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Aug 01, 2017 at 13:27

Kaushik Lakshman, Shreyas Supe, Sumant Vij from GEMS Academy tell us about their Gandhi Yatra.

100 years after Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returned to India from South Africa, to fight for this nation, a delegation of students, teachers and professionals decided to go on a Gandhi Yatra and walk the path he followed in his transformational journey.

The delegation included 3 young impressionable students from the GEMS Education family, namely: Sumant Vij from GEMS Cambridge International School, Hoshiarpur; R. Kaushik Lakshman and Shreyas Supe, from GEMS International School, Palam Vihar; who were finally given a chance to see and understand what made Gandhiji the selfless and non-violent leader that millions adored.

  1. Kaushik Lakshman recounts the team’s experiences retracing Gandhiji’s steps and their personal Gandhi Yatra:

Day 1: We had arrived at the Durban international airport otherwise known as Kwa-Zulu Natal airport at around 6:15 pm Durban time. Accompanying me were Shreyas, Sumant, V Krishna Kumar Sir and Rizuvan Sir. At the airport we were greeted by Mr. Munir who was Rizuvan Sir’s cousin and we also met Vijaylakshmi (Viji) ma’am who would be our guide during our stay in Durban. We stayed at the Garden Court South Beach Hotel on the beachfront.

Day 2: The day dawned bright and our first stop was the Phoenix Settlement where we met Gandhiji’s granddaughter Ela Gandhi. A wonderful and sweet human being, she spoke to us extensively about her grandfather, stuff that Google can never tell us! She took us around the house he lived in and we even got to see some of Gandhiji’s personal belongings which she has in her possession. We also met her son who showed us the settlement set up by Gandhiji as an example of community living and is spread over 3 acres now from a sprawling 100 acres. We also met Nomandla, one of the heads of the Gandhi Development Trust there.

We then made a mad dash to Pietermaritzburg where Mahatma Gandhi was thrown off the train because he was of color and despite that had acquired a first class ticket. At Pietermaritzburg station’s waiting room there is a framed photograph of Gandhiji and a board commemorating the courage he showed.  On the platform is a stone of granite on which was carved the happenings of that fateful day – 7th June 1893.

Day 3: The day began with a walk on the beachfront after which we left for Ms. Ela Gandhi’s apartment. We had the rare honour of having breakfast with her and she personally served us samosas and upma. We then talked about Gandhiji and she let us hear the one and only poem than Mahatma Gandhi wrote himself! She inspired us to inculcate and follow in the footsteps of her grandfather as she believed it was the best way to promote peace and harmony in the world.

After that we headed to the Consulate where we met the Consul General of India Mr. Raghunathan and Mr. Santosh Rawat.  Two brilliant men who have worked hard to restore the memories of Gandhiji. We then proceeded to the station where Gandhiji had booked his first train ticket from Durban to Pretoria and it was on this journey that he was thrown out at the Pietermaritzburg station. Here there is a statue of the Mahatma. From the station we left for the Old Court House museum where Gandhiji was told to remove his turban and one of the places he frequently visited during his tenure in S Africa.

Day 4: We woke up at day break again to catch a flight from Durban to Johannesburg. The first place we visited in Johannesburg was the Consulate where we met the Consul General Mr. Randhir Jaiswal. He spoke to us about their work in the city and also how they worked relentlessly to keep the spirit of Gandhiji alive in modern times. It was he who advised us to visit Constitution Hill museum where Gandhiji was imprisoned. He was gracious enough to ensure that the facility was kept open for us beyond visiting hours as it was a last minute addition to our itinerary and we managed to get a great tour inside. We all saw the cell (No 4) where Gandhiji was imprisoned and we also saw the uniforms the inmates had to wear while confined there.

The building had Gandhiji’s uniform, shoes and his bed where he used to sleep. The prison was originally constructed to hold 50 people but Gandhiji was forced to live there with 150 other prisoners. The handcuffs that were put on prisoners have been preserved in their original state. It was quite enlightening to see the hardships he endured and it left quite an impression on all of us.

And after returning to India we were felicitated by the school management and we were able to recount our experiences in front of our friends and family. The last leg of our Gandhi Yatra included a trip to Gandhi Smriti where Gandhiji lived for close to 140 days before being killed by Nathuram Godse.

It was incredibly touching to see Gandhiji’s few belongings in that wonderfully preserved monument to him and his teachings. From there we proceeded to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

We met Mr Venu Rajamony, the Press Secretary to the President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee who spoke to us and even allowed us to share our S African experience.

We had the honour of having the official photographer of the President accompanying us around the Rashtrapati Bhavan and its grounds clicking our pictures. The day and the entire trip was very exciting but it was time to say goodbye to our mentor Krishna Kumar sir- a great teacher and a really proud Gandhian who took us on this wonderful and unique journey of a lifetime.