But the reason why human rights
have been eroding over the years, is because we have been so dominated
by a culture of violence – a culture of violence that has
taken over every aspect of our life. Our language has become violent,
our relationships are violent, our sports is violent, our entertainment is violent –
everything about us has become violent. And it’s that culture of violence that
destroys rights and all the other fabrics of democracy that we cherish so much. And this is what my grandfather
was very concerned about. You know he started
his non-violent practice – It really happened by accident. He wasn’t planning this but he was in
South Africa to represent an Indian merchant in a legal problem that he
had and it was during that time that he suffered prejudice and became a victim of prejudice, and he wanted to get justice. But he rejected the violent way
of getting justice and he began to think of different ways that we can adopt and
he came up with the idea of non-violence. And when he started practicing
non-violence in South Africa it was specifically for a situation. So he used it as a tool for that particular situation. But as he practiced it over and over again in South Africa and then in india, he realized that non-violence is not a tool. It’s not something that we can use when
it’s convenient and discard when it is not. It has to become a way of life. We have to become the change that we
wish to see in the world. If we don’t adopt non-violence as a way of life
and make it a part of ourselves, we will never be able to create a peaceful society. And that’s where he realized that we must become the change that we
wish to see in the world. And we have to dismantle that culture of violence
that dominates us and replace it with a culture of non-violence. So, today when scholars talk about
non-violence as a strategy, I object to it, because it’s not a strategy. It is a way of life. You know, as I said earlier, he
came upon this quite by accident. And it really happened when they were married. My grandfather and grandmother
were married at the age of 13. And they started living together at the age of 16. And at that age, he said he didn’t know
who was going to be the boss in the relationship. [Audience laughter] And so he started going to the library and
reading books on the subject. And all these books were obviously
written by male chauvinists. And they all talked about how the husband should lay down the rules and enforce them strictly. So he came home one evening after
reading this book. And he told Grandmother, he said, “from tomorrow, you’re not going to step out of the house without my permission. That is the law and you’re going to
observe it and I want no arguments about it.” And Grandmother didn’t say anything at all. She didn’t react, she didn’t say anything.
She’s just turned around and went to bed, got up the next day and she continued to
do what she always did – went out and visited
and never bothered to get his permission. So a few days later when Grandfather
realized that she was not obeying him, he confronted her again and he says
“how dare you disobeyed me.” And that’s when very quietly
without raising her voice or getting agitated, very quietly Grandmother says to him that
“I was brought up to believe that we must always obey the elders in the house. And I believe the elders in this house are your parents. But if you’re trying to tell me
that I should not obey your mother but obey you instead, let me know so that I
can go and tell your mother, ‘I’m not going to obey you anymore.’ ” [Audience Laughter] And of course Grandfather couldn’t tell her to do that. And so the whole matter was settled. And Grandfather acknowledges that that was the most profound lesson in non-violent
conflict resolution that he learned there. And from that point onwards,
understanding anger and being able to use that energy constructively became a
part of his philosophy of non-violence. He believed very sincerely, that if we
don’t learn about our anger, if we don’t understand it and if we are
not capable of channeling that energy constructively and intelligently, we will never be able to create peace in the world. And so that became the foundation
of his philosophy of non-violence. And that was the first lesson that he taught me
when I came to him. As you were told in the introduction, after a lot of hate and prejudice that I suffered in South Africa, and the first 10 years of my life, I was very angry and I wanted to fight back again. And that’s when Grandfather told me that
anger is like electricity. It’s just as useful and just as powerful,
but only if we use it intellegently. But it can be just as deadly and
destructive if we abuse it. So 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 you get angry about something, don’t act on it don’t say anything or do anything that
you’re going to regret later on. But put it all down in your journal. But write the journal with the intention of
finding a solution to the problem. And then commit yourself to finding a solution. Now that is very important.
There’s a lot of people today, who tell me that they’ve been writing an
anger journal for a long time, but it hasn’t really helped them,
because every time they go back and read the journal, they’re just reminded of the incident
and they get angry all over again. [Audience Laughter] Because we are told to pour our anger
out into the journal and get it out of our system, that doesn’t help. So it’s important that we write the
journal with the intention of finding a solution and then commit ourselves to
finding that solution. After learning this profound lesson, I was, you know, 11-12 years old then, and I wanted to test Grandfather and see whether he himself had learned the lesson or not. And this was the time in his life when
he was involved with many important things, like emancipation of the Indian
women, the education of Indian children and emancipation of the so-called
untouchable people. So he had programs going on
in all these different fields. And these programs needed funding. And he realized that the easiest way for him to
raise the money he needed Was to sell his autograph. And so he put a fee of five
rupees, which in today’s currency would approximately be about five dollars
for each autograph. And every morning and evening when thousands of people assembled
for his interfaith prayer services, which were held in the open on a good day,
or in an auditorium like this on a bad day. But every morning and evening, many of them would seek his autograph.
