An exhibition of posters of Mahatma Gandhi in Dubai aims to reverse some of the “detachment” felt by many contemporary Indian schoolchildren towards their erstwhile leader.

The exhibition of 100 posters – pictures and notes covering Gandhi’s life – on Wednesday opened at the Consulate General of India in Dubai, where students had gathered to debate ‘Is Gandhism a Myth?’ in today’s world.

Gandhi, assassinated in 1948 at the age of 78, was an anti-colonial activist who successfully led a non-violent campaign for India’s independence from British rule. Gandhi is known for his stance against all forms of violence.

On Wednesday, which marked Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, students and officials at the Indian consulate in Dubai said that, compared to their predecessors, pupils today are relatively detached to Gandhi’s persona.

‘Connect with Gandhi’

Pankaj Bodkhe, consul for education and economics at the Indian consulate, said the theme of the 150th anniversary celebrations is focused on students. “We would like today’s kids to know more about Gandhi because we can sense that they are detached from his concepts and principles. We want them to connect with Gandhi and understand him, and then form their opinion about him,” Bodkhe said.

“Maybe the exhibition will kindle a good flame in their mind about Gandhi. As we were debating whether Gandhism is relevant or not, if it’s a myth or not, so maybe after going through this exhibition, after knowing more about Gandhi, they will have a second thought. If that is done, even if some of them take his message, we would have success in our mission.”

Anagha Nayak, a grade 10 student of GEMS Our Own English High School, Al Ain, who took part in the debate, said “maybe there is less attachment to Gandhi because we haven’t experienced Gandhi’s actions first-hand”.

‘Freedom on a platter’

She added: “I suppose we’re not as passionate because we got freedom served on a platter. Children in the previous generations have felt it more personally, on a more personal level than we have.”

Anagha said exhibitions like these help students learn more about Gandhi and form their own opinion. “It depends on every person’s mindset, how they want to see Gandhi for who he was. Some people may not exactly agree with all the decisions he took, but some people do.”

She added: “On a day-to-day basis, nobody Googles what Gandhi did, unless we have an opportunity like this. So such an opportunity helps us to broaden our mindset.”

Touring schools

The idea to host the exhibition, which will remain at the consulate for a week, was spawned in association with Mohan N., responsible for CSR activities at the FOI (Friends of India) organisation in Dubai. The exhibition itself is a standard collection of 100 posters selected from photographs and notes at National Gandhi Museum, New Delhi, which curated them for the 150th anniversary celebrations.

The exhibit will be hosted next at some 30 schools, universities and associations in Dubai and the northern emirates, which will also receive a paper-poster version of the collection.