Sunday, July 19, 2015

Celebrating Mahatma Gandhi in Amish Country (and they don’t even know him)

I didn’t expect too many similarities in the American Midwest, with things Indian.
Funnily, the first likeness I observed was a tenuous similarity with the cities of black diamonds and the coal belt in India with a violent history and its attendant depravities.
I was quaintly surprised to find that the name Ohio is derived from the 'Iroquois Indian' word for Good River. But they are what we would back home call American Indians.

That’s pretty much the Indian connection, apart of course from its history 2000 years back.
Nestled in the centre of Ohio in the picturesque Tuscarawas county is Sugarcreek - a village which is perhaps more European than anything else. The inhabitants, about 652 families are all white.
Mostly reclusive, the inhabitants, celebrated worldwide as the Amish people are remarkable in many ways. So remarkable, that they have become a tourist attraction. In the process, making the Sugarcreek neighborhood one of the more prosperous regions in Ohio.
The Amish live a Spartan life, shun all modern amenities, do not use electricity in their homes, and don’t possess cell phones. Live in frugal houses with just the basic necessities.
They don’t even use cars. Running water is not for them, unless of course they run to fetch it. They stich the clothes they wear. All the food they grow on their farms is organic. The natural resources they use are limited to their needs.   
They even have a system of community reconciliation, the elders of the village have a greater say in the affairs of the community. The young in the community are taught the values of abstinence and morality. The Amish do not drink alcohol.
They are sworn to Non Violence. And celebrate their oneness with nature.
They are extremely religious too.   The horse-drawn buggy is almost a mascot for the Amish. Marital fidelity is the norm in the Amish country.
To billions of Mahatma Gandhi’s admirers – which would include Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and the US President Barrack Obama, the life that the Amish live is as Gandhian as it gets.  
Interestingly the Amish people, I spoke to, including the highly knowledgeable Lester Beachy had not even heard of Mahatma Gandhi.
Mahatma Gandhi lived a life of extreme abstinence. He advocated village self-governance, along with equality and brotherhood.
He shunned all modern amenities and would weave the clothes he wore. He advocated a ban on alcohol.

For him religion was a means for spiritual growth. Being one with the nature and using non-violent means to resolve conflict was his message to humanity.
Albert Einstein said of Gandhi: "Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.

Gandhi himself would have loved the Amish lifestyle – which so much reflects his philosophy that has guided generations of world leaders.

I was happy to rediscover Gandhi eight thousand miles away from home.

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