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‘Eternal’ Gandhi for the 21st century

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October 2006
‘Eternal’ Gandhi for the 21st century

Compiled By Murali Kamma

Across the world today, Mahatma Gandhi is surely the most famous and respected Indian from the 20th century. It's no surprise, therefore, that his statue has been erected in numerous places even outside India. In Atlanta, thanks to the efforts of community leaders and activists, a statue was built in the ‘90s and a Gandhi Room has been in existence since the ‘80s. Without being comprehensive, here's a list of other non-Indian cities that have Gandhi statues: New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Honolulu, Mexico City, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Lisbon, Moscow, Canberra, Santiago, Port of Spain, San Fernando, Pietermaritzburg (South Africa). Now we can add another southeastern city – a college campus, actually – to the growing list. In Jacksonville, Florida, the dedication of a Gandhi statue took place recently at the University of North Florida.

Yet, despite the proliferation of these statues, there is a sense that Gandhi's timeless message cannot be easily passed on to a new generation that lives in a fast-paced world of iPods and instant messaging. That seems to be the thinking, anyway, behind a $2.15 million Eternal Gandhi Multimedia Museum, which opened in Delhi last year. Some may find the idea – not to mention the experience – gimmicky, but this 21st century wing is meant to expand rather than replace a traditional memorial that had been set up in Gandhi's last residence. With the help of films and features like touch-screen computer images and laser beams, the interactive exhibits highlight various aspects of Gandhi's long saga. The Global Gandhi, for instance, is an anthropomorphic computer that "can listen, see, speak with and understand its environment and you within its range." Other examples include an E-Charkha, which explains the meanings of Sarvodaya and Swadeshi when one spins the wheel, and an E-Clock that displays archival footage from Gandhi's eventful life. An E-Pilgrim stick lets visitors relive some of Gandhi's marches, including the Dandi Yatra.


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