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When the Most Powerful Person Bowed Down before Gandhi
By Tanveer Jafri
Contributing Writer
Obama in his office with his inspiration leaders photographs including Gandhi Ji with his Charkha, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln etc.

Though thousands of literatures have been published and researches have been done on the life, political philosophy and his message of truth and non-violence, and the trend is still continuing. Despite all this, many such incidents come to the fore by which time and again the world is forced to think what magic that simple man had which makes the world’s biggest leaders to bow down before him. Similar scene was witnessed when Barack Hussein Obama was on his three-day visit to India.

Obama’s love and admiration for Gandhi is well known. American people gave him mandate just because he advocated non-violence against the violent policies of George Bush. Obama started his India visit by visiting Mani Bhawan, Gandhi’s temporary home, in Mumbai. There he expressed his admiration for Gandhi. Situated on Laburnum Road in Mumbai, Mani Bhawan is the building where Mahatma Gandhi used to live between 1917 and 1934. It was built in 1912 by Gandhi’s friend Reva Shankar Jagjivan Jhaveri. He used to host Gandhiji here. Here Gandhiji got ill in 1919. And thereafter, on his wife Kasturba’s request, he started consuming Goat’s milk. From the same place, Gandhiji started the publication of Young India (in English) and Navjivan (in Gujarati) weekly newspapers. The strategy of freedom movement used to be made here. Gandhiji learned to run Charkha (handloom spinning machine) here. On 4 January 1932, he was arrested from here. Today this building has a collection of letters written by Subhash Chandra Bose and Rabindranath Tagore to Gandhiji and a big library containing over fifty thousand books. On visiting Mani Bhawan, Obama felt that he was filled with courage to work for peace, non-violence and prosperity in the world. During his half hour visit to Mani Bhawan, Obama seemed impressed. In visitor’s diary, he wrote- "I am filled with hope and inspiration as I have the privilege to view this testament to Gandhi's life. He is a hero not just to India but to the world.” Obama in his speeches has often said that Gandhi has inspired Americans and African Americans, including Dr Martin Luther King. His wife Michelle Obama wrote in the visitor’s book- "The visit will be on that I will always treasure. The life and teachings of Gandhi must be shared with our children around the world.”

Martin Luther King Jr., the great African-American Human Rights protagonist, has been the political inspiration to Obama. King came to India in March 1959 and stayed in the same historical Taj Hotel. During his visit to Mumbai, when he along with his wife went to Mani Bhawan, King insisted the Bhawan’s trustee to allow him to stay there at night. At that time, there was also facility for staying of guests in Mani Bhawan. So, King managed to live there temporarily. While going back, he wrote in visitor’s book- living for some days in Mani Bhawan was like living with Gandhiji. Obama was aware of this incident. And this was the reason; Obama visited Mani Bhawan on the very first day of his India visit. Obama stood silent near the bronze statue of Gandhiji and kept looking at statue in a way as if he was talking to Gandhiji. Obama was presented the autobiography of Gandhiji- “The Story of my experiments with truth”. On seeing King’s signature on visitor’s book, Obama said- This is great book. Obama promised to Mani Bhawan’s staff that he will again come to this place and will bring his children along.

Obama’s admiration of Gandhiji can be gauged from the fact that Obama has in place Gandhi’s photo on the wall of Oval Office, which inspires him in his political life. Some years ago, there was a global debate If Gandhi was so great messenger of peace and non-violence, why he wasn’t felicitated with the Nobel Peace Prize? On this issue, I wrote in my article- even though Nobel Peace Prize is the world’s most respected Peace award but Gandhi’s philosophy is much greater. This was also proved when Obama was awarded with the Nobel just some months after he took over as the US President. While receiving the Nobel, Obama not only talked of Gandhi’s policies of peace and non-violence, he also called Gandhi’s philosophy a source of his inspiration.

During India visit, Obama’s love for Gandhi was not only restricted to Mumbai’s Mani Bhawan. In Delhi, he, accompanied by his wife, went to Rajghat, the mausoleum of Gandhiji. The first couple paid tribute to Gandhiji by standing silent for a minute. Obama also brought a precious stone from the mausoleum of Martin Luther King Jr., which he presented here. Here too, he noted in the visitor’s book- the great person who changed the world with his message of peace, love and non-violence, we will remember him forever. Even after 60 years of his demise, Gandhi still inspires the whole world. Obama stayed at Rajghat for 20 minutes and asked many questions from the staff like the days and time of opening of the Rajghat and the number of people visiting here daily. Obama’s hawkish predecessor George W. Bush also visited Rajghat during his India visit. In visitor’s book, Bush wrote- we are grateful to visit the monument of this great person who immensely contributed to the humanity.

President Obama was presented with Gandhiji’s symbols- Charkha and other things related to Gandhiji’s life. Obama’s welcome to Rajghat was also simple, following the ideals of Gandhiji. It is noteworthy that no special treatment is met to any world leader, howsoever big he is. In Rajghat, all visitors are treated equally. Because giving special preference is against the principles of Gandhi. Whenever there will be need of peace, love, non-violence in this war ravaged world, this great son of Mother India, will always be remembered.

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Other Articles by Tanveer Jafri
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Mr.Tanveer Jafri, who serves as contributing writer for The Seoul Times, is a noted columnist in India. He writes on a variety of issues including world peace, anti-terrorism, and national & international politics for numerous news dailies and portals in India. As a devoted social activist he is member of Haryana Sahitya Academy & Haryana Urdu Academy.






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