And many of them did it over and over again, because they just wanted to
support his work then. But while I was living with him,
it was my duty to go out into the audience and collect the autograph books and the
money and bring it to him for his signature. And one day I thought to myself, “ If everybody could get his autograph, why not me? After all, I am his grandson
and I deserve an autograph too.“ But I didn’t have any money,
so I got myself a little autograph book and I slipped it into the pile, hoping that he wouldn’t notice the absence of money there. But when he came to that book he said,
“Why is there no money for this autograph?” And I said, “ Because it’s my book.” And he said “ Well, you should know that I don’t make an exception even for grandsons.” That, “if you want an autograph you’ll not only have to pay me for it but you’ll
have to earn the money and pay me. Don’t ask your parents for it.” And I said, “No way.” I said, “You’re my grandfather and I’m going to make you give me this autograph free.” [Audience Laughter] So he laughed and said, “All right, let’s see who wins.” And from that day, every day when he was
in high-level political discussions with Indian politicians or British politicians, I would barge into the room with my
autograph book and thrust it in his face and demanded an autograph. My logic was it just to get rid of me,
he would sign the book and give it to me, but instead every time I became too boisterous,
all he did was put his hands across my mouth, press my head against his chest
and went on talking politics. [Audience Laughter] On many occasions the other politicians used to
get exasperated and tell Grandfather, “ Why don’t you give him the autograph
and be done with it? He disturbs our meetings every day.”
And he just laughed and said, “ This is a private joke between the two of us.
You don’t have to get involved in it.” The long and short of it is, that he never did give me the autograph. [Audience Laughter] But he never, ever, told me to get out of the
room and leave him alone, as we would do with our siblings or our children. If they came into the room and
we are working on something important, we sometimes tell them very rudely to get
out of the room and leave them alone. He never did that to me. And that’s when
I realized, that if he was able to control his anger to that extent, if we attempt
to achieve fifty percent of it, we will make a big difference in the
level of violence that we experience today. So, it’s very important for us to
understand our anger and learn ways in which we can use it intelligently and constructively. But also, it’s important for us, as I said earlier, to understand the breadth and the depth of the philosophy of non-violence. It’s not that because we are not at war,
we are in peace, or that because we are not fighting with other people that we are non-violent people. Non-violence is much deeper than that. And, I realized this one day when he made me
go out and look for a little pencil that I tossed away – a little 3-inch butt of a pencil. And he said I had to go out and look for it.
And I said, “You must be joking.” I said, “It is already getting dark outside.”
And he gave me a flashlight and said, “Here, take the flashlight and
go out and look for the pencil.” And I must have spent about two hours searching for it. And when I finally found the pencil
and brought it to him, he said, “Now I want you to sit here and
learn two very important lessons. The first lesson, is that even in the making
of a simple thing like a pencil we use a lot of the world’s natural
resources. And when we throw them away, we are throwing away the world’s natural
resources. And that is violence against nature. And the second lesson, is that
because in an affluent society we can afford to buy all these things in bulk, we over consume the resources of the world.
And because we over consume them, we are depriving people elsewhere of
these resources and they have to live in poverty. And that is violence against humanity. And that was the first time I realized,
that all of these things that we do every day, consciously and unconsciously, things
that we over consume or throw away and destroy because we have so much of it,
that every time we indulge in any of those actions, we are indulging in violence. To make me understand this lesson thoroughly, he made me draw a genealogical tree of violence, just as we would do a family tree with a
grandparent at the top, and the rest of the children and
so on; a tree grows. But he made me draw this tree of violence with violence as the grandparent and physical violence and passive violence as the two branches.
And every day before I went to bed, I had to analyze and examine everything that I
had experienced during the day – things that I may have read or things that
people may have done to me, or I may have done to people. Whatever it was, all of that had to be
examined and analyzed and put in their appropriate places on that tree. If it was the kind of violence where
physical force is used, that would go on to physical violence and that would be things like fighting and kicking and beating and murders and rapes and wars
and all of these things where physical forces used. That is physical violence. But passive violence is something that we ignore, because sometimes we don’t even know if it as being violent and it’s all looking like
discrimination. oppression, suppression economic, political, social, cultural,
religious, all the waste and resources that we over consume and destroy.
