Published: 02nd October 2018
Gandhi Jayanti: Australian varsity beams Gandhi's face on library wall, garlands Mahatma's bust that was gifted by the Indian government after 2009 attacks
UNSW, which is focusing on India for its sizeable overseas potential, has a bust of Gandhi on its library lawn and has been the host of the Indian Consulate's Gandhi Jayanti celebrations for years now
October 2 may be a national holiday in India, but in sunny Sydney (and Australia, by extension) it's the Tuesday after a holiday weekend when everybody goes back to work. Everybody? Not quite. A sizeable smattering of the Indian diaspora in Sydney, the folks at University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the Indian Consulate at Sydney, led by the Consul General B Vanlavawna turned out on the varsity's library lawn to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti.
The Australian varsity, that boasts of hosting over 1200 Indian students this year, has really gone all out to celebrate Gandhi. The most impressive of the lot is their plan to project a massive image of the Mahatma's face along with the Indian tricolour on the wall of the Iconic UNSW library, "For us, this is the beginning of a two year celebration to mark the 150th birth of Gandhi. We will be beaming the face of Gandhi on our library building for a fortnight and it's going to be spectacular," said Laurie Pearcey, Pro Vice Chancellor (International), UNSW.
Going the Gandhian way: A panel discussion on the relevance on Gandhi in these modern times was also held at the University
For the ninth year running, the University hosted a Gandhi Jayanti memorial programme on their library lawn where a bust of the Mahatma was installed back in 2010. The bust itself has a place in history as it was donated by the Indian government, in particular the then Indian Consul General Amit Dasgupta, as a sign of peace, following a period of unrest after attacks on Indians, particularly Indian students, in 2009. "During that difficult period when there were questions about student safety, the then consul general arranged for a bust of Mahatma Gandhi to be presented to the University," he added. The bust was garlanded by the Consul General after the students reenacted the Dandi March (across the lawn) and sang hymns that Gandhi was particularly fond of.
Coming as it were, on the back of a long weekend in Australia, it was quite a turnout - of Indian students, their parents, academics and members of the Indian diplomatic corps. And the Consul General was quite appreciative of the fact, "The last two years that I have been here, Gandhi Jayanti was on a holiday and I had to thank everyone for coming out instead of cosying up in bed. Today I thank you for taking time off work and being here," he said to peals of laughter.
A panel discussion on the relevance on Gandhi in these modern times was held after. During this discussion, Neville Roach, member of the Advisory Board of Australia and New Zealand for TCS, and a man who had migrated to Australia in 1966, pushed the audience to bring In an audience that is beyond the Indian diaspora, "Why is it that are very few, barring a few illustrious ones here, white Australians here at a Gandhi Jayanti event. We talk about multiculturalism here in Australia and how we mix with cultures, but the truth is if we had this event back in India, the audience would have probably looked just the same," Roach said and added, "Somewhere we have to take the responsibility to reach out to not just White Australians but Africans and people of all identities to come and celebrate this great man. Otherwise, we will hold this year on year and no one but native Indians will show up. Perhaps next year, we should all bring people from any race other than Indian to the event."