Walkers honour Mandela, Gandhi
ONE Japanese and five Indian followers of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are walking across South Africa to Buddhist chants and drum beats, promoting the two leaders’ idea of nonviolence and peace.
This year marked the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth and Mandela’s centenary.
The peace pilgrimage reached a milestone last week when the walkers reached their halfway-mark – between their starting point at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg, and Madiba’s birthplace at Mvezo in the Eastern Cape, and the Nelson Mandela capture site in the Midlands.
With “not a pesai (India’s equivalent of a cent) in our pockets”, they ask people along the way for food and shelter as a way of engaging with the locals.
“Our message to humanity is that we can live in harmony,” said Nitin Sonwane, who has chosen to travel the world on similar peace pilgrimages – mostly alone and by bicycle – rather than follow a career in engineering.
Aware of the high violent crime rate in South Africa, which he said was the result of the gap between rich and poor, Sonwane and his companions have encountered only friendship, goodwill, donations and hospitality.
“I feel bad for the people who murder. They are miserable because of the inequality in this society. The best way (to solve the problem) is to build an equal society, like Gandhi and Mandela envisaged.”
Sonwane said the group, not having anything to steal, was their biggest shield against falling victim to crime.
“We are part of them,” he went on to say. “We feel bad for them. We must be kind to people who commit crime, and transform them to living a life in a normal society.”
They greet passers-by with a bow, an act which tells them that he or she is an equal human being.
While Kanshin Ikeda, from Japan, is a Buddhist monk, the rest have religious roots in Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.
Yogesh Mathuria, who gave up an IT career 11 years ago to work on world peace projects, has a forearm tattoo with texts relating to his understanding of spirituality.
“The highest priority is that you are a human being, then you may belong to a religion. A divine force – whatever you call it – created human beings and human beings created religion and that created a divide. I believe today that religion is the biggest divider in the world.”
The group’s expert on Gandhi’s principles is Jalandharnath Channole, who has spent 28 years in a Gandhi ashram, choosing not to marry and wearing simple clothes made of homespun fabric.
Sangram Patilb, an MBA student, said he valued “learning South African culture and explore myself”.
In KwaZulu-Natal they have stayed at police stations and at Ingogo, near Newcastle, they were invited into a Zulu rondavel homestead to cook their food.
They were also invited to a game farm near Ladysmith and have been referred to bed and breakfasts.
They arrived in Pietermaritzburg on Friday and were scheduled to visit the Gandhi’s Phoenix Settlement yesterday.
WALKERS, from left, Sangram Patil, Jalandharnath Channole, Yogesh Mathuria, Nitin Sonwane and Kanshin Ikeda, at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in the Midlands. They are traversing the country spreading the messages of political icons Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.