I have been to India

WSCADV executive director Nan Stoops with Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi

As you might know, I have the privilege of participating in the first cohort of the Move to End Violence, a 10-year initiative that seeks to strengthen our (U.S.) collective work to end violence against women and girls. Recently, the cohort spent 11 days in India meeting with survivors, activists, scholars, and government officials to learn about Indian social justice efforts in Delhi, Jaipur, and Kolkata. Over the next few months, I will post some of my reflections from this inspiring, unforgettable experience.

We began our journey in Delhi with a visit to Gandhi Smriti, the place where Mahatma Gandhi (Gandhiji) spent his last 144 days and the site of his assassination in 1948. We immersed ourselves in Gandhian philosophy and walked his last footprints. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “To other countries, I may go as a tourist, but to India, I come as a pilgrim.” Witnessing the legacy of Gandhiji―his influence on everything from governmental policy to social justice organizing to informal conversation to daily prayer―adds relevance to Dr. King’s statement. The memory and will of Gandhiji are pervasive.

I was particularly struck by one of Gandhiji’s last notes: “I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.”

We conceptualized the “poorest and the weakest” as “the last man, last woman, last girl.” We met some last girls. They are not so different from the last girls that live in our communities here at home. HERE.

Sitting with a last girl, the only thought I had was: there but for the grace of God. . . How can I not work for her freedom? As it will be mine too.

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