All of that would go on to passive violence. And the way I had to determine this, was to
ask myself, if somebody were to do this to me, would I be helped by it
or would I be hurt by it? And if I came to the conclusion that it would hurt me, then that would be passive violence. And when I began to do this introspection – it was a form of introspection – finding
out my own weaknesses. When I began to do this, I was amazed
that within a few months I was able to fill up a whole wall in my room with
acts of passive violence. The physical violence didn’t grow very
much but the passive violence grew endlessly. And that’s when I came to know
how much passive violence all of us commit everyday knowingly and unknowingly. And it is that passive violence that generates anger in the victim and the victim then resorts to physical violence to get justice. So it is passive violence that fuels the
fire of physical violence. So, logically if we want to put out that fire of
physical violence we have to cut off the fuel supply.
And since the fuel supply comes from each one of us, we have to become the change that we wish to see in the world. It’s very important for us to understand this. It’s important for us to do that
introspection and see how we contribute to violence every day and how can we change ourselves
so that we don’t do that anymore. And it’s only then that we
will be able to make a difference in this world. We cannot be content with the
fact that the majority of the people in the world are enjoying a good life. That means 51-percent of the world is
enjoying a good life and all the material benefits and forty-nine percent
of the world is languishing in extreme poverty. And we cannot be happy
with that situation. We have to ensure that everybody in the world
gets a good life and has the ability to enjoy the fruits of hard labor.
And we have to make that effort to see that everybody gets that.
We have to have that kind of a world vision. I think one of the things that the worst
part of democracy is the concept of nationalism and patriotism – that when we
think that we can preserve our part of the world and not be concerned about the
rest of the world we are making a very big mistake.
Because no country, however rich or however powerful it may be
can preserve its stability and sanctity on its own. The stability and security of any nation, depends on the stability and security
of the whole world. And it’s only when we ensure
that everybody in the world gets an opportunity to live a good life,
that we will have stability and security. Until then we are going to be tormented
by more and more violence and more and more terrorism and our life is just
going to be eroded and democracy and all of these things will be
meaningless, because we’ll be living in fear all the time. So we have to
understand these things. We have to practice this thing, we have to make sure that we transform ourselves. We, each one of us, needs to do that introspection to
find out their weaknesses and transform those weaknesses. this is the type of education that you’re not going to get in any
college or any school. It’s a type of education that you have
to work on yourself, because you have to be committed to becoming better human beings. We don’t become better human beings
by getting a college degree. We become better human beings only when
we make that effort to be better human beings. What my grandfather and Dr. Martin
Luther King and all the other great people whom we worship today, what they did was they made sure that
they became better people and more committed people by working on themselves. They were not born great, but they worked on themselves and became great.
And so we can all do the same things and become better citizens and
better human beings and make this world a better place for future generations. Otherwise we are just going to languish
and destroy ourselves with this consumption of violence.
So I want to conclude now with one final story that my grandfather used to be
very fond of telling us – the story of an ancient Indian king who once became
really curious about the meaning of peace. And he invited all the
intellectuals in his kingdom to come and explain the meaning of peace.
And everybody came there and did their best, but nobody could satisfy the king.
And one day the intellectual from another town came on a visit and the King asked him
to explain the meaning of peace. And he said the only person who can give you a satisfactory answer is an old sage who lives outside your kingdom.
But he is so old that he cannot come to you. You will have to go to him and ask him this question. So the next day the king went to the
sage and asked him the meaning of peace. And the sage quietly went the back of the house and came back with
a grain of wheat and place that grain of wheat on the Kings palm and said here is
the meaning of peace. And of course the King didn’t know what a grain of wheat had to do with peace. And he didn’t want to show his ignorance. So he quietly clutched that grain of wheat
and went back to his palace and he found a little gold box and he placed that
grain of wheat in the box. And every morning he would open the box to look
for an answer and he couldn’t find any answers. So a few days later when this
intellectual came back on a return visit, the King asked him to explain.
And he said it’s very simple. He said as long as you keep this grain
of wheat in this box, nothing is going to happen. It will
eventually rot and perish and that will be the end of the story. But if you had
allowed this grain of wheat to interact with all the elements, if you had planted this outside in the soil
it would sprout and grow, and very soon you could have a whole field of wheat. And that is the meaning of peace: That, if somebody has found peace
and if they keep it locked up in their in their hearts, it would perish with them. But if they
let it interact, it would grow, sprout and grow and very soon we could have a
whole world of peace makers. So I have come here this morning to give you the grain of wheat that I got from my grandfather. And I hope that you won’t let it rot and
perish, but let it interact so that all of us together can make this world a
better place for future generations. Thank you. [Applause] [Music] I would be glad to answer some questions
if anybody has… [Question] When you brought your grandfather the little pencil, why didn’t you ask him for his autograph then? [Arun and audience: Laughter] I didn’t have the wisdom at
that time I guess. [Arun and audience: Laughter] Thank you for being here today.
