I have lived all my childhood in Bombay (now Mumbai) and went to the city of Pune for four years in 1992 in my days at an undergraduate college @University of Pune. For any Indian, October 2nd is the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi a national holiday in the 1990’s and I was surprised to know that my college did not have a holiday on October 2nd. Gandhi had his supporters and detractors in India and my generation today is negotiating a way between his teachings of a lifestyle that minimizes consumption and the pursuit of wealth/material goods to choosing voluntary simplicity in order to attain a simpler but more meaningful life.
In 2008, the Gandhi Ashram Reconstruction Trust founded by Dr Nirmala Deshpande and the then Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit presented to Suginami Mayor Hiroshi Yamada a life style Bronze statue. The first ever statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Japan, it was installed at the Suinami Ward Library campus and I went to take a look.
I have never come this west side of Tokyo, the farthest was the Renkoji Temple 3-4 station before Ogikubo Station where the statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, an Indian freedom fighter who had disagreements with Gandhi in the days of the freedom struggle. Get down at the Tokyo Metro Ogikubo Station on the Marunouchi Line and access the South Exit. Walk straight from this south exit to access the library which is around 10 minute of a walk.Use the Google maps to access the location, as it is not that easy to locate it in case you do not speak Japanese.
Reaching the park which is located behind the library, I walked over the wooden walkway, guided by a staff at the library to the location of the statue.
The statue was there and the first impression was “big”. There are two plaques on the side of the statue with various writing which I will shortly get to, but the statue was real life size and it was a happy moment to find this Indian footprint in the Suginami Ward of Tokyo. The statue is really a nice reproduction of the “simple living” philosophy of Gandhi. It is symbolic of the reality of the early 20th century of India, I am not sure how our children who sport GAP, UNIQLO relate to him. His dress might be symbolic, but it is the principle which is more important and for this I moved my attention from the visual statue to the plaque of 7 SOCIAL SINS installed next to the statue.The relevance of Mahatma Gandhi in today’s day and age has to move from the symbolic dress to the principles on what he believed in. I read the 7 social sins and there is no second thought on how timeless these thoughts are, relevant to any generation and context. Pick any and it is so profound…. “Knowledge without Character”, awesome. I am writing this article unable to sleep due to jet lag in the UK, at my hotel Park Plaza at Westminster, five minute walk from the statue of Gandhi in London a unveiled last year March 2015 at the Westminster grounds just next to his political foe Winston Churchill. Gandhi is relevant beyond cultures and generations.Contrasting my Edwin shoes and Mahatma Gandhi’s slippers. DO NOT MISS INFO : The Suginami Ward Library has not only put up a statue but on the basement floor next to a Cafe, is a complete photo story and newspaper clipping space that they have constructed. Do inquire at the library where the photographs are kept and you will get the library staff to guide you.Books, paper clippings and photographs are the primary collections and if you take your kids, they will certainly have a good introduction to the significant Indian footprint in this quiet Tokyo neighborhood.A very significant clipping was of the Asahi Shimbun which carried the news of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi with a comment that “Right wing Hindu extremist” as the culprit referring to Nathuram Godse.Extremist arrested on the spot says “Mainich Shimbun”, and also notes on the right that “RIOTS IN BOMBAY” were reported post the assassination. “Gandhi says” an article which shows his reckless teens to the mature adult life has also been covered in Japanese press.Various photographs at the library. Spend more than 30 minutes here and I can bet you that for a split second you will feel like you are not in Japan, but somewhere in India. Significant collection.Stopped by at the cafe, had a good bread toast and a coffee and continued my journey back home….