ISW’s Cultural School Celebrates Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday
October 2, 2011, was the birthday of one of India’s most revered and respected leaders—Gandhi. The Cultural School is fortunate to have Ms. Priti Dayal to host a history lesson to students, right after their language lessons ended. In a midst of chatter, the children entered the Assembly room, seeming to wonder why Mrs. Dayal had a spinning wheel and a framed picture of Gandhi near her. But, as with almost every Assembly, most children were restless and upholding the “Why am I here?” or “I’m bored, and I want to go home,” usual attitudes. It seemed understandable since most of these attendees were between the ages of 7 and 11.
However, this scenario changed when Mrs. Dayal took a step towards the group of children, raised a hand, and politely asked them to quiet down for their history class. A hush fell over the crowd, with the youngest children being the exceptions.
Mrs. Dayal, who had been giving history lessons for the school for at least twenty years now, came with the hope of spreading her knowledge of Gandhi to these children. After getting her masters in Indian history, she spent many years educating, and finally taking up Ms. Passey’s offer to teach student’s at the Cultural School. She personally is fascinated by Gandhiji and considered him to be one who stands out amongst other Indian leaders.
Gandhi, as most people know, during his time had advocated non-violent protests against British colonization in India. According to Mrs. Dayal, he held significance in India because he was not wealthy, powerful, during his time, famous, or had sufficient ways of communication, yet was able to influence an entire nation.
Mrs. Dayal had Rahi Panjabi, a high schooler who had recently graduated from the Cultural school; give a presentation on Gandhiji along with her lesson. He had a slide show which presented many interesting facts about the Indian leader. In one humorous incident, Rahi mentioned that Gandhi had an arranged marriage at the age of 13, and a gasp was heard in the crowd of youngsters.
Rahi continued explaining several aspects of Gandhi’s life with his slide show, including Gandhi’s early education and life, his familial relationships, the discrimination he faced in South Africa, England, and India, his death, and how significant he is to the world today. “As I researched about [Gandhi] for my presentation, I did learn a lot of new things about him,” says Rahi. “By doing this presentation, I thought it was nice to pass on the Indian culture to the kids.”
Mrs. Dayal and Punjabi engaged the students in the discussion of Gandhi, telling them about certain issues the Indian people faced during the earlier days. She put an emphasis on Gandhi’s views of the caste system, which shows how he was able to change India’s social ideals in so many ways. Children, towards the end of the lesson, asked her questions about the lesson, regarding a few pictures on Rahi’s slide show, Gandhi’s death, and his views on India’s partition.
Ultimately, it is nice to know about the father of Modern India, and to be able to celebrate his birthday properly. According to Mrs. Dayal, “I gave only a flavor and a beginning of history to the children in the twenty minutes I had. I hope that these children in their own time will try to search, and get more info on their own.”