World Culture

Gandhi's Things

  Items once belonging to Mohandas K. Gandhi.

Items once belonging to Mohandas K. Gandhi. Antiquorum auction house hide caption

itoggle caption Antiquorum auction house

Another follow-up. Yesterday, we reported on fallout stemming from plans to auction items once belonging to Mohandas K. Gandhi. Producing the segment (in step with our goal to locate perspectives as close to the story as possible) was a delicate balancing act, which involved coordinating logistics that stretched across two continents. And although the radio conversation aired yesterday, fellow TMM producer Arwa Gunja continued to work the story. Alas, I'll let her explain the finishing touch ...

Thanks, Lee. Arwa Gunja, here.

A couple of days ago on the program, we talked with Robert Maron. He's the chairman of a New York auction house, where Gandhi's personal possessions are up for bid next week. It's created an outcry for some Indians because Mohandas K. Gandhi is the hero of the country's independence movement. He stood firmly against capitalism and owned very few possessions throughout his life.

Originally, I hoped we could have a conversation with both Maron and Dr. Varsha Das, the director of the National Gandhi Museum in New Delhi, to give the Indian point of view. But, because of 13.5-hour time difference between California (where Maron is based) and New Delhi, it was too difficult to bring the two together in the same conversation. As a workaround, we spoke to Varsha Das separately and later asked Maron to listen to her comments and offer response, which you heard on yesterday's show.

We wanted to allow Vas the opportunity to hear and respond to yesterday's chat (since the conversation featured her perspective). We spoke with her off-air today, and wanted to share the following thoughts:

I feel a little better to learn that Robert is sympathetic towards us. However, we cannot compare the functions of an auction house and a Gandhi museum. Gandhi for us is not just a character from history. He will always remain a contemporary. Gandhiji collected funds or allowed things to be auctioned to support the organization that worked for the upliftment of the poorest of the poor, for untouchables. He did not give charity to individuals. And when he left South Africa in 1940, he left behind all the gifts that he and his wife had received. That included heavy gold ornaments, diamonds, etc. He created a trust for the welfare of the masses and that trust is still functional. He did not keep money collected through fundraising activities either for himself or even for the ashrams. So I hope whoever buys these items will use them to bring people closer to Gandhi in values, and whoever receives the money will use it to further Gandhiji's work.

You can listen to the audio, here:

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Thanks, Dr. Das.

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