The Mahatma and the King (Gandhian Philosophy)

Niharika Chibber Joe
They had arrived safely, my friends from across the big sea.
For the first time they had traveled, in twenty twenty-three.
On the grounds of Spelman College, and the greens of Morehouse we walked.
Of brave black men and women, we talked and talked and talked!
“This is our statue of Gandhi,” Morehouse proudly explained.
We cannot talk of peace without invoking his name!

I remained stoic, my upper lip stiff. A simulated lunch counter allowed me a seat.
A seat previously banned for the likes of me.
Close your eyes, said the docent, and feel what you can feel!
The year is 1960, your skull could take a heel.
A kick, or a slap across your face. 
But you must sit there quietly. Show them poise and grace!

I survived the lunch counter, a simulated time.
But what of those before me, who hadn’t toed the line?
They had been defiant, in their silent protest.
They had endured, they had suffered, for what was best.

In my grandparents’ India, “No dogs or Indians!” A painful sign proclaimed.
Across the Atlantic Ocean “I have a dream,” King loudly exclaimed.
He said Gandhi’s way of non-violence is how the dream will work.
He said Gandhi is the greatest Christian of the modern world.

The King Center in Atlanta speaks of The Reverend’s life.
Tracking his legacy carefully, honored by his wife.
Where the King Center stands, I cannot help but spot.
The statue of a wiry Indian, staff in hand and a loin cloth
Happy Birthday, Gandhiji! I begin to sing.
As my life comes full circle with the Mahatma and the King!








BIO: Niharika Chibber Joe is a member of the United States civil service. She is also a prize-winning poet and writer. Her work is in several printed anthologies, and online in Different Truths and American Kahani. She serves on the boards of Youth under Voluntary Action for Transformation India, and the D.C. South Asian Arts Council. Niharika holds degrees from the Johns Hopkins University-SAIS and the Jawaharlal Nehru University. 

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