[Question] I was curious. Did your grandfather have mentors, people that he looked to for guidance? My grandfather found guidance from many people,
from everyday people; everyday people he met. They inspired him in some way or the other.
But the main people I think who really inspired him were Thoreau and
the Russian author (of) War and Peace. [Indiscernible voice from the audience] Sorry, what was that name? (Audience member:) Tolstoy. (Audience member:) Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy…. But he was also inspired by the
Scriptures. He read all the Scriptures. He read the Koran, the Bible, the Old
Testament, the New Testament, the Hindu scriptures… You know one of the things that he
always emphasized is a “friendly study”. And he emphasized the word FRIENDLY.
A “friendly study” of all the scriptures is the sacred duty of every individual.
And he made that friendly study and he found that none of the Scriptures really had
the whole truth. That every one of them have just a little bit of the truth.
And they hung onto that truth, thinking that that was the whole truth.
He used to explain this to us in terms of the six visually challenged people
who had never seen an elephant and were asked to describe an elephant
by feeling the elephant. So each one of them was placed at the different part. And each one of them was feeling
a different part of the elephant. The one who are feeling the legs of the elephant said, “This feels like a huge pole.” The one who was feeling the body of the elephant said, ”This feels like a huge wall.” The one who held the trunk of the elephant said,
”This feels like a huge snake.” So each one of them had
a different perspective of the elephant. None of them were right, nor were they wrong.
But they just didn’t have the complete perspective there. And that’s what my grandfather said religion today is: That every religion has a little bit of the truth. They are not wrong, but they are not
absolutely right either. And the only way we can understand what
religion means and what spirituality means, is, if all of them come together and discuss this and share their experiences. He didn’t believe in the melting pot.
He didn’t believe that we give up our religion and become,
you know, create a new religion. He said we have to live within our religion, but we have to work to enhance the understanding of religion. And that can be done only if we have an
interaction between all the religions. So these were things that he learned
and inspired his thinking. [Audience member] [Question:] Uh, sorry – Thank you for coming to Spokane today.
I really appreciate it. Right now it’s perfect timing that you’re here because
our community is really hurting. We’ve had three police involved shootings
in the last five days and the community is scared, they’re angry, there’s a lot of fear out there right now. And so I wish you could live in Spokane with us.
I know you can’t – you have to move on. I would love for you to talk to our
community. But what advice can you give us, to hold strong and keep the
love going and the compassion as opposed to being angry? Because, right now I would say in the 45 years I’ve lived here, this is probably one of the scariest
times for our community. Well it’s not just this community,
it’s everywhere all over the United States. I live in Rochester and we have just as
much violence there in Rochester. And again it goes back to our rights.
Everybody wants the right to possess guns. But nobody has the responsibility
of doing it you know, properly. I can’t understand why we should have guns, every household should have guns and
why guns are required to protect people. We have the police and we have the army
and they’re entrusted with protecting the people. And we should not be having this kind of freedom, where we are not being very responsible. So, you know, one thing leads to another
and it’s just a lot of chaos. [Audience member] [Question:] Thank you for speaking to us today.
My question is not as serious. I want to know what kind of fun things
you did with your grandfather such as picking up rocks, riding horses,
swimming, those kind of things… What were your favorite memories
of things that you did together, besides reading and just learning. Oh. We did spinning. Grandfather was involved in
many important things, so he didn’t have time to go out horse riding or anything. But spinning, you know, spinning cotton and making
cotton cloth was something that was very important to him and every moment
that he had, he would spin. It was also very meditative and very calming, you know, the whole action of
spinning wheel. I don’t know if you’ve experienced it or seen it,
but it’s very meditative and calming, I think. So, whenever we were together, we
used to spin and we used to have a competition. He taught me how to spin and then I beat him. Yes…. [Arun and audience Laughter] And we used to have this competition
every day to see who spun the thinnest and the most yarn in one hour. And finally he acknowledged and wrote to
my parents and said that “Arun has consistently
beaten me in spinning.” [Audience Laughter] I was wondering if you could elaborate
on your analogy of how we are meant to be the change exist in the world. Is that an
analogy for how we should suppress violence, or…? No, not suppress violence we
should find the root of violence and try to eliminate that root. I’m not talking about suppressing it.
