OM honors Gandhi with portrait in UC

The OM spiritual group hung a plaque and portrait of Gandhi in the basement of the University Center last Wednesday. (credit: Jessica Sochol/) The OM spiritual group hung a plaque and portrait of Gandhi in the basement of the University Center last Wednesday. (credit: Jessica Sochol/)

A portrait of Mahatma Gandhi alongside a commemorative plaque was installed in the Andy’s Eatery area of the University Center basement last Wednesday. A brief ceremony dedicating the portrait and plaque was held.

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” one of Gandhi’s most well-known sayings, is printed at the bottom of the portrait. Gandhi was the political and spiritual leader who helped lead a peaceful Indian revolt against British colonial rule.

Blue and yellow streamers were hung across the portrait before being cut by the president of Carnegie Mellon’s Indian spirituality organization OM, Archit Kumar, a junior double majoring in information systems and decision science. A small group gathered to watch the unveiling, while other students went about their business working or opening packages.

“After Gandhi Jayanti in October we worked with the dean of Student Affairs [and] with Marcia [Gerwig] and the University Center crew to get a picture of Mahatma Gandhi up somewhere in the University Center,” Kumar said. “[It’s] a reminder of everything that Gandhi-jhi has done.”

The portrait can be found next to the Giving Wall in between the package pickup window and the FedEx and PNC Bank branches. The space has a television as well as tables and seating. Kumar said that the area was chosen because “[it] is really for the students, this entire area.... It’s a place where students have freedom of expression ... where they have full expression of themselves.”

As he gave a brief address to those gathered to watch the commemoration, Kumar emphasized a lesser-known Gandhi quote: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

While the portrait is not on the same scale as a hunger strike or other forms of civil disobedience, Kumar expressed hope that the picture would serve both as a reminder of Gandhi’s work and as inspiration for others to emulate.

Professor Kunal Ghosh, OM’s faculty adviser and assistant head for undergraduate affairs in the physics department, said that in addition to being proud of the permanent mark OM has left on the university, he hopes that students will take the portrait’s message to heart. “Retaliation is not the way, that’s not how to change the world,” he said.

After the ceremony, however, few students seemed to notice the portrait and no one was interested in giving a comment on the installation. While not a controversial figure, only a small number of students had an opinion of the portrait, and even fewer had seen it.

Yet, for those involved with the Indian community on campus, the portrait has become a source of pride. “It’s a really great gesture to have Gandhi-jhi’s portrait in the University Center,” said Anisha Vyas, a junior mechanical engineering major and president of MayurSASA, “especially where everybody walks by and remind everybody of what he did in some small way.”