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10-year old brings history alive for classmates

June 20
03:06 2013
Zarine's Glenview school class with teacher Ms Janis Michael

Zarine’s Glenview school class with teacher Ms Janis Michael

CHICAGO: A talk on Indian – oh rather – global leader Mahatma Gandhi is still inspiring not only adults but even middle school-high school students

Ten year old Zaire Gidwani and her mother, Angeli, made quite an impression on her teacher and classmates with a year-end presentation about Mahatma Gandhi, the great 20th century non-violent freedom fighter. One of the fifth grade “bully boys” was so affected by Zarine’s presentation that he extended his hand in friendship to Zarine and others for the first time all year.

The event took place at Avoca West School in Glenview, a North West suburb of Chicago on June 4, the ending school year.

What is it about Gandhi’s story that the kids found so compelling? Certainly the improbable victory of a scrawny 20th century David against the hulking Goliath of the British Empire appealed to kids’ sense of moral justice. But even more, Zarine made Gandhi real for her classmates by introducing him as a friend of the family. She thrilled the class with a handwritten letter from Gandhi to her great grandfather on the occasion of his eldest son’s wedding. In the letter Gandhi referred both to dowry, a concept foreign to most American fifth graders, and khadi cloth.

Zarine’s teacher, Mrs Janis Michael, explained that dowry was an Indian as well as European tradition at that time. And that the bridal garments were made of cloth produced in India. By refusing European-made cloth, the Indians were asserting their independence from Britain. (Though Zarine did not tell her classmates, her great-grandfather spun the thread for his son’s wedding clothes while he was in prison, held captive by the British for his role in India’s struggle for freedom.)

Gandhi intrigued the kids, who wanted to know why such a powerful man dressed in beggar’s robes. They assumed he was poor and were surprised to learn that he had been educated as a lawyer in England and traveled to South Africa. Angeli explained that he wanted to set an example for his fellow Indians by leading a simple life. It’s possible; he wanted to let them know, to live a good life without relying upon Britain for food and clothes.

Though time was running out for her presentation, Zarine’s classmates were brimming over with questions. She asked them to write them down on index cards for her grandfather to answer. Her grandfather, Dial Gidwany, also knew Gandhi. When Dial was about Zarine’s age, Gandhi stayed in his parents’ home as a guest.

Today Zarine’s grandfather is dedicated to promoting Gandhi’s message of nonviolence through the American Institute of Sindhulogy and its website.

With the support of Mrs. Michael and other grade school teachers like her, Zarine, her mother and grandfather hope to make nonviolence a popular American family activity. In a talk with this paper, Dial Gidwaney said that his organization AIS has appealed to all parents of school going children to bring to the attention of the teachers to introduce teaching of Gandhi, Dr Martin Luther King, Dr Nelson Mandela, Frontier Gandhi and Aung Suu Kyui. He said that Mrs Michael is forwarding a link to the AIS website to all the parents of Zarine’s classmates.

It also urges them to visit web site www.sindhulogy.org and click on the image. There are lesson designed for Children age group 5/15 years old. Besides, it will help parents /teachers devise a suitable program for propagating non-violence culture in educational institutions.

Surendra Ullal

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