Some more of Namma Arcot Road: Gandhiji and the charkha

Well, the enthusiasm and vigour seen at the Namma Arcot Road inaugural extended to October 3 as well, with a sort of kids carnival organised at the MGR Janaki School. There was origami and a storytelling session, but what really interested the children was a short presentation by V.R. Devika on Mahatma Gandhi and a demonstration by her of how to spin the charkha.

The documentary film would have suited an adult audience but to my surprise I found many of the children watching closely and comprehending what was being shown. I found the part about Charlie Chaplin wanting to meet Gandhiji quite fascinating.

When Gandhiji arrived in Britain in September 1931, he made an impression on some sections of the public there. He chose to live in London’s East End, among the poor as he is said to have described it. An ascetic depressed in a loincloth with slippers and hardly anything else despite the English cold must have amazed many. Chaplin was then in London, for the British premier of City Lights. According to BBC Radio 4, he had met George Bernard Shaw, Ramsay MacDonald, H.G. Wells and Winston Churchill, and was keen to meet Gandhiji. The meeting took place when Gandhiji was on his way to see a doctor. There were huge crowds everywhere, as Devika’s film showed, and the two great men met, albeit briefly. Needless to say, the picture made the front pages of newspapers. Devika brought out the vignette beautifully in her presentation.

Pictures show children crowding around Devika as she begins her demonstration of the charkha; J.B. Nirupama, a Class 2 student of Pon Vidyashram, tries spinning yarn; and children and adults alike watch fascinated.


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