Alumni Weekend Insider: Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi to speak at Alumni Weekend

The latest Alumni Weekend news and exclusive sneak peeks into what we've got in store. 

Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi to speak at Alumni Weekend

What can we learn from Mahatma Gandhi at a time when extremists of diverse hues claim that threats to their religion or nation justify curbs on liberty and equality? That question will form the basis of discussion at Gandhi Today: Finding Peace in the Modern World. Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of the revered Mahatma Gandhi, will be leading the signature event on Sunday, Sept. 24, as part of the University of Calgary’s Alumni Weekend celebrations.

Mahatma Gandhi, best known today as the leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule, had an uncompromising stand for everyone’s right to life, speech and faith. According to his grandson, that is what separates him from nationalists who suppress dissent in the name of security or sovereignty.

“For my siblings and me, it was a given that he did not belong exclusively to his children and grandchildren,” says Rajmohan. “Luckily, I saw my grandfather often between 1946 and 1948 … during that period, I was inspired by interactions with my grandfather and by watching his fearlessness and friendliness to those angry with his views.”

Inspiration from father, grandfather

It wasn’t just his grandfather that inspired Rajmohan’s 60-year peacebuilding career. He recalls a life-transforming encounter he had in Scotland in 1956, when members of what is now known as Initiatives of Change passed two ideas on to him. The first was that, if he wanted to change the world, he should first examine how he was living his own life. The second was that every individual’s life had significant purpose.

Rajmohan also credits his father’s career as a news editor. Growing up with news that was at times exciting, but often disturbing, made him want to take action against walls, divides and coercion.

A historian and biographer, Rajmohan is now a visiting professor at Michigan State University and the Indian Institute of Technology. Through writing, speaking, public intervention and dialogue, he continues to be engaged in efforts related to reconciliation and democratic rights. He was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Calgary in 1997.

Learn more at Alumni Weekend Sept. 22 – 24

Although it has been nearly 70 years since his grandfather’s assassination on Jan. 30, 1948, Rajmohan believes the ideas he championed can be applied to modern-day debates. He hopes attendees of the Alumni Weekend lecture will leave inspired to think about the possibilities of partnership across bitter divides and blaming no one for appearance, race, religion or birthplace.

Ultimately, he hopes people will leave wanting to make a difference in the world, and suggests not waiting for a dramatic event to make a start.

“When you start walking, you are likely to find fellow walkers. Or you may be the fellow walker someone else hopes for,” Rajmohan says.

The inaugural Gandhi lecture, Gandhi Today: Finding Peace in the Modern World, takes place over brunch on Sunday, Sept. 24, from 10 a.m. to noon. Registration is required for this signature event; save your seat here.  

This session is hosted by the Gandhi Society of Calgary and the Faculty of Arts.