Hundreds attend Peace Rally on Mahatma Gandhi Day

Dignitaries and Indian Americans during Mahatma Gandhi anniversary celebrations
Dignitaries and Indian Americans during Mahatma Gandhi anniversary celebrations

CHICAGO: A good number of Indian Americans and elected officials here gathered on Sunday October 4 in Skokie, a north side suburb of Chicago, to celebrate the birth anniversary Mahatma Gandhi and attend “peace and harmony” rally.

They felt this couldn’t have come at a better time and place since the world torn by hatred and violence all around needed the peace and non-violence message of Mahatma Gandhi more than any time in the past.

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Skokie’s life-size statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the Gandhi Memorial Trust hosted a special ceremony two days after the iconic hero would have turned 146. And people came – nearly 500 of them – on a cool but comfortable Sunday morning.

Chicago’s Consulate General of India had blessed the rally and ceremony. Although it was a 10th anniversary celebration of the statue, this first life-size statue of Gandhi in Illinois was actually installed 11 years ago.

Both Van Dusen and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel marked this special day in Skokie with proclamations.

“Time flies as it has already been more than 10 years,” said Omprakash Kamaria, president of the Gandhi Memorial Trust. “Now this site has become a regular stop for peace seekers – people from all walks of life – whether they are tourists, students, writers, bikers, joggers, walkers (or someone) who just wants to read a book in a peaceful environment.”

Members of the Gandhi Memorial Trust decided to wait a year for the celebration so the statue could be renovated and cleaned up as it headed into its second decade.

“I think the old man has aged pretty well, don’t you?” said Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen to a round of applause.

Van Dusen emphasized how “remarkable” the Gandhi statue has been for the village. Many officials there said it was one of the most visited sites in all of Skokie.

“When we envisioned the outdoor sculpture park, we frankly had not thought about having a heritage aspect to it,” the Mayor said. “The (Gandhi) Memorial Trust offered this wonderful gift to us. And it’s become a great partnership over the last 10 years.”

Dignitaries came to the ceremony – not only Van Dusen but many Village Board members and employees, state representatives and Senators, the Cook County commissioner and Indian CG, Dr Ausaf Sayeed.

Dr Sayeed in his address touched upon the historical significance of Gandhiji and his teachings. The ceremony included awards to locals who carry on in the spirit of Gandhi – Shelley Nizynski Reese for her nonprofit, A Better Life For Kids, which helps to raise funds for impoverished children in Ghana; former Deputy Sheriff Michael Wronkowski who has held a turkey drive at his work site and delivered his collection to soup kitchens for years.

The Trust committee could not but recognize Skokie Mayor Van Dusen for his support to the Indian community and his help to bring the statue to Skokie.

Musicians performed authentic music including one using the ancient Indian string instrument, the Veena. Niles West and Niles North musicians performed “Give Peace A Chance” and “Amazing Grace.” The crowd was so quiet during their renditions that the rustling of trees behind them could be heard.

Surrounding the Gandhi statue, over which hung a ceremonial wreath on this day, were framed quotes – not only from Gandhi but from those he inspired including Martin Luther King Jr. and Albert Einstein.
Kamaria said that Skokie was an ideal home for the statue because of its ethnic diversity and the village’s passion in celebrating it.

In the end, though, leaders said, the statue’s popularity and success were due to everyday people who visit for one reason or another, who use it as a respite from an often chaotic world where Gandhi’s message can feel so far removed.

“Mahatma Gandhi is actually responsible for me living in this part of the Greater Chicago area,” said television reporter and anchor Ravi Baichwal who emceed the Skokie ceremony.

Baichwal, who lives near the Skokie-Evanston border, said seeing the Gandhi statue along McCormick Boulevard when his family was house hunting had a major impact on the final choice.

“This is the end of a great jogging trail where I have seen people pondering here, walking around, looking at all the various sayings of Gandhi here,” he said. “This is a great, great, great institution and monument – and for and for everybody.”

Indian Consulate celebrates Gandhi Jayanti
Suresh Bodiwala adds:
The Consulate General of India in Chicago celebrated the 146th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, at its premises on Friday October 2 at its Chicago office attended by Chicago elites and community members

Dr Ausaf Sayeed, Consul General said that Mahatma Gandhi was trans-national in the range of his influences and in the reach of his thoughts and that there is hardly any country in the world where his ideals are not inspiring people. “This is evidenced by the installation of his statues in the US, Germany, Australia, and in many other countries”, he added.

He added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s deep commitment to Gandhian ideals, reflected in an array of his initiatives, including “Clean India”, “Make in India”, etc., will further accelerate India’s growth trajectory and empower it to emerge as one of the front-ranking countries of the world.
OP Meena, Consul at the Consulate General, welcomed the guests and conducted the proceedings of the program.

Meena said that Gandhian philosophy of non-violence, peace, and communal harmony has become a source of inspiration in the contemporary world which is characterized by terrorism, conflict, and apartheid. “The wisdom of his philosophy, which is in a perpetual state of reinvention, will continue to be a beacon of light for the younger generations in India and across the globe”, he added.

The celebrations included power point presentation on Mahatma Gandhi by Dr Sri Ram Sonti, Peace Harmony musical concert by Saraswathi Rangnathan and Dhananjay Kunte, and screening of documentaries on Mahatma Gandhi by Arun Har Prasad. Visuals of the photos of Mahatma Gandhi, drawn by Arvindbhai, were also on display.

Sister Cities celebration
Surendra Ullal
CHICAGO: The Delhi Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International has slated celebration of Mahatma Gandhi birthday on Friday October 23 at RadissionBlu Aqua Hotel in Downtown at 11.30 am.
Ms Smita Shah, Chairman of the Committee, said that the event will be graced by Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of the City of Chicago attending as Special Guest.

She observed that there has been a long standing exchange with Mahatma Gandhi and the US, as Mahatma Gandhi was inspired by the works of Henry David Thoreau and he in return inspired Martin Luther King in the non-violent movement.” The Sister Cities program, now under the auspices of World Business Chicago, has promoted cultural, social and economic exchanges between the two countries for over 50 years, and this is a special opportunity to celebrate the relationship with Delhi and Chicago,” she said.


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