“To Gandhi, in a land far away, full of peace or may be in the heart of every Indian”, “To Gandhi, Swarg”, “To Gandhi, in the Indian archives of good old days”, “To Gandhi, on the wall of every principal’s office”, “To Gandhi, wherever the idea of truth and non-violence still exist”, “To Gandhi, In Kolkata after Freedom”, “To Gandhi, in Harijan Ashram”, “To Gandhi, Currency Note Press, Nashik”, “To Gandhi, Swachhta Abhiyan Samiti” – this is how some of the letters written by millennials to the father of the nation have been addressed, as more than 100 students from MS University marked the 150th year of his birth.
The competition was organised by the Faculty of Arts, Maharaja Sayajirao University, on the theme ‘Gandhi: Today and Beyond’.
The students were provided with inland letter cards – which this generation was probably seeing for the first time – and asked to write a hypothetical letter to Gandhi. Many of them came up with imaginative addresses for Gandhi, apart from the obvious ones such as Sabarmati Ashram and Rajghat.
The organisers said the aim was to educate the present generation about the relevance of Gandhi and to revive letter-writing as an important tool of communication. “Letter writing is an important genre (of communication), culturally, socially and even politically,” Convener of the event, Gandhi: Today and Beyond, Professor Lajwanti Chatani said. Letters played a significant role during the freedom struggle, as several leaders used the medium as an important mode of communication, she added.
“Today we live in an age where letters have died an unceremonious death in the age of technological advancements, which (however) cannot be discredited. But we are making an attempt to (rekindle) the practice of letter writing. It will be interesting to see what they think of Gandhi and his relevance today,” she said.
“Gandhi has been studied, criticised and (his principles) practiced by different people for different reasons. But the relevance of Gandhi today is more symbolic,” she said, referring to his instantly-recognisable spectacles.
“But there is much more to Gandhi than this, (such as) his idea of truth, non-violence, nai taleem (craft-based education), food habits, the concept of ashrams, etc,” she added.
One of the participants in the letter-writing event, a first-year student, said, “Reading about Gandhi has always made me introspect. Writing to him, I shared what I have introspected.” Many participants wrote about the current affairs of the country, including the digital boom, incidents of lynching, caste politics, and poverty.