Remembering Gandhi

October 2, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (3)



Today being  Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary  I find myself recalling a commemorative retreat that was organized in 1996 (and for several years afterwards) by Vijaya Nagarajan, who now teaches at the University of San Fransisco














and her husband  Lee Swenson, a long-time peace activist.










The retreat was in the Berkshire hills, in Massachusetts, and it brought together many people with common interests – scholars, thinkers, do-ers, philosophers, and of course, writers, including  Maxine Hong Kingston,




who apart from authoring such seminal works as Woman Warrior and Tripmaster Monkey has for many years been working with Vietnam veterans;



and Peter Mathiessen,


who, apart from writing one of my all-time favourite books, The Snow Leopard (and many others of course), is also a pioneering environmentalist and an ordained priest of the ‘White Plum Asanga’ school of Zen Buddhism;









and Chris Merrill, poet, traveler and author of The Tree of Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War and Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars;













and Grace Paley,



one of the towering figures of post-War American literature. She was a truly great soul and became a dear friend. She died in 2007 and I  particularly feel her loss on this day.








One of the wonderful things about the retreat was that even my children, who were then five and three, occasionally got to have their say.












Which was only appropriate, since one of the most remarkable things about the Mahatma was that he managed to retain through his whole life, a child-like spirit and a sense of humour. Who else could have said: ‘I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers’ ?





The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War (2011)

3 Responses to “Remembering Gandhi”

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  1. Comment by Suma SubramaniamOctober 4, 2011 at 2:01 am   Reply

    Hello Amitav

    Well said. Gandhi’s sense of humor is very rare and I love what he said about equality for everyone. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Comment by Sonya FriedmanOctober 4, 2011 at 10:56 am   Reply

    Thanks for including Grace Paley – a dear friend and “life-changer” for everyone who knew her.

    See my documentary on Grace:

    best, Sonya Friedman

  3. Comment by Vijaya NagarajanApril 20, 2019 at 1:44 pm   Reply

    It was an amazing set of gatherings for seven years, Amitav. Brings back so many memories. Just found this entry today! Still so relevant for the world! And it was set off by the inspiration of your beautiful and profound essay, The Ghosts of Mrs. Gandhi, which I still recommend to people! Thanks for posting all the beautiful photos! warmly, Vijaya

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