The interiors of the Chennai International Airport (MAA) have received a makeover with the installation of a Gandhi Corner, an exhibition commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
With the theme centered around Gandhi’s journey across Tamil Nadu from 1896 to 1946, the exhibition features several photographs of the national leader during the freedom movement, along with a model of his ashram in Sabarmati and replicas of a few artifacts belonging to the late Father of the Nation.
It also features a telephone that enables the visitor to listen to Gandhi speaking to them personally, while two televisions overhead display videos of Gandhi’s speeches and his teachings on Ahimsa.
With the addition of the Gandhi Corner, MAA has gone a step further in its décor, adding to its interiors that feature scores of art installations and paintings by Poompuhar, a Tamil Nadu government-backed handicrafts development corporation.
The exhibition, which is the first of its kind in India has been organized by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) Chennai Airport in collaboration with the National Gandhi Museum in Delhi and features two exhibits, one each in the Arrivals terminals of the domestic and international airports.
The idea for this exhibition was born after the corporate headquarters of the AAI issued a directive to celebrate 150 years of the birth of the national leader. “Following the directive, we spoke to the National Gandhi Museum in Delhi, who suggested doing a Tamil Nadu-centered concept instead of an all India one, thus drawing focus to the southern state”, said G Chandramouli, Director, AAI Chennai Airport.
The first exhibit, which is put up in the Arrivals terminal of the domestic airport traces Gandhi’s journey across Tamil Nadu along with a few photographs of the freedom fighter with his wife, family and other freedom fighters that were taken before independence.
After talking with a representative of the National Gandhi Museum, MAA had arranged for the photographs and even added a few touches of their own. “After putting up the photographs, we realised that we could do something with the empty space in the middle and suggested adding a model of Gandhi’s ashram in Sabarmati and the telephone”, said A I Nandakumar, Joint General Manager, AAI Chennai Airport.
The second exhibit is in the Arrivals terminal of the international airport and has a digital clock which projects the life of Gandhi from birth to death and key moments from his life as it traces his journey in India.
The exhibitions, which are featured 24×7 have garnered a lot of appreciation from travellers, both Indian and foreigners.
“Both the exhibits have been received very well by tourists. Initially, there was a huge crowd since the exhibition was new. Now, since most of the people in the domestic airport are regular flyers, the exhibition receives about 10 per cent of visitors everyday”, said Nandini Nandakumar, the Manager of the Domestic Airport, which receives about 15 lakh arrivals a month.
She added that visitors to the exhibition had been generous with their critique, as is evidenced by the comments that have been written in the comments book which is kept at the end of the exhibit. “As the Father of the Nation, Gandhi is a very important person to all Indians. He has instilled a sense of non-violence in our conscience and this exhibit is our tribute to him”, said Nandini.
Her thoughts were echoed by her colleague S Jalaludheen, the Manager of the International Airport, MAA that records 3 lakh international arrivals a month. “As an Indian, I feel extremely proud of the exhibit. The digital clock in the international terminal also serves as a medium to educate youngsters about the revered leader”, he said. Jalaludheen added that the exhibit had garnered much admiration from seven Koreans who had visited the city last month and was a hit among foreigners since they considered Gandhi to be a leader, not just for India but for the world.
DGRs Tamilselvan and R C Reddy said that the exhibitions were a big hit among passengers, both the young and old and served as a reminder of the rich values and teachings that India is steeped in. Visitors to the airport were in awe of the exhibition, terming it as a novel idea and a good initiative on the part of the AAI.
The exhibition, which was funded by the AAI Chennai Airport at a cost of Rs. 5 lakh was unveiled on October 2, 2018 and will be featured in MAA until October 2, 2020.