Former Director of the Institute writes a letter recounting memories of and with Arun Gandhi, founder of M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence. Share you memory here.
You left your body a few hours ago. My thoughts are with you as you move toward the mystery of what is next. While your spirit is close, I want to offer this final note of love and gratitude.
I have been looking at pictures, reading messages we exchanged, looking at videos, remembering hundreds of remarkable moments, from travels to India and S Africa to circles in prisons to many dinners and cups of ‘Gandhi tea’ at your house. Countless amazing meals and conversations with Gandhi staff and with visitors like Joanna Macy, Dominic Barter, and Paul Chappell. You were the most generous person imaginable with your time and willingness to engage with people of all ages.
Outside Durban, South Africa, I remember walking with you at Phoenix Ashram, where you were born and grew up, showing us the tennis court you made in the yard as a teen. Later visiting nearby Nobel prize winner Chief Alfred Luthli’s home, you described when your dad Manilal and Luthuli were both banned under apartheid, that they would meet and visit with one another in the sugar cane fields that surrounded Luthuli’s home. It was one of countless moments when you served as a bridge for me to world history.
I am grateful today for your love of writing and for the books you wrote and published. I remember a rainy afternoon in 2009 when my daughter and I began reading Legacy of Love aloud and couldn’t put it down. The stories you told of living with your grandparents brought these remote historical figures and the principles they stood for to life. Your 1969 book A Patch of White similarly personalized the realities and evils of living under apartheid. Part of what fuels my resolve every day regarding anti-racism was learning how the South African government studied US laws as part of the legal implementation of apartheid.
Visiting prisons in S. Africa and India with you, where your grandparents, father, and uncles were jailed for nonviolent protest, increased my understanding of your passion and compassion for incarcerated people. The hours we spent in prisons in this region (Groveland, Auburn, Attica, and Wende) through the daylong dialogues and Season for Nonviolence activities planted seeds of peace that you, the peace farmer, were always willing to water.
The more I write, the more stories, memories, gratitude, and tears rise to the surface. Thank you, dear person, and Godspeed.