But, you know, like if there is a lot of discrimination in our society or if there’s
poverty and imbalance in society, we shouldn’t be content to say, that,
“Well, it doesn’t affect me. I’m happy and enjoying a good life and somebody else can take care of it.” It’s our responsibility. We all need to
do something to make that change. And so all of us have to take that
responsibility to see that we are conscious of what is happening in the
world and are willing to make the sacrifices to change it. [Audience member] [Question:] I wanted to first of all thank you for
honoring us by your presence here at
Spokane Community College. I’m one of the teachers here. I saw the movie about your grandfather
years and years ago. And I’m not suggesting that all of it was totally accurate.
But I was so amazed by his ability non-violently to have Great Britain leave India.
There was a scene in the movie where he turned to one of the
British people that he had worked with in the military and they were on opposing
sides and he said to him – at least the movie said this: “ I hope this difference
does not come between us as men.” And I’m wondering if you could comment about in
your own life and the life of your family the lesson from your grandfather about
how do you restore a relationship when there has been conflict and there has been anger. Is there a system you use in your family? Do you sit down together and talk?
Or how does that work itself out for you when anger does appear and presents itself? Well, of course it all depends on how
serious the thing is and when necessary we certainly sit down and talk it as a
family and get each other’s perspectives on it. But, you’re required to take
immediate action and you resort to it. I remember once in 1968 – and I was born
and brought up in South Africa and I lived there for 22 years and I moved to
India in 1956 after my father died. Now I had not gone there with the
intention of living there. I’ve gone there to emerse his ashes and come back and be with my mother and my sisters. But as fate would have it, I had a severe
attack of appendicitis and I had to undergo surgery and I fell in
love with my nurse and decided to marry her. [Audience laughter] And the South African government wouldn’t allow me
to bring her back with me to South Africa. They said I could come alone but not with her. And so I chose to live with my wife and
we set up home in India. In 1968 a friend of mine –
an Indian friend from South Africa wrote to me that he was coming to India
for the first time. And he was very nervous about traveling abroad, and so he asked me if I would
take care of him and make arrangements of his stay and all that and because he
was a good friend, I agreed to do it. And his ship arrived in Mumbai at ten
o’clock in the night and I was the first Indian to go on board. And before I could
meet my friend, I met a strange white man. And he just came up to me and grabbed my
hand and introduced himself as Mr. Jackie Basson, a member of Parliament
from South Africa. The moment he introduced himself,
I realized who he was. He was a confirmed racist, he supported Apartheid, he was a member of Parliament and he
was responsible, in my eyes, for all the prejudice and the violence that I
have suffered because of hate. And so I realized that what he wanted was
somebody local to take him and his wife around and show them the city. And my first reaction was to tell him to
go and jump in the ocean. And I wanted to insult him,
just as I was being insulted in South Africa. And I immediately stop myself and I thought, I said, “If I do that, my parents and grandparents would never forgive me, because that is not what they taught me.” And so I responded with friendship
and I shook hands with him and I told him that I was a victim of Apartheid,
but I was not going to hold it against him, and he was a guest here and
I was going to do the best I can to make him comfortable and enjoy his stay. So the next four days when the ship was in town my wife and I came every morning and
pick them up and took them around and did all the touristy things
and shopping and all that. And during that period,
we would talk as friends about Apartheid. I would question him and he would try to justify it. And every time the discussion got a little uneasy we just changed the subject and
talked about other things. And I didn’t realize that at the end of the four days,
when we finally went there to say goodbye to them, both of them embraced us
and wept tears of remorse and they said that “In these four days you opened our
eyes to the evils of Apartheid, and we are promising you that when we go back,
we are going to fight Apartheid and destroy it. And I was still a skeptic and wasn’t
willing to accept this and I told my wife I said, “Let’s wait and see if he
really means it, because these people have a habit of coming out of the
country and saying one thing and going back and resuming their old ways.”
But we followed his political career for the next six or seven years and we must say that the man had changed. He spoke against Apartheid so vehemently,
that he lost his elections, he was thrown out of his party, but he didn’t stop
speaking against Apartheid. And, so, I was, you know,
always very moved by that experience. Well, I think about it and I say, “If I had
insulted him the way I initially wanted to, I wouldn’t have gained anything.”
He would have gone back as a confirmed racist, and he would have said
“ These Indians deserve what they get…” But by being friendly to him for four days, he was a transformed person.
And that is the power of non-violence. [Music] [Moderator] Thank you, Mr. Gandhi, for your inspiration.
[Arun Gandhi] Thank you. [Moderator] Thank you everybody for coming out… [Music] [Applause]

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