10-year old Zarine Gidwani (Gidwaney) and her mother, Angeli, made quite an impression on her teacher and classmates with a year end presentation about Mahatma Gandhi, the great twentieth century nonviolent freedom fighter.
As the youngest member of the American Institute of Sindhulogy (AIS), Zarine is following in the footsteps of her grandfather, Dial Gidwani, who actually knew Gandhi. When Dial was about Zarine’s age, Gandhiji stayed in his parents’ home as a guest.
Today both Dial and Zarine are dedicated to spreading Gandhi’s message of nonviolence, which is deeply rooted in ancient Indian culture. Through American Institute of Sindhulogy and the AIS website archive2.sindhulogy.org, which recently saw its one-millionth visitor, Dial shares awareness of both Indian culture and nonviolence with an international audience. Zarine simply talks to her friends and classmates.
Why did Zarine’s classmates find Mahatma Gandhi’s story so compelling? Certainly the improbable victory of a scrawny 20th century David against the hulking Goliath of the British Empire appeals to kids’ sense of moral justice. But even more, Zarine made Gandhiji real for her classmates by introducing him as a friend of the family. She thrilled the class with a handwritten letter from Gandhi to her great grandfather on the occasion of his eldest son’s wedding. In the letter Gandhiji referred both to dowry, a concept foreign to most American fifth graders, and khadi cloth.
Zarine’s teacher, Mrs. Janis Michael, explained that dowry was an Indian as well as European tradition at that time. And that the bridal garments were made of cloth produced in India. By refusing European-made cloth, the Indians were asserting their independence from Britain. (Though Zarine did not tell her classmates, her great-grandfather spun the thread for his son’s wedding clothes while he was in prison, held captive by the British for his role in India’s struggle for freedom.)
Gandhi intrigued the kids, who wanted to know why such a power man dressed in beggar’s robes. They assumed he was poor and were surprised to learn that he had been educated as a lawyer in England and traveled to South Africa. Angeli explained that he wanted to set an example for his fellow Indians by leading a simple life. He also wanted to let them know that it was possible to live a good life without relying upon Britain for food and clothes.
With time running out on both Zarine’s presentation and the school year, Mrs. Michael responded to her students’ on-going interest by forwarding the AIS website link to their parents. There they’ll find family oriented stories and lessons about Gandhi and other prominent twentieth century nonviolent leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
In addition to the stories on its website, AIS is exploring other avenues to excite and engage the interest of young people. At present, it has two new programs in development:
Study and Dig Abroad. AIS is in the early stages of facilitating a collaboration between several Midwestern universities and Deccan College In Pune, India, which will provide American college students an opportunity to study in India and excavate at historic archeological sites. A launch date of January, 2015 is being targeted.
Nonviolent Video Games. AIS is working with students from DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media to develop a prototype video game inspired by India’s ancient Indus River Civilization, which was nonviolent, democratic and pluralistic. The goal is bring a glorious past alive, especially for children, through fun and immersive play.
To learn more about AIS, it’s programs and how you can support its efforts, please visit the its website at sindhulogy.org.
The American Institute of Sindhulogy (AIS) sindhulogy.org
non-political, non-religious, non-profit organization
(dedicated to the preservation of knowledge of the ancient Harappan (Indus) Civilization – Sindhu-Saraswati and its contribution to world civilization for equality, liberty, justice for all, non-violence, peaceful co-existence and protection of environment)
1740 Ridge Avenue #LL15 B
Evanston Illinois 60201
Phone: 847 491 6930
Fax 847 